Pel"i*can (?), n. [F. p'elican, L. pelicanus, pelecanus, Gr. , , , the woodpecker, and also a water bird of the pelican kind, fr. to hew with an ax, akin to Skr. para&cced;u.] [Written also pelecan.]

1. Zool.

Any large webfooted bird of the genus of Pelecanus, of which about a dozen species are known. They have an enormous bill, to the lower edge of which is attached a pouch in which captured fishes are temporarily stored.

⇒ The American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and the brown species (P. fuscus) are abundant on the Florida coast in winter, but breed about the lakes in the Rocky Mountains and British America.

2. Old Chem.

A retort or still having a curved tube or tubes leading back from the head to the body for continuous condensation and redistillation.

⇒ The principle is still employed in certain modern forms of distilling apparatus.

Frigate pelican Zool., the frigate bird. See under Frigate. -- Pelican fish Zool., deep-sea fish (Eurypharynx pelecanoides) of the order Lyomeri, remarkable for the enormous development of the jaws, which support a large gular pouch. -- Pelican flower Bot., the very large and curiously shaped blossom of a climbing plant (Aristolochia grandiflora) of the West Indies; also, the plant itself. -- Pelican ibis Zool., a large Asiatic wood ibis (Tantalus leucocephalus). The head and throat are destitute of feathers; the plumage is white, with the quills and the tail greenish black. -- Pelican in her piety (in heraldry and symbolical art), a representation of a pelican in the act of wounding her breast in order to nourish her young with her blood; -- a practice fabulously attributed to the bird, on account of which it was adopted as a symbol of the Redeemer, and of charity. -- Pelican's foot Zool., a marine gastropod shell of the genus Aporrhais, esp. Aporrhais pes-pelicani of Europe.


© Webster 1913.