ra·​ven | \ ˈrā-vən How to pronounce raven (audio) \

Definition of raven

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: a large, glossy-black bird (Corvus corax) that is widely distributed in northern parts of the northern hemisphere but now rare in most areas of the eastern and central U.S. and that differs from the closely related common crow chiefly in its larger size and wedge-shaped tail and in having the feathers of the throat narrow and pointed resulting in a shaggy appearance also : any of various usually large and glossy black, corvine birds



Definition of raven (Entry 2 of 3)

: shiny and black like a raven's feathers raven hair


rav·​en | \ ˈra-vən How to pronounce raven (audio) \
ravened; ravening\ ˈra-​və-​niŋ How to pronounce raven (audio) , ˈrav-​niŋ \

Definition of raven (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to feed greedily
2 : to prowl for food : prey
3 : plunder

transitive verb

1 : to devour greedily
2 : despoil men … raven the earth, destroying its resourcesNew Yorker

Illustration of raven

Illustration of raven


In the meaning defined above

Other Words from raven


ravener \ ˈra-​və-​nər How to pronounce raven (audio) , ˈrav-​nər \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for raven

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of raven in a Sentence

Adjective a black satin dress that matches her silky, raven hair Verb the rat ravened the poisoned bait just as we had hoped
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun From shimmery raven to honey-gold blonde, here are the biggest summer hair colors, 2022 edition. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, 13 May 2022 One raven will harass a dog that is trying to eat until the dog finally attempts to catch the bird. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Feb. 2022 Capturing this, Singletary sculpts everything the raven might have seen in this new world. Sarah Smith, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Mar. 2022 The second raven will pull the food dish out of the dog’s reach while the poor sled dog is preoccupied. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Feb. 2022 Imagine a litigious raven who has done a lot of yoga. Henry Alford, The New Yorker, 10 Jan. 2022 Martha’s Vineyard: A piping plover, a common raven, and a white-eyed vireo were seen at Gay Head. BostonGlobe.com, 25 Sep. 2021 His battle standard, white silk bearing the image of a black raven, became known as Land-Waster. Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2021 In Northwest Coast mythology, the raven brings fire and light to the world. James Deutsch, Smithsonian Magazine, 9 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Sanjeev Baskhar and Asim Chaudhry will play Cain and Abel, David Thewlis will play DC supervillain Doctor Destiny, and comic actor Patton Oswalt will voice the raven Matthew. Philip Ellis And Milan Polk, Men's Health, 7 June 2022 To many, Elvira is the horror hostess who gained notoriety in the 1980s with that signature fitted black dress, raven black nails and stark red lips. Jazz Tangcay, Variety, 3 June 2022 That’s the message CBS Chicago morning news anchor Audrina Bigos seeks to spread on-air (and off of it) with her mane of full-bodied raven ringlets. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, 27 Apr. 2022 Victims of aggression often give off defensive calls that entice raven audience members to come to their aid. Lee Alan Dugatkin, Scientific American, 15 Apr. 2022 Porter, says Singletary, viewed the raven stories through the lens of a mythologist. Sarah Smith, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Mar. 2022 Before reaching the special fishing hole, a raven perched near a nest situated on a cliff above the lake, greeted me with boisterous cawing. Steve Meyer, Anchorage Daily News, 6 Feb. 2022 As our group – Bill Smith and Dave Zeug, both of Shell Lake, and I – hiked over a meandering trail on the public property, the only signs of other animal life were the tracks of a raven, a gray squirrel and a white-tailed deer. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 25 Dec. 2021 Every traveler who passes through the park encounters a panorama ruled by geology, where rabbitbrush, raven and rock art are accents, where the layers of earth history overwhelm every other element of the scenery. The Salt Lake Tribune, 21 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb As Smarch’s telling goes, the raven quickly gets caught up in the feather, failing to make his way to the nobleman’s daughter. Sarah Smith, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Mar. 2022 And finally, Patton Oswalt will be voicing a talking raven named Matthew. Rebecca Alter, Vulture, 26 May 2021 On May 19, BBC Breakfast unveiled the name of the Tower of London’s newest royal raven before a national audience. David Kindy, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 May 2021 Fatally, Cichè sees this as a personal quarrel and decides to get his revenge, threading twine through some beans to capture the raven, then torturing it. Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books, 23 Feb. 2021 The authors repeated the same 33 tasks for each raven at four, eight, 12 and 16 months of age. Rachel Nuwer, Scientific American, 10 Dec. 2020 Not a single coal miner was in sight, just a big, black Chihuahuan raven sitting atop a light post. Eric Lipton, New York Times, 6 Oct. 2020 Willyerd also included a more subtle image of a raven in the mural, a nod to a place most Janesville artist know and love, Raven's Wish Art Gallery, located across the river a few blocks away. Frank Schultz, Star Tribune, 14 Sep. 2020 Raven Politics Young ravens that do not have a bonding partner or territory form temporary flocks that congregate at major food resources, such as an animal carcass. Onur Güntürkün, Scientific American, 1 Jan. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'raven.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of raven


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


1637, in the meaning defined above


1530, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for raven


Middle English, from Old English hræfn; akin to Old High German hraban raven, Latin corvus, Greek korax


probably verbal derivative of ravin

Note: It is pointed out by the Oxford English Dictionary, third edition, that given the Middle English attestation of the derivatives ravener "plunderer, predatory animal" and ravening "rapacious," this verb may also date to Middle English. Compare Anglo-French raviner "to steal, take away," apparently attested once.

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

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Last Updated

26 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Raven.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/raven. Accessed 5 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for raven


ra·​ven | \ ˈrā-vən How to pronounce raven (audio) \

Kids Definition of raven

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a large shiny black bird that is larger than the related crow



Kids Definition of raven (Entry 2 of 2)

: shiny and black like a raven's feathers

More from Merriam-Webster on raven

Nglish: Translation of raven for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of raven for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about raven


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