Definition of tern
: any of various chiefly marine birds (subfamily Sterninae of the family Laridae and especially genus Sterna) that differ from the related gulls in usually smaller size, a more slender build, a sharply pointed bill, narrower wings, and an often forked tail
Recent Examples of tern from the Web
He’s seen dolphin push small fish from under the weeds to on top of the weeds, and the terns swoop down to eat the fish.
Overhead, white fairy terns hover and peep among the coconut trees.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tern'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Origin and Etymology of tern
of Scandinavian origin; akin to Danish terne tern
First Known Use: 1678
TERN Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of tern for English Language Learners
: a kind of bird that lives near the ocean, is usually black and white, and has long wings and a tail with two points
TERN Defined for Kids
Definition of tern for Students
: a small slender seagull with a white body, narrow wings, and the top of the head black
Seen and Heard
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