noun, often attributive
\ ˈwu̇lf How to pronounce wolf (audio) , ÷ˈwu̇f\
plural wolves\ ˈwu̇lvz How to pronounce wolves (audio) , ÷ˈwu̇vz \

Definition of wolf

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 plural also wolf

a : any of several large predatory canids (genus Canis) that are active mostly at night, live and hunt in packs, and resemble the related dogs especially : gray wolf

Note: Wolves have long been viewed as threats to livestock and people resulting in significant worldwide declines in their numbers and range size due to persistent eradication efforts (as by hunting, trapping, and poisoning).

b : the fur of a wolf
2a(1) : a fierce, rapacious, or destructive person
(2) : a man forward, direct, and zealous in amatory attentions to women
b : dire poverty : starvation keep the wolf from the door
c : the maggot of a warble fly

3 [ German; from the howling sound ]

a(1) : dissonance in some chords on organs, pianos, or other instruments with fixed tones tuned by unequal temperament
(2) : an instance of such dissonance
b : a harshness due to faulty vibration in various tones in a bowed instrument
wolf in sheep's clothing
: one who cloaks a hostile intention with a friendly manner


wolfed; wolfing; wolfs

Definition of wolf (Entry 2 of 4)

transitive verb

: to eat greedily : devour


biographical name (1)
\ ˈvȯlf How to pronounce Wolf (audio) \

Definition of Wolf (Entry 3 of 4)

Friedrich August 1759–1824 German philologist


biographical name (2)

Definition of Wolf (Entry 4 of 4)

Hugo Philipp Jakob 1860–1903 Austrian composer

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Other Words from wolf


wolflike \ ˈwu̇lf-​ˌlīk How to pronounce wolflike (audio) \ adjective

Examples of wolf in a Sentence


no sooner had the lottery winner's name been made public than the wolves with their investment schemes showed up on her doorstep


the way you wolf your food it's no wonder you have intestinal distress

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The first wolf in 87 years in California migrated in from Oregon in fall 2011. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "Bears, elk, sharks crown landmark wildlife surge," 17 Aug. 2019 From their families, from their troubled pasts, from the compromising gaze of a cottage industry that follows Kennedys around relentlessly, like a rabid, hungry wolf. Kevin Cullen, BostonGlobe.com, "Courtney Kennedy and Paul Hill’s enduring agony," 3 Aug. 2019 Like all wolves, these animals form close-knit packs and are highly social. National Geographic, "Red wolves," 27 July 2019 Two kinds of eye muscles are prominent in many dogs but not developed in wolves. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Why you think your dog loves you," 18 June 2019 Chuck forgets, however, that Dake (Christopher Denham) and Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore) are growling for revenge like hungry baby wolves. refinery29.com, "Billions Season 3 Finale Recap: "The Death Zone"," 11 June 2018 Dogs were almost certainly domesticated (from the Eurasian wolf) by one or possibly several hunter-gatherer societies several thousand years before the dawn of agriculture and then gradually spread throughout much of the globe. Longreads, "The Way We Treat Our Pets Is More Paleolithic Than Medieval," 22 Mar. 2018 Coyotes today, like wolves before them, face a similar effort to hunt them into submission. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "This Land Is Their Land, Too," 12 Aug. 2019 Smaller predators such as coyotes and grey wolves, on the other hand, weathered harsh conditions by adapting to the times. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Fossils Reveal Why Coyotes Outlived Saber-Toothed Cats," 6 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the past, participants have had to take on obstacles after wolfing down a warm can of tuna of an entire sleeve of Oreos. Slade Rand, courant.com, "The Connecticut SWAT Challenge brings police officers and military personnel from across the country to the state," 15 Aug. 2019 Not to be outdone by anyone, then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich wolfed down not one but three pork chops at the must-stop Iowa Pork Producers complex. Thomas Beaumont, Fortune, "Iowa State Fair: Where U.S. Politics and Fried Oreos Intersect," 8 Aug. 2019 The new Soviet elite continued to wolf haute cuisine with the same élan as their vodka-swilling Czarist predecessors. Jim Kempton, Orange County Register, "Follow the French: A look at the French influence on cuisine around the world," 2 Aug. 2019 Outward Hound slow feeders Slow feeders make a game out of mealtime, which both stimulates dog's brains and helps avoid tummy troubles from wolfing down meals. Amy Roberts, USA TODAY, "The very best Prime Day deals for pet owners," 15 July 2019 The 33-year-old fell short of her total last year of 37 but earned her sixth consecutive title by easily beating runner-up Michelle Lesco, who wolfed down 26 hot dogs. Ali Swenson, chicagotribune.com, "Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut stomachs 71 hot dogs to win the annual Nathan’s contest at Coney Island," 4 July 2019 News item: Competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut wolfed down 71 hot dogs in 10 minutes Thursday to win his 12th title in Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on the Coney Island boardwalk, but fell three franks short of his own record. Peter Schmuck, baltimoresun.com, "Schmuck stops: Orioles' Mancini stays snubbed, Knicks still the Knicks, Joey Chestnut still the top dog," 5 July 2019 The 33-year-old fell short of her total last year of 37 frankfurters but earned her sixth consecutive title by easily beating runner-up Michelle Lesco, who wolfed down 26 hot dogs. Ali Swenson, Houston Chronicle, "We have a wiener! Joey Chestnut eats 71 hot dogs for title," 4 July 2019 The 33-year-old fell short of her total last year of 37 frankfurters but earned her sixth consecutive title by easily beating runner-up Michelle Lesco, who wolfed down 26 hot dogs. CBS News, "Joey Chestnut, Miki Sudo defend titles at Fourth of July hot dog eating contest," 4 July 2019

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

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First Known Use of wolf


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1862, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for wolf


Middle English, from Old English wulf; akin to Old High German wolf wolf, Latin lupus, Greek lykos

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Statistics for wolf

Last Updated

3 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for wolf

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

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More Definitions for wolf



English Language Learners Definition of wolf

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a large wild animal that is similar to a dog and that often hunts in groups



English Language Learners Definition of wolf (Entry 2 of 2)

: to eat (something) very quickly


\ ˈwu̇lf How to pronounce wolf (audio) \
plural wolves\ ˈwu̇lvz \

Kids Definition of wolf

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a large bushy-tailed wild animal that resembles the related domestic dog, eats meat, and often lives and hunts in packs
2 : a crafty or fierce person

Other Words from wolf

wolfish \ ˈwu̇l-​fish \ adjective


wolfed; wolfing

Kids Definition of wolf (Entry 2 of 2)

: to eat fast or greedily

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More from Merriam-Webster on wolf

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wolf

Spanish Central: Translation of wolf

Nglish: Translation of wolf for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wolf for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about wolf

Comments on wolf

What made you want to look up wolf? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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