Word of the Day



a grey or red-brown animal with a long thick tail that lives in trees

Origin and usage

The word squirrel comes from the Greek word ‘skiouros’ meaning ‘shadow-tailed’. The word replaced the Old English ‘acweorna’ and the later Middle English ‘aquerne’, both of which were previously used to describe the animal.


The word squirrel refers to an animal that lives in trees and has a long fluffy tail. Squirrels are usually grey or reddish-brown, with small pointed ears and sharp claws that enable them to climb trees quickly. There are many different kinds of squirrel, and these animals are found in many parts of the world. In fact, squirrels are native to every continent on the planet, except for Antarctica and Australia.

The smallest squirrel species is the tiny African pygmy squirrel, which measures just 12 centimetres when fully grown. The largest squirrels are the red-and-white giant flying squirrel, which lives in China, and the giant squirrel of India, both of which can grow to a metre or more.

Squirrels mostly eat nuts and seeds, though squirrels that live in urban areas or near humans will often eat from rubbish bins or pick up food left on the ground. A squirrel’s four front teeth can grow as much as 15 centimetres each year and keep growing throughout the animal’s life.


“How comedic are squirrels? We don’t have squirrels in Australia. The first time I saw a squirrel was at a meeting at Disney.”

(Liam Hemsworth)

“If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.”

(George Eliot)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

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