One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A small and brightly colored freshwater fish native to Africa and tropical America.
Family Characidae: numerous species, including the piranhas and popular aquarium fishes such as the tetras
- ‘And some fossil catfishes, lungfishes, and characins date back to the Late Cretaceous, 70 million years ago.’
- ‘Each year since 1960, more than 35 tropical American species of fishes, including catfishes, characins, electric fishes, killifishes, and cichlids, have been newly described and named.’
- ‘The true characins, family Characidae, are found in Africa and more abundantly in South and Central America.’
- ‘These streams are occupied on the south slope by a subset of the fish that characterize freshwater rivers in the Orinoco Basin in Venezuela, including cichlids and characins.’
- ‘Yet species reared in total darkness - as are the small, cave-dwelling characin of Mexico - fail to develop their visual capacity.’
Late 19th century: from modern Latin Characinus (genus name), from Greek kharax, literally ‘pointed stake’, denoting a kind of fish.
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