plural curlews or curlew
: any of various largely brownish chiefly migratory birds (especially genus Numenius) having long legs and a long slender down-curved bill and related to the sandpipers and snipes

Examples of curlew in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web At a restaurant across from the fish market, the crabs were not even on offer, though a drawing above the display case depicted crabs being devoured by an octopus and a sharp-beaked curlew. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, 24 Sep. 2023 Birds fly behind, finches and macaws and vultures and larks, monarchs and thrushes and curlews and crows. David Allen, New York Times, 29 Mar. 2023 In June 2021, a curlew sandpiper, which breeds in Siberia, tagged here was spotted 2,800 miles away in Tianjin, China. Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Dec. 2022 That’s less than a third of the lifespan of a curlew. Ali Smith, Harper’s Magazine , 25 May 2022 Actually, the story’s already pretty strange by the time our medieval heroine, a girl with a bird — specifically, and significantly, a curlew — on her shoulder and a smithy’s tools in hand, mysteriously appears in our present-day heroine’s house. Washington Post, 4 May 2022 The study was the culmination of years of work that began in 2009 with the dead curlew and expanded to include surveys of dead raptors and snakes in one conservation area in southwestern Idaho. Christine Peterson, National Geographic, 11 Dec. 2020 It’s more than people responding to curlews attacking them, defending their young. Kevin Davenport, idahostatesman, 18 June 2018 In Finland, for example, the Northern lapwing and Eurasian curlew have usually built their ground nests on barley fields after farmers have sown their crops in the spring. Livia Albeck Ripka, Brad Plumer, Anchorage Daily News, 10 Apr. 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'curlew.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French curleu, of imitative origin

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of curlew was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near curlew

Cite this Entry

“Curlew.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


cur·​lew ˈkərl-ˌ(y)ü How to pronounce curlew (audio)
plural curlews or curlew
: any of various largely brownish birds which are related to the woodcocks and are distinguished by long legs and a long slender bill that curves downward

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