Word of the Day



the nose and mouth of an animal such as a dog or horse

Origin and usage

Earlier versions of the word muzzle come from the Middle English ‘mosel’, the Old French ‘musel’ and the Late Latin ‘musellum’, which all mean nose or snout; however, the definitive origin of the word is unknown. There are some suggestions that muzzle could come from the Latin ‘morsus’, meaning ‘bite’, but this is disputed. Since the 15th century, at least, the word muzzle has been used to refer to the extended section of an animal’s head and was later used to also refer to the open end of a gun.


The portion of an animal’s face containing the nose, mouth and jaw, known as the muzzle, is usually considered a weak point for most animals. The nostrils and leathery naked skin which surrounds them, called the ‘rhinarium’, allow for a heightened sense of smell. This is because they are designed to make the most of environmental clues, albeit at the cost of being more susceptible to physical damage. If an animal is hit hard enough in the muzzle, they can be stunned or even knocked unconscious.

While the word muzzle most frrequently refers to the actual nose and mouth of an animal, it is also used to refer to a device that is placed over this part of the animal. These contraptions are usually used to prevent the animal from opening its mouth, often as a means to stop it from biting or eating.


“Every poem is a coat of arms. It must be deciphered. How much blood, how many tears in exchange for these axes, these muzzles, these unicorns, these torches, these towers, these martlets, these seedlings of stars and these fields of blue!”

(Jean Cocteau)

“The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes…”

(T.S. Eliot)


proboscis, rostrum, snout

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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