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

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 the way you wolf your food it's no wonder you have intestinal distress
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Scorsese depicts lone-wolf killers like Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle as warped reflections of societal ills. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Yes, Joker Is a Very Serious Drama. No, That’s Not a Compliment.," 2 Oct. 2019 For one long sequence, Hustlers loses its propriety and leers like the wolf in Looney Tunes. Ross Douthat, National Review, "Jennifer Lopez Delivers a Career-High Performance in Hustlers," 26 Sep. 2019 The case history found 41 incidents of people coming into contact with wolves in Canada. The Washington Post, oregonlive.com, "Man saves N.J. family of 4 from savage wolf attack in Canada," 14 Aug. 2019 Dogs make eye contact with people when a problem stumps them; wolves do not. Karin Brulliard, chicagotribune.com, "Scientists think they know why dogs have eyes that tug at our hearts," 13 Sep. 2019 For Akela, Mowgli’s belonging is secured by his actions and his conformity with wolf society. Sue Walsh, Quartz India, "There’s more to “The Jungle Book” than colonial stereotypes," 21 Aug. 2019 This is an Ears and Tails party, where guests dress up like animals, such as cats, wolves and foxes. Rod Stafford Hagwood, sun-sentinel.com, "Let the drag races begin: Five female impersonator performances you need in your life," 19 Aug. 2019 The zoo houses Arctic and sub-Arctic animals including polar bears, Amur tigers, wolves and lynx, and cares for orphaned and injured wildlife. Anchorage Daily News, "Photos: Behind the scenes at the Alaska Zoo," 17 Aug. 2019 July 11 news story Colorado needs wolves to restore the state’s natural balance. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Exposing abuse in the Boy Scouts of America (8/11/19)," 11 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb My health-conscious parents would not wolf down a tray of brownies, but wholesome sourdough bread? Henry Dawson, Bon Appétit, "I Didn't Know How to Tell My Guy Friends I Cared, So I Learned to Bake," 4 Oct. 2019 By autumn, the caterpillars had wolfed down the leaves, pupated and flown away, leaving our thistle fields in tatters. Isabella Tree, Time, "How to Return a Farm to the Wild—And Maybe Save the Planet," 3 Oct. 2019 Some fans come simply to root for the home team, to enjoy a day with the family, to wolf down one too many Dodger dogs. Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times, "Behind the story: Getting a look at baseball’s future while exploring its past," 17 Sep. 2019 Group members do not believe there is a threat to wolf populations overall, only those packs in the Denali road corridor. Washington Post, "Alaskan group wants an end to wolf hunting near Denali National Park," 7 Aug. 2019 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

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

12 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for wolf

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

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More Definitions for wolf


How to pronounce Wolf (audio)

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

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