Definition of owl in English:

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Pronunciation: /aʊl/


1A nocturnal bird of prey with large eyes, a facial disc, a hooked beak, and typically a loud hooting call.
  • Order Strigiformes: families Strigidae (typical owls such as tawny owls and eagle owls) and Tytonidae (barn owls and their relatives).
Example sentences
  • Flammulated Owls are small owls with short ear-tufts that can be held erect or flush to the head.
  • Common predators of house sparrows include cats and other mammalian predators, birds of prey, and owls.
  • The great majority of past studies in this area have been on birds of prey and owls.
1.1 informal A person who habitually goes to bed late and feels energetic in the evening. Often contrasted with lark1.
Example sentences
  • Charlie is more of an owl - he likes to stay awake as long as he can at night and to take his time waking in the morning.
  • Ideally, people should wake at the same time everyday, but being an owl, you can probably cope quite well when your sleep pattern is disrupted.



noun (plural owleries)
Example sentences
  • Metalfly rushed up the stairs, flying through the owlery and the annex connected to it.
  • He delved into ornithological archives, visited owleries in France and England and trawled charity shops in search of kitsch-looking toy owls as part of his research.


Example sentences
  • She stared at the crowd with enormous owl-like eyes that blinked in mechanical measure just above a slight aquiline nose.
  • In appearance, he was a rotund, rather owl-like figure, usually casually dressed.
  • His thick, rimmed glasses made him look rather owl-like.


Old English ūle, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch uil and German Eule, from a base imitative of the bird's call.

  • The name of the owl probably comes from an imitation of its call. The bird was traditionally taken as a symbol of wisdom—in classical times it was associated with the Greek goddess Athene—and to call someone owlish (late 16th century) suggests that they look solemn or wise. It is a nocturnal bird, and its name is also used for someone, a ‘night owl’, who habitually goes to bed late and feels more lively in the evening. The opposite is a lark. In the 17th century owling was the term for smuggling wool or sheep out of England, to avoid paying tax. Although possibly a different word, it may also come from the bird's nocturnal habits, since such smuggling would have been done at night.

Words that rhyme with owl

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

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: owl

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