Word of the Day


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A soft round sea animal that you can see through. Many types of jellyfish sting if you touch them.

Origin and usage

The word jellyfish comes from the nouns ‘jelly’, from the Latin word ‘gelare’ meaning ‘congeal or stiffen’, and ‘fish’, which has origins in the Proto-Indo-European word ‘pisk’ meaning ‘a fish, animal that lives in the water’. Jellyfish has been used since about 1796 to describe a particular kind of soft-bodied sea creature.


The word jellyfish refers to an animal that lives in the sea and has a round, soft body with many tentacles. They do not have a backbone, which is why sometimes the word jellyfish is used to describe a person who is weak or timid.

There are many different kinds of jellyfish found in oceans all over the world. Jellyfish don’t swim because they don’t have arms or legs or fins; they pulse their round bodies and tentacles to propel themselves forward and spend a lot of time drifting along with ocean currents.
Jellyfish eat fish, crabs, prawns and small sea plants. They use their stinging tentacles to stun or paralyse their prey, then use the tentacles to move their food to a small mouth opening on the underside of their bell-shaped bodies.
Some jellyfish are quite beautiful, with long, trailing tentacles that look like ribbons. Many are vibrantly coloured and some jellyfish even glow in the dark!


“The jellyfish doesn’t actively move anywhere – it’s just moved with the tides. Is that what man is? Man’s just the jellyfish: stuff happens to you, and you get twisted in different directions.”
(Andrew Buchan)

“I spent my first four years living in the tiny town of Snug, by the sea near Hobart. Curious about animals, I would pick up ants in our backyard and jellyfish on the beach.”
(Elizabeth Blackburn)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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