Definition of basilisk in US English:



  • 1A mythical reptile with a lethal gaze or breath, hatched by a serpent from a cock's egg.

    • ‘The lone unicorn, basilisk and banshee wandered as they pleased.’
    • ‘For I say, fear the fire of dragons and the eye of the basilisk.’
    • ‘And as they watched in amazement, Lanyon's skin started taking on a greyish tint, and her hands, raised to ward off the basilisk, froze in place.’
    • ‘The computer programs tell us all about snakes and lizards and birds and mammals, about atoms and planets and plants, but not dragons or basilisks or cyclopsi.’
    • ‘The demo includes greatly modelled troglodytes, skeleton warriors, dragonflies, basilisks, evil eyes, terror eyes, lizardmen and lizardmen warriors.’
    1. 1.1Heraldry
      another term for cockatrice
      • ‘The best representation of the basilisk is found in the decorative field of heraldry where the basilisk had the head and legs of a cock, a snake-like tail, and a body like a bird’s.’
      • ‘They also investigate the origins of various heraldic monsters, such as the basilisk (based on the hooded cobra).’
      • ‘A lot of the artists who designed the knights coat of arms often used imaginary animals like the basilisk, dragon, unicorn, etc.’
      • ‘In heraldry the basilisk is represented as an animal with the head, torso and legs of a cock, the tongue of a snake and the wings of a bat.’
  • 2A long, slender, and mainly bright green lizard found in Central America, the male of which has a crest running from the head to the tail. It can swim well, and is able to run on its hind legs across the surface of water.

    Basiliscus plumifrons, family Iguanidae

    • ‘Often considered to be one of the most spectacular lizard species, sometimes called the "Jesus lizard", the green basilisk is a striking addition to any reptile collection.’
    • ‘To find answers, Hsieh and Lauder turned to the basilisk lizard, a skittish tree-dwelling species found in Central America.’
    • ‘A basilisk lizard, or Jesus lizard, runs across water during an experiment.’
    • ‘Basilisk lizards are unique in their ability to run across water from the time they hatch to adulthood.’
    • ‘This combined pressure allows the basilisk to run on water with a speed of 8 to 10 km an hour.’


Late Middle English: via Latin from Greek basiliskos ‘little king, serpent’, from basileus ‘king’.