spotted hyena

noun

: a hyena (Crocuta crocuta) of sub-Saharan Africa that has a tan to reddish-brown coat with dark roundish spots, a large head, long muzzle, powerful jaws, and rounded ears

Note: In addition to being an efficient scavenger, the spotted hyena is a skilled hunter, preying on various large animals (such as wildebeests, gazelles, and zebras). The spotted hyena communicates using a variety of vocalizations including groans, squeals, laughs, whoops, and growls.

It's never wise to make a spotted hyena nervous. Among the deadliest of African predators, they can eat and digest whole carcasses, including skin and bones.Natural History
… female spotted hyenas are bigger and more aggressive than males. Every clan is a matriarchy ruled by an alpha female.Steve Kemper
Biologists remained unsure why spotted hyenas giggle but theorized that the giggles may express frustration.Harper's Magazine

called also laughing hyena

Examples of spotted hyena in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Aside from having a high concentration of leopards, there are lions, elephants, buffaloes, spotted hyenas, Thornicroft's giraffes, zebras, and wild dogs, as well as hundreds of bird species, including various eagles, kingfishers, and herons. Heather Richardson, Travel + Leisure, 17 May 2021 Take the female African spotted hyena. Katie Hunt, CNN, 12 June 2022 This spotted hyena is the lowest-ranking member of the Highway Clan, an urban group in Harar, Ethiopia. Carlyn Kranking, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 Jan. 2023 These include the Asian short-clawed otter, spotted hyena, spotted linsang (a beautiful tree-climbing civet), fossa (a Madagascan mongoose-relative) and three sea-going hunters – the sea lion, the fur seal, and the Pacific harbour seal. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 13 Mar. 2012

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'spotted hyena.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1771, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of spotted hyena was in 1771

Dictionary Entries Near spotted hyena

Cite this Entry

“Spotted hyena.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spotted%20hyena. Accessed 27 May. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!