pro·​bos·​cis | \ prə-ˈbä-səs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) , -ˈbä-skəs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) \
plural proboscises also proboscides\ prə-​ˈbä-​sə-​ˌdēz How to pronounce proboscides (audio) \

Definition of proboscis

1a : the trunk of an elephant also : any long flexible snout
b : the human nose especially when prominent
2 : any of various elongated or extensible tubular processes (such as the sucking organ of a butterfly) of the oral region of an invertebrate

Illustration of proboscis

Illustration of proboscis

P proboscis 2

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Synonyms for proboscis


beak, conk [chiefly British slang], honker [slang], neb, nose, nozzle [slang], schnoz (or schnozz) [slang], schnozzle [slang], smeller, snoot, snout

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Examples of proboscis in a Sentence

if there were a direct relation between mendacity and the length of one's proboscis, hers would be a mile long

Recent Examples on the Web

The bugs then pierce their prey with a dagger-like proboscis, injecting enzymes and possibly anesthetic chemicals. National Geographic, "Giant water bugs eat turtles, ducklings, and even snakes," 3 Apr. 2019 The partially prehensile proboscis helps the species probe the ground for leaves and fallen fruit. Bradley J. Fikes,, "For the Fourth, bring out the (San Diego Zoo) babies!," 3 July 2018 Just about every butterfly and moth that has hollow scales today has a proboscis, Mr. van Eldijk said. Nicholas St. Fleur, New York Times, "Finding the Oldest Fossils of Butterflies Using a Human Nose Hair," 10 Jan. 2018 With no flowers around, the researchers believe the primitive moths and butterflies developed the physical attributes — namely the sucking proboscis — to find nutrition from sugary water droplets from the tips of tree seeds. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, "World's oldest butterfly and moth fossils discovered in 200-million-year-old 'pond scum'," 11 Jan. 2018 When a Madagascan orchid was found to have a nectar-secreting organ almost 12 inches long, Darwin predicted the existence of a moth with a proboscis long enough to reach the nectary’s depths. Laura J. Snyder, WSJ, "Review: Oliver Sacks Travels Down ‘The River of Consciousness’," 20 Oct. 2017 The assassin bug's deadly proboscis is both sword and siphon., "Why the Assassin Bug More Than Lives Up to Its Name," 30 Sep. 2017 Each butterfly uses its proboscis to ingest its meal. Matt Steecker, USA TODAY, "Hair stylist rescues monarch butterflies in her salon," 27 Sep. 2017 Beware: That proboscis of theirs can leave a painful nip. Ellen Nibali,, "Garden Q&A: Black-eyed Susans with fungal leaf spot disease," 11 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'proboscis.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of proboscis

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for proboscis

Latin, from Greek proboskis, from pro- + boskein to feed

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More Definitions for proboscis



English Language Learners Definition of proboscis

biology : the long, thin nose of some animals (such as an elephant)
biology : a long, thin tube that forms part of the mouth of some insects (such as a butterfly)
humorous : a person's nose especially when it is very long or big


pro·​bos·​cis | \ prə-ˈbä-səs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) , -ˈbäs-kəs\

Kids Definition of proboscis

: a long flexible hollow body part (as the trunk of an elephant)


pro·​bos·​cis | \ prə-ˈbäs-əs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) , -kəs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) \
plural proboscises also proboscides\ -​ˈbäs-​ə-​ˌdēz How to pronounce proboscides (audio) \

Medical Definition of proboscis

: any of various elongated or extensible tubular organs or processes especially of the oral region of an invertebrate: as
a : a sucking organ of insects (as houseflies or mosquitoes) that is often also adapted for piercing
b : one of the complex protrusible holdfasts on the scolex of certain tapeworms

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More from Merriam-Webster on proboscis

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with proboscis

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for proboscis

Spanish Central: Translation of proboscis

Nglish: Translation of proboscis for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about proboscis

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