a large, primarily nocturnal, lizardlike reptile, Sphenodon punctatum, of islands near the coast of New Zealand: the only surviving rhynchocephalian.

Also tu·a·te·ra [too-uh-tair-uh] /ˌtu əˈtɛər ə/.

Origin of tuatara

1810–20; < Maori, equivalent to tua dorsal + tara spine
Also called sphenodon.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for tuatara



a greenish-grey lizard-like rhynchocephalian reptile, Sphenodon punctatus, occurring only on certain small islands near New Zealand: it is the sole surviving member of a group common in Mesozoic times

Word Origin for tuatara

C19: from Māori, from tua back + tara spine
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 tuatara

New Zealand lizard, 1890, from Maori, from tua "on the back" + tara "spine."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper