Definition of capelin in English:


(also caplin)

Pronunciation /ˈkāp(ə)lən/ /ˈkeɪp(ə)lən/


  • A small fish of the North Atlantic, resembling a smelt. It is abundant in coastal waters and provides a staple food for humans and many animals.

    Mallotus villosus, family Osmeridae

    ‘For instance, WWF Norway says it is concerned about the impact of the crab - which has no natural enemies in Arctic waters - on the capelin, a fish considered central to the Barents Sea food chain.’
    • ‘Larger salmon eat a variety of fishes such as herring and alewives, smelts, capelin, small mackerel, sand lace, and small cod.’
    • ‘Like the capelin, these fish aggregate close to shore, then a female and associated males ride a wave to very shallow water, where they spawn on a fine gravel beach.’
    • ‘They carry one capelin, herring, or sand lance at a time to the chicks, making about 16 trips a day.’
    • ‘In Alaska's Bering Sea, capelin, herring and other coldwater fish have been in decline, while warmer water creatures like albacore and ocean sunfish have made their appearance.’


Early 17th century from French, from Provençal capelan, from medieval Latin cappellanus ‘custodian’ (see chaplain).