any of various small, arboreal, chiefly nocturnal mammals of the family Lemuridae, of Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, especially of the genus Lemur, usually having large eyes, a foxlike face, and woolly fur: most lemurs are endangered.
"nocturnal Madagascar mammal," 1795, coined by Linnaeus, from L. lemures (pl.) "spirits of the dead" in Roman mythology. So called for its nocturnal habits and ghostly stares. Lemuria (1864) was the name given by P.L. Sclater to a hypothetical ancient continent connecting Africa and Southeastern Asia (and including Madagascar), which was hypothesized to explain phenomena now accounted for by continental drift.