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[zee-bruh; British also zeb-ruh] /ˈzi brə; British also ˈzɛb rə/
noun, plural zebras (especially collectively) zebra.
any of several horselike African mammals of the genus Equus, each species having a characteristic pattern of black or dark-brown stripes on a whitish background: all zebra species are threatened or endangered.
Also called zebra butterfly. a tropical butterfly, Heliconius charithonius, having black wings barred with yellow.
(initial capital letter) a word formerly used in communications to represent the letter Z.
Football Slang. an official, who usually wears a black and white striped shirt.
Origin of zebra
1590-1600; 1975-80 for def 4; < Portuguese zebra, zebro the Iberian wild ass (Spanish cebra), perhaps < Latin equiferus (Pliny) kind of wild horse, equivalent to equi- (combining form of equus horse) + ferus wild
Related forms
zebralike, zebraic
[zi-brey-ik] /zɪˈbreɪ ɪk/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for zebra
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This creature looks as large as an elephant and as wild as a zebra.

    It Happened in Egypt C. N. Williamson
  • The first attempt was made upon the zebra, and was successful.

    Freeland Theodor Hertzka
  • A wild ass or zebra would be too tame for you, wouldn't he, eh sir?

    Barnaby Rudge Charles Dickens
  • "Say rather an ass, shaved and painted to resemble a zebra," muttered John.

    Homeward Bound James Fenimore Cooper
  • This is the zebra, the wild horse of the great plains of Southern Africa.

  • But when he dismounted, the zebra turned in a rage, and suddenly bit his ear off.

British Dictionary definitions for zebra


/ˈziːbrə; ˈzɛbrə/
noun (pl) -ras, -ra
any of several mammals of the horse family (Equidae), such as Equus burchelli (the common zebra), of southern and eastern Africa, having distinctive black-and-white striped hides
Derived Forms
zebra-like, zebraic (zɪˈbreɪɪk) adjective
zebrine (ˈziːbraɪn; ˈzɛb-), zebroid, adjective
Word Origin
C16: via Italian from Old Spanish: wild ass, probably from Vulgar Latin eciferus (unattested) wild horse, from Latin equiferus, from equus horse + ferus wild


/ˈziːbrə; ˈzɛbrə/
noun (finance)
a noninterest-paying bond in which the accrued income is taxed annually rather than on redemption Compare zero (sense 12)
Word Origin
C20: from zero-coupon bond
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 zebra

c.1600, from Italian zebra, perhaps via Portuguese, earlier applied to a now-extinct wild ass, said to be Congolese [OED], or Amharic [Klein], but perhaps ultimately from Latin equiferus "wild horse," from equus "horse" (see equine) + ferus (see fierce).

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



  1. A referee or other sports official who wears a striped shirt on the playing field: Pro football zebras point immediately toward the offending team/ a crooked Zebra (also known as an umpire) (1978+ Sports)
  2. An unlikely, arcane, or obscure diagnosis (1980s+ Medical)
  3. A person of mixed black and white race: I've been called a ''zebra'' and an ''Oreo'' (1980s+)

[the medical sense is fr the saying ''If you hear horse's hoofbeats going by outside, don't look for zebras'']

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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