Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.


This shark, I was told, had kept company with me as long as I had been in sight from the schooner.

The shark had apparently been harpooned at sea, and washed into the Humber.

The gentleman purchased the shark for a museum in Fleetwood.

Hey was down in the hold, having left me to take care of the shark.

This makes me think that he must have been a shark, and not a whale, as the others assumed.

He is now commonly accosted by the question "Who stretched the shark?"

But sometimes when I was sure it was a shark it was really a swordfish!

We ran across a shark of small size and tried to get him to take a bait.

The boatman brought my rifle and a shot scared the shark away.

He met a lady in Boston who wanted him to tell her a shark story.


1560s, of uncertain origin; apparently the word and the first specimen were brought to London by Capt. John Hawkins's second expedition (landed 1565; see Hakluyt).

The meaning "dishonest person who preys on others," though attested only from 1599 (sharker "artful swindler" in this sense is from 1594), may be the original sense, later transferred to the large, voracious marine fish. If so, it is possibly from German Schorck, a variant of Schurke "scoundrel, villain," agent noun of Middle High German schürgen (German schüren) "to poke, stir."

But on another theory, the English word is from a Mayan word, xoc, which might have meant "shark." Northern Europeans seem not to have been familiar with sharks before voyages to the tropics began. A slightly earlier name for it in English was tiburon, via Spanish (where it is attested by 1520s), from the Carib name for the fish.

The English word was applied (or re-applied) to voracious or predatory persons, on the image of the fish, from 1707 (originally of pick-pockets); loan shark is attested from 1905. Sharkskin (1851) was used for binding books, etc. As the name of a type of fabric held to resemble it, it is recorded from 1932.


Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.