[ik-noo-muh n, -nyoo-]


Also called African mongoose, Egyptian mongoose. a slender, long-tailed mongoose, Herpestes ichneumon, inhabiting Africa and southern Europe, and believed by the ancient Egyptians to devour crocodile eggs.

Origin of ichneumon

1565–75; < Latin < Greek ichneúmōn tracker, equivalent to ichneú(ein) to track (see ichno-) + -mōn agent suffix
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ichneumon

Historical Examples of ichneumon

  • He was just a shade too light for nature, and the ichneumon has a pretty sense of colour.

  • In Europe it is preyed upon by minute ichneumon flies (Chalcids).

    Our Common Insects

    Alpheus Spring Packard

  • The ichneumon may be seen busily searching the bushes for her victim.

  • “Oh, that plant that the ichneumon resorts to when bitten,” exclaimed Macallan.

    The King's Own

    Captain Frederick Marryat

  • According to Pliny, the ichneumon was an object of veneration among the Egyptians.

British Dictionary definitions for ichneumon



a mongoose, Herpestes ichneumon, of Africa and S Europe, having greyish-brown speckled fur

Word Origin for ichneumon

C16: via Latin from Greek, literally: tracker, hunter, from ikhneuein to track, from ikhnos a footprint; so named from the animal's alleged ability to locate the eggs of crocodiles
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 ichneumon

1570s, originally a weasel-like animal in Egypt, Latinized from Greek ikhneumon, literally "searcher, tracker," perhaps because it hunts crocodile eggs, from ikhneuein "hunt for, track," from ikhnos "a track, footstep, trace, clue," of unknown origin. Used by Aristotle for a species of wasp that hunts spiders (a sense in English from 1650s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper