noun, often attributive
\ˈwu̇lf, ÷ˈwu̇f\
plural wolves\ˈwu̇lvz, ÷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 \

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 \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for wolf

Synonyms: Noun

bloodsucker, harpy, predator, shark, vampire, vulture

Synonyms: Verb

bolt, cram, devour, gobble, gorge, gormandize, gulp, ingurgitate, inhale, scarf, scoff

Antonyms: Noun


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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

Little chance of that though, not for the boy who cries as if the wolf has already torn him to shreds. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "For all his talent, Neymar is an embarrassment to soccer," 2 July 2018 Conservation groups call it an extinction sentence that would doom the last wild wolves. Jonathan Drew, Fox News, "US govt proposes shrinking last endangered Red wolf habitat," 27 June 2018 Dogs, which have been bred as human companions for thousands of years, may even be born with the ability to connect with people — something that does not seem to happen with dogs' close ancestor, the wolf. Scott Berson, miamiherald, "Dogs can read your face - and behave differently when you're upset, scientists say," 21 June 2018 So the mysterious animal was actually just one of the approximately 900 wolves roaming Montana. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "DNA test solves mystery of wolf-like creature shot in Montana," 18 June 2018 They're kept on chains during the day but let free at night to keep wolves at bay. National Geographic, "Rare Bunny-Faced Mammal Captured on Video," 14 June 2018 Raven forms are set again fake fur that represents another native animal, the wolf. Janet Eastman, OregonLive.com, "See what artists did to those old Portland airport benches (photos)," 23 May 2018 And this is where the wolves of Instagram swagger in. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "A Pyramid Scheme for the Social Media Generation," 3 May 2018 The wolves were driven to near extinction during the late 1960s, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an aggressive conservation effort – the American Red Wolf Recovery Program – that led to new ways to track and protect the species. Abbie Bennett, charlotteobserver, "5 critically endangered red wolf pups born at NC Zoo during storms, tornado | Charlotte Observer," 2 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The driver of a Pepsi truck, wolfing pizza with the engine going, spots Pakenham’s raised phone, drops the pizza, and pulls back into traffic. Elizabeth Royte, Daily Intelligencer, "George Pakenham is waging a one-man war on air pollution on the Upper West Side.," 10 July 2018 Can the decision to wolf down two doughnuts — and then shake out the decorative curls of chocolate that collect in the bottom of the bag and eat those, too — really be foretold by something deep in my family’s DNA? Nestor Ramos, BostonGlobe.com, "Will my genes doom my young daughter to a weight problem?," 31 Jan. 2018 Most wolfing periods last somewhere between 4 to 6 weeks, but have been known to go up to 12. Alexander-julian Gibbson, GQ, "How to Get Waves," 25 May 2018 Bruce Arians couldn’t wait to wolf down a quick breakfast, shake some hands and pose for some pictures, and then hit the golf course Saturday morning. Bob Mcmanaman, azcentral, "Former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians deciding between two NFL analyst jobs," 14 Apr. 2018 Ballmer may be the only pro sports team owner who’d be willing to do this: Sure, the Rockets won and James Harden got this highlight that completely embarrassed the Clippers, but at least the fans got to see Ballmer attempt to wolf down hot dogs. Alysha Tsuji, For The Win, "Steve Ballmer lost hot dog eating contest and launched hot dogs into Clippers crowd," 1 Mar. 2018 One explanation is waste, with patients wolfing down too many pills and administrators churning out red tape. The Economist, "Which firms profit most from America’s health-care system," 15 Mar. 2018 As mostly solitary hunters rather than pack animals, like dogs, cats don’t have to wolf their food down to be sure to get their share. C. Claiborne Ray, New York Times, "Feline Foodies," 12 Feb. 2018 View Sample Sign Up Now Compared to those who wolfed down their food quickly, those who ate at a normal speed were 29% less likely to be obese. Amanda Macmillan, Time, "Here's Why Eating More Slowly May Help You Lose Weight," 12 Feb. 2018

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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Phrases Related to wolf

keep the wolf from the door

Statistics for wolf

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

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 \
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).


evasion of direct action or statement

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