n. pl. des·mans
Either of two aquatic, insectivorous, molelike mammals, Desmana moschata of eastern Europe and western Asia or Galemys pyrenaicus of southwest Europe, having dense brownish fur, a long snout, and a flattened scaly tail.
[Short for Swedish desmanråtta, muskrat : desman, musk (from Middle Low German desem, from Medieval Latin bisamum, of Semitic origin; see bśm in the Appendix of Semitic roots) + råtta, rat.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.