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lemming

[lem-ing]
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noun
  1. any of various small, mouselike rodents of the genera Lemmus, Myopus, and Dicrostonyx, of far northern regions, as L. lemmus, of Norway, Sweden, etc., noted for periodic mass migrations that sometimes result in mass drownings.
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Origin of lemming

1600–10; < Norwegian; cognate with Icelandic lǣmingi lemming, lǣmingr loon; akin to Gothic laian to revile, Icelandic to blame
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for lemming

lemming

noun
  1. any of various volelike rodents of the genus Lemmus and related genera, of northern and arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America: family Cricetidae. The Scandinavian variety, Lemmus lemmus, migrates periodically when its population reaches a peak
  2. a member of any large group following an unthinking course towards mass destruction
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Derived Formslemming-like, adjective

Word Origin

C17: from Norwegian; related to Latin latrāre to bark
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 lemming

n.

small arctic rodent, c.1600, from Norwegian lemming, from Old Norse lomundr "lemming." Perhaps from Lapp luomek. Figurative sense (in reference to their mass migrations that sometimes end in plunges into the sea) is from 1958.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper