Definition of barbel in English:



  • 1A fleshy filament growing from the mouth or snout of a fish.

    • ‘It has short nasal barbels on the front of the snout.’
    • ‘However, look at that long nose, big barbels hanging off the protracted snout and you know you're after the real thing.’
    • ‘Sturgeon species are noted by a spindle-shaped body with five rows of bony scutes and a long snout with sensory barbels.’
    • ‘These barbels hang below the mouth and feel the bottom as the sturgeon swims.’
    • ‘In barbel bites, one or both fish grips the barbels of the other for 15 to 20 seconds while thrashing about, whereas in flank bites, one fish quickly turns its head and bites the flanks of the other, holding on for several minutes.’
    • ‘They posses nasal and maxiallary barbels and somewhat smallish eyes.’
    • ‘Its nasal barbels aid the shark in search of food.’
    • ‘There are two barbels on the upper jaw and four on the lower jaw (mandible).’
    • ‘These larvae are filter feeders and lack the characteristic jaw sheaths and denticles of many other frog larvae, but have characteristic barbels.’
    • ‘Feeding is done mainly at night on or near the bottom, and food including waste and offal is searched out largely by means of the barbels.’
    • ‘All four barbels are evenly spaced under the jaw, unlike the related pallid sturgeon, which has barbels unevenly spaced under the jaw.’
    • ‘Red mullet search the sand in hordes, feeling for suitable small animals with their long barbels.’
    • ‘There are four barbels in front of the mouth that are used to direct food towards the mouth.’
    • ‘White Sturgeon have been described as opportunistic feeders, feeding on the bottom with their long snouts and using their barbels to detect food.’
    • ‘The barbel on its lower jaw helped to identify it.’
    • ‘The whiting lacks the single barbel of other members of the cod family.’
    • ‘Key variations are in the shape of the animal's skull, jaw muscles, air bladder - which fish use to rise and sink in water - and, perhaps most noticeably, the wispy barbels, or whiskers, around its mouth.’
    • ‘The lower jaw of the haddock is slightly shorter than the upper jaw and the fish has a small single barbel.’
    • ‘They are committed bottom-grubbers, with drooping shoulders, dour expressions, and unfortunate barbels, or chin whiskers.’
    • ‘The epaulette shark's slender body is slightly flattened with a rounded snout, two short nasal barbels, and large spiracles.’
  • 2A large European freshwater fish of the carp family, which has barbels hanging from the mouth.

    Barbus barbus, family Cyprinidae

    • ‘Drawn in the big willows at Poppleton he used a groundbait feeder and worm combination for a small barbel, an eel and a roach.’
    • ‘Fishing the depth with pellet, he whipped out a mixed net of small carp, tench, chub, barbel and skimmers totalling 68 lb 9oz’
    • ‘Naturally like Kings Lawn, this small section holds typical Thames weir stream species such as chub, barbel and dace.’
    • ‘Chub and barbel may also make the same migrations, although to a lesser extent.’
    • ‘This long free fishing section of the Thames has a habit of turning up more than its fair share of surprise catches including big chub and barbel.’
    • ‘Why should they though, when fairly simple carp tactics with which most of them are now familiar, will produce very decent catches of quality chub and barbel?’
    • ‘For the pleasure angler Oaktree Fishery is well worth a visit at present with plenty of smaller carp, tench, orfe and barbel providing non-stop action.’
    • ‘There are already rumours of anglers catching barbel and carp well downstream of the tidal limits of the Ouse and Wharfe.’
    • ‘The survey teams have been collecting data on the numbers of grayling, dace, barbel, chub, roach and pike in North Yorkshire.’
    • ‘A large groundbait or method feeder loaded with sweetcorn, pellets and hemp normally proves successful for the carp and barbel.’
    • ‘Although not a noted summer venue there should be plenty of perch and eels around with bream showing in some pegs and barbel and chub in the shallower pegs at the top end of the stretch.’
    • ‘Anglers targeting the battling barbel have benefited from this with fish feeding well in a number of the well-known hot-spots.’
    • ‘These are quite high-level streams and are generally fished for trout but barbel are present.’
    • ‘This happens to carp and most recently barbel but rarely happens to predators.’
    • ‘He fished pellet at three and five metres to edge ahead of a crowded frame with carp, tench, chub, bream and barbel.’
    • ‘Large numbers of chub and barbel are also on view in Tadcaster where fish spotting from the road-bridge in the centre of town seems to be a popular spectator sport at present.’
    • ‘Later on I used the same technique on rivers for chub and barbel and also on lakes for bream.’
    • ‘In winter it was fantastic fishing roach, chub, silver bream and slabs with the odd barbel and carp.’
    • ‘He pole-fished pellet to the trees for a mixed bag of carp, ide, barbel and chub.’
    • ‘I've heard there are carp and barbel as well as eels.’
  • 3with modifier An African marine or freshwater fish with barbels round the mouth.

    Species in several families, including Tachysurus feliceps (family Aniidae), of southern African coasts and estuaries

    • ‘I have also witnessed an angler with a double figure barbel in his keepnet which was being transported along the bank so his son could take a picture.’
    • ‘And John Burrett's catch of big chub with three fish for over fifteen pounds: he also caught barbel recording seventy six in just one week.’
    • ‘I would say that most of the rivers I looked at had barbel present although many of them were on the small side.’
    • ‘An early season barbel could well be on the menu if the colour that is present lingers for another day.’
    • ‘I was about to strike when the rod whacked round, the first barbel of the session was hooked.’


Late Middle English (in barbel (sense 2)): via Old French from late Latin barbellus, diminutive of barbus ‘barbel’, from barba ‘beard’.