Logo   Glossary of Lobster Terms
Do you like New England lobsters? Here's how to talk about them.




Here are a few useful lobster terms.

Lobster Pot

A lobster trap sunk in the ocean with a rope and buoy attached to mark it and retrieve it. Lobster pots/traps used to be made of wood, with rope-net entrances for the lobsters: they could crawl in through the cone-like net, but not out.

These days most "pots" are rectangles made of plastic-covered metal mesh.

Chick or Chicken

A lobster five to seven years old, weighing about one pound (450 grams) in its shell. It's prohibited to catch lobsters weighing much less than this.

Legal size is determined not by weight but by measurement of the carapace (from the rear of the eye socket to the rear of the main body shell).

A legal lobster must measure at least 3.25 inches (8.26 cm). A lobster smaller than this is called a short and must be returned to the sea.


A lobster weighing between 1.5 and 2 pounds (680 grams to 910 grams). These are the choicest because they make a good one-person portion. (Over half the weight of a lobster is shell, so a Select gives you less than 1 pound/450 grams of meat.)


An unprecise term for a lobster substantially larger than a Select. Lobsters can live for more than a century and weigh as much as 44 pounds (20 kilos). Very large lobsters are often respected and returned to the sea.

If you buy a large lobster, make sure you have a pot big enough to cook it in!


A lobster that's missing a claw. Claw meat is choice, so culls sell for less than lobsters with both claws.

Blue Lobster

Almost all New England lobsters are blue-green to green-brown when live in the sea. They turn bright red when cooked. Lobsters of other colors are rare: a live blue lobster, its color caused by a genetic defect, is one in two million. A live red lobster is even rarer: one in 10 million, and a yellow or calico (mottled orange and black) lobster rarer still: one in 30 million.

The Full Lobster Story

For the complete story, read Lobster - A Global History.

—by Tom Brosnahan

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Cooked lobsters are red.

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Wire lobster traps, Cape Porpoise ME.

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