: either of two South American ratite birds (Rhea americana and Pterocnemia pennata of the family Rheidae) that resemble but are smaller than the African ostrich and that have three toes, a fully feathered head and neck, an undeveloped tail, and pale gray to brownish feathers that droop over the rump and back

Illustration of rhea

Illustration of rhea

Examples of rhea in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web What to Do Travelers flock to Patagonia to experience the otherworldly beauty of Torres del Paine National Park and spot Patagonia’s wildlife, including the Big Five: pumas, llama-like guanacos, South Andean deer known as huemul, Andean condors, and the ostrich-like rhea (or ñandú). Nora Walsh, Travel + Leisure, 5 June 2023 The ratites are a group of birds that includes the ostrich and emu, as well as the kiwi, rhea (like a smaller, South American ostrich), and cassowary (with a bright blue face and what looks like a toenail on its head). Elizabeth Preston, Discover Magazine, 22 May 2014 Other animals like condors and rhea are being bred and released back into the landscape. Chloe Berge, Condé Nast Traveler, 8 Apr. 2022 The ancestor of all the Pheidole could make supersoldiers, and some of the earliest species to evolve (like Pheidole rhea) kept this ability in its original form. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 6 Jan. 2012 Ellen has also interrupted Blake’s TikToks to stare curiously at the phone — as has Princess, an affectionate deer, and Regina, a curious rhea. Annabelle Timsit, Washington Post, 16 July 2022 There, near the border with Chile, the 1,722-square-mile park encompasses subantarctic forests that preserve habitats for species such as the guemal, puma, rhea, condor, guanaco, and the calafate plant. Melissa Findley, National Geographic, 20 Nov. 2020 The celestial emu, which is found in Aboriginal traditions across Australia, shares nearly identical views and traditions with the Tupi people of Brazil and Bolivia, who see it as a celestial rhea, another large flightless bird. Simon Cropper, Quartz, 21 Aug. 2019 But as with some restaurants in Buenos Aires are giving choripán a makeover, like Los Infernales, with chorizo made from the tiny ostrich-ish rhea, and Chori, dedicated to modern takes on the sandwich. Luke Darby, GQ, 29 July 2017 See More

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

Word History


New Latin, genus of birds, probably from Latin Rhea, mother of Zeus, from Greek

First Known Use

1797, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of rhea was in 1797

Dictionary Entries Near rhea

Cite this Entry

“Rhea.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhea. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: either of two large three-toed South American birds that cannot fly and resemble but are smaller than the African ostrich

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