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 If Elvis Presley was the lovable dodo, Roy Orbison was a nightingale; if Jerry Lee Lewis was the virtuoso magpie, Johnny Cash was—well, a kind of crow, a spectral oddity with dubious pipes. Stephen Metcalf, The Atlantic, 7 Dec. 2021 Before this study, scientists only knew that humans and nightingale thrushes follow categorical rhythms, reports Jason Bittel for National Geographic. Rasha Aridi, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Oct. 2021 Rothenberg’s nightingale investigations lead him into extended conversations and collaborations with both scientists and musicians, and into recurring after-hours duets with the nightingales of Berlin’s Treptower Park. Michelle Nijhuis, The New York Review of Books, 20 Aug. 2020 The nightingale gives its lifeblood to create a perfect red rose. Washington Post, 23 Dec. 2020 With the estate’s dairy herd and tractors sold, the sound of diesel engines and milking machines quickly gave way to the calls of turtle doves, nightingales, and woodlarks. Christopher Preston, The Atlantic, 9 Apr. 2020 There are hummingbirds, doves, and nightingales in the neighborhood’s little courtyards and gardens. Sylvia Poggioli, The New York Review of Books, 29 Mar. 2020 Philomela, for instance, is raped by Tereus then turned into a nightingale. Jenn Selby,, 17 Mar. 2020 Every year, more and more endangered species arrive — such as turtle doves, on the brink of extinction from Britain, and nightingales, whose numbers plummeted 91 per cent between 1967 and 2007. Isabella Tree, Time, 3 Oct. 2019

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

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Last Updated

10 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Nightingale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on nightingale

Nglish: Translation of nightingale for Spanish Speakers

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


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