cockatrice

\ \ [14] The name of the cockatrice, a mythical serpent whose glance could kill, has a bizarre history. It started life as medieval Latin calcātrix, which meant literally ‘tracker, hunter’ (it was formed from the verb calcāretread, track’, a derivative of calxheel’). This was a direct translation of Greek ikhneúmōn (a derivative of ikhneúeintrack’), a name given to a mysterious Egyptian creature in ancient times which was said to prey on crocodiles. At one point Latin calcātrix, later caucātrix, came to be used for the crocodile itself, but this application never gained much currency in English (which adopted the word via Old French cocatris).
\ \ Instead, it was adopted as another name for the basilisk, a mythical serpent. The accidental similarity of the first syllable to cock led both to the embroidering of the basilisk/cockatrice legend, so that it was said to have been born from a cock’s egg, and to the word’s 16th-century rerouting as a heraldic term for a beast with the head, wings, and body of a cock and the tail of a serpent.

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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  • Cockatrice — Cock a*trice ( tr[imac]s; 277), n. [OF. cocatrice crocodile, F. cocatrix, cocatrice. The word is a corruption from the same source as E. crocodile, but was confused with cock the bird, F. coq, whence arose the fable that the animal was produced… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cockatrice — late 14c., from O.Fr. cocatriz, altered by influence of coq from L.L. *calcatrix, from L. calcare to tread (from calx (1) heel ), as translation of Gk. ikhneumon, lit. tracker, tracer. In classical writings, an Egyptian animal of some sort, the… …   Etymology dictionary

  • cockatrice — [käk′ə tris΄] n. [cocatrice < OFr cocatris, crocodile < LL calcatrix, she who treads < calcare, to tread < calx, heel: see CALCAR] 1. a fabulous serpent supposedly hatched from a cock s egg and having power to kill by a look 2. Bible… …   English World dictionary

  • Cockatrice — For other uses, see Cockatrice (disambiguation). A cockatrice overdoor at Belvedere Castle (1869) in New York s Central Park A cockatrice is a legendary creature, essentially a two legged dragon with a rooster s head. An ornament in the drama and …   Wikipedia

  • cockatrice — [14] The name of the cockatrice, a mythical serpent whose glance could kill, has a bizarre history. It started life as medieval Latin calcātrix, which meant literally ‘tracker, hunter’ (it was formed from the verb calcāre ‘tread, track’, a… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • cockatrice —    This legendary creature, first described by classical authors, remained acceptable to the educated till the 17th century. Belief in it was reinforced by the fact that cockatrice is used several times in the King James Bible to translate one of …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • cockatrice —    The name of a fabulous monster, said to be hatched from a cock’s egg, having a fowl’s wings, the tail of a dragon, and a cock’s head. It was supposedly able to kill at a glance. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries cockatrice was used… …   A dictionary of epithets and terms of address

  • cockatrice — noun Etymology: Middle English cocatrice, from Middle French cocatris ichneumon, cockatrice, from Medieval Latin cocatric , cocatrix ichneumon Date: 14th century a legendary serpent that is hatched by a reptile from a cock s egg and that has a… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • cockatrice — /kok euh tris/, n. 1. a legendary monster with a deadly glance, supposedly hatched by a serpent from the egg of a cock, and commonly represented with the head, legs, and wings of a cock and the body and tail of a serpent. Cf. basilisk (def. 1). 2 …   Universalium

  • cockatrice — noun A legendary creature about the size and shape of a dragon or wyvern, but in appearance resembling a giant rooster, with some lizard like characteristics. “Peace reigns in happy Luxor. The lion lies down with the lamb, and the child, if it… …   Wiktionary

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