night·​in·​gale ˈnī-tᵊn-ˌgāl How to pronounce nightingale (audio)
: an Old World thrush (Luscinia megarhynchos synonym Erithacus megarhynchos) noted for the sweet usually nocturnal song of the male
also : any of various other birds noted for their sweet song or for singing at night

Illustration of nightingale

Illustration of nightingale

Examples of nightingale in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Other newspapers’ nicknames for her — the California nightingale, the California skylark — were not just about her immense vocal range, but about the wonder and novelty that California, of all places, could claim such a woman. Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 6 Feb. 2024 It is commonly known by a variety of names, including the Peking (or Pekin) nightingale, Peking robin, Japanese hill-robin or the Japanese nightingale. Grrlscientist, Forbes, 4 Oct. 2022 Are the nightingales really singing with the band, or straining to hear their own song above the noise? Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker, 27 Mar. 2023 Data from over 50 years from bird sighting retreats in Africa and Spain's South Coast revealed that between 1964 and 2019, European migratory birds—like the willow warbler, garden warbler, and the nightingale—were arriving at their overwintering spots in Africa later in the fall. Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine, 12 Nov. 2021 And clarinetist Chernyshev lovingly shaped nocturnal music representing the song of the nightingale. Dallas News, 9 Apr. 2022 For her pains, the gods transmuted her into a nightingale. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 26 Sep. 2022 Starting in May, 1924, the BBC played a nightingale’s song every spring for almost twenty years. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, 11 Apr. 2022 For example, Ludwig van Beethoven’s 6th Symphony simulates a cuckoo with a clarinet, a nightingale with a flute, and a quail with an oboe. Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, 6 June 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nightingale.' 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, variant (with intrusive n) of nyhtegale, nyghtgale, going back to Old English nehtægale, nihtegale, going back to West Germanic *nahti-galōn, from *nahti- night entry 1 + -galōn, noun derivative of Germanic *galan- "to sing," whence Old English galan "to sing, call, sing enchantments," Old High German, "to sing enchantments, conjure," Old Norse gala "to crow, chant, sing," perhaps of onomatopoeic origin

Note: Germanic *galan- has been compared with Gothic goljan "to greet," Old Norse gæla "to comfort, soothe, appease," allegedly from a causative derivative *gōljan- from underlying *gol-. Proposed Indo-European comparisons (as Russian dialect galit' "to smile," galit'sja "to mock, jeer," Armenian gełgełem "sing beautifully, quiver, vibrate") are tenuous. See also etymology at yell entry 1.

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nightingale was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near nightingale




Cite this Entry

“Nightingale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


night·​in·​gale ˈnīt-ᵊn-ˌgāl How to pronounce nightingale (audio)
: an Old World thrush noted for the sweet song of the male
: any of several other birds noted for their sweet song or for singing at night

Biographical Definition


biographical name

Night·​in·​gale ˈnī-tᵊn-ˌgāl How to pronounce Nightingale (audio)
Florence 1820–1910 English nurse and philanthropist

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