[lahy-uh n]



    beard the lion in its den, to confront or attack someone, especially a powerful or feared person, in that person's own familiar surroundings.
    twist the lion's tail, to tax the patience of or provoke a person, group, nation, or government, especially that of Great Britain.

Origin of lion

before 900; Middle English < Old French, variant of leon < Latin leōn- (stem of leō) < Greek léōn; replacing Middle English, Old English lēo < Latin, as above
Related formsli·on·esque, adjectiveli·on·like, li·on·ly, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for lion

cougar, wildcat, cat, puma, griffin, lioness, leo, simba

Examples from the Web for lion

Contemporary Examples of lion

Historical Examples of lion

  • Well, boy, I'd say that the lion had been chawed up considerable—by dogs.

  • It is a fool's plan to teach a man to be a cur in peace, and think that he will be a lion in war.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • I want to make a cushion of my lion's skin, for the weight to rest upon.

    The Three Golden Apples

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • But pretty soon there was plenty of sound, for the lion was catching up.

    Tom Sawyer Abroad

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

  • That one is the lion; and they hunt him with spears in the long grass.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

British Dictionary definitions for lion



a large gregarious predatory feline mammal, Panthera leo, of open country in parts of Africa and India, having a tawny yellow coat and, in the male, a shaggy maneRelated adjective: leonine
a conventionalized lion, the principal beast used as an emblem in heraldry. It has become the national emblem of Great Britain
a courageous, strong, or bellicose person
a celebrity or idol who attracts much publicity and a large following
beard the lion in his den to approach a feared or influential person, esp in order to ask a favour
the lion's share the largest portion

Word Origin for lion

Old English līo, lēo (Middle English lioun, from Anglo-French liun), both from Latin leo, Greek leōn



the Lion the constellation Leo, the fifth sign of the zodiac
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 lion

late 12c., from Old French lion "lion," figuratively "hero," from Latin leonem (nominative leo) "lion; the constellation leo," from Greek leon (genitive leontos), from a non-Indo-European language, perhaps Semitic (cf. Hebrew labhi "lion," plural lebaim; Egyptian labai, lawai "lioness").

A general Germanic borrowing from Latin (cf. Old English leo, Anglian lea; Old Frisian lawa; Middle Dutch leuwe, Dutch leeuw; Old High German lewo, German Löwe); it is found in most European languages, often via Germanic (cf. Old Church Slavonic livu, Polish lew, Czech lev, Old Irish leon, Welsh llew). Used figuratively from c.1200 in an approving sense, "one who is fiercely brave," and a disapproving one, "tyrannical leader, greedy devourer." Lion's share "the greatest portion" is attested from 1701.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with lion


In addition to the idiom beginning with lion

, also see

  • beard the lion
  • throw to the wolves (lions)


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.