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Classical Mythology. a creature, variously described as a serpent, lizard, or dragon, said to kill by its breath or look.
any of several tropical American iguanid lizards of the genus Basiliscus, noted for their ability to run across the surface of water on their hind legs.
Contemporary Examples

Just ask any of the ladies who have been privileged enough to enter my “chamber of secrets” and “meet my basilisk.”
Voldemort Tweets to Live On Lord Voldemort July 13, 2011

A basilisk, a sword, and a phoenix mean only one thing for Harry Potter: an excursion into the mysterious chamber.
15 Key Moments From the Harry Potter Movies Alex Berg July 13, 2011

Kayani sat in basilisk silence during the parliamentary session.
Our Pakistan Problem Manages to Get Worse John Barry May 14, 2011

No sooner does Hermione discover that the creature is a basilisk when Ginny Weasley, Ron’s little sister, goes missing.
Catch Up on Harry Potter: Watch 13 Key Moments Alex Berg November 16, 2010

Historical Examples

Looking out to sea, we perceived that the “basilisk” had departed, and that the “Serpent” was lying peacefully at anchor.
A Diplomat in Japan Ernest Mason Satow

But to be quiet with such a basilisk before him was impossible.
Barnaby Rudge Charles Dickens

And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk’s den.
The Common Sense of Socialism John Spargo

That cold blue eye which is the basilisk of the British Army.
On the Heels of De Wet The Intelligence Officer

And finally there is the delightful and vivid representation of S. Tryphonius and the basilisk.
A Wanderer in Venice E.V. Lucas

Leave me to hatch, from the heat of their own passions, the basilisk which shall destroy them.
Love and Intrigue Friedrich Schiller

(in classical legend) a serpent that could kill by its breath or glance
any small arboreal semiaquatic lizard of the genus Basiliscus of tropical America: family Iguanidae (iguanas). The males have an inflatable head crest, used in display
a 16th-century medium cannon, usually made of brass

c.1300, from Latin basiliscus, from Greek basiliskos “little king,” diminutive of basileus “king” (see Basil); said by Pliny to have been so called because of a crest or spot on its head resembling a crown.

The basilisk has since the fourteenth century been confused with the Cockatrice, and the subject is now a complicated one. [T.H. White, “The Bestiary. A Book of Beasts,” 1954]

Its breath and glance were said to be fatal. The South American lizard so called (1813) because it, like the mythical beast, has a crest. Also used of a type of large cannon, throwing shot of 200 lb., from 1540s.

(in R.V., Isa. 11:8; 14:29; 59:5; Jer. 8:17), the “king serpent,” as the name imports; a fabulous serpent said to be three spans long, with a spot on its head like a crown. Probably the yellow snake is intended. (See COCKATRICE.)


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