Definition of fowl in English:

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Pronunciation: /foul/

noun (plural same or fowls)

(also domestic fowl)
1A gallinaceous bird kept chiefly for its eggs and flesh; a domestic cock or hen.
  • The domestic fowl is descended from the wild red junglefowl of Southeast Asia (see jungle fowl).
Example sentences
  • Although this assumption has not been rigorously tested in wild bird populations, data from domestic fowl suggest that, indeed, immunocompetence measurements might not be antigen specific.
  • These birds also express high levels of a bacteriolytic lysozyme which is more similar in amino acid sequence to the rock pigeon than that of the domestic fowl.
  • Breeds of domestic fowl are described under hen/chicken breeds.
1.1Any other domesticated bird kept for its eggs or flesh, e.g., the turkey, duck, goose, and guineafowl.
Example sentences
  • In addition, my family included nine dogs, about 40 ducks and domestic fowls, eight geese, a Bornean deer that weighed about 150 pounds, and two long-armed apes.
  • In one large enterprise about two years ago they started breeding fowl - chicken and geese.
  • The government destroyed almost 1.4 million chickens, ducks, geese and other fowl in the territory last month to stop the spread of an avian influenza.
1.2The flesh of birds, especially of the domestic cock or hen, as food; poultry.
Example sentences
  • There was other meat galore, too, steak, pork, fowl, bacon, etc.
  • The borders are now completely closed for beef, fowl and pork imports.
  • If you like red meat better than fowl, eat it more often.
1.3Birds collectively, especially as the quarry of hunters.
Example sentences
  • These would eventually have flourished, destroying the local housing and creating a forest teeming with fish, fowl, and game.
1.4 archaic A bird.
Example sentences
  • The birds we have had have been the ordinary fowl of a village garden: jackdaws, starlings, magpies, chaffinches and so on.


Old English fugol, originally the general term for a bird, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch vogel and German Vogel, also to fly1.

  • bird from Old English:

    The origin of bird is unknown, and there are no parallel forms in any of the languages related to English. Old English brid (with the r before the i) meant only a chick or a nestling: an adult bird was a fowl. The form brid existed alongside bird in the literary language into the 15th century, but after that it survived only in dialect. Meanwhile fowl stopped being a general term, and it now refers only to specialized groups such as wildfowl and waterfowl. The first record of the proverb a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush comes in the mid 15th century. In birds of a feather flock together, first recorded a century later, the word ‘a’ means ‘one’ or ‘the same’.

    The British slang use of bird to mean a young woman is associated with the 1960s and 1970s, but goes back as far as the Middle Ages. In those days there was another word bird, also spelled burd, that meant a young woman, which people confused with the familiar bird. The Virgin Mary could be described in those days as ‘that blissful bird of grace’. The modern use, recorded from the beginning of the 20th century, appears to be something of a revival.

    The earliest version of the expression give someone the bird, meaning to boo or jeer at them, is the big bird, which was used by people working in the theatre in the early 19th century. The big bird referred to was a goose, a bird well known for its aggressive hissing when threatened or annoyed. The booing and hissing of the audience at an actor's poor performance might well have suggested a flock of angry geese.

    Bird meaning ‘a prison sentence’ is a shortening of birdlime ( see also viscous) used in rhyming slang to mean ‘time’. So if you were ‘doing bird’ or ‘doing birdlime’, you were ‘doing time’, a sense known from the mid 19th century.

    In golf a birdie is a score of one stroke under par ( see pair) at a hole. Two under par is an eagle, three under par is an albatross or double eagle, and one over par is a bogey ( see bogus). This scoring terminology is said to have originated at the end of the 19th century when an American golfer hit a bird with his drive yet still managed to score one under par at the hole—this bird suggested birdie, and the other bird names were added to continue the theme.

Words that rhyme with fowl

afoul, befoul, cowl, foul, growl, howl, jowl, owl, prowl, Rabaul, scowl, yowl

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: fowl

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