least tern


Definition of least tern

: a very small black-capped tern (Sterna antillarum) with a white body and forehead that is found chiefly in coastal areas of eastern North America and California

Examples of least tern in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Environmental groups raised concerns that unleashed canines could cause harm to rare and at-risk western snowy plovers and California least terns that roost nearby. Hillary Davis, Daily Pilot, "Panel to discuss rules for dogs at Newport’s beaches and parks," 6 Sep. 2019 More than 150 pairs of American oystercatchers, least terns and black skimmers have successively laid eggs near Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach. USA TODAY, "Chicago cows, bras for turtles, gold rush: News from around our 50 states," 1 July 2019 Several rare species of flora and fauna live in the area, including the California gnatcatcher, California least tern and Orcutt’s brodiaea, San Diego button celery and the San Diego goldenstar. Martina Schimitschek, San Diego Union-Tribune, "University City: ‘Golden Triangle’ is bustling, will soon welcome trolley," 28 June 2019 Piping plovers, least terns, American oystercatchers, herons and egrets are particularly vulnerable. USA TODAY, "Kacey Musgraves, sneaker flap, skiing in July: News from around our 50 states," 3 July 2019 Two royal terns and a Caspian tern were at Race Point in Provincetown, along with 18 piping plovers, 175 least terns, 12 roseate terns, an Arctic tern, 11 Wilson’s storm-petrels, 8 sooty shearwaters, and 5 Manx shearwaters. BostonGlobe.com, "Bird sightings on Cape Cod," 1 July 2019 The islands also are used as nesting sites by least terns, Forster’s terns, oystercatchers and other waterbirds. Shannon Tompkins, Houston Chronicle, "Cow Trap Lake Project a success on multiple levels," 10 May 2018 Another reason some boats aren’t immediately destroyed and removed is that such work is prohibited part of the year by environmental protections in place for a bird called the California least tern. David Garrick, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Spike in abandoned boats prompts calls for crackdown," 11 Oct. 2017

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

See More

First Known Use of least tern

circa 1860, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about least tern

Statistics for least tern

Last Updated

15 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for least tern

The first known use of least tern was circa 1860

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on least tern

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about least tern

Comments on least tern

What made you want to look up least tern? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a topic to which one constantly reverts

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!