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[bas-uh-lisk, baz-] /ˈbæs ə lɪsk, ˈbæz-/
Classical Mythology. a creature, variously described as a serpent, lizard, or dragon, said to kill by its breath or look.
any of several tropical American iguanid lizards of the genus Basiliscus, noted for their ability to run across the surface of water on their hind legs.
Origin of basilisk
1250-1300; Middle English < Latin basiliscus < Greek basilískos princeling, basilisk, equivalent to basil(eús) king + -iskos diminutive suffix; allegedly so named from a crownlike white spot on its head
Related forms
[bas-uh-lis-in, -ahyn, baz-] /ˌbæs əˈlɪs ɪn, -aɪn, ˌbæz-/ (Show IPA),
basiliscan, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for basilisk
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Looking out to sea, we perceived that the "basilisk" had departed, and that the "Serpent" was lying peacefully at anchor.

    A Diplomat in Japan Ernest Mason Satow
  • But to be quiet with such a basilisk before him was impossible.

    Barnaby Rudge Charles Dickens
  • And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk's den.

  • That cold blue eye which is the basilisk of the British Army.

    On the Heels of De Wet The Intelligence Officer
  • And finally there is the delightful and vivid representation of S. Tryphonius and the basilisk.

  • Leave me to hatch, from the heat of their own passions, the basilisk which shall destroy them.

    Love and Intrigue Friedrich Schiller
British Dictionary definitions for basilisk


(in classical legend) a serpent that could kill by its breath or glance
any small arboreal semiaquatic lizard of the genus Basiliscus of tropical America: family Iguanidae (iguanas). The males have an inflatable head crest, used in display
a 16th-century medium cannon, usually made of brass
Word Origin
C14: from Latin basiliscus, from Greek basiliskos royal child, from basileus king
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 basilisk

c.1300, from Latin basiliscus, from Greek basiliskos "little king," diminutive of basileus "king" (see Basil); said by Pliny to have been so called because of a crest or spot on its head resembling a crown.

The basilisk has since the fourteenth century been confused with the Cockatrice, and the subject is now a complicated one. [T.H. White, "The Bestiary. A Book of Beasts," 1954]
Its breath and glance were said to be fatal. The South American lizard so called (1813) because it, like the mythical beast, has a crest. Also used of a type of large cannon, throwing shot of 200 lb., from 1540s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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