Something's Fishy: A Fresh Catch of Aquatic Words

Are you angling for a bigger vocabulary to tell your next fish story? Let this list lure you under the waves, where you'll catch a net full of shiny words from the ocean kingdom. Take the plunge!

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  1. abalone
    a large edible marine gastropod with an ear-shaped shell
    She arrived in dress consisting of a traditional cedar hat, adorned with feathers, abalone shells and feathers, and a red poncho.
  2. algae
    primitive chlorophyll-containing aquatic organisms
    Exposure to prolonged heat causes the reef-building animals to temporarily evict their zooxanthellae, symbiotic algae which the corals shelter in exchange for food.
    Alga means "seaweed" in Latin.
  3. angler
    a fisherman who uses a hook and line
    The state Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will consider emergency closures of some California rivers, streams and lakes at the request of local officials concerned that visiting anglers might spread the virus.
    A fish hook used to be known as an angle. This makes sense when you know that early hooks weren't the curved shapes we know today; they were often much more triangular, like a check mark or the sheffieldwind.com logo.
  4. aquatic
    operating or living or growing in water
    In 2010, the Navy named its aquatic training facility in Panama City for Mr. Barth.
    Aqua is Latin for water. You'll see it in related words, like aquarium and aqueous. Aquamarine — which means "ocean blue" — is the name of a semiprecious gem with a bright blue-green color.
  5. barnacle
    marine crustacean with feathery food-catching appendages
    Longstanding scientific biases mean that the genomes of uncharismatic creatures — such as barnacles, scorpions and diatoms — are less likely to be sequenced and identifiable, even if they are vulnerable to extinction.
  6. brackish
    slightly salty
    The birds also are found in salt, brackish and freshwater marshes in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean but are “rare and irregular” throughout their range, according to the suit.
    Brackish water occurs where fresh rivers flow into the salty ocean. Some species have evolved to live in these environments, thriving in water that's less salty than the ocean. Brack is a Dutch word for "useless."
  7. brine
    water containing salts
    The taste of ocean brine is hard to pin down, until you do, and then its flavor is irrefutable.
    Brine is a Dutch word for salty water. It can refer to the ocean, or to salted water that you might marinate a chicken in.
  8. cetacean
    large aquatic carnivorous mammal with fin-like forelimbs
    While the study looked at all cetaceans – dolphins, porpoises and whales – the vast majority being caught were dolphins.
    Whales, dolphins, and orca are all cetaceans. Cetus means "whale" in Latin; it coms from the Greek Kitos.
  9. conch
    an edible tropical marine mollusk or its large spiral shell
    When I was a child, years before I ever waded into the Atlantic surf, I pressed a conch shell to my ear and heard the ocean.
  10. coral
    a very small ocean creature that often forms reefs
    It was also one of the reef’s worst mass bleaching episodes in terms of intensity, second only to 2016, which killed half of all shallow-water corals on the northern Great Barrier Reef.
  11. crustacean
    mainly aquatic arthropod usually having a segmented body
    Small crustaceans and fish unlucky enough to swim into this curtain of tentacles are paralyzed and reeled up to the body of the colony.
    Lobsters, crab, and shrimp are all crustaceans. The Crust you see there is in fact from the same Latin word, meaning "hard shell," that we use when we talk about pizza or pie crust.
  12. gill
    organ allowing aquatic animals to obtain oxygen from water
    Ultimately, it’s a game of patience, clearing a path through the more favored parts of the fish to an area just below the gills.
    Gill is of Scandinavian origin.
  13. kelp
    large brown seaweeds having fluted leathery fronds
    The researchers identified nine components that are key to rebuilding the oceans: salt marshes, mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs, kelp, oyster reefs, fisheries, megafauna and the deep ocean.
  14. littoral
    of or relating to a coastal or shore region
    His work on littoral cells began with observations of the coast near La Jolla.
    Littus means "shore" or "coast" in Latin, and littoralis means "coastal."
  15. lox
    brine-cured salmon that is lightly smoked
    A $5 charge for a lox and cream cheese on pumpernickel, toasted.
    If you've ever had smoked salmon on your bagel, that's lox. Laks is Yiddish, from lahs, the Old High German word for "salmon." You may also see gravlax; this is a Scandinavian word meaning "buried salmon" because the fish was often brined and buried to keep it cook during fermentation. Appropriately for something buried, the grav in gravlax comes from the same root as grave.
  16. marine
    of or relating to the sea
    Meanwhile, talk of “the Blob” returned as global ocean temperatures rose to the warmest on record, continuing a decadelong trend, and die-offs continued in marine ecosystems in the eastern Pacific.
  17. pelagic
    relating to, occurring in, or living in the open ocean
    Illegal fishing is common, they said, confirming reports of the widespread targeting of small pelagic fish or “saiko” by trawlers, an illegal trade revealed by the Environmental Justice Foundation this year.
    Pelagos is Greek for "sea." Pelagic is sort of the opposite of littoral; it refers to creatures that live in the deep ocean. away from the coasts.
  18. piscine
    of or relating to fish
    From hatchery to harvest, the pricey fish are coddled in the piscine version of five-star luxury.
    Piscis is "fish" in Latin. If you're a Pisces, that should look familiar.
  19. plankton
    aggregate of small organisms that float or drift in water
    Climate change is already acting as a cruel catalyst, warming the whales’ habitat, causing currents to shift and altering the distribution of plankton the whales depend on.
  20. prawn
    shrimp-like crustacean often used as food
    Sitting down for dinner, a fisherman walked in carrying a crate of wriggling giant red prawns, the speciality of these waters.
    Prawns are essentially great big shrimp. The origin of the word is unknown, but possibly Germanic.
  21. saline
    containing salt
    Don’t gussy it up by listing the ingredient as “dehydrated saline solution of oceanic origin.”
    Sal is "salt" in Latin, so saline means "salty."
  22. scale
    a rigid plate forming part of the body covering of animals
    In the dream the fish wiggled and wiggled, their rainbow scales flickering in the sun.
  23. sushi
    cold rice and vinegar topped or rolled with raw fish
    Some of the eels return to the United States to be served in sushi restaurants.
    Sushi actually refers to the rice — seasoned with vinegar and sometimes a little sugar — that raw fish is wrapped in or served on top of in this hugely popular Japanese tradition. Raw fish without rice is known as sashimi.
  24. troll
    angle with a hook and line drawn through the water
    Largemouth bass are good now in spawn fishing with worms, jigs, or underwater fast trolling baits.
    Also spelled trawl, trolling means fishing with a lure or bait dragged through the water, often behind a boat. It also has an unrelated meaning: a supernatural monster, and more recently a bad actor on the internet who abuse people to stifle debate or spread misinformation.
Created on April 9, 2020 (updated April 23, 2020)

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