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[al-i-gey-ter] /ˈæl ɪˌgeɪ tər/
either of two broad-snouted crocodilians of the genus Alligator, of the southeastern U.S. and eastern China.
(loosely) any broad-snouted crocodilian, as a caiman.
Metallurgy. a machine for bringing the balls of iron from a puddling furnace into compact form so that they can be handled.
Jazz. an enthusiastic fan of swing.
verb (used without object)
(of paint, varnish, or the like) to crack and acquire the appearance of alligator hide, as from weathering or improper application to a surface.
Metalworking. (of a rolled metal slab) to split and curl up and down at one end; fishmouth.
Origin of alligator
1560-70; < Spanish el lagarto the lizard < Vulgar Latin *ille that + *lacartus, for Latin lacertus lizard Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for alligator
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • From the notches on his back the alligator is called a sawrian.

    The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce
  • Along its back, was a ridge of horns, like spines, and higher than an alligator's.

    Welsh Fairy Tales William Elliott Griffis
  • What have you got in that alligator, Sheriff, that you're so careful not to set it down and forget it?

  • The alligator of Florida and of Louisiana delights in this chase.

    The Industries of Animals Frdric Houssay
  • Well, this poor thing couldn't tell between a real sin and an alligator.

    The O'Ruddy Stephen Crane
British Dictionary definitions for alligator


a large crocodilian, Alligator mississipiensis, of the southern US, having powerful jaws and sharp teeth and differing from the crocodiles in having a shorter and broader snout: family Alligatoridae (alligators and caymans)
a similar but smaller species, A. sinensis, occurring in China near the Yangtse River
any crocodilian belonging to the family Alligatoridae
any of various tools or machines having adjustable toothed jaws, used for gripping, crushing, or compacting
Word Origin
C17: from Spanish el lagarto the lizard, from Latin lacerta
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for alligator

1560s, lagarto (modern form attested from 1620s, with excrescent -r as in tater, feller, etc.), a corruption of Spanish el lagarto (de Indias) "the lizard (of the Indies)," from Latin lacertus (see lizard). Alligarter was an early variant. The slang meaning "non-playing devotee of swing music" is attested from 1936; the phrase see you later, alligator is from a 1956 song title.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for alligator



  1. An assertively masculine, flashily dressed, and up-to-the-minute male; dude, sport (Black)
  2. An active devotee of swing and jive music, dancing, and speech (1930s+ Jive talk) The salutation ''See you later, alligator'' is common
  3. A white jazz musician or jazz enthusiast (Black jazz musicians)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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