\ ˈtərn How to pronounce tern (audio) \

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

Illustration of tern

Illustration of tern

Examples of tern in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Wachusett Reservoir hosted 16 common mergansers, three Bonaparte’s gulls, a laughing gull, and a common tern. BostonGlobe.com, 28 Aug. 2021 Bristol County: There was an American white pelican at Cockeast Pond in South Dartmouth, a Caspian tern and a clay-colored sparrow at Gooseberry Neck in Westport, and a sedge wren at Broad Cove in Somerset. BostonGlobe.com, 2 Oct. 2021 Middlesex County: Reports included a white ibis and three orchard orioles at the Heard Conservation Area in Wayland, a little blue heron in Westford, and a Caspian tern in Wakefield. BostonGlobe.com, 21 Aug. 2021 During the most recent migration season, the project attached 35 GPS transponders to several species, including the Eurasian wigeon, Caspian tern, and the Heuglin’s gull. Lindsey Mcginnis, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 Oct. 2021 In Provincetown, there were two Cory’s shearwaters, a little gull, a Sabine’s gull, and a royal tern at Race Point. BostonGlobe.com, 31 July 2021 South Coast: There was a little blue heron, a sandwich tern and a willow flycatcher in Fairhaven. BostonGlobe.com, 28 Aug. 2021 At Cranes Beach in Ipswich, four black skimmers and a royal tern were seen. BostonGlobe.com, 28 Aug. 2021 Other notable species included a brown booby observed from a whale watching boat several miles north of Provincetown, and a royal tern, a razorbill, and a common murre off Race Point Beach in Provincetown. BostonGlobe.com, 17 July 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of tern

1678, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tern

of Scandinavian origin; akin to Danish terne tern

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Cite this Entry

“Tern.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tern. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for tern


\ ˈtərn How to pronounce tern (audio) \

Kids Definition of tern

: a small slender seagull with a white body, narrow wings, and the top of the head black

More from Merriam-Webster on tern

Nglish: Translation of tern for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tern


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