pe·​trel ˈpe-trəl How to pronounce petrel (audio) ˈpē- How to pronounce petrel (audio)
: any of numerous seabirds (especially families Procellariidae and Hydrobatidae)
especially : one of the smaller long-winged birds that fly far from land compare storm petrel

Examples of petrel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The Bermuda petrel was hunted by Spanish sailors for food and last seen in the 1620s. Melanie Stetson Freeman, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 July 2023 Hawaii’s chain of volcanic islands, which host more endangered species than any other state, are home to some notable endangered species, including the Hawaiian petrel, also called the ʻuaʻu, and the crested honeycreeper, or 'Ākohekohe. Camille Fine, USA TODAY, 21 June 2023 These areas are renowned for hosting two of the world’s largest Antarctic petrel colonies. Melissa Breyer, Treehugger, 13 Mar. 2023 Now, Mann and her colleagues are left with an entirely different challenge: how to bring back the seabirds that have long since abandoned Lehua Island, including the ʻuaʻu (Hawaiian petrel), ‘ewa‘ewa (sooty tern) and hinaokū (blue-gray noddy). Tim Lydon, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Apr. 2023 Other petrels, meanwhile, typically must hunt while flying or swimming in the ocean. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Feb. 2023 Before the arrival of European explorers in the 1800s, the island’s steep headlands teemed with hundreds of thousands of raucous seabirds, including albatrosses, terns and petrels, whose guano oozed down bluffs to enrich waters brimming with fish. Tim Lydon, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Apr. 2023 But shearwaters, as well as petrels and albatrosses, are part of a class known as tube-nosed seabirds, with tubular nostrils and an excellent senses of smell. Matthew Savoca, The Conversation, 21 Mar. 2023 The scientists counted how many giant petrel chicks survived each year, and used this to represent the threat from predators that macaroni penguins would experience. Elizabeth Preston, Discover Magazine, 6 June 2014 See More

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

Word History


earlier also pitteril, pitteral, of obscure origin

First Known Use

1602, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of petrel was in 1602

Dictionary Entries Near petrel

Cite this Entry

“Petrel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pe·​trel ˈpe-trəl How to pronounce petrel (audio) ˈpē- How to pronounce petrel (audio)
: any of various seabirds with long wings that fly far from land

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