- a large, usually tawny-yellow cat, Panthera leo, native to Africa and southern Asia, having a tufted tail and, in the male, a large mane.
- any of various related large wildcats, as the cougar.
- a man of great strength, courage, etc.
- a person of great importance, influence, charm, etc., who is much admired as a celebrity: a literary lion.
- the lion as the national emblem of Great Britain.
- (initial capital letter) Astronomy, Astrology. the constellation or sign of Leo.
- (initial capital letter) a member of any one of the internationally affiliated service clubs (International Association of Lions Clubs) founded in 1917 and dedicated to promoting responsible citizenship, sound government, and community, national, and international welfare.
- a silver, Anglo-Gallic denier, issued during the reign of Henry III, bearing the figure of a lion.
- a gold coin of Scotland, issued c1400–1589, bearing the figure of a lion.
- any of various other coins bearing the figure of a lion.
- British. an object of interest or note.
- 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
- the Lion the constellation Leo, the fifth sign of the zodiac
- 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
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.
In addition to the idiom beginning with lion
, also see
- beard the lion
- throw to the wolves (lions)