Definition of dugong in English:



  • A sea cow found on the coasts of the Indian Ocean from eastern Africa to northern Australia. It is distinguished from the manatees by its forked tail.

    • ‘Dugongs and manatees make up the order Sirenia, so-named because dugongs and manatees are thought to have given rise to the myth of the mermaids or sirens of the sea.’
    • ‘A modern analog for this is the dugong from the Pacific Ocean.’
    • ‘This description helps to explain why both the dugong and the manatee have given rise to tales about mermaids, marine creatures with breasts and a forked tail.’
    • ‘Genetic evidence suggests that the elephant's closest relatives in evolutionary terms are manatees and dugongs, herbivorous sea cows that live full-time in the water.’
    • ‘Like its relative the manatee, the dugong's numbers are declining, with hunting, oil pollution, land reclamation and other human activities the causes.’


Early 19th century: based on Malay duyong.