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curlew Syllabification: cur·lew
Pronunciation: /ˈkərˌlo͞o/

Definition of curlew in English:

noun (plural same or curlews)

Image of curlew
A large wading bird of the sandpiper family, with a long down-curved bill, brown streaked plumage, and frequently a distinctive ascending two-note call. See also stone curlew.
  • Genus Numenius, family Scolopacidae: several species, including the common Eurasian N. arquata and the North American long-billed curlew (N. americanus)
Example sentences
  • In the mud flats of the Bay of Fundy, you'll see large roosts of shorebirds - plovers, yellowlegs, godwits, curlews, and phalaropes - at high tide.
  • Other migratory birds observed in the shallow waters were bar headed geese, open bill storks, northern pintails, gadwalls, curlews, black tailed godwits, spoonbills, green shanks, red shanks and so on.
  • So why cannot hen harriers, sparrowhawks and goshawks be controlled to protect lapwings, curlews, golden plovers and, yes, pheasants and grouse?


Middle English: from Old French courlieu, alteration (by association with courliu 'courier', from courre 'run' + lieu 'place') of imitative courlis.

  • cuckoo from Middle English:

    The cuckoo is one of those birds whose name echoes the sound of its distinctive call—other examples are curlew (Late Middle English), hoopoe (mid 17th century), kittiwake (mid 17th century), and peewit [E16th]. You can describe an unwelcome intruder in a place or situation as a cuckoo in the nest. This comes from the cuckoo's habit of laying her eggs to be raised in another bird's nest. Cuckold (Old English), referring to the husband of an unfaithful wife, also derives from cucu, and plays on the same cuckoo-in-the-nest idea, although it is not actually the husband who is being the ‘cuckoo’. The reason that a silly or mad person is described as a cuckoo, or is said to have gone cuckoo, is probably that the bird's monotonously repeated call suggests simple-mindedness. Kook, ‘an eccentric person’, is short for cuckoo. It was first recorded in the 1920s but only really became common in the late 1950s. See also cloud, coccyx

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