night·​jar ˈnīt-ˌjär How to pronounce nightjar (audio)
: any of a family (Caprimulgidae) of medium-sized long-winged crepuscular or nocturnal birds (such as the whip-poor-wills and nighthawks) having a short bill, short legs, and soft mottled plumage and feeding on insects which they catch on the wing

called also goatsucker

Examples of nightjar in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In that episode in Puerto Rico, a developer had cleared scarce habitat of the endangered nightjar in 2014 before completing any environmental review. Peter Elkind, ProPublica, 2 May 2023 The site, as the tower company later acknowledged, destroyed some of the nesting habitat of the Puerto Rican nightjar, a tiny endangered songbird. Peter Elkind, ProPublica, 2 May 2023 The research group found that the cilia are notably absent from feathers of barn owls and nightjars, two species that stalk prey at night. Jim Daley, Scientific American, 10 Apr. 2020 On other hand, the lesser nighthawk is the most frequently seen nightjar, active at sunrise and sunset and during the night. Ernie Cowan,, 16 June 2017 Owls, of course, commonly feed at night, but there is another class of nocturnal birds known as nightjars that include the lesser and common nighthawks and poorwill. Ernie Cowan,, 16 June 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nightjar.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


night entry 1 + jar "discordant sound," derivative of jar entry 3 (alluding to the churring trill of the European nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus)

First Known Use

1630, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nightjar was in 1630

Dictionary Entries Near nightjar

Cite this Entry

“Nightjar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on nightjar

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!