in Egyptian hieroglyphics, is a human form pinched to death
with the cold. (See Undines.)
A sort of lizard, fabled to live in fire, which, however, it
quenched by the chill of its body. Pliny tells us he tried the
experiment once, but the creature was soon burnt to a powder. (Natural History, x.
67; xxix. 4.) Salamanders are not uncommon, especially the spotted
European kind (Greek, salamandria).
Francois I. of France adopted as his badge “a lizard in the midst
of flames,” with the legend “Nutrisco et extinguo” (“I nourish
and extinguish”). The Italian motto from which this legend was borrowed
was, “Nudrisco il buono e spengo il reo” (“I nourish the good
and extinguish the bad”). Fire purifies good metal, but consumes
rubbish. (See ante.)
Anything of a fiery-red colour. Falstaff calls Bardolph's nose “a
burning lamp,” “a salamander,” and the drink that made such “a fiery
meteor” he calls “fire.”
“I have maintained that salamander of yours with fire any time this
two-and-thirty years.” —Shakespeare: 1 Henry IV., iv. 3.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894