Word Nerd

Dungeness crab.

Dungeness [dən•jə•nɛs]


1. a headland and rocky stretch of beach in Kent, England, on the south coast, where there are two nuclear power plants and an automated lighthouse that bear the same name

2. Dungeness Spit: the longest natural sand spit in the United States, which juts 5.5 miles out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the top of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. The bay enclosed by the spit and a river on the peninsula share the same name

3. Dungeness, Washington: an unincorporated community that sits atop of the Olympic Peninsula near the spit on the bay of the same name. Now called Old Town Dungeness, the area is separated from Canada by the Strait of Juan de Fuca

4. Dungeness crab: metacarcinus magister, a large, delicious, edible crab that lives in the eelgrass beds off the West Coast of the United States between the Gulf of Alaska and central California. Dungeness is the only crab commercially harvested from the waters off Washington and Oregon’s coastline. In 2009, the Dungeness crab was designated the state crustacean of Oregon


The word originally comes from the Old Norse, meaning “headland,” and was applied to the coastal area in Southern England. The crustacean, which is also known as a market crab, takes its name from the fishing village in Washington State, where it was first commercially harvested throughout the late 19th century. The first known use of the word as applied to the shellfish was recorded in 1925.

“After getting the all-clear from state health departments, Oregon and Washington’s commercial Dungeness crab fishermen finally hit the water Monday after being delayed for weeks due to elevated levels of the marine toxin domoic acid.”

—Katie Wilson, “Crab kicks into gear with healthy start,” The Daily Astorian, Jan. 6, 2016

“When Dungeness crabs tested positive for domoic acid in the early 1990s, 2003 and 2004, the crab industry kept on harvesting. Razor clams and mussels keep the poison in their meat, so they were unsafe to eat, but crab fishers simply killed the crabs, ditched the butter and sold the meat.

“This year was different because of Asia’s newfound appetite for the crabs. For the past eight years, Chinese crab buyers have paid high-dollar prices for live crabs to export to Asia. According to Corbin, about 40 percent of Oregon’s crabs have been sent to China alive in the last few years.”

—The Associated Press, “Crabs safe after toxin scare, but prices plummet,” The Daily Astorian, Jan. 19, 2016

“Five pairs of legs keep the Dungeness moving swiftly through the eel-grass beds and sandy ocean bottoms that are its home, and it can be found from the shallows of the inter-tidal zone all the way to depths of about 800 feet.”

—Lynette Rae McAdams, “Wilde Side: The Dungeness crab,” Coast Weekend, April 23, 2015

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.