Definition of penguin in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpeNGɡwin/


A large flightless seabird of the southern hemisphere, with black upper parts and white underparts and wings developed into flippers for swimming under water. See also Adélie penguin, emperor penguin, king penguin, macaroni penguin.
  • Family Spheniscidae: six genera and several species.
Example sentences
  • The island is only a quarter of a square mile in size, but it is teeming with penguins and other sea birds.
  • The emperor penguin is the largest penguin species and also one of the few found in Antarctica.
  • Green sea turtles rest on the shore and penguins are waddling off for a swim.


Late 16th century (originally denoting the great auk): of unknown origin.

  • Penguin is a rare example of a word that is probably from Welsh, in this case from pen gwyn ‘white head’. It is even rarer for a Welsh word to become internationally adopted for the name of a thing. Sailors and fishermen first gave the name penguin to the great auk of the seas around Newfoundland, which the penguin resembled closely, both birds being large, flightless waterfowl with black and white plumage adapted to life in freezing waters. British sailors may have mistaken penguins for great auks, or simply applied a term they knew to a previously unseen bird. Penguins have fared rather better than great auks: penguins are popular and much studied, whereas great auks were hunted to extinction, the last killed on an islet off Iceland in 1844.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pen·guin

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