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[jak-uh l, -awl]
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  1. any of several nocturnal wild dogs of the genus Canis, especially C. aureus, of Asia and Africa, that scavenge or hunt in packs.
  2. a person who performs dishonest or base deeds as the follower or accomplice of another.
  3. a person who performs menial or degrading tasks for another.
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Origin of jackal

1595–1605; < alteration, by association with Jack, of Persian shag(h)āl; cognate with Sanskrit śṛgāla
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for jackal


  1. any of several African or S Asian canine mammals of the genus Canis, closely related to the dog, having long legs and pointed ears and muzzle: predators and carrion-eaters
  2. a person who does menial tasks for another
  3. a villain, esp a swindler
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Word Origin

C17: from Turkish chakāl, from Persian shagāl, from Sanskrit srgāla
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

Word Origin and History for jackal


c.1600, from Turkish çakal, from Persian shaghal, from or cognate with Sanskrit srgala-s, literally "the howler." Figurative sense of "skulking henchman" is from the old belief that jackals stirred up game for lions.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper