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[ik-noo-muh n, -nyoo-] /ɪkˈnu mən, -ˈnyu-/
Also called African mongoose, Egyptian mongoose. a slender, long-tailed mongoose, Herpestes ichneumon, inhabiting Africa and southern Europe, and believed by the ancient Egyptians to devour crocodile eggs.
Origin of ichneumon
1565-75; < Latin < Greek ichneúmōn tracker, equivalent to ichneú(ein) to track (see ichno-) + -mōn agent suffix Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ichneumon
Historical Examples
  • He was just a shade too light for nature, and the ichneumon has a pretty sense of colour.

    "Wee Tim'rous Beasties" Douglas English
  • In Europe it is preyed upon by minute ichneumon flies (Chalcids).

    Our Common Insects Alpheus Spring Packard
  • The ichneumon may be seen busily searching the bushes for her victim.

    The Dawn of Reason James Weir
  • “Oh, that plant that the ichneumon resorts to when bitten,” exclaimed Macallan.

    The King's Own Captain Frederick Marryat
  • Buffon assumes that the ichneumon has been brought to a state of domesticity.

  • According to Pliny, the ichneumon was an object of veneration among the Egyptians.

  • Denon has given us the following account of the ichneumon in his Travels in Egypt.

  • The eggs of the ichneumon fly hatch first and feed upon the eggs of the spider.

    Spiders Cecil Warburton
  • It was hanging from a thread, down which the ichneumon fly was seen to crawl.

    Spiders Cecil Warburton
  • After the ichneumon flies had disappeared, a new difficulty arose.

British Dictionary definitions for ichneumon


a mongoose, Herpestes ichneumon, of Africa and S Europe, having greyish-brown speckled fur
Word Origin
C16: via Latin from Greek, literally: tracker, hunter, from ikhneuein to track, from ikhnos a footprint; so named from the animal's alleged ability to locate the eggs of crocodiles
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 ichneumon

1570s, originally a weasel-like animal in Egypt, Latinized from Greek ikhneumon, literally "searcher, tracker," perhaps because it hunts crocodile eggs, from ikhneuein "hunt for, track," from ikhnos "a track, footstep, trace, clue," of unknown origin. Used by Aristotle for a species of wasp that hunts spiders (a sense in English from 1650s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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