Quiz: Remember the definition of mal de mer?


[lem-ing] /ˈlɛm ɪŋ/
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.
1600-10; < Norwegian; cognate with Icelandic lǣmingi lemming, lǣmingr loon; akin to Gothic laian to revile, Icelandic to blame Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for lemmings
  • With their claws, lemmings dig tunnels under the wind-packed snow.
  • They tallied mammals such as lemmings and muskoxen, and birds such as plovers and owls.
  • Show me that you are not the lemmings that you give every appearance of being.
  • The evidence is becoming overwhelming that humans descended from lemmings.
  • Since the beginning, there have been control freaks, and there have been lemmings.
  • So do the lemmings who instinctively believe there is lots of food at the bottom of the cliff.
  • Let's face it, the people that voted for the tax hike are tax and spend lemmings.
  • Perhaps only the lemmings as metaphor captures the past in this historicist perspective.
  • lemmings play a similar role wherever they are found.
  • The snowy owl is active day and night and is a particular predator on mice and lemmings on their breeding grounds.
British Dictionary definitions for lemmings


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
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 lemmings



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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