Skip to main content
Select Source:

lion

lion, large carnivore of the cat family, Panthera leo, found in open country in Africa, with a few surviving in India. Lions have short-haired coats of tawny brown, with the tail ending in a dark tuft. Most males have black or tawny manes of varying length growing from the head, neck, and shoulders. The mane may be quite long and magnificent, giving the lion the imposing appearance that has led it to be known as king of the beasts in folklore; studies indicate that long manes are typical mainly of cooler climate lions. Grown males are about 9 ft (2.7 m) long including the 3-ft (90-cm) tail, stand about 3 ft (90 cm) at the shoulder, and weigh up to 400 lb (180 kg). Females are smaller and lack manes. The lion is anatomically very similar to the tiger although it is different in habitat and way of life.

Lions are the only cats that are social rather than solitary. They usually live in groups called prides, which vary in composition but may occasionally include as many as 30 individuals. The lionesses do a considerable part of the hunting. There is no definite breeding season. They inhabit grasslands, scrubland, and semidesert areas, where they hunt antelope, zebra, and other large herbivorous animals, as well as domestic stock. Lions also eat carrion. They do not normally attack humans unless wounded or provoked; under unusual conditions they may prey on humans, but even old and sick animals are more likely to subsist on rodents, insects, and other small prey.

In early historic times lions ranged over Eurasia from E Europe to India and over all of Africa. They were eliminated from Europe and the Middle East by the beginning of the 2d cent. AD and from most of the rest of their range in recent times. They are now numerous only in E and S Africa, although even there they are severely reduced in numbers. The lion subspecies of central and especially W Africa are even more severely reduced. At the beginning of the 20th cent. a few pairs remained in India and were preserved as tourist attractions in the Gir forest (now Gir National Park) of Gujarat state in W India. This group had increased to 290 individuals in 1955 but, although still protected, has been somewhat smaller since; they are the only remaining Asiatic lions. In early Christian symbolism the lion represented Jesus and has also represented St. Mark. For the constellation and sign of the zodiac see Leo.

Lions are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Felidae.

See the many books by J. Adamson; G. B. Schaller, The Serengeti Lion (1972); A. E. Pease, The Book of the Lion (1986).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"lion." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"lion." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lion

"lion." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lion

lion

lion the lion is traditionally taken as the type of strength, majesty, and courage, the ‘king of beasts’, and has been used as an epithet of successful and warlike rulers.

A lion is the emblem of St Mark and St Jerome; the lion of St Mark is a winged lion emblematic of St Mark the Evangelist; one of the four animals of the tetramorph.
a lion in the way a danger or obstacle likely to be imaginary; from Proverbs 26:13.
the lion's den a demanding, intimidating, or unpleasant place or situation (to beard the lion in his den is to confront a powerful and dangerous person on their own ground).
the lion's mouth a place of great danger, as in Proverbs 22:21.
the lion's provider the jackal, from the traditional belief that the jackal went before the lion to hunt up his prey.
the lion's share the largest share of something.

See also ass in a lion's skin, British Lion, lions, a live dog is better than a dead lion at live1, March comes in like a lion, a mouse may help a lion, Nemean lion, twist the lion's tail.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"lion." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"lion." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lion

"lion." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lion

lion

li·on / ˈlīən/ • n. a large tawny-colored cat (Panthera leo) that lives in prides, found in Africa and northwestern India. The male has a flowing shaggy mane and takes little part in hunting, which is done cooperatively by the females. ∎  (the Lion) the zodiacal sign or constellation Leo. ∎ fig. a brave or strong person. ∎  an influential or celebrated person: a literary lion. ∎  (Lion) a member of a Lions Club. PHRASES: throw someone to the lions cause someone to be in an extremely dangerous or unpleasant situation.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"lion." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"lion." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lion-1

"lion." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lion-1

lion

lion Large cat that lives on African savannas s of the Sahara, and in sw Asia. It is golden yellow with light spots under the eyes. The male is instantly recognizable by its deep neck mane, which darkens with age. The female does most of the hunting and preys on antelopes, zebras, and bush pigs. Length: to 2.5m (8.5ft) overall. Family Felidae; species Panthera leo.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"lion." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"lion." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lion

"lion." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lion

lion

lion ME. li(o)un, leoun — AN. liun (F. lion) — L. leō, leōn- — Gr. lēōn.
So lioness XIII. — OF.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"lion." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"lion." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lion-3

"lion." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lion-3

lion

lionBrian, cyan, Gaian, Geminian, Hawaiian, ion, iron, Ixion, lion, Lyon, Mayan, Narayan, O'Brien, Orion, Paraguayan, prion, Ryan, scion, Uruguayan, Zion •andiron •gridiron, midiron •dandelion • anion • Bruneian •cation, flatiron •gowan, Palawan, rowen •anthozoan, bryozoan, Goan, hydrozoan, Minoan, protozoan, protozoon, rowan, Samoan, spermatozoon •Ohioan • Chicagoan • Virgoan •Idahoan •doyen, Illinoisan, IroquoianEwan, Labuan, McEwan, McLuhan, Siouan •Saskatchewan • Papuan • Paduan •Nicaraguan • gargantuan •carbon, chlorofluorocarbon, graben, hydrocarbon, Laban, radiocarbon •ebon • Melbourne • Theban •gibbon, ribbon •Brisbane, Lisbon •Tyburn •auburn, Bourbon •Alban • Manitoban • Cuban •stubborn •Durban, exurban, suburban, turban, urban

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"lion." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"lion." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lion-0

"lion." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lion-0