Cha·​rad·​ri·​us | \ kə-ˈra-drē-əs How to pronounce Charadrius (audio) \

Definition of Charadrius

: a genus (the type of the family Charadriidae) of plovers comprising small or medium-sized birds (as the piping plover) but sometimes (as formerly) including also the golden plovers

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History and Etymology for Charadrius

borrowed from New Latin (Linnaeus), going back to Late Latin (Vulgate), borrowed from Greek charadriós, a charadriiform bird, perhaps the Eurasian stone curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), perhaps a derivative of charádra “torrent dry in winter, dry river bed, ravine,” akin to chérados “silt, gravel carried by torrents,” of pre-Greek substratal origin

Note: The Vulgate form charadrius continues the Septuagint’s charadriós, which translates Hebrew anāphāh, the name of an unclean bird of uncertain identity in Leviticus 11:19 and Deuteronomy 14:18. According to Aristotle (Historia animalium ix.11.615), the charadriós nests in ravines (charádras) and clefts (chēramoús), though the derivation of the word from charádra was judged “more than doubtful” by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, A Glossary of Greek Birds (Oxford, 1895). Linguistically, however, the formation seems unimpeachable, and an association of the stone curlew—if that is the correct identification of charadriós—with dry river beds does not seem unlikely. Traditionally, charádra was connected with the base *charak- of charássein “to sharpen, carve, engrave” (since a torrent cuts its way down a mountainside), but this is now regarded as folk etymology.

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Cite this Entry

“Charadrius.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Oct. 2020.

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