[bas-uh-lisk, baz-]
See more synonyms for basilisk on
  1. Classical Mythology. a creature, variously described as a serpent, lizard, or dragon, said to kill by its breath or look.
  2. 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 formsbas·i·lis·cine [bas-uh-lis-in, -ahyn, baz-] /ˌbæs əˈlɪs ɪn, -aɪn, ˌbæz-/, bas·i·lis·can, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for basilisk

basilisk, hydra, tarragon, wyvern

Examples from the Web for basilisk

Contemporary Examples of basilisk

Historical Examples of basilisk

  • But to be quiet with such a basilisk before him was impossible.

    Barnaby Rudge

    Charles Dickens

  • The party to see the Basilisk was not only the most agreeable of the season, but the most agreeable ever known.


    Benjamin Disraeli

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

    On the Heels of De Wet

    The Intelligence Officer

  • Roach changed the basilisk gaze with which he had regarded him to a vacant stare.

    Prisoners of Hope

    Mary Johnston

  • 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


  1. (in classical legend) a serpent that could kill by its breath or glance
  2. 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
  3. a 16th-century medium cannon, usually made of brass

Word Origin for basilisk

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

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