Ichthyology Dictionary

Introduction to Dictionary
by Brian W Coad 

The following dictionary defines terms used in the study of fishes (= ichthyology in its widest sense). It includes terms not specific to that discipline but commonly used by it.

There seems to be various ways of presenting words in an alphabetical sequence. A consistent style is followed here and is fairly obvious. Abbreviations appear as though they were words, e.g. TAC (total allowable catch) appears before tackle, not at the beginning of the letter T. Abbreviations are also gathered together in a separate section. Hyphenated words precede non-hyphenated words. In the latter case, some sources hyphenate words while others combine two words as one. If a term comprising two words is not found it may be lower down in the Dictionary as a hyphenated word or a single word. Note also that many terms may be preceded by the word "fish", e.g. fish gig can appear as such or under gig; most such terms occur in both forms.

The urge to link all terms within definitions was resisted as broken links are frustrating to the reader and tedious for the lexicographer. Similarly, extensive links to websites are not given (the URLs change frequently); various search engines can give access to sites with more information than the definitions here.

Generally, terms that are defined by another term have a definition in parentheses copied from the other term to save the need to scroll tediously. Some terms may have q.v. after them, indicating that this term is related to another term but implying this is too long or distracting to insert here. Occasionally, related terms are indicated by See...., compare...., or cf.... for compare.

Words in italic are from the Latin (or Latinised Greek) and generally are scientific names of species, terms used in nomenclature, or some Latin words and phrases commonly used in English and scientific works, for example et alii meaning "and others". Latin names of bones and muscles are not italicised (usage differs and there is a trend not to use italics, except of course for scientific names). Here italics are used (other than in scientific names) to separate terms and their meanings more clearly without having to state repeatedly that the terms are in Latin. Note that many anatomical terms have both English and Latin versions, the latter less used today but appearing in older works and in some comprehensive studies. Not all Latin versions of terms are included here but most are easily translatable although grammar differs, e.g. ductus endolymphaticus is endolymphatic duct. Plurals are given of Latin and Greek based words as these may not be intuitively familiar to readers of a non-European background or to younger European readers (!).

Spellings of words vary between American and English English. The latter may favour (favor) the letter "s" over the letter "z" and the "ae" combination over the simpler "e". Readers should be aware of these possible variant spellings. English spellings are followed here with some variant forms in American English included as an aid to the British and those whose first language is neither form of English. Note that the æ and œ formats are variably used for ae and oe throughout this work. Latin words often use the more archaic form unless they are in common ichthyological use in English.

A number of terms are simply English words, used in a special sense in ichthyology, but having another meaning; in some cases both definitions are given for clarity. Sometimes they are compounded from correct but obscure English words, prefixes and suffixes, e.g. obbasal. Some words have common roots in Latin or Greek and can easily be understood by those with some familiarity with these languages, e.g. vermiform, vermifuge, vermivore - for non-Eurocentric readers such similar words are defined here although not unique to the study of fishes.

Some entries have fish examples cited, given as the Latin name. The names are either the scientific name (in italics; taxonomy may be dated is some cases - see "Catalog of Fishes" for name changes), the family name (ending in -idae) or the order name (ending in -iformes) (the latter two not in italics). A few other higher groupings are mentioned, particularly Amphioxi (Cephalochordata or lancelets, which are not "fishes" but share some anatomical characters), Myxini (the hagfishes), Petromyzontiformes (lampreys), Holocephali (chimaeras), Elasmobranchii (sharks, skates and relatives), Teleostomi (all the bony fishes), Dipnoi or Dipneusti (lungfishes), Actinopterygii (the ray-finned bony fishes), Teleostei (or teleosts, all the ray-finned bony fishes except Polypteriformes, Acipenseriformes and Amiiformes), and Ostariophysi (usually in the old sense of Cypriniformes, Characiformes, Siluriformes and Gymnotiformes; now including Gonorynchiformes). Nelson (2006) and earlier editions of his work can be consulted for those unfamiliar with fish diversity, as well as web sites such as www.fishbase.org.

Families and species of fishes are not described in this Dictionary. Scientific names of fishes are best accessed through the website of the "Catalog of Fishes" at the California Academy of Sciences while common names are best found in regional works (see Coad (1995) in the References, for example). Some unusual common and scientific names may be included in the Dictionary for reasons of clarification and education.

Illustrations of certain terms will be added over the long term. They are linked through the term and are highlighted and underlined in blue. Illustrations are not included in the text file so that it loads more quickly. Images taken from older works have an abbreviated author and title, e.g. Boulenger's "Fishes of the Nile", and, as a complete citation, can be found in the "Catalog of Fishes".

Some terms cited here are also used, or originate, in genetics, marine biology, oceanography, limnology, systematics, palaeontology, parasitology, ecology, hydrology, fisheries, museum studies, angling, aquaculture, slang, dialects of English, folklore, etymology, literature, fish processing, fish technology, fishing vessels, cooking, veterinary science, popular culture, etc., and the choice of terms to include from such diverse fields is eclectic. Since it could be argued that a Dictionary of Ichthyology is not needed by a competent ichthyologist, terms from neighbouring disciplines are included for such exemplary people. These are necessarily selective, for example structures associated with nets on fishing vessels are listed but not structures that are found generally on ships. Further entry into these fields may be found through the References herein and Wikipedia.

Certain areas of the English-speaking world were famous for their fisheries and these have contributed many words, e.g. Newfoundland. Other areas also have extensive vocabularies but these are in languages other than English and have not, generally, become familiar to, or used in, English, with some exceptions, e.g. Japan.

Many terms refer to a fisherman or fishermen as, at the time these terms were in common use, the industry at sea was almost entirely carried out by men. The politically correct fisher is then anachronistic and incorrect.

A list of references referred to in the text is given. Most terms are widely used and do not require documentation. This reference list is not meant to be exhaustive, nor does it track terms to their origin.

A book by S. D. Nandy and S. N. M. Kazmi (Eds.) published in 2009 (Technical Encyclopaedia of Ichthyology. Dominant Publishers, New Delhi. xxxii + 845 pp., in three volumes) is copied from this Dictionary, without permission, when it had about 14,000 entries.

The entries are continually being refined and corrected. Corrections and new terms are welcome. A literature source for any new term is requested as documentation. Refer to www.briancoad.com for contact information.


Don E. McAllister (1934-2001) - see Cook et al. (2001; 2002), Cook and Coad (2002), Coad (2011) and Cook et al. (2011) for obituaries. 

sdk - 2012-06-22