One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A deep-bodied South American freshwater fish that typically lives in schools and has very sharp teeth that are used to tear flesh from prey. It has a reputation as a fearsome predator.
Serrasalmus and other genera, family Characidae: several species, including the red (or red-bellied) piranha (S. natterei)
- ‘Some items are curios, such as a necklace of peccary teeth and a piranha jaw fashioned into a cutting tool.’
- ‘I would rather throw myself to piranhas than have that reputation.’
- ‘She glanced across at her large fish tank, where two piranhas swam back and forth.’
- ‘You become fish bait to the school of piranhas circling around.’
- ‘Two well-known fish with multiple rows of teeth are piranhas and sharks.’
Mid 18th century: via Portuguese from Tupi pirá ‘fish’ + sainha ‘tooth’.
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