Shellfish is a culinary and fisheries term for those aquatic invertebrate animals that are used as food: various species of molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms. Although the word is primarily used as a term for marine species, freshwater edible invertebrates (such as crayfish and river mussels etc) are also sometimes grouped with the marine species under the umbrella concept of "shellfish".

Almost all shellfish have a hard exterior or exoskeleton, known as a shell, hence the first part of the word. The second word fragment "fish", is here used in the archaic sense, to mean an animal that lives its whole life in water. However, these invertebrate animals are not "fish" in the modern sense of the word, and therefore the term "finfish" or "fin fish" is sometimes used to distinguish ordinary (vertebrate) fish from shellfish.

The word "shellfish" is used as singular and plural, but the less common plural "shellfishes" is sometimes used when referring to various "types of shellfish". [p119, "Fishermen, a community living from the sea", by Sally Festing, Shaun Tyas, Stamford, 1999, ISBN 1 9000289 22 9]

Molluscs commonly used as food include many species of clams, mussels, oysters, winkles, and scallops. Some crustaceans commonly eaten are various species of shrimp, prawn, lobster, crayfish, and crabs. Echinoderms are not as frequently eaten as molluscs and crustaceans, but the roe of sea urchins is quite popular in many parts of the world, and in Asia, sea cucumbers (echinoderms which have no shell) are gathered as a food item.

Other edible mollusks such as shell-less cephalopods (squid octopus and cuttlefish) and terrestrial snails which do have a shell such as escargot, are sometimes considered to be "shellfish" and sometimes not.

On occasion, the word is used to refer only to edible marine molluscs, and then shrimp, crab, or lobster are not included in the category. [ [ Maryland Shellfish Harvesting Areas] , Maryland Department of the Environment]

Shellfish are among the most common food allergens. [] Some interpretations of Islamic dietary laws forbid eating shellfish.
Seventh-day Adventists do not eat shellfish.A rational basis is the tendency of some shellfish to feed on waste or accumulate toxins or heavy metals in their tissues, or that some of these dishes are consumed raw and spoiled shellfish have the potential to cause shellfish poisoning, and that some people suffer from allergies to shellfish.


External links

* [ BBC Guide to Preparing and Eating Shellfish]
* [ Shellfish News]
* [ Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory] at Rutgers University
* [ Shellfish Gallery] from the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB)
* [ Shellfish Facts]
*University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections -- [ Freshwater and Marine Image Bank -- Shellfish] An ongoing digital collection of images related to shellfish.
* [ Nutrition Facts for Various Shellfish]

ee also


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • shellfish — [shel′fish΄] n. pl. shellfish or shellfishes (see FISH) [ME shellfyssche < OE scilfisc < sciel, SHELL + fisc, FISH] any aquatic animal with a shell, esp. an edible one, as the clam or lobster …   English World dictionary

  • Shellfish — Shell fish , n. (Zo[ o]l.) Any aquatic animal whose external covering consists of a shell, either testaceous, as in oysters, clams, and other mollusks, or crustaceous, as in lobsters and crabs. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • shellfish — (n.) O.E. scylfiscas (pl.); see SHELL (Cf. shell) (n.) + FISH (Cf. fish) (n.) …   Etymology dictionary

  • shellfish — ► NOUN ▪ an aquatic shelled mollusc or crustacean, especially an edible one …   English terms dictionary

  • shellfish — /shel fish /, n., pl. (esp. collectively) shellfish, (esp. referring to two or more kinds or species) shellfishes. an aquatic animal having a shell, as the oyster and other mollusks and the lobster and other crustaceans. [bef. 900; ME; OE… …   Universalium

  • shellfish — [[t]ʃe̱lfɪʃ[/t]] N VAR: usu pl (shellfish is both the singular and the plural form.) Shellfish are small creatures that live in the sea and have a shell. Fish and shellfish are the specialities …   English dictionary

  • shellfish — plural shellfish noun 1 (C, U) a sea or water animal that does not have a backbone, but has a shell: Lobsters and oysters are shellfish. 2 (U) such animals as a type of food: Do you like shellfish? …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • shellfish — UK [ˈʃelˌfɪʃ] / US noun Word forms shellfish : singular shellfish plural shellfish a) [countable] sea creatures with a hard shell around them, for example crabs, mussels, and oysters b) [uncountable] these creatures used as food …   English dictionary

  • shellfish — (Roget s IV) n. Syn. crustacean, mollusk, molluscoid, crustaceous animal, invertebrate, marine invertebrate, marine animal, arthropod, gastropod, Arthropoda, molluskan type, bivalve, shell meat. Types of shellfish include: crab, lobster, clam,… …   English dictionary for students

  • shellfish — shell|fish [ˈʃelˌfıʃ] n plural shellfish [U and C] an animal that lives in water, has a shell, and can be eaten as food, for example ↑crabs, ↑lobsters, and ↑oysters …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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