[ al-i-gey-ter ]

  1. either of two broad-snouted crocodilians of the genus Alligator, of the southeastern U.S. and eastern China.

  2. (loosely) any broad-snouted crocodilian, as a caiman.

  1. Metallurgy. a machine for bringing the balls of iron from a puddling furnace into compact form so that they can be handled.

  2. Jazz. an enthusiastic fan of swing.

verb (used without object)
  1. (of paint, varnish, or the like) to crack and acquire the appearance of alligator hide, as from weathering or improper application to a surface.

  2. 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 lacertuslizard Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use alligator in a sentence

  • I have seen more alligators than you can count fingers and thumbs on your little dimpled hands.

  • "You may be thankful if you don't get those two young alligators in the other tank," said a gruff-voiced adjutant.

  • Sometimes I thought that our voyage would end in our being carried to the bottom to become the food of alligators.

    In the Wilds of Florida | W.H.G. Kingston
  • The alligators continued as plentiful as ever; numbers of them lay on the banks, watching us with savage eyes.

    In the Wilds of Florida | W.H.G. Kingston
  • Sure enough, there were five or six small alligators at the far end—little fellows not very long out of the shell.

    Mass' George | George Manville Fenn

British Dictionary definitions for alligator


/ (ˈælɪˌɡeɪtə) /

  1. 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)

  2. a similar but smaller species, A. sinensis, occurring in China near the Yangtse River

  1. any crocodilian belonging to the family Alligatoridae

  2. any of various tools or machines having adjustable toothed jaws, used for gripping, crushing, or compacting

Origin of alligator

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