from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of various often nocturnal birds of prey of the order Strigiformes, having hooked and feathered talons, large heads with short hooked beaks, large eyes set forward, and fluffy plumage that allows for almost noiseless flight.
  • noun Any of several breeds of domestic pigeons having a very short beak somewhat like that of an owl and often a frill of feathers on the chest.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A raptorial nocturnal bird of prey of the family Strigidæ
  • noun A variety of the domestic pigeon: so called from its owl-like physiognomy.
  • noun A person whose pleasure or business it is to be up or about much at night.
  • To carry on a contraband or unlawful trade at night or in secrecy; skulk about with contraband goods; smuggle; especially, to carry wool or sheep out of the country, at one time an offense at law.
  • noun A dialectal form of wool.
  • noun Sometimes applied to the barn-owl, Strix protincola, which is white below and when in flight seems almost entirely white. See cut at barn-owl.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb Prov. Eng. To pry about; to prowl.
  • intransitive verb obsolete To carry wool or sheep out of England.
  • intransitive verb engraving Hence, to carry on any contraband trade.
  • noun (Zoöl.) Any species of raptorial birds of the family Strigidæ. They have large eyes and ears, and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye. They are mostly nocturnal in their habits.
  • noun (Zoöl.) A variety of the domestic pigeon.
  • noun (Zoöl.) any one of several species of South American nocturnal monkeys of the genus Nyctipithecus. They have very large eyes. Called also durukuli.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a very large moth (Erebus strix). The expanse of its wings is over ten inches.
  • noun (Zoöl.) the kakapo.
  • noun (Zoöl.) the lumpfish.
  • noun a cant name for certain railway trains whose run is in the nighttime.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Any of various birds of prey of the order Strigiformes that are primarily nocturnal and have forward-looking, binocular vision, limited eye movement, and good hearing.
  • noun A person seen as having owl-like characteristics, especially appearing wise or serious, or being nocturnally active.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun nocturnal bird of prey with hawk-like beak and claws and large head with front-facing eyes


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English owle, from Old English ūle, of imitative origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English owle, from Old English ūle, from Proto-Germanic *uwwalōn (compare West Frisian ûle, Dutch uil, Danish ugle), diminutive of *uwwōn ‘eagle-owl’ (compare German Uhu), variant of *ūfaz, *ūfōn (compare Swedish uv ‘horned owl’, Bavarian Auf), from Proto-Indo-European *up- (compare Latvian ũpis ‘eagle-owl’, Czech úpěti ‘to wail, howl’, Avestan ufyeimi ‘to call out’).


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word owl.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • This is my favourite owl.

    February 17, 2007

  • Mr Owl ate my metal worm.

    October 18, 2008

  • I know very well what I'd rather be

    If I didn't always have to be me!

    I'd rather be an owl,

    A downy feathered owl,

    A wink-ity, blink-ity, yellow-eyed owl

    In a hole in a hollow tree.

    - Mary Austin, 'Rathers'.

    November 1, 2008

  • òó

    May 23, 2009

  • Me encantan buhos.

    May 23, 2009

  • 'Owl' as seen here.

    December 22, 2009

  • O owl!

    make some other face.

    This is spring rain.

    - Kobayashi Issa.

    March 4, 2010

  • It has been my long-held opinion that owls need to make some other face AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. this sort of thing verges on the obscene.

    March 4, 2010

  • What sort of face would you have them make, madm?

    March 4, 2010

  • the turning around kind?

    March 4, 2010

  • I think you just have issues with owls.

    March 4, 2010

  • I'm not crazy--they're crazy. I swear!

    March 4, 2010

  • I saw an owl last night, sitting on the street sign at the end of Robinson Rd. And he/she did have that there-but-for-the-grace-of-madmouth-go-you kind of expression.

    March 4, 2010

  • I saw a stuffed pygmy owl the other day, and it was cute as, I won't say a button because it was cuter than that - it was cute as a toggle. Or a duffel - I mean the thing you get on a duffel-coat.

    March 4, 2010

  • Bilby, yes, that look is what has earned them their awful reputation. But if there weren't people like madmouth who have issues with owls, they wouldn't have that reputation at owl.

    March 4, 2010

  • I mean "at all". Damn it owl!

    March 4, 2010

  • let's compromise with at awl

    March 5, 2010

  • some etymology on the word 'owl' :

    June 14, 2013