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

  • n. A colorfully spotted trout (Salvelinus malma) of northwest North America and eastern Asia.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A woman's outfit, briefly fashionable in Britain and America in the late nineteenth century, with a brightly patterned, usually flowered, dress with a polonaise overskirt gathered up and draped over a separate underskirt.
  • n. Salvelinus malma malma, a fish in the salmon family.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • A character in Dickens's novel “Barnaby Rudge,” a beautiful, lively, and coquettish girl who wore a cherry-colored mantle and cherry-colored ribbons.
  • A style of light, bright-figured dress goods for women; also, a style of dress.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A woman's gown of gay-flowered material, usually a muslin print, made with a pointed bodice and a skirt tucked up or draped over a petticoat of solid color: worn about 1865-70.
  • n. A species of trout or char of California, Salvelinus malma.
  • n. A large hat with a brim overloaded with flowers, worn at one time by women.


After Dolly Varden, a character known for her colorful costume in the novel Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
After a lively, coquettish character in Dickens' novel Barnaby Rudge. (Wiktionary)


  • Listing the many other common names for the species that have appeared in popular and scientific literature would only be confusing, for those names—as well as the name Dolly Varden itself—reflect the considerable historical complexity of the search for the true identities of the three distinct species we now call Dolly Varden, bull trout, and Arctic char.

    Trout and Salmon of North America

  • In 1872, Livingston Stone mentioned that anglers from Soda Springs Lodge came to the McCloud River in California to catch large “salmon-trout,” which they called Dolly Varden.

    Trout and Salmon of North America

  • The colors and spots of the salmon-trout of the McCloud River suggested this pattern, and the common name Dolly Varden was first used for what were later recognized as bull trout in the McCloud River.

    Trout and Salmon of North America

  • This lack of formality simplifies the continued usage of the common name Dolly Varden for the species Salvelinus malma.

    Trout and Salmon of North America

  • Stone mentioned that European American anglers from the lodge at Soda Springs, on the upper Sacramento River, would hike over to the McCloud River to catch large “salmon-trout” which the anglers called Dolly Varden.

    Trout and Salmon of North America

  • Subsequently, this character inspired popular patterns of colorful cloth that were milled for dressmaking and called Dolly Varden.

    Trout and Salmon of North America

  • The story of how this fish came to be known as Dolly Varden is another tale of misidentification.

    Trout and Salmon of North America

  • Edward, than anybody with tenfold the gravity of Dolly Varden could be reasonably expected to remember, at length dismissed her.

    Barnaby Rudge

  • The correspondent of a New York newspaper claimed the complete trip in his canoe some five years ago, but his own guide and others told us that his Dolly Varden never was above Brainerd, and that his portages above were frequent.

    Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science Volume 26, September, 1880

  • Dolly Varden; but on close inspection it seemed most to resemble the gayly striped ribbons my sisters wore.

    Moths of the Limberlost


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  • In my area, now called bull trout, just to further confuse the name of this threatened species of char. Last winter I caught and released a big one while fishing for steelhead in Idaho's Salmon River.

    January 14, 2013