• synonyms


  1. Also called spiny anteater. any of several insectivorous monotremes of the genera Tachyglossus, of Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea, and Zaglossus, of New Guinea, that have claws and a slender snout and are covered with coarse hair and long spines.
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Origin of echidna

< New Latin (1798), originally a genus name; Latin: serpent, Echidna a mythical creature which gave birth to the Hydra and other monsters < Greek échidna, akin to échis viper
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for echidna

Historical Examples

  • Echidna was a bloodthirsty monster, half maiden, half serpent.

    Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

    E.M. Berens

  • The Ornithorhyncus has fur, the Echidna has spines, with hairs between them.

  • Man-serpent, therefore, in Dante, as Echidna is woman-serpent.

  • In Ornithorhynchus the zygomatic arch is much stouter than in Echidna.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton

    Sidney H. Reynolds

  • In Echidna the carpus is broad, the scaphoid and lunar are united and there is no centrale.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton

    Sidney H. Reynolds

British Dictionary definitions for echidna


noun plural -nas or -nae (-niː)
  1. any of the spine-covered monotreme mammals of the genera Tachyglossus of Australia and Zaglossus of New Guinea: family Tachyglossidae. They have a long snout and claws for hunting ants and termitesAlso called: spiny anteater
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Word Origin

C19: from New Latin, from Latin: viper, from Greek ekhidna
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 echidna


Australian egg-laying hedgehog-like mammal, 1847, usually explained as from Greek ekhidna "snake, viper," from ekhis "snake," from PIE *angwhi- "snake, eel" (cf. Norwegian igle, Old High German egala, German Egel "leech," Latin anguis "serpent, snake").

But this sense is difficult to reconcile with this animal (unless it is a reference to the ant-eating tongue), and the name seems more properly to belong to Latin echinus, Greek ekhinos "sea-urchin," originally "hedgehog" (in Greek also "sharp points"), which Watkins explains as "snake-eater," from ekhis "snake."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper