Definition of lemming in English:

lemming

noun

  • 1A small, short-tailed, thickset rodent related to the voles, found in the Arctic tundra.

    Lemmus, Dicrostonyx, and other genera, family Muridae: several species, in particular the Norway lemming (L. lemmus), noted for its fluctuating populations and periodic mass migrations, which in popular belief sometimes culminate in the animals jumping off cliffs into the sea

    • ‘Other animals that may carry and transmit the disease include beavers, muskrats, water and field voles, water and wood rats, squirrels, and lemmings.’
    • ‘Adding to its standard diet of insects, berries, bird eggs, and occasional scraps of carrion, the pup increases its protein intake by hunting mice, voles, and lemmings.’
    • ‘Small rodents such as mice, voles, and lemmings constituted the most redundant specimens.’
    • ‘Smaller herbivores include the arctic hare and the collared lemming.’
    • ‘Breeders rely on lemmings for successful reproduction.’
    • ‘Fifteen southern bog lemmings were examined and yielded 13 species of parasitic acari and insects.’
    • ‘In Scandinavia, hawk owls usually breed only during bursts in the population of voles and lemmings.’
    • ‘If there are no seals to hunt, they will eat small whales, lemmings, and even geese.’
    • ‘Bog lemmings were almost certainly located nearby, as they are recorded both above and below this zone.’
    • ‘Researchers are also studying Arctic foxes, lemmings, snowy owls and vegetation.’
    • ‘They get heat-stressed at minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit chasing lemmings across the tundra.’
    • ‘Predation intensity on geese was closely related to the lemming cycle, a consequence of an indirect interaction between lemming and geese via shared predators.’
    • ‘During the breeding season, they eat mostly lemmings and voles.’
    • ‘On the breeding grounds of the Rough-legged Hawk, lemmings are an important food source.’
    • ‘They can also be found in Russia and Greenland, and feed primarily on small mammals, including lemmings and voles.’
    • ‘Biologists interested in the radical population swings of voles and their close relatives, the lemmings, have focused almost exclusively on why such fluctuations occur rather than on what the wider impact is.’
    • ‘The question is, will sufficient lemmings survive to repopulate their traditional stamping grounds?’
    • ‘However, egg predation also had a large impact on geese and this effect was highly variable according to the abundance of another prey, lemmings.’
    • ‘There are two dozen species of birds, many of which winter in Europe, mammals such as polar bears and lemmings and many species of insects and plants.’
    • ‘Two species of lemmings are the only other herbivores that occur in significant numbers on the island.’
    1. 1.1 A person who unthinkingly joins a mass movement, especially a headlong rush to destruction.
      ‘the flailings of the lemmings on Wall Street’
      • ‘The herds of lemmings charging into e-careers is rivaled only by the herds rushing into media with wide eyes and fistfuls of capital.’
      • ‘‘We are all just a group of old lemmings,’ coughed Aleila dryly.’
      • ‘Airline executives are lemmings, all too willing to use the same tactics to boost business: add flights, discount tickets and if that doesn't work, cut employee pay.’
      • ‘It is leading a race of lemmings into the zero-profit business of closed music downloads, says the founder of MP3.com, Michael Robertson.’
      • ‘It is inexplicable that these women find optimism amid calamity when like lemmings our young rush to enlist in the politics of cynicism amid relative fortune.’
      • ‘The rest can only hide in their holes, or like lemmings rush to disaster en masse.’
      • ‘In the last week I have received 3 calls from telemarketers and 5 pieces of individually addressed junk mails offering me the chance to join the financial lemmings as they go over the cliff that is inner-city investment property.’
      • ‘Or do they rush into the trap like so many elite lemmings?’

Origin

Early 18th century: from Norwegian and Danish; related to Old Norse lómundr.

Pronunciation

lemming

/ˈlɛmɪŋ/