• synonyms


[stik-uh l-bak]
  1. 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.
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Origin of stickleback

1400–50; late Middle English stykylbak, equivalent to Old English sticol scaly + bæc back1
Also called prickleback.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for stickleback

Historical Examples

  • The stickleback is passionate, polygamous and very jealous of rivals.

    The Truth About Woman

    C. Gasquoine Hartley

  • Only let me finish it, and you shall have it in exchange for the stickleback you caught this morning.

    The Settlers at Home

    Harriet Martineau

  • Pinkeen; a little fish, a stickleback: plentiful in small streams.

  • The efforts of the stickleback to rid himself of this encumbrance were amusing.

  • The Stickleback had not meant to look fierce at the Pond Snails.

    Among the Pond People

    Clara Dillingham Pierson

British Dictionary definitions for stickleback


  1. 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
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Word Origin

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper