pel·​i·​can | \ ˈpe-li-kən How to pronounce pelican (audio) \

Definition of pelican

: 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

On the horizon, pelicans gracefully spread their wings and glided over the shimmering sea before coming to rest at the end of a fishing pier. Fabiola Santiago, miamiherald, "Florida isn’t the worst state in the nation. Not. Even. Close.," 29 Jan. 2018 White pelicans have a wingspan of 9 feet, making them one of the largest birds in North America. Bonnie Gross,, "Explore Florida's Charlotte County: White pelicans in Charlotte Harbor," 6 May 2018 Bald eagles, white pelicans and flocks and flocks of water-loving birds. Richard Tribou,, "Explore Florida's Wakulla County: St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge," 6 May 2018 Mayer spoke as his boat putt-putted among sea otters, harbor seals and pelicans crowding the salt-water estuary called Elkhorn Slough. Washington Post, "Sea otters rebound but struggle to regain historic range," 18 May 2018 Louisiana One features an artist's rendition of the state flag, complete with a large mother pelican and her trio of hungry young. Laura Mcknight,, "Southwest's Louisiana One gives the state bird new wings," 8 Mar. 2018 Maybe Pepperdine University needs to adopt a pelican as its mascot after the school’s graduation Saturday. Natalie Dreier, ajc, "Pelicans crash university’s graduation ceremony," 1 May 2018 Rather than a flurry of feathers, the pelicans waddled out slowly, unsure of their new surroundings. Erin Stone,, "Once injured, starving pelicans are rehabilitated, freed on San Francisco Bay shoreline," 29 June 2018 What do a golden VW bus, a pink pelican and a charcoal drawing of palm trees on fire all have in common? Patrick Connolly,, "Off-the-wall works at Orlando Museum's Florida Prize," 31 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pelican.' 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 pelican

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pelican

Middle English, from Old English pellican, from Late Latin pelecanus, from Greek pelekan

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Statistics for pelican

Last Updated

20 May 2019

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Time Traveler for pelican

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

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More Definitions for pelican



English Language Learners Definition of pelican

: a large ocean bird that has a large bag that is part of its lower bill for catching and holding fish


pel·​i·​can | \ ˈpe-li-kən How to pronounce pelican (audio) \

Kids Definition of pelican

: a large bird with webbed feet and a very large bill having a pouch on the lower part used to scoop in fish for food

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More from Merriam-Webster on pelican

Spanish Central: Translation of pelican

Nglish: Translation of pelican for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on pelican

What made you want to look up pelican? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to mark by some ceremony or observation

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