Definition of lion in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlʌɪən/


Image of lion
1A large tawny-coloured cat that lives in prides, found in Africa and NW India. The male has a flowing shaggy mane and takes little part in hunting, which is done cooperatively by the females.
  • Panthera leo, family Felidae.
Example sentences
  • Three year-old male lions grow manes that vary in color from black to blond.
  • Male lions develop thick woolly manes on the neck and shoulders, signifying maturity.
  • For instance, by choosing to hunt at a different place or time, coyotes avoid wolves, cheetahs avoid lions, and leopards avoid tigers.
king of the beasts;
1.1The lion as an emblem (e.g. of English or Scottish royalty) or as a charge in heraldry.
Example sentences
  • This design is blazoned as ‘Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale Or,’ and it is still the coat of arms of England today.
  • I needn't see the heraldic lion on his clothes' front to know where he came from.
  • He wanted a unique way to show his support for England and so he had the three lions emblem and St George's cross engraved on his false teeth.
1.2 (the Lion) The zodiacal sign or constellation Leo.
1.3A brave, strong, or fierce person.
Example sentences
  • Rather, it's in betting on which young lion may take him out.
hero, man of courage, brave man, lionheart, lionhearted man;
conqueror, champion, conquering hero, warrior, knight, paladin
1.4 (usually literary lion) A notable or famous author.
Example sentences
  • Maybe just the act of posting a novel in a forum where bored Babus can read it and slam it will be enough to awaken the sleeping literary lion in aspiring novelists.
  • Even bigger if you add that he's working with a major publisher and that literary lion Kurt Vonnegut calls the book ‘… nothing less than the soul of an extremely interesting human being at war…‘
  • Endre Farkas' invitation to celebrate literary lion Pablo Neruda's 100th birthday inspired a series of performative prose-poem vignettes, Proem Cards From Chile.
2 (Lion or British Lion) A member of a touring international rugby union team representing the British Isles.
Example sentences
  • But the former Wasps centre is not about to embark on a playing career in Australia - he has won a national competition to follow the British Lions rugby union team on tour.
  • A sensation in union with his hat-trick of tries against a 1955 British Lions rugby union side, he delighted the crowds at Knowsley Road for 10 years in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • ‘Rob is a great player and it says everything that he was the first choice scrum-half on two British Lions ' tours only for injury to get in the way,’ he said.
3 (Lion) A member of a Lions Club.
Example sentences
  • He was a Lion, who joined in 1975 and became the first Secretary of the Virgin Gorda Lions Club.



the lion's den

A demanding, intimidating, or unpleasant place or situation: he marched reluctantly into the lion’s den to address the charity gala
More example sentences
  • There was never room for doubt that he would not survive in the lion's den of comedy: ‘It's one of those things where you have to be relentless.’
  • We know that we are going into the lion's den and we are playing against a side who can score five goals against anybody on any given day.
  • I was right in the lion's den as he had about 500 supporters in his home arena.

the lion's share

British The largest part of something.
Example sentences
  • And yet it has been the market, not public funding, that has generated the lion's share of successful cultural mixing in the arts.
  • It generated more than the lion's share of news headlines this weekend.
  • Unfortunately, the United States must share the lion's share of the burden for now.
most, the majority, the larger part/number, the greater part/number, the best/better part, the main part, more than half, the bulk, the preponderance

throw someone to the lions

Cause someone to be in an extremely dangerous or unpleasant situation.
With reference to the throwing of Christians to the lions in Roman times
Example sentences
  • Hey, at least we're not throwing them to the lions.
  • I am willing to give it a shot by throwing him to the lions and asking him what he prefers afterwards.
  • Everyone there reckoned the BBC were throwing him to the lions, but he waltzed through it and has gone from strength to strength ever since.



Example sentences
  • More often than not, that last little bit doesn't get thrown in with lion-like qualities.
  • The lion-like predator, which could stand nearly one metre and weighed about 250 kilograms, had a pair of retractable thumb-like claws to disembowel or drag prey up trees.
  • Yellow dogs were also more lion-like in appearance.


Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French liun, from Latin leo, leon-, from Greek leōn, leont-.

  • The lions known in parts of Europe and around the Mediterranean in early times were not African but Asiatic lions, rare animals in the 21st century. The name lion came into English from French, and ultimately from Greek leōn. The Anglo-Saxons had used the Latin form Leo, which was overtaken by lion for the animal, but which is still the name of a constellation and sign of the zodiac.

    In ancient Rome lions and other wild beasts provided entertainment in the amphitheatres. Christians and other dissidents were left at their mercy in the arena, a practice behind our phrase to throw someone to the lions. After the terrible slaughter of British soldiers during the First World War, the phrase lions led by donkeys became popular as a way of encapsulating the idea that the men had been brave, but had been let down by their senior officers. It is not clear who first came up with the description, but the French troops defeated by the Prussians in 1871 were described as ‘lions led by packasses’. From medieval times until the opening of London Zoo in the 19th century, the Tower of London contained a menagerie of unusual animals, among which were lions. Not surprisingly, they were a great attraction for visitors to the city, and the phrase to see the lions sprang up with the meaning ‘to see the sights or attractions of a place’. From there a lion became a celebrity or noted person, a sense which gave us lionize, ‘to treat as a celebrity’, in the 1830s. See also beard

Words that rhyme with lion

Brian, cyan, Gaian, Geminian, Hawaiian, ion, iron, Ixion, Lyon, Mayan, Narayan, O'Brien, Orion, Paraguayan, prion, Ryan, scion, Uruguayan, Zion

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: lion

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