Definition of pelican in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpɛlɪk(ə)n/


Image of pelican
A large gregarious waterbird with a long bill, an extensible throat pouch for scooping up fish, and mainly white or grey plumage.
  • Family Pelecanidae and genus Pelecanus: several species.
Example sentences
  • Most of the postcranial elements belong to continental waterbirds, including pelicans, anhingas, herons, storks, ducks, and rails.
  • Millions of birds - ducks, geese, pelicans, shore birds - use the sea each year.
  • Black swans, pelicans, white faced heron and mullet jumping out of the water were some of the attractions that were snapped by the budding photographers.


Late Old English pellicane, via late Latin from Greek pelekan, probably based on pelekus 'axe' (with reference to its bill).

  • The pelican has always been noted for its long bill and deep throat-pouch for scooping up fish. This distinctive feature probably gave the bird its name, which came from Greek pelekan, probably based on pelekus ‘axe’. In Britain a pelican crossing is a road crossing with traffic lights operated by pedestrians. The name, first used in 1966, was taken from the initial letters of the formal title, pedestrian light controlled crossing. Two other pedestrian crossings were given bird names by analogy with the pelican, the puffin (from pedestrian user-friendly intelligent), and toucan crossing. As bird names, puffin has a rather complicated history. It was used in Middle English for the Manx shearwater, probably from ‘puff, puffed up’, describing the shearwater's fat nestlings. As the two birds often nest together the name was then transferred to the bird we now call a puffin. Toucans, who first appeared in English in the mid 16th century, get their name from the language of the Amazonian Indians called the Tupi, and their name imitates their cry.

Words that rhyme with pelican


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: peli|can

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