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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

Example Sentences

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
On the left, the images of fierce creatures — a dragon and a wolf — are tattooed above the infinity symbol. USA Today, 26 May 2023 Over the last 12 months in the northern herd, the DNR documented 20 elk deaths, including eight animals legally killed by hunters, seven killed by wolves, one death due to a hunting season injury, one killed by a black bear, one drowning and one calf death due to malnutrition. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 25 May 2023 But in a twist of expectations, the further a dog breed was genetically from a wolf, the larger its relative brain size was. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 17 May 2023 Link has sailed across the sea, lived above the clouds, transformed into a wolf and even become a train conductor. Zachary Small, New York Times, 4 May 2023 Elijah Jackson was banged up much of the season, and freshman classmate Jaivion Green was thrown to the wolves at times. Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY, 28 Apr. 2023 Behind them, some audience members wore shirts with wolves on them. Karin Brulliard, Washington Post, 28 Apr. 2023 After Cinderella defaces a memorial statue to the prince and is casually left to be eaten by wolves, the queen (Grace McLean) tries to win the people and tourists back. Ct Jones, Rolling Stone, 27 Mar. 2023 In classic fables and fairy tales, no predator—and perhaps no villain—makes more frequent appearances than the wolf. Lily Meyer, The Atlantic, 6 Mar. 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 For the time being, project assistants buzz around with power tools and lots of questions, pausing occasionally to wolf down slices of pizza. Naomi Waxman, sun-sentinel.com, 14 July 2021 The letter also said there were cultural considerations that should be accounted for in a delisting, alluding to the opposition by some Native Americans to wolf hunting. Star Tribune, 19 Dec. 2020 Mexicano and my sisters and I would wolf it down whenever Mom made it. Anita L. Arambula, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Sep. 2020 Maestas said Catron County, New Mexico, long a holdout to wolf releases, has joined the conservation effort. Debra Utacia Krol, azcentral, 19 Mar. 2020 America is the world’s second-biggest meat market; the average American wolfs down more than 100kg a year. The Economist, 27 Feb. 2020 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 8 Jun. 2023.

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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