Definitions

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

  • n. Any of various small freshwater and marine fishes of the family Gasterosteidae, having erectile spines along the back.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any one of numerous species of small fishes of the genus Gasterosteus and allied genera. The back is armed with two or more sharp spines. They inhabit both salt and brackish water, and construct curious nests.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Any one of numerous species of small fishes of the genus Gasterosteus and allied genera. The back is armed with two or more sharp spines. They inhabit both salt and brackish water, and construct curious nests. Called also sticklebag, sharpling, and prickleback.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Any fish of the family Gasterosteid├Ž: so called from the sharp spines of the back.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. small (2-4 inches) pugnacious mostly scaleless spiny-backed fishes of northern fresh and littoral waters having elaborate courtship; subjects of much research

Etymologies

Middle English stikelbak : Old English sticel, prick; see steig- in Indo-European roots + Middle English bak, back; see back1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English and dialect stickle a prickle, spine, sting (Anglo-Saxon sticel) + back. See stick (transitive verb) and compare banstickle. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • On the crest of a cross-grained stickleback, that is caught with a crooked pin;

    Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 103, July 23, 1892

  • One wife, however, does not suffice to fill the nest with eggs; and the stickleback is a firm believer in the advantages of large families.

    A Book of Natural History Young Folks' Library Volume XIV.

  • For, like almost all polygamists, your stickleback is a terrible fighter.

    A Book of Natural History Young Folks' Library Volume XIV.

  • The money came from the proceeds of a special experiment devised by Manfred Milinski, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, a connoisseur of food and fine wine, a zoologist and naturalist who feels equally at home with people and stickleback fish, as we saw in chapter 1.

    SuperCooperators

  • A real-life example of such a contest was reported in 1987, when Manfred Milinski, now the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Ploen, Germany, studied the behavior of stickleback fish.

    SuperCooperators

  • Milinski found that stickleback fish rely on the Tit-for-Tat strategy during this risky maneuver.

    SuperCooperators

  • Yet each little fish has an understandable incentive to hang back a little and let the other stickleback soak up more of the risk.

    SuperCooperators

  • When held in the right place, it could create the illusion that a single stickleback was accompanied by another scout.

    SuperCooperators

  • A kingfisher, an airborne jewel, whirrs past, stickleback in its beak, and disappears into a thicket of riparian willow.

    Country diary: Tregaron, Ceredigon

  • A kingfisher, an airborne jewel, whirrs past, stickleback in its beak.

    Country diary: Tregaron, Ceredigon

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