Definition of zebra in English:


Pronunciation /ˈzɛbrə//ˈziːbrə/


  • 1An African wild horse with black-and-white stripes and an erect mane.

    Genus Equus, family Equidae: three species, in particular the common zebra (E. burchellii)

    • ‘The Cape Colony extended systematic protection to elephants, giraffes, hippopotami, buffalo, zebras, quaggas and antelopes in 1886.’
    • ‘This family, made up of the horses, asses and zebras, contains one genus with nine species.’
    • ‘You'll get up close to the wildlife, including giraffe, zebra, impala and wildebeest, and all riding abilities are catered for, including beginners.’
    • ‘Burchell's zebras will mate with donkeys, producing a hybrid that has been called a ‘zebdonk.’’
    • ‘Horses, zebras and donkeys are probably descended from an equine (horse-like) kind, since they can interbreed, although the offspring are sterile.’
    • ‘Aardvarks, rabbits, zebras, and other animals that rely on a more sedentary diet opt for eyes on each side of the head, maximizing their ability to spot lurking dangers.’
    • ‘The western part of Kenya's largest national park boasts the Mzima crystal springs, a haven for hippos, elephants, gazelles, zebras, and giraffes.’
    • ‘Towards the west end of the zoo were a number of large paddocks, home to zebras, deer, horned oryx and Przewalski wild horses.’
    • ‘A good idea is to board the little train which encircles the zoo enclosure and allows you to see the giraffes, hippos, zebra, camels and rhinos.’
    • ‘A zebra or horse without a hoof is a sitting duck for predators.’
    • ‘So are zebras just horses that leaned on wet painted fences?’
    • ‘Horses and zebras, for example, can interbreed but no one considers them the same species.’
    • ‘Like all equids, mountain zebras are polygynous.’
    • ‘The route of the safari will allow visitors to see for themselves a wide variety of African wildlife including lions, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, chimpanzees and many other species.’
    • ‘Madagascar's landscape may not be a bad fit for lions, giraffes, zebras, and hippos.’
    • ‘The preserve is home to elephants, giraffes, zebra, and various species of antelope and monkey.’
    • ‘Of all the wild equines in the world today, only the plains zebras of Africa are present in large numbers.’
    • ‘In Australia, kangaroos occupy the position held on other continents by grass eaters such as antelope, deer, zebra, and bison.’
    • ‘Seti thought that Vortas' hair was reminiscent of a zebra except with black-and-purple stripes instead of a zebra's black-and-white stripes.’
  • 2A large butterfly with pale stripes on a dark background.

    a yellow and black American butterfly (Heliconius charitonius, subfamily Heliconiinae, family Nymphalidae).

    (also 'Malayan zebra') a black and white Asian butterfly(Graphium delesserti, family Papilionidae).

    • ‘The zebra longwing butterflies entertained me and a lot of other folks that summer and fall.’
    • ‘The refuge provides shelter and habitat for more than 300 butterfly species, including the zebra longwing, pipevine swallowtail, julia, and Mexican blue wing.’
  • 3South African A silvery-gold sea bream with vertical black stripes.

    Diplodus cervinus, family Sparidae

    • ‘I was bored with photographing co-operative green turtles, so I turned to barracuda, batfish, groupers and a lone zebra lionfish.’
    • ‘He brought to our attention the tiny zebra fish which could fully regenerate even severely damaged myocardium.’
    • ‘The company screens compounds for medical uses using zebra fish embryonic cells and fruitflies.’
    • ‘It is a blending of DNA from a zebra fish and either a jellyfish or sea anemone.’


Early 17th century: from Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese, originally in the sense ‘wild ass’, perhaps ultimately from Latin equiferus, from equus ‘horse’ + ferus ‘wild’.