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lemming

[lem-ing] /ˈlɛm ɪŋ/
noun
1.
any of various small, mouselike rodents of the genera Lemmus, Myopus, and Dicrostonyx, of far northern regions, as L. lemmus, of Norway, Sweden, etc., noted for periodic mass migrations that sometimes result in mass drownings.
Origin
1600-1610
1600-10; < Norwegian; cognate with Icelandic lǣmingi lemming, lǣmingr loon; akin to Gothic laian to revile, Icelandic to blame
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for lemming
  • Someone needs to be the first lemming over the cliff.
  • But the degree to which the mammals relied on their caches varied with changes in lemming abundance.
  • Finally, on a somewhat related note, be glad you're not a lemming.
  • The pine barren's frog, northern bog lemming, golden-crowned kinglet and lynx are adapted to living in the acidic habitat.
  • Bogs shelter many rare animal species, including the spotted turtle and southern bog lemming.
British Dictionary definitions for lemming

lemming

/ˈlɛmɪŋ/
noun
1.
any of various volelike rodents of the genus Lemmus and related genera, of northern and arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America: family Cricetidae. The Scandinavian variety, Lemmus lemmus, migrates periodically when its population reaches a peak
2.
a member of any large group following an unthinking course towards mass destruction
Derived Forms
lemming-like, adjective
Word Origin
C17: from Norwegian; related to Latin latrāre to bark
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for lemming
n.

small arctic rodent, c.1600, from Norwegian lemming, from Old Norse lomundr "lemming." Perhaps from Lapp luomek. Figurative sense (in reference to their mass migrations that sometimes end in plunges into the sea) is from 1958.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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