Definition of barnacle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈbɑːnək(ə)l/


1A marine crustacean with an external shell, which attaches itself permanently to a surface and feeds by filtering particles from the water using its modified feathery legs.
Example sentences
  • Many species, including lobsters, crayfish, barnacles, and crabs are important to human economies, some very much so.
  • We sampled summer daytime low-tide temperatures of rock surfaces, anemones and barnacles.
  • Since both seastars and whelks feed most intensively on barnacles and mussels, they clearly co-occupy the predator guild in this community.
1.1Used in similes to describe a tenacious person or thing: buses careered along with men hanging from their doors like barnacles
More example sentences
  • The one quality that they all shared, in the end, was stickability - the determination to cling to office with the tenacity of barnacles clinging to a crumbling wreck.
  • I am offering an ethic of authenticity, removing all excuses that some philosophers attach to us like barnacles, blaming parents, climate, social class, whatever.
  • The strings attach themselves like barnacles to Fripp's guitar and refuse to be shaken loose.



Example sentences
  • As a ponderous Loggerhead turtle scrapes her way up the midnight sands of Queensland's Heron Island, seemingly bearing the weight of the world upon her barnacled back, I can see how the idea arose.
  • Niarbyl Bay was so bleak and dreary a place - nothing but tide-swept barnacled rocks and a fast-food hut - that, had this destination not remained a mystery, no one would have boarded the bus.
  • Surrounding us on all sides was an unbroken wall of pinnacles - huge cetacean humps barnacled with impossibly large cornices, seracs, and needlelike spires.


Late 16th century: from medieval Latin bernaca, of unknown origin. In Middle English the term denoted the barnacle goose, whose breeding grounds were long unknown and which was believed to hatch from the shell of the crustacean to which it gave its name.

  • A barnacle was originally what we would now call a barnacle goose. The name appeared in English in the early Middle Ages, but its ultimate origin is unknown. The barnacle goose breeds in the Arctic tundra of Greenland and similar places, but for a long time its place of origin was something of a mystery. People thought it hatched from a type of barnacle that attaches itself to objects floating in the water and has long feathery filaments protruding from its shell, which presumably suggested the notion of plumage. The shellfish itself started to be called a barnacle in the 16th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: bar|nacle

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