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ˈwu̇lf How to pronounce wolf (audio)
 nonstandard  ˈwu̇f
plural wolves ˈwu̇lvz How to pronounce wolf (audio)
 nonstandard  ˈwu̇vz
often attributive
plural also wolf
: 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).

: the fur of a wolf
: a fierce, rapacious, or destructive person
: a man forward, direct, and zealous in amatory attentions to women
: dire poverty : starvation
keep the wolf from the door
: the maggot of a warble fly
[German; from the howling sound]
: dissonance in some chords on organs, pianos, or other instruments with fixed tones tuned by unequal temperament
: an instance of such dissonance
: a harshness due to faulty vibration in various tones in a bowed instrument
wolflike adjective


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wolfed; wolfing; wolfs

transitive verb

: to eat greedily : devour
wolf in sheep's clothing
: one who cloaks a hostile intention with a friendly manner

Examples of wolf in a Sentence

Noun no sooner had the lottery winner's name been made public than the wolves with their investment schemes showed up on her doorstep Verb don't wolf your food or you'll be sick
Recent Examples on the Web
Hobbs notes that the findings don’t mean that wolf reintroductions won’t have beneficial impacts on their landscapes—but that such changes may be subtler and take more time to come to fruition than previously thought. Sage Marshall, Field & Stream, 15 Feb. 2024 According to Stark, Minnesota is home to approximately 2,900 wolves (of some 4,200 across the Upper Midwest). Katie Hill, Outdoor Life, 15 Feb. 2024 Gray wolves are protected by federal law under the Endangered Species Act. CBS News, 12 Feb. 2024 By 2009, wolves were numerous enough that residents and visitors could see them regularly, especially in the winter. Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman, 31 Jan. 2024 The apex predators are considered opportunistic generalists, meaning that what wolves eat varies depending on the food sources available to them. Sage Marshall, Field & Stream, 31 Jan. 2024 But NBCUniversal has yet to announce if audiences will get to see how Mary, Gary and his daughter Emma (Ariel Donoghue) will handle life raising a wolf offspring in a potential season three. Brande Victorian, The Hollywood Reporter, 27 Jan. 2024 It's believed that the Wolf Moon moniker for this month's full moon came about because wolves were often heard howling in January, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. Aliza Chasan, CBS News, 24 Jan. 2024 This moon’s name stems from the belief that wolves are likely to be heard howling at this winter moon due to hunger. Stephanie Vermillion, Travel + Leisure, 2 Jan. 2024
Conwell whipped up cream puffs and pastry cream from Betty Crocker’s classic cookbook, worked as a buser and server at the local country club and eventually was recruited to make the famous cinnamon-and-cheese rolls that club members wolfed down. Kimberly Winter Stern, Kansas City Star, 25 Jan. 2024 Inside the luxury van, wolfing down a salad, is the neatly coiffed 38-year-old entrepreneur Sam Altman, cofounder of OpenAI; a PR person; a security specialist; and me. Steven Levy, WIRED, 5 Sep. 2023 Otway rushed to a baker’s shop, purchased a roll and promptly choked to death while wolfing it down. Scott Lafee, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 July 2023 Still, the burgers were an improvement from July 4, 1850, when Zachary Taylor wolfed down apparently spoiled cherries and milk (and died five days later ). Calvin Woodward, Fortune, 4 July 2023 Merlin is the sort of dog Archie just can’t understand: a dog that doesn’t wolf down his food the minute it’s placed in front of him. John Kelly, Washington Post, 4 June 2023 Director Mark Mannucci offers an intimate look at his subject, with images of Fauci running from meeting to meeting and wolfing down Wheat Thins between Zooms. Mark Kennedy, Fortune, 21 Mar. 2023 To wolf advocates and conservationists, these successes are justification to bring wolves back to Colorado, too. Eva Botkin-Kowacki, The Christian Science Monitor, 18 Nov. 2020 Some of these guys wolf down rib eyes between pitches. Nick Canepacolumnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 July 2022 See More

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

Word History



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

First Known Use


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


1862, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near wolf

Cite this Entry

“Wolf.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wolf. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
plural wolves ˈwu̇lvz How to pronounce wolf (audio)
plural also wolf : any of several large bushy-tailed mammals with ears standing straight up that resemble the related dogs, that prey on other animals, and that often live and hunt in packs
especially : gray wolf compare coyote, jackal
: a person who resembles a wolf in fierceness
wolflike adjective


2 of 2 verb
: to eat greedily
wolfed down the pizza

Biographical Definition

Wolf 1 of 2

biographical name (1)

Friedrich August 1759–1824 German philologist


2 of 2

biographical name (2)

Hugo Philipp Jakob 1860–1903 Austrian composer

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