noun (1)
\ ˈmər(-ə)l How to pronounce merle (audio) \
variants: or less commonly merl

Definition of merle

 (Entry 1 of 2)


noun (2)
plural merles

Definition of merle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a coat color pattern of some dogs (such as the border collie, dachshund, and Great Dane) that consists of a typically bluish- or reddish-gray mixed with splotches of black or reddish- brown and that occurs as a result of the lightening or dilution of the normal base coat color so that only dark patches of normal melanin remain The breed's colors are black or gray or blue merle with white points …— Patricia Bennett Hoffman

Note: Merle is produced by a semidominant gene and may be accompanied by usually blue eyes and defects in hearing and sight. Merle is considered a standard coat pattern by the American Kennel Club for several breeds of dog (such as the Shetland sheepdog).

2 : a dog displaying the coat color pattern of merle Personally, I believe the present standard allows sable merles to be shown.— Marcia K. Keller Blue merles frequently have one or both eyes blue flecked or blue.— Suzanne Troy

First Known Use of merle

Noun (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1905, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for merle

Noun (1)

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin merulus; akin to Old English ōsle blackbird, Old High German amsla

Noun (2)

origin unknown

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about merle

Time Traveler for merle

Time Traveler

The first known use of merle was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for merle

Cite this Entry

“Merle.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 11 December 2019.

More from Merriam-Webster on merle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with merle

Comments on merle

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


heavy with or as if with moisture

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!