Definition of polliwog in English:


(also pollywog)


North American
  • 1dialect A tadpole.

    • ‘But pollywogs must grow legs, lose a tail, and completely reconfigure their jaws and digestive tract to prepare for a life of eating flies.’
    • ‘Douglas Florian's lizards, frogs, and polliwogs pairs primal yet sophisticated watercolors with clever poems that subtly instruct on the nature of amphibians.’
    • ‘Visitors are especially intrigued by the large frog pond, complete with real frogs, pollywogs, bog plants, bulrushes, pickerel and water lilies, adjacent to the winery tasting room and cellars.’
    • ‘I would get my boys out of the classroom, and we'd be in a field all day long chasing tadpoles and pollywogs and looking at swamp water.’
    • ‘Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American school children planted and tended gardens, watched polliwogs develop into frogs, tamed and bred animals, and learned to identify trees.’
  • 2informal A new sailor, especially one crossing the equator for the first time.

    • ‘Diving through the deep waters of the East Indonesian Archipelago the crew enjoyed a crossing of the line ceremony where 30 pollywogs received their certificates.’
    • ‘The lovely Queen Amphitrite, a royal herald, barber and doctor, and of course the ubiquitous bears were all present to witness the baptism of more than two dozen young pollywogs into the ancient order of the deep.’


Late Middle English (earlier as pollywiggle): from poll in the sense ‘head’ + the verb wiggle.