Definition of eel in US English:



  • 1A snake-like fish with a slender elongated body and poorly developed fins, proverbial for its slipperiness.

    Order Anguilliformes: many families, in particular Anguillidae, which comprises mainly freshwater eels that breed in the sea, including the common Anguilla anguilla of Europe and the American eel (A. rostrata)

    • ‘Bottlenose dolphins feed on squid, shrimp, eels and a wide variety of fish.’
    • ‘The earliest ichthyosaurs had long, flexible bodies and probably swam by undulating, like living eels.’
    • ‘It's basically something which looks like it has the head of a horse and the body of an eel.’
    • ‘Most of the intriguing species were examined only in death; dragged in by fishermen's nets, such as the giant spider crab, sharks, scorpion fish and snake eels.’
    • ‘Conger eels are extremely common in the UK, quick to colonise wrecks, boulder reefs and rough ground.’
    • ‘Many species feed on elongated fish, such as eels, which they paralyze with their venom.’
    • ‘Conger eels are difficult to confuse with other species of fish.’
    • ‘This shark feeds primarily on bony fishes such as parrot, trigger, squirrel, surgeon, damsel and goat fishes as well as eels.’
    • ‘Among these clades are such diverse forms as arawanas, knifefishes, mormyrids, eels, tarpon, and herring.’
    • ‘To this small band of anglers, the eel is a mysterious fish worthy of time and dedication.’
    • ‘There are also rudd, bream, eels, gudgeon, crucian carp, tench, minnows, perch, sticklebacks, the odd trout, pike and barbel present.’
    • ‘Fishing for glass eel could also continue if these eels are used for restocking rivers but not used for aquaculture.’
    • ‘Any form of fish bait produced either eels or pike.’
    • ‘The American eel and the Japanese eel face similar fates.’
    • ‘Cut the eel, monkfish, haddock or whatever into large chunks, much longer and fatter than you could eat in one go.’
    • ‘Rough fish comprise the American eel, black sucker, dogfish, gar, lamprey eel, redhorse, sheephead, and white sucker.’
    • ‘Conger eels, some as long as my father's leg, were hard to deal with but good to eat - we tried to smoke them by sticking them up the chimney and burning pine driftwood underneath.’
    • ‘Paul contacted the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water, which are now investigating the cause of the deaths of a number of fish including pike, eels and roach.’
    • ‘Towards the centre of the pier pipefish, mussels galore, conger and common eels, ballan wrasse and cuttlefish lurked.’
    • ‘If you hook the eel further back, the body of the eel will fold up along the shank of the hook causing it to spin and you can do without that hassle.’
    1. 1.1 Used in names of unrelated fishes that resemble the true eels, e.g. electric eel, moray eel.
      • ‘Moray eels, garfish and trumpetfish were roaming and snapping at a plethora of potential prey.’
      • ‘Moray eels, nudibranchs, stingrays, shellfish, sea urchins and sea stars were out and about, while the polyps of black corals and other gorgonians were feeding.’
      • ‘With its elongated snake-like body, the Leopard Moray eel moves very gently from one end to the other in the tank.’
      • ‘Moray eels may look aggressive but that is because they need to gulp water continuously to force it through their gills.’
      • ‘Electric eels are not really eels, they are actually ostariophysians, but have a strong physical resemblance to true eels.’


  • (as) slippery as an eel

    • 1Too slippery to catch hold of or hold on to.

      ‘the ball was as slippery as an eel’
      1. 1.1Elusive or evasive.
        ‘the man was wanted in a dozen countries but was as slippery as an eel’


Old English ǣl, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch aal and German Aal.