Definition of proboscis in English:



  • 1The nose of a mammal, especially when it is long and mobile such as the trunk of an elephant or the snout of a tapir.

    • ‘An extraordinary sculpted figure created by a dancer walking backwards on all fours, with a bulbous proboscis at one end and a long tail at the other, may be a lizard; I wasn't sure.’
    • ‘Both these burrowers had a proboscis permanently penetrating to the surface and, at least in the case of the detritus feeding by Psammichnites, collected food together with sediment from the surface.’
    • ‘Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand's famous play about a swordsman-poet with a gigantic heart and a proboscis to match, has been translated countless times to just about every medium and language known to man.’
    • ‘The proboscis is a synapomorphy of the taxon and is used primarily in prey capture.’
    • ‘Next, it extends its proboscis, a beak neatly folded under its head, and pierces the skin of its victim.’
    • ‘The white canvas fan overhead did not stir, dust and cobwebs crisscrossed the interstices, and a fat dollop of a spider dangled from the hub in front of my proboscis until I batted it away with a rolled Forbes.’
    • ‘Furthermore, when we cooled the metal to below ninety degrees Fahrenheit, no other stimulus we presented could induce the vinchuca to extend its proboscis.’
    • ‘The software was clearly unable to cope with the size of my real-life proboscis, though, squashing it somewhat and giving me the air of a boxer who's walked into one too many fists.’
    • ‘All tapirs have a short, fleshy proboscis formed by the snout and upper lips.’
    • ‘But its head resembled nothing more than a game bird's, with its pallid pimply skin and pronounced proboscis, or beak.’
    • ‘This is an unusual mode of feeding for echiurans, and most use their proboscises to move sedimentary detritus to their mouths.’
    • ‘A big bull elephant seal had been lying there sleeping when another cruised up like a submarine, inflating its huge proboscis and blowing bad breath in a deep growl.’
    • ‘Anyway, I went up to see my mother on Sunday, stood on a train for two hours, hung around a village dribbling from my proboscis, ate a load of goose, drank a load of wine, sneezed and so on and am now back in London wasting time.’
    • ‘In even more advanced forms the proboscis rhythmically moved from one side of the trail to another.’
    • ‘They each had two compound eyes, blue fur, antennae, and a proboscis.’
    • ‘An anterior region bears, besides the proboscis, three or four pairs of appendages, including the first pair of walking legs.’
    • ‘The zalambdalestids are attractive as rabbit or macroscelidan ancestors since they are clearly jumping animals, and had an elongated rostrum quite possibly supporting a proboscis similar to those of elephant shrews.’
    • ‘Furthermore, in Lazzari's experiments the vinchucas never raised their proboscises in an attempt to bite the warm metal plate: they ‘knew’ it wasn't close enough, even though their eyes were covered.’
    • ‘It uses its trunk, or proboscis, to gather food and water and also to play, fight, feel its surroundings and detect smells.’
    • ‘It appears that they were not only able to recognize food at the sediment surface and collect it with a proboscis (as was the case with all those burrowers discussed above) but also to find the necessary building materials.’
    1. 1.1Entomology (in many insects) an elongated sucking mouthpart that is typically tubular and flexible.
      • ‘Its proboscis, which looks like a nose but is actually the longest mouthpart of any known fly, protrudes as much as four inches from its head - five times the length of its bee-size body.’
      • ‘When the hawk moth proboscises were long compared to the length of the flower tube, the hawk moths did not efficiently pick up pollen, and the flowers did not reproduce well.’
      • ‘For example, some flowers that look white to us sport ultraviolet markings, showing butterflies exactly where to land and insert the proboscis for nectar.’
      • ‘On the underside of the head is the paired proboscis, which is used to suck nectar from flowers.’
      • ‘Darwin realized that when a moth with pollen masses stuck on its proboscis visited the next flower, the bent-over pollen mass would be aligned for perfect delivery onto the new flower's stigma.’
    2. 1.2Zoology (in some worms) an extensible tubular sucking organ.
      • ‘They are carnivorous, scavenging among carrion or preying on other molluscs, using their extensible proboscis, tipped with a radula, to reach into and extract nourishment from their victims.’
      • ‘Echiurans have an extensible proboscis and a set of small hooks at the posterior end; hence the Latin name of the phylum, ‘spine-tails.’’
      • ‘Phylum Nemertea contains about 1,150 species of unsegmented worms that possess an eversible proboscis contained in a fluid-filled cavity or rhynchocoel.’
      • ‘In addition to the thorny proboscis, acanthocephalans are distinguished morphologically as cylindrical and unsegmented worms.’
      • ‘Its remarkable fidelity enabled him to recognize that I was wrong: the segmented worm with a proboscis probably is not a nematode, but an annelid.’


Early 17th century: via Latin from Greek proboskis ‘means of obtaining food’, from pro ‘before’ + boskein ‘(cause to) feed’.