Bom·​by·​cil·​la | \ ˌbämbəˈsilə \

Definition of Bombycilla

: a genus (the type of the family Bombycillidae) of passerine birds comprising the waxwings

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History and Etymology for Bombycilla

borrowed from New Latin, from earlier bombycilla "Bohemian waxwing," from Latin bombyc-, bombyx "silkworm, silk," + -illa, diminutive suffix (after German Seideschwanz, literally, "silk-tail"

Note: The taxonomic name was introduced by Mathurin Jacques Brisson in Ornithologie, ou Méthode Contenant la Division des Oiseaux (Paris, 1760), vol. 2, p. 333. Brisson took the name from p. 229 of the "Aviarium Silesiae," Book IV of Theriotropheum Silesiae (Liegnitz, 1603), a compendium of Silesian natural history by a Hirschberg physician, Caspar Schwenckfeld (1563-1609). Given that bombyc- + -illa is morphologically regular, there is no reason to accept the etymology in the Century Dictionary and other 19th-century references claiming that the name is a blend of bombyx and the termination of Latin motacilla, a name for the white wagtail (Motacilla alba).

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Cite this Entry

“Bombycilla.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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