wheat·​ear ˈ(h)wēt-ˌir How to pronounce wheatear (audio)
: any of various small thrushes (genus Oenanthe)
especially : a white-rumped one (O. oenanthe) of northern North America and the Old World

Examples of wheatear in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Like the golden plover, like the little wheatear, Winn and Moth push on, from the far north of the island all the way home. Laurie Hertzel, Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2023 In a study published in 2020, the researchers had taken blood samples from northern wheatears, which are long-distance migrants, captured during their stopover at a long-term bird monitoring station on the German island of Heligoland in the North Sea. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 17 Apr. 2023 Even more amazing, geologgers show that another small songbird, the northern wheatear, migrates from North America to sub-Saharan Africa. Tom Langen, Smithsonian Magazine, 9 Sep. 2022 The bird of last week was undoubtedly a northern wheatear that spent the better part of late Tuesday afternoon actively foraging in a backyard near a marsh beside Water Street in Yarmouth. BostonGlobe.com, 25 Sep. 2021 Why do wheatears and other migrating birds wait until night to fly? Anchorage Daily News, 10 Aug. 2019 Northern wheatears are robin-size songbirds with tan bodies and handsome black eye bands. Anchorage Daily News, 10 Aug. 2019 Another German scientist in 2010 studied the wheatears now staging in Wales. Anchorage Daily News, 10 Aug. 2019

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

Word History


by back-formation from earlier wheatears (taken as plural), probably altered by folk etymology from an unattested compound *whiterse, from *whit-, shortened form of white entry 1 + *erse, a dialectal form continuing Middle English ers ass entry 2

Note: Compare the alternate names white-rump (Ralph Beilby and Thomas Bewick, History of British Birds, vol. 1, Newcastle, 1797, p. 229); "White rump (Norfolk). Wittol—i.e., White tail (Cornwall). Whiteass (Cornwall)" cited by Charles Swainson, The Folk Lore and Provincial Names of British Birds (London, 1886), p. 9.

First Known Use

1591, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of wheatear was in 1591

Dictionary Entries Near wheatear

Cite this Entry

“Wheatear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wheatear. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

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