AskDefine | Define winkle

The Collaborative Dictionary

Winkle \Win"kle\, n. [AS. wincle.] (Zool.) (a) Any periwinkle. --Holland. (b) Any one of various marine spiral gastropods, esp., in the United States, either of two species of Fulgar (Fulgar canaliculata, and Fulgar carica). [1913 Webster] Note: These are large mollusks which often destroy large numbers of oysters by drilling their shells and sucking their blood. [1913 Webster] Sting winkle, a European spinose marine shell (Murex erinaceus). See Illust. of Murex. [1913 Webster]

Word Net



1 small edible marine snail; steamed in wine or baked [syn: periwinkle]
2 edible marine gastropod [syn: periwinkle]


1 emit or reflect light in a flickering manner; "Does a constellation twinkle more brightly than a single star?" [syn: twinkle, scintillate]
2 gleam or glow intermittently; "The lights were flashing" [syn: flash, blink, wink, twinkle]
3 remove or displace from a position [syn: winkle out]




  1. Any one of various marine spiral gastropods, especially, in the United States, either of two species of Fulgar (F. canaliculata and F. carica).
  2. (children's slang) The penis, especially that of a boy rather than that of a man.


  • (gastropod): periwinkle
  • (children's slang: the penis): See


gastropod See periwinkle
children's slang: the penis
The common periwinkle, or the winkle, Littorina littorea, is a species of small edible sea snail with an operculum, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Littorinidae, the winkles.


This species lives on the northeastern and northwestern shores of the Atlantic Ocean.


The common periwinkle is mainly found on rocky coasts in the higher intertidal zone. It sometimes lives in small tide pools ranging from one to two m or about three to six feet in characteristic size. It is also found in muddy habitats such as estuaries. They are situated on the splash zone/ the extreme high tide mark.

Life habits

Like almost all snails, the periwinkle crawls using a muscular, fleshy foot which is lubricated by a film of mucus. When not active, it often nestles in a crack or gully. During low tide when it is exposed to the air, it can seal the gap between its shell and the rock with mucus to prevent desiccation. When loosened from the substrate it can effectively seal its shell against desiccation or predation using its operculum.
Periwinkles feed by grazing along the surface on which they live. They use their radula to scrape algae from rocks, and in the salt marsh community, cord grass or to pick up algae from the film that covers the surface of mud in estuaries or bays.

Human use

Edible or common periwinkles have long been gathered from the shore for food.
Periwinkles are a delicacy in African and Asian cuisine. The meat is high in protein but low in fat content; it is estimated to have 15% protein, 2.4% fat and about 80% water. Periwinkles are also eaten in Britain and Ireland where they are commonly simply referred to as "winkles." In the northeastern portion of England they are commonly referred to as "Willicks". In the West of Scotland they are known as "Wilks"

Other periwinkles or winkles

World-wide there are numerous species of periwinkle, all of which live in the intertidal zone. Some species live very high up in the splash zone, a part of the shore that is dry almost all of the time, and these species are virtually land snails.

Other snails commonly called winkles

In English-speaking countries in other parts of the world, gastropod molluscs from other families, such as the Nerites, Neritidae, are sometimes also commonly known as "winkles", simply because they are small marine snails that occupy a similar ecological niche.



  • Abbott, R. Tucker, 1974. American Seashells. Second edition. Van Nostrand Rheinhold, New York
  • Abbott, R. Tucker, 1986. Seashells of North America, St. Martin's Press, New York
winkle in Arabic: ونكة شائعة
winkle in Danish: Almindelig strandsnegl
winkle in German: Große Strandschnecke
winkle in French: Bigorneau
winkle in Dutch: Alikruik
winkle in Norwegian Nynorsk: Strandsnigel
winkle in Portuguese: Caramujo
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