[spahy-ruh-kuh l, spir-uh-]


a breathing hole; an opening by which a confined space has communication with the outer air; air hole.
  1. an aperture or orifice through which air or water passes in the act of respiration, as the blowhole of a cetacean.
  2. an opening in the head of sharks and rays through which water is drawn and passed over gills.
  3. one of the external orifices of the tracheal respiratory system of certain invertebrates, usually on the sides of the body.

Origin of spiracle

1300–50; Middle English < Latin spīrāculum air hole, equivalent to spīrā(re) to breathe + -culum -cle2
Related formsspi·rac·u·lar [spahy-rak-yuh-ler, spi-] /spaɪˈræk yə lər, spɪ-/, adjectivepre·spi·rac·u·lar, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for spiracle

Historical Examples of spiracle

British Dictionary definitions for spiracle



any of several paired apertures in the cuticle of an insect, by which air enters and leaves the trachea
a small paired rudimentary gill slit just behind the head in skates, rays, and related fishes
any similar respiratory aperture, such as the blowhole in whales
geology a protrusion of sediment into a lava flow, formed by the explosive transition of water into steam
Derived Formsspiracular (spɪˈrækjʊlə), adjectivespiraculate, adjective

Word Origin for spiracle

C14 (originally: breath): from Latin spīrāculum vent, from spīrāre to breathe
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 spiracle

"air hole," 1610s, from Latin spiraculum, from spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

spiracle in Science


[spĭrə-kəl, spīrə-]

An opening through which certain animals breathe, such as the blowhole of a whale or one of the openings in the exoskeleton of an insect.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.