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Because of their association with this odd behavior, lemming "suicide" is a frequently used metaphor in reference to people who go along unquestioningly with popular opinion, with potentially dangerous or fatal consequences.

This metaphor is seen many times in popular culture, such as in the video game Lemmings, in episodes of Red Dwarf, and in Adult Swim's show Robot Chicken.

This description was contradicted by natural historian Ole Worm, who accepted that lemmings could fall out of the sky, but claimed that they had been brought over by the wind rather than created by spontaneous generation.

Even more influential was the 1958 Disney film White Wilderness, which won an Academy Award for Documentary Feature, in which staged footage was shown with lemmings jumping into certain death after faked scenes of mass migration.

The lemming defense system is thought to be based on aposematism (warning display).

For many years, the population of lemmings was believed to change with the population cycle, but now some evidence suggests their predators' populations, particularly those of the stoat, may be more closely involved in changing the lemming population.

They generally have long, soft fur, and very short tails.

They are herbivorous, feeding mostly on leaves and shoots, grasses, and sedges in particular, but also on roots and bulbs. Like other rodents, their incisors grow continuously, allowing them to exist on much tougher forage than would otherwise be possible.

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Lemmings have become the subject of a widely popular misconception that they commit mass suicide when they migrate by jumping off cliffs.