Definition of precocial
: capable of a high degree of independent activity from birth ducklings are precocial — compare altricial
precocial was our Word of the Day on 08/29/2014. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Precocial and its partner altricial are really for the birds. Well, at least they are often used to describe the young of our feathered friends. The chicks of precocial birds can see as soon as they hatch and generally have strong legs and a body covered with fine down. Those are attributes you would expect in birds described by the word precocial, which traces to the Latin precox, a term that means "precocious" or "early ripening" (yes, that root also gave us the word precocious). Ducks, geese, ostriches, pheasants, and quail are among the birds that hatch precocial offspring. Altricial chicks, on the other hand, are basically featherless and helpless at birth and require days or weeks of parental care before becoming independent.
Origin and Etymology of precocial
New Latin praecoces precocial birds, from Latin, plural of praecoc-, precox
First Known Use: 1869
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