Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of several nocturnal burrowing egg-laying mammals of the genera Tachyglossus and Zaglossus of Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea, having a spiny coat, a slender snout, and an extensible sticky tongue used for catching insects.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In ichthyology, a genus of anguilliform fishes: generally accounted a synonym of Muræna. Forster, 1778.
  • noun In herpetology, a genus of reptiles: used by Wagler and others for the genus of vipers (Viperidæ) called Bitis by Gray and Cope. Merrem, 1820.
  • noun In mammalogy:
  • noun The typical genus of the family Echidnidæ, containing the aculeated ant-eater or spiny ant-eater of Australia and Tasmania, E. hystrix or aculeata, and another species, E. lawesi of New Guinea, together with a fossil one, E. oweni.
  • noun [lowercase] A species of the genus Echidna or family Echidnidæ.
  • noun A genus of echinoderms.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Gr. Myth.) A monster, half maid and half serpent.
  • noun (Zoöl.) A genus of Monotremata found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. They are toothless and covered with spines; -- called also porcupine ant-eater, and Australian ant-eater.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Any of the four species of small spined monotremes, also known as a spiny anteaters, found in Australia and southern New Guinea.

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

  • noun a burrowing monotreme mammal covered with spines and having a long snout and claws for hunting ants and termites; native to New Guinea
  • noun a burrowing monotreme mammal covered with spines and having a long snout and claws for hunting ants and termites; native to Australia

Etymologies

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

[Latin, adder, viper, from Greek ekhidna, from ekhis.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Through Latin, from Ancient Greek ἔχιδνα (ekhidna). Compare ἐχῖνος (ekhinos, "hedgehog").

Examples

  • Blast, I fell victim to the platypus ... now my echidna is all chittering in the corner about bread on the table, crumbs in the pantry and freelance websites.

    "You will choke, choke on the air you try to breathe..."

  • The long tubular nose of the echidna is the vital spot.

    The Confessions of a Beachcomber

  • By the blacks the echidna, which is known as "Coombee-yan," is placed on the very top of the list of those dainties which the crafty old men reserve for themselves under awe-inspiring penalties.

    Confessions of a Beachcomber

  • The long tubular nose of the echidna is the vital spot.

    Confessions of a Beachcomber

  • Next in size to the echidna is the white-tipped rat (UROMYS HIRSUTIS?), water-loving, nocturnal in its habits, fierce and destructive.

    Confessions of a Beachcomber

  • The fact that hibernators are as numerous and as varied as they are - the club includes some ground squirrels and rodents, at least one bird, various snakes and the echidna which is the platypus's closest living relative, among other species - suggests that the biological machinery that's needed for hibernation is both ancient and widespread in the animal kingdom.

    Many species use hibernation to survive the rigors of winter

  • The fact that hibernators are as numerous and as varied as they are - the club includes some ground squirrels and rodents, at least one bird, various snakes and the echidna which is the platypus's closest living relative, among other species - suggests that the biological machinery that's needed for hibernation is both ancient and widespread in the animal kingdom.

    Many species use hibernation to survive the rigors of winter

  • Next in size to the echidna is the white-tipped rat (UROMYS

    The Confessions of a Beachcomber

  • True, the bottle of T.C.P. antiseptic (slightly to the right) is a reminder of splinters, stubbed toes, barnacle cuts from the jetty, and minor sailing accidents but fortunately nobody seems ever to have been seriously injured; never to my knowledge bitten by a snake or poisonous spider, and the only local indigenous wildlife I recall are possums, kookaburras, and a lone echidna which put in an appearance in about 1976.

    Archive 2009-04-01

  • True, the bottle of T.C.P. antiseptic (slightly to the right) is a reminder of splinters, stubbed toes, barnacle cuts from the jetty, and minor sailing accidents but fortunately nobody seems ever to have been seriously injured; never to my knowledge bitten by a snake or poisonous spider, and the only local indigenous wildlife I recall are possums, kookaburras, and a lone echidna which put in an appearance in about 1976.

    The Trumbles at Leisure

Comments

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  • According to the OED:

    A genus of Australian toothless burrowing monotremate mammals (family Echidnidæ), resembling hedgehogs in size and external appearance. In several points their structure is allied to that of birds. The best known species is E. Hystrix, the Porcupine Ant-eater.

    According to me:

    A damn cute little spiky critter.

    February 7, 2007

  • OR: In Greek mythology, a half-woman and half-snake, the mother of various monsters.

    February 25, 2007

  • In Greek mythology, Echidna was a female demon who was referred to as the Mother of all Monsters. She is accredited with mothering virtually every major monster in Greek mythology. She is depicted as having the face and torso of a beautiful woman, sometimes would have wings, and would always have the body of a serpent. Sometimes, she would be depicted as having two tails.

    (from Mystical Creature A Day)

    May 30, 2008

  • Echidna is the Greek for "adder, viper". An echidna looks like a hedgehog, not like an adder. Consult a middling-sized Classical Greek dictionary and look up echidna, and run your finger down one further. You will find echinos "hedgehog".

    Now for the cover-up. They (the Zoologists' Cabal) then renamed the echidna genera Tachyglossus and Zaglossus, from tachy- "fast", gloss- "tongue", and za- "my, what a"; thus doing the nomenclatural equivalent of looking round with shifty eyes then pointing at its tongue, saying, "Nah, nah, see, when it sticks its tongue out like that to lick up ants, it looks amazingly like an adder sticking its, er, tongue out to, er, smell the air. It does."

    I once wrote to Stephen Jay Gould about this, and even broke out into green biro at the crucial point. But did I get any acknowledgement for my pioneering work? Not a sausage.

    July 30, 2008

  • You're on fire, qroqqa. Righteous etymology!

    July 30, 2008

  • Two tails?! That's nothing. The male echidna has, they tell me, a four-headed penis. Even the Greeks didn't think of that.

    And yes, a "damn cute little spiky critter" is by far the best definition.

    October 9, 2008

  • echidna is a greek word meaning viper and Jesus

    called the pharisees

    echidnas ie vipers

    May 17, 2009

  • New conversation spawned on monotreme. Apparently the long-beaked echidna is native to New Guinea, making false the OED's statement that all echidnas are Australian (right on, Weirdnet!).... But glad to have found this page again!

    P.S. See here.

    June 10, 2009