gan·​net ˈga-nət How to pronounce gannet (audio)
plural gannets also gannet
: any of a genus (Morus of the family Sulidae, the gannet family) of large fish-eating seabirds that breed in colonies chiefly on offshore islands

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There are three oceanic bird species called gannet. They are found in the North Atlantic, where they are the largest seabirds, and in temperate seas around Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The adults are mainly white with black-tipped wing feathers and a large, yellowish or buff-colored head, with black around the eyes. They have a tapered beak and pointed tail. They dive with half-closed wings to catch fish and squid. They waddle on land, but are expert fliers, spending most of their lives over water. They nest in dense colonies on cliffs. The largest species is the 40-in (100-cm) northern gannet.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web There are also lots of trails for hiking, walking, and running, and a hotel guide can drive you down to the Cape itself for photography of the cliffs as well as an up-close look at the world’s largest colony of gannet birds. Rachel King, Fortune, 20 Nov. 2022 The tākapu, or Australasian gannet, has nostrils in its mouth and eyes that can change shapes. María Luisa Paúl, Washington Post, 17 Oct. 2022 That includes beloved characters like the Atlantic puffin—easily spotted at the Réserve de parc national de l’Archipel-de-Mingan—and the northern gannet, a striking white seabird with a 6.5-foot wingspan. Outside Online, 25 July 2022 The island’s colony of over 110,000 northern gannets is the most accessible gannet colony in the world. Sandra Macgregor, Forbes, 5 May 2022 The team then stuffed two real northern gannet wings with cotton and propped them up in a wind tunnel. Mennatalla Ibrahim, Science | AAAS, 7 July 2021 That statistic includes common loons, northern gannets, double-crested cormorants, royal terns, Wilson’s plovers, black skimmers, and seaside sparrows, to name a few. National Geographic, 17 Apr. 2020 Marine birds also included mallards, common scoters (a large sea duck), geese, cormorants, gannets, shags, auks, egrets and loons. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 26 Mar. 2020 Andrew’s Point in Gloucester : There was a dickcissel along with good numbers of seabirds such as three Forester’s terns and 175 Northern gannets., 19 Aug. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gannet.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English ganate, gante, going back to Old English ganot, ganet "a seabird, probably Morus bassanus," going back to Germanic *ganuta- "gander" (whence Middle Dutch ghent "gander," Old High German ganazzo, ganzo), from *gan- (base of *gan-s- "goose") + *-uta-, suffix of animal names — more at goose entry 1

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of gannet was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Gannet.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


gan·​net ˈgan-ət How to pronounce gannet (audio)
plural gannets also gannet
: any of several large fish-eating seabirds that breed chiefly on offshore islands

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