[ stik-uh l-bak ]
/ ˈstɪk əlˌbæk /


any of the small, pugnacious, spiny-backed fishes of the family Gasterosteidae, inhabiting northern fresh waters and sea inlets, the male of which builds and guards the nest.

Nearby words

  1. sticking place,
  2. sticking plaster,
  3. sticking point,
  4. stickit,
  5. stickle,
  6. stickler,
  7. stickler syndrome,
  8. stickley,
  9. stickley, gustav,
  10. stickman

Origin of stickleback

1400–50; late Middle English stykylbak, equivalent to Old English sticol scaly + bæc back1

Also called prickleback. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stickleback

British Dictionary definitions for stickleback


/ (ˈstɪkəlˌbæk) /


any small teleost fish of the family Gasterosteidae, such as Gasterosteus aculeatus (three-spined stickleback) of rivers and coastal regions and G. pungitius (ten-spined stickleback) confined to rivers. They have a series of spines along the back and occur in cold and temperate northern regions

Word Origin for stickleback

C15: from Old English stickel prick, sting + back 1

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 stickleback



c.1400, from Old English sticel "prick, sting" (from Proto-Germanic *stik- "pierce, prick, be sharp;" see stick (v.)) + back.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper