: any of a family (Podicipedidae) of swimming and diving birds closely related to the loons but having lobed toes compare dabchick

Illustration of grebe

Illustration of grebe

Examples of grebe in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web An Australasian crested grebe, also known as a pūteketeke bird. Mithil Aggarwal, NBC News, 10 Nov. 2023 Constitution Gardens draws more birds and thus more birders, there to see such species as northern shovelers, gadwalls and grebes. John Kelly, Washington Post, 12 Sep. 2023 Lafayette, Louisiana About a two-hour drive west of New Orleans, this city is the gateway to Cypress Island Preserve and Rip Van Winkle Gardens, both prime springtime habitats for bitterns, rails, and grebes. Alexandra Marvar, Travel + Leisure, 27 Aug. 2023 In Britain, the great crested grebe was driven to near extinction, hunted for its head feathers, which stand out like a halo when breeding. Mary Jo Dilonardo, Treehugger, 25 May 2023 Berkshire County: The highlights were a Townsend’s solitaire at Lime Kiln Farm in Sheffield, a snowy owl in Pittsfield, a horned grebe and a Barrow’s goldeneye on the Cheshire Reservoir in Cheshire, and two rusty blackbirds in Stockbridge., 5 Mar. 2022 Middlesex County: Among reports were a stilt sandpiper and a solitary sandpiper at the Arlington Reservoir, a Connecticut warbler at Dunback Meadow in Lexington, and seven black scoters at Flint’s Pond in Concord and four at Lake Nagog in Littleton, where there was also a horned grebe., 23 Oct. 2021 The Western grebe continued on Mashpee Pond., 5 Apr. 2023 The firms were also charged with four misdemeanor counts for the deaths of two brown pelicans, which are protected birds, and two migratory nongame birds — a western grebe and a Brandt’s cormorant, according to a criminal complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court. Hannah Fry, Los Angeles Times, 8 Sep. 2022 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from French grèbe, going back to Middle French grebe, griaibe, a name for the bird in Franco-Provençal of Savoy, of obscure origin

Note: The noun grebe was apparently introduced into ornithological literature by Conrad gesner in Historiæ Animalium Liber III. qui est de avium natura (Zürich, 1555), p. 563: "Gavia cinerea, quæ ad flumina & lacus ascendit …Hæc Italice circa Comum galedor uocatur, circa Verbanum lacum et alibi galetra, Gallis gauian uel mouette, uel glaumet, Sabaudis grebe, uel griaibe, uel beque, uel heyron, quamuis ardeæ potius id nomen conueniat." ("An ash-gray seabird, which goes up to the rivers and lakes …This [bird] is called in Italian galedor around Como, galetra around Lake Maggiore and elsewhere; [it is called] by the French gavian or mouette or glaumet, and by the Savoyards grebe or griaibe or beque or heyron, this [last] name applying rather to the heron.") Exactly the same names were reproduced in French two years later, without crediting Gesner, by the traveler and naturalist Pierre Belon (1524-64) in Portraits d'oyseaux, animaux, serpens, herbes, arbres, hommes et femmes, d'Arabie et Egypte (Paris, 1557), p. 35: "francois, Mouëtte cendrée, Gauian, Glammet [sic]. En Sauoye elle est nommée Grebe, ou Griaibe, Begue, Heyron." The bird described and illustrated by both Gesner and Belon, however, is unmistakably a seagull, probably the common gull Larus canus. Later attestations show that Gesner recorded the name more or less accurately, but assigned it to the wrong bird. The word was applied correctly in the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert, in the article grebe (vol. 7 [1757], p. 903), presumably by the naturalist Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton; this text may have been the basis for the use of the word in English. Forms of grèbe in the Franco-Provençal of Switzerland are recorded in the Glossaire des patois de la Suisse Romande (vol. 8, p. 707). Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (vol. 21, p. 246) also gives forms of the word in Lyon (grèpe) and Haut-Dauphiné (glẹ̄be), as well as an apparently isolated word guerbe meaning "loon" in the French dialect of Bessin, Normandy. Efforts to etymologize the Franco-Provençal word are speculative. The Glossaire suggests a possible relationship with dialectal grẹ́bo "of more than one color, variegated," itself of obscure origin.

First Known Use

1766, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of grebe was in 1766

Dictionary Entries Near grebe

Cite this Entry

“Grebe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: any of a family of swimming and diving birds closely related to the loons

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