Definition of zebra in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈzēbrə/


Image of zebra
1An African wild horse with black-and-white stripes and an erect mane.
  • Genus Equus, family Equidae: three species, the common zebra (E. burchellii), Grevy’s zebra (E. grevyi), and the mountain zebra (E. zebra) . See also quagga.
Example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.
2A large butterfly with pale bold stripes on a dark background, in particular.
  • A yellow and black American butterfly (Heliconius charitonius, subfamily Heliconiinae, family Nymphalidae)..
Example sentences
  • The refuge provides shelter and habitat for more than 300 butterfly species, including the zebra longwing, pipevine swallowtail, julia, and Mexican blue wing.
  • The zebra longwing butterflies entertained me and a lot of other folks that summer and fall.
3 (also zebra fish) South African A silvery-gold sea bream with vertical black stripes.
  • Diplodus cervinus, family Sparidae.
Example sentences
  • He brought to our attention the tiny zebra fish which could fully regenerate even severely damaged myocardium.
  • It is a blending of DNA from a zebra fish and either a jellyfish or sea anemone.
  • The company screens compounds for medical uses using zebra fish embryonic cells and fruitflies.
4US informal A person whose characteristic garb is a black-and-white striped uniform, especially a football official or a convict.
Example sentences
  • Chad Brown, a boy hell-raiser turned football player turned NFL zebra, now plays the toughest position on the field.


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

  • Zebra is not from an African language, as was once thought, but via Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese from Latin equiferus ‘wild horse’—the root is equus, as in equestrian. The zebra crossing, named because it is marked with black and white stripes, was introduced in Britain in 1949.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ze·bra

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