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Basilisk (or Cockatrice)

Basilisk (or Cockatrice)

A fabulous reptilian monster of ancient and medieval legend believed to be generated from a cock's egg hatched by a serpent or a toad in a dunghill. Accounts of this monster vary, but it was generally said to have either the face of a cock or a distorted human face, with the wings and feet of a fowl and the tail of a serpent. It was represented this way in heraldry.

It was reputed to be a deadly creature with a destructive power similar to that of the fabulous Gorgons of Greek legend. A human being could survive its deadly glare only by viewing it in a mirror; however, if anyone saw the basilisk before it saw that person, the creature would die. It was even believed to kill itself if it saw its own image in a mirror. Even its breath was poisonous to plants and animals, as well as to humans, and was believed to have the power to split rocks. It is possible that this fearsome creature really evolved from exaggerated travelers' tales of the horned adder or the hooded cobra, confused with such awesome reptiles as the Gila monster.

Basilisk has also been applied to a group of iguanalike lizards (Basiliscus ), found on the banks of rivers and streams in Central America and Mexico.

Sources:

Borges, Jorge Luis, with Margarita Guerrero. The Book of Imaginary Beings. Translated by Norman Thomas de Giovanni. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1970.

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basilisk

basilisk a mythical reptile with a lethal gaze or breath, hatched by a serpent from a cock's egg. In figurative or allusive use, the idea of a lethal gaze is paramount, as in basilisk eye, basilisk stare.

The name comes ultimately from Greek basiliskos ‘little king, serpent’, from basileus ‘king’, and Pliny suggests that it is so called from a spot, resembling a crown, on its head; medieval writers gave it ‘a certain comb or coronet’.


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basilisk

bas·i·lisk / ˈbasəˌlisk; ˈbaz-/ • n. 1. a mythical reptile with a lethal gaze or breath, hatched by a serpent from a cock's egg. 2. a long, slender, and mainly bright green lizard (Basiliscus plumifrons, family Iguanidae) found in Central America, the male of which has a crest running from the head to the tail. It can swim well and is able to run on its hind legs across the surface of water.

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basilisk

basilisk Semi-aquatic lizard found in trees near streams of tropical America. It has a compressed greenish body, whip-like tail, a crest along its back and an inflatable pouch on its head. It can run over water for short distances on its hindlegs, and eats plants and insects. Length: up to 61cm (2ft). Family Iguanidae; genus Basiliscus. The basilisk is also a legendary serpent with the body of a cockerel.

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basilisk

basilisk fabulous reptile XIV; large cannon XVI. — L. basiliscus — Gr. basilískos, dim. of basileús king.

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basilisk

basilisk: see iguana.

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basilisk

basiliskBasque, Monégasque •ask, bask, cask, flask, Krasnoyarsk, mask, masque, task •facemask •arabesque, burlesque, Dantesque, desk, grotesque, humoresque, Junoesque, Kafkaesque, Moresque, picaresque, picturesque, plateresque, Pythonesque, Romanesque, sculpturesque, statuesque •bisque, brisk, disc, disk, fisc, frisk, risk, whisk •laserdisc • obelisk • basilisk •odalisque • tamarisk • asterisk •mosque, Tosk •kiosk • Nynorsk • brusque •busk, dusk, husk, musk, rusk, tusk •subfusc • Novosibirsk •mollusc (US mollusk) • damask •Vitebsk •Aleksandrovsk, Sverdlovsk •Khabarovsk • Komsomolsk •Omsk, Tomsk •Gdansk, Murmansk, Saransk •Smolensk •Chelyabinsk, MinskDonetsk, Novokuznetsk •Irkutsk, Yakutsk

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