[ bahy-suh n, -zuh n ]
/ ˈbaɪ sən, -zən /

noun, plural bi·son.

Also called American bison, American buffalo. a North American, oxlike ruminant, Bison bison, having a large head and high, humped shoulders: formerly common in North America, its small remaining population in isolated western areas of the U.S. and Canada is now protected.
Also called wisent. a related animal, Bison bonasus, of Europe, less shaggy and slightly larger than the American bison: now greatly reduced in number.

Nearby words

  1. bismuthosis,
  2. bismuthous,
  3. bismuthyl,
  4. bismutite,
  5. bisnaga,
  6. bisontine,
  7. bisphenoid,
  8. bisphosphonate,
  9. bisque,
  10. bissau

Compare buffalo.

Origin of bison

1350–1400; Middle English bisontes (plural) < Latin (nominative singular bisōn) < Germanic; compare Old High German wisunt, Old English wesend, Old Norse visundr

Related formsbi·son·tine [bahy-suh n-tahyn, -zuh n-] /ˈbaɪ sənˌtaɪn, -zən-/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bison

British Dictionary definitions for bison


/ (ˈbaɪsən) /

noun plural -son

Also called: American bison, buffalo a member of the cattle tribe, Bison bison, formerly widely distributed over the prairies of W North America but now confined to reserves and parks, with a massive head, shaggy forequarters, and a humped back
Also called: wisent, European bison a closely related and similar animal, Bison bonasus, formerly widespread in Europe

Word Origin for bison

C14: from Latin bisōn, of Germanic origin; related to Old English wesand, Old Norse vīsundr

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 bison



c.1600, from French bison (15c.), from Latin bison "wild ox," borrowed from Proto-Germanic *wisand- "aurochs" (cf. Old Norse visundr, Old High German wisunt "bison," Old English/Middle English wesend, which is not attested after c.1400). Possibly ultimately of Baltic or Slavic origin, and meaning "the stinking animal," in reference to its scent while rutting (see weasel). A European wild ox formerly widespread on the continent, including the British Isles, now surviving on forest reserves in Lithuania. Applied 1690s to the North American species commonly mis-called a buffalo.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper