night·​in·​gale | \ ˈnī-tᵊn-ˌgāl How to pronounce nightingale (audio) , -tiŋ-\

Definition of nightingale

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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


biographical name
Night·​in·​gale | \ ˈnī-tᵊn-ˌgāl How to pronounce Nightingale (audio) , -tiŋ-\

Definition of Nightingale (Entry 2 of 2)

Florence 1820–1910 English nurse and philanthropist

Illustration of nightingale

Illustration of nightingale


In the meaning defined above

Examples of nightingale in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The landowners brought in Tamworth pigs and rare species like nightingales and purple emperor butterflies began to appear. Nina Sovich, WSJ, "The New Outdoor Getaway: Landscapes That Have Been ‘Rewilded’," 20 Sep. 2018 The nightingale sang just before midnight, as if it were perched in the boughs of the dripping tree in the car park. Deborah Levy, The Cut, "The Cost of Living," 1 July 2018 In Germany, the nightingale, that most melodious nocturnal wonder, was traded by the quart like a commodity. Adrian Higgins, sacbee, "Fertilize your creative spirit with these gardening books," 8 June 2018 This, then, is a book that provides food for thought as well for nightingales. Simon Barnes, WSJ, "‘Pasta for Nightingales’ Review: Birdwatching Tips From the Renaissance," 13 Apr. 2018 But sometimes, the doubling is intriguing; the rat girl, Alysia Chang, returns as the Chinese nightingale. Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Chronicle, "Oakland becomes Land of the Sweets with disarming annual ‘Nutcracker’," 24 Dec. 2017 Saya particularly misses hearing her mother’s bedtime stories, especially her Haitian tale about a nightingale who keeps children safe. Wendy Dunn, star-telegram, "Immigration stories explain current affairs in a way children, teens can understand," 20 Oct. 2017 When Wilbur was a teenager, his first poem, about a nightingale, was published in a magazine. Husna Haq, The Christian Science Monitor, "Remembering poet Richard Wilbur, 'heir to Robert Frost'," 16 Oct. 2017 As a teenager, his poem about a nightingale was published in John Martin's Magazine. Hillel Italie,, "Richard Wilbur, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, dies at 96," 15 Oct. 2017

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

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First Known Use of nightingale


13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nightingale


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.

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Last Updated

4 May 2019

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

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More Definitions for nightingale



English Language Learners Definition of nightingale

: a small brown European bird that sings a beautiful song especially at night


night·​in·​gale | \ ˈnī-tᵊn-ˌgāl How to pronounce nightingale (audio) \

Kids Definition of nightingale

: a reddish brown European bird noted for the sweet song of the male usually heard at night

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More from Merriam-Webster on nightingale

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with nightingale

Spanish Central: Translation of nightingale

Nglish: Translation of nightingale for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of nightingale for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about nightingale

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