[zee-bruh; British also zeb-ruh]
noun, plural ze·bras, (especially collectively) ze·bra.
  1. any of several horselike African mammals of the genus Equus, each species having a characteristic pattern of black or dark-brown stripes on a whitish background: all zebra species are threatened or endangered.
  2. Also called zebra butterfly. a tropical butterfly, Heliconius charithonius, having black wings barred with yellow.
  3. (initial capital letter) a word formerly used in communications to represent the letter Z.
  4. Football Slang. an official, who usually wears a black and white striped shirt.
  5. zebra crossing.

Origin of zebra

1590–1600; 1975–80 for def 4; < Portuguese zebra, zebro the Iberian wild ass (Spanish cebra), perhaps < Latin equiferus (Pliny) kind of wild horse, equivalent to equi- (combining form of equus horse) + ferus wild
Related formsze·bra·like, ze·bra·ic [zi-brey-ik] /zɪˈbreɪ ɪk/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for zebra

Contemporary Examples of zebra

Historical Examples of zebra

  • This creature looks as large as an elephant and as wild as a zebra.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • The first attempt was made upon the zebra, and was successful.


    Theodor Hertzka

  • A wild ass or zebra would be too tame for you, wouldn't he, eh sir?

    Barnaby Rudge

    Charles Dickens

  • "Say rather an ass, shaved and painted to resemble a zebra," muttered John.

    Homeward Bound

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • This is the zebra, the wild horse of the great plains of Southern Africa.

British Dictionary definitions for zebra


noun plural -ras or -ra
  1. any of several mammals of the horse family (Equidae), such as Equus burchelli (the common zebra), of southern and eastern Africa, having distinctive black-and-white striped hides
Derived Formszebra-like or zebraic (zɪˈbreɪɪk), adjectivezebrine (ˈziːbraɪn, ˈzɛb-) or zebroid, adjective

Word Origin for zebra

C16: via Italian from Old Spanish: wild ass, probably from Vulgar Latin eciferus (unattested) wild horse, from Latin equiferus, from equus horse + ferus wild


noun finance
  1. a noninterest-paying bond in which the accrued income is taxed annually rather than on redemptionCompare zero (def. 12)

Word Origin for Zebra

C20: from zero-coupon bond
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 zebra

c.1600, from Italian zebra, perhaps via Portuguese, earlier applied to a now-extinct wild ass, said to be Congolese [OED], or Amharic [Klein], but perhaps ultimately from Latin equiferus "wild horse," from equus "horse" (see equine) + ferus (see fierce).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper