pel·​i·​can ˈpe-li-kən How to pronounce pelican (audio)
: any of a genus (Pelecanus) of large web-footed fish-eating birds with a very large bill and distensible gular pouch

Examples of pelican in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Seagulls and pelicans hovered around him in the cool, sticky air, while dolphins swam alongside the boat. Amy Qin Callaghan O’Hare, New York Times, 12 Nov. 2023 In Peru, 200,000 wild birds died from infection, including more than 40 percent of the country’s pelicans, as the Guardian’s Phoebe Weston wrote in July. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Oct. 2023 As the surf crashed against a barrier of sand, pelicans, cormorants and ospreys soared over the dark water. Ian James, Los Angeles Times, 5 Oct. 2023 Louisiana: Brown pelican The brown pelican is Louisiana's state bird. Olivia Munson, USA TODAY, 25 July 2023 And pelicans are not the only birds that rely on Gunnison Island to nest. Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 30 June 2023 Glamping guests can fish, kayak, sign up for an oyster roast or low-country boil, stargaze, go out on a boat ride, and spot dolphins gliding in the water and pelicans diving for fish. Brittany Anas, House Beautiful, 2 Sep. 2023 And amid a tornado of shearwaters, murres, gulls and pelicans, all working on the hapless baitfish pushed to the surface by the salmon. Bill Monroe, oregonlive, 4 Aug. 2023 The zoo’s winged inhabitants also have come under attack, Fawzy added, as the seagulls have raided the nests of the native species of birds and ducks that nest on the zoo grounds, and disrupted feeding time for penguins and pelicans. Victoria Bisset, Washington Post, 29 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pelican.' 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, from Old English pellican, from Late Latin pelecanus, from Greek pelekan

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of pelican was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near pelican

Cite this Entry

“Pelican.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pel·​i·​can ˈpel-i-kən How to pronounce pelican (audio)
: any of a genus of large web-footed birds with a very large bill having a pouch on the lower part used to scoop in fish for food

More from Merriam-Webster on pelican

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