Definitions

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

  • n. Any of various small New World finches of the family Emberizidae, having brownish or grayish plumage and including the song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, chipping sparrow, vesper sparrow, and other closely related species.
  • n. Any of various birds of the family Passeridae, especially the house sparrow.
  • n. Any of various similar or related birds, such as the Java sparrow.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The house sparrow, Passer domesticus; a small bird with a short bill, and brown, white and gray feathers.
  • n. A member of the family Passeridae, comprising small Old World songbirds.
  • n. A member of the family Emberizidae, comprising small New World songbirds.
  • n. Generically, any small, nondescript bird.
  • n. A quick-witted, lively person. Often used in the phrase cockney sparrow.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One of many species of small singing birds of the family Fringilligæ, having conical bills, and feeding chiefly on seeds. Many sparrows are called also finches, and buntings. The common sparrow, or house sparrow, of Europe (Passer domesticus) is noted for its familiarity, its voracity, its attachment to its young, and its fecundity. See House sparrow, under house.
  • n. Any one of several small singing birds somewhat resembling the true sparrows in form or habits, as the European hedge sparrow. See under Hedge.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The housesparrow, Passer domesticus, a fringilline bird of Europe, which has been imported and naturalized in America, Australia, and other countries.
  • n. Some or any fringilline bird resembling the sparrow, as Passer montanus, the tree-sparrow; one of various finches and buntings, mostly of plain coloration.
  • n. Some little bird likened to or mistaken for a sparrow.

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

  • n. any of several small dull-colored singing birds feeding on seeds or insects
  • n. small brownish European songbird

Etymologies

Middle English sparowe, from Old English spearwa.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English sparwe, sparowe, from Old English spearwa ("sparrow"), from Proto-Germanic *sparwô, *sparwaz (“sparrow”), from Proto-Indo-European *sper(w)-, *sper(g)- (“sparrow, bird”). Cognate with Dutch spreeuw ("sparrow"), Alemannic German Spar ("sparrow"), German Sperling ("sparrow"), Danish spurv ("sparrow"), Swedish sparv ("sparrow"), Breton frao ("crow"), Tocharian A spārāñ, Ancient Greek ψάρ (psar, "starling"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • If it be true, that the life of a sparrow is the object of God's care; if it be true, that the very hairs of our heads are all numbered by Him, much more must it be true, that there was a

    Sermon on the Death of Abraham Lincoln, Late President of the United States. Preached on the Occasion of the National Funeral

  • The white-throated sparrow is far from flashy, never one to spark love at first sight.

    White-Throated Sparrows and the Return of Old Sam Peabody

  • But as my feet (numb, of course, despite the insulated books and socks) crunch along the frozen grass or the snow, the white-throated sparrow is sure to sing out, pluck my heart strings, and get me feeling all warm inside:

    White-Throated Sparrows and the Return of Old Sam Peabody

  • The sparrow is also fine, and is once more is outside our apartment building where he ought to be.

    October 23rd, 2005

  • At intervals during his literary career, I have tried to add a bit to his stature, he “looks shorter than he actually is,” and so on; but for the most part we find him described as a sparrow, a small, dusty brown sparrow — “soon he was, sparrow-like, hopping and darting this way and that in search of crumbs of information.”

    Death of Jezebel

  • "Traverse, dear, I shall pray over this matter to-night and sleep on it; and He to whom even the fall of a sparrow is not indifferent will guide me," said Mrs. Rocke; and here the debate ended.

    The Hidden Hand

  • Though not obvious to us, the bird -- literally, "sparrow" -- and swallow -- have an object in their motions, so penal evil falls on none without a reason.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

  • Scripture says that God knows the fall of every sparrow, which is a metaphorical reference to divine omniscience, but that does not mean the Cosmic Mind necessarily intervenes in events.

    God is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu …

  • And she came off the stage and I asked her what the sparrow was a metaphor for, and then I told her I thought she did a great job, that I was proud of her.

    Father Fiction

  • Paris has a child, and the forest has a bird; the bird is called the sparrow; the child is called the gamin.

    Les Miserables

Comments

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  • *shudder* I can't finish reading that.

    February 24, 2009

  • "Recently, bird lovers found a new and even more potent ally than St. Francis. In an unexpected bureaucratic onslaught on the gourmets, the national confederation of farmers declared that mass slaughter of the useful and insectivorous sparrows was highly prejudicial to the nation's agriculture. Madrid's authorities promptly forbade the sale of pájaros fritos anywhere within the city. Specially appointed vigilantes now prowl Madrid's alleys to see that the law is observed. The price of black-market sparrows has soared from 2¢ to 25¢."
    - Orchard Chops, time.com, 1 Feb 1954.

    February 24, 2009

  • I wasn't being entirely serious - I'm only an amateur pessimist. The feasting hall may not be quite as joyous as King Edwin implies, but I can't complain, so far, about my own transient appearance.

    January 25, 2008

  • Ah, well, we don't really know that, do we yarb? Kind of Bede's point.

    January 25, 2008

  • I've heard this analogy but didn't realise it went right back to Bede; I thought it was a Viking thing. It's perfect, except it makes life look rosier than it really is.

    January 25, 2008

  • From "The Ecclesiastical History of the English", written by the Venerable Bebe circa A.D. 700. Bebe tells how King Edwin of Northumbria held a council in A.D. 627 to decide on the religion to be accepted in his kingdom, and gives the following speech to one of the king's chief men:

    "Your majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter's day with your thanes and counselors. In the mist there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside, the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing."

    January 25, 2008