noun \ˈtərn\

: a kind of bird that lives near the ocean, is usually black and white, and has long wings and a tail with two points

Full Definition of TERN

:  any of various chiefly marine birds (subfamily Sterninae of the family Laridae and especially genus Sterna) that differ from the related gulls in usually smaller size, a more slender build, a sharply pointed bill, narrower wings, and an often forked tail

Illustration of TERN

Origin of TERN

of Scandinavian origin; akin to Dan terne tern
First Known Use: 1678


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Any of about 40 species (subfamily Sterninae, family Laridae) of slender, web-footed, migratory water birds found almost worldwide. Species vary from 8 to 22 in. (20–55 cm) long. The plumage is white, black-and-white, or black; the sharply pointed bill is black, red, or yellow; and the feet are red or black. Most species have long, pointed wings and a forked tail. Terns plunge into the water to catch crustaceans and fishes. They breed colonially, usually on the ground on islands. See also Arctic tern.


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