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 nightingale gives its lifeblood to create a perfect red rose. Washington Post, "A reading list just right for Christmas 2020: A little Dickens, a little Wilde, a little Donald Duck," 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, "Conservationists No Longer Agree on What ‘Wild’ Means," 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, "Pandemic Journal, March 23–29," 29 Mar. 2020 Philomela, for instance, is raped by Tereus then turned into a nightingale. Jenn Selby,, "“Why Didn’t She Fight Back?” The Myth That’s Used To Justify Sexual Violence," 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, "How to Return a Farm to the Wild—And Maybe Save the Planet," 3 Oct. 2019 Franciosi, whose character is nicknamed the nightingale for her singing voice, worked with director Kent for an unusually lengthy 10-week rehearsal period prior to filming. Michael Phillips,, "‘The Nightingale’ review: The woman behind ‘The Babadook’ goes even darker with brutal revenge drama," 8 Aug. 2019 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

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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Cite this Entry

“Nightingale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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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

Nglish: Translation of nightingale for Spanish Speakers

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

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