large amphibious reptile, reptile of the order Crocodilia, 1560s, a respelling (to conform to Latin and French) of Middle English cokedrille, cocodril, kokedrille, etc. (c. 1300), from Old French cocodrille (13c.) and Medieval Latin cocodrillus, from classical Latin crocodilus, from Greek krokodilos, a word of unknown origin. According to Herodotus, it was an Ionic name for a kind of lizard, transferred to the crocodile. Beekes writes that "Frisk's etymology as a compound from [krokē] 'gravel' and [drilos] 'worm' (with dissimilation) should be forgotten."
The name later was extended to related species in India, the Americas, etc. The crocodile tears story, figurative of false or simulated grief, was in English from at least c. 1400. Related: Crocodilian; crocodiline.
The word also figures in logic, as the name of a sophism of counter-questioning.
Thus, in the old example, a crocodile has stolen a child, and promises to restore it to the father if the latter answers correctly his question, Am I going to restore child? If the father says Yes, the crocodile eats the child and tells the father he is wrong. If the father says No, the reply is that in that case the child cannot be restored, for to do so would violate the agreement, since the father's answer would then be incorrect. [Century Dictionary]
1570s, "weasel-like animal of Egypt," from Latin ichneumon, from Greek ikhneumon "ichneumon," literally "searcher, tracker," perhaps so called because it hunts crocodile eggs, from ikhneuein "hunt for, track," from ikhnos "a track, footstep, trace, clue," which is of unknown origin. Used by Aristotle for a species of wasp that hunts spiders (a sense attested in English from 1650s).
fabulous monster, late 14c., from Old French cocatriz, altered (by influence of coq) from Late Latin *calcatrix, from Latin calcare "to tread" (from calx (1) "heel;" see calcaneus), as translation of Greek ikhneumon, literally "tracker, tracer." It was fabled to kill by its glance and could be slain only by tricking it into seeing its own reflection.
In classical writings, an Egyptian animal of some sort, the mortal enemy of the crocodile, which it tracks down and kills. This vague sense became hopelessly confused in the Christian West, and in England the word ended up applied to the equivalent of the basilisk. Popularly associated with cock (n.1), hence the fable that it was a serpent hatched from a cock's egg. It also sometimes was confused with the crocodile. Belief in them persisted even among the educated because the word was used in the KJV several times to translate a Hebrew word for "serpent." In heraldry, a beast half cock, half serpent. Also, in old slang, "a loose woman" (1590s).
late 14c., "sea monster, sea serpent," sometimes regarded as a form of Satan, from Late Latin leviathan, from Hebrew livyathan "dragon, serpent, huge sea animal," of unknown origin, perhaps from root l-w-h- "to wind, turn, twist," on the notion of a serpent's coils. If so, related to Hebrew liwyah "wreath," Arabic lawa "to bend, twist." Of powerful persons or things from c. 1600. Hobbes's use is from 1651.
An aquatic animal mentioned in the Old Testament. It is described in Job xli. apparently as a crocodile; in Isa. xxvii 1 it is called a piercing and a crooked serpent; and it is mentioned indefinitely in Ps. lxxiv. 14 as food and Ps. civ. 26. [Century Dictionary]
"student of plants and animals," c. 1600, from French naturaliste, from natural (see natural (adj.)). Earlier "one who studies natural, rather than spiritual, things" (1580s). A Middle English word for "natural philosopher or scientist" was naturien (late 14c.).
[The naturalist on expedition, pursued by a Nile crocodile, has climbed a palm tree for safety.]
Suddenly he experienced a new shudder of terror, as he remembered an article which he had inserted in the Belfast Review, and in which he had himself declared that crocodiles climb trees like cats. He would gladly have thrown this article into the fire, but it was too late, all Belfast had read it, it had been translated into Arabic and no Oriental author had yet refuted it, not even at Crocodilopolis. [Graham's Magazine, November 1855]