nounpl. -·nhas or -·nha
any of various small South American freshwater bony fishes (family Serrasalmidae, order Cypriniformes) having strong jaws and very sharp teeth: they hunt in schools, attacking any animals, including human beings
Origin of piranhaBrazilian Portuguese from Tupí and Guaraní, toothed fish from pirá, fish + sainha, tooth
Any of various tropical American freshwater fishes of several genera, especially Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus, that have sharp teeth and are known for attacking and feeding on live animals. Also called caribe .
Origin of piranhaPortuguese from Tupí pirá fish ánha teeth
First attested in 1869. The first part of the term is from Ere pirá (“fish”). There are four theories regarding the source of second part:
- It may be from Old Tupi sanha, sainha (“tooth”), or a Guaraní cognate of the same.
- It may be from Old Tupi ánha.
- The full term may have been pira nya, a variant of pira'ya (“scissor-fish”), in Old Tupi.
- It may be from Old Tupi anhá, meaning "bad" or "devil" in Tupi-Guarani.