One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In early use: an eel-like fish mentioned by ancient writers. Later: a moray eel, specifically one of the genus Muraena; (in form Muraena) the genus itself.
Mid 16th century; earliest use found in Richard Eden (c1520–1576), translator. From classical Latin mūraena, mūrēna a kind of eel, a moray (and, by confusion, a lamprey) from ancient Greek μύραινα, also σμύραινα, perhaps from the same Indo-European base as smear.
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