Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Either of two aquatic, insectivorous, molelike mammals, Desmana moschata of eastern Europe and western Asia or Galemys pyrenaicus of southwest Europe, having dense brownish fur, a long snout, and a flattened scaly tail.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An aquatic or semi-aquatic insectivore of the mole family, found in Europe.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An amphibious, insectivorous mammal found in Russia (Myogale moschata). It is allied to the moles, but is called muskrat by some English writers.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A musk-shrew or musk-rat: the name of two distinct species of aquatic insectivorous mammals of the genus Myogale or Galemys, constituting the subfamily Myogalinæ (which see).
  • n. [capitalized]
  • n. A generic name of the musk-shrews.

Etymologies

Short for Swedish desmanråtta, muskrat : desman, musk (from Middle Low German desem, from Medieval Latin bisamum, of Semitic origin; see bśm in Semitic roots) + råtta, rat (akin to Old English ræt).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French desman, German Desman, from Swedish desmanråtta ("muskrat"), from desman ("musk"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • A desman essentially is one of two species of aquatic moles Russian Desmana moschata, or Pyrenean, Galemys pyrenaicus, though they look sort of like a cross between an otter, a mole and Jimmy Durante.

    Open thread: questions and explanations - The Panda's Thumb

  • The ecoregion hosts other rare and threatened small mammals, such as the snow vole (Microtus nivalis), the Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus), and the endemic Cantabrian hare (Lepus castroviejoi).

    Cantabrian mixed forests

  • The insectivorous Pyrenean desman Galemys pyrenaicus, occurs in lowland elevation.

    Pyrenees-Mont Perdu, France and Spain

  • I like to think that it looked like a giant desman, but that only helps if you know what a desman is.

    Archive 2006-02-01

  • Also present are wild boar (Sus scrofa), chamois (Rupicapra parva), red deer (Cervus elaphus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and seldom seen, the Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus).

    Cantabrian mixed forests

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Comments

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  • "...his first sight of St. Dabeoc's heath when he was seven, of a dell filled with Gold of Pleasure the next year, and of the Pyrenean desman (that rare ill-natured cousin to the shrew) only a few weeks after that!"
    --Patrick O'Brian, The Truelove, 185

    March 11, 2008