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[burd] /bɜrd/
any warm-blooded vertebrate of the class Aves, having a body covered with feathers, forelimbs modified into wings, scaly legs, a beak, and no teeth, and bearing young in a hard-shelled egg.
a fowl or game bird.
  1. clay pigeon.
  2. a shuttlecock.
Slang. a person, especially one having some peculiarity:
He's a queer bird.
Informal. an aircraft, spacecraft, or guided missile.
Cookery. a thin piece of meat, poultry, or fish rolled around a stuffing and braised:
veal birds.
Southern U.S. (in hunting) a bobwhite.
Chiefly British Slang. a girl or young woman.
Archaic. the young of any fowl.
the bird, Slang.
  1. disapproval, as of a performance, by hissing, booing, etc.:
    He got the bird when he came out on stage.
  2. scoffing or ridicule:
    He was trying to be serious, but we all gave him the bird.
  3. an obscene gesture of contempt made by raising the middle finger.
verb (used without object)
to catch or shoot birds.
to bird-watch.
a little bird, Informal. a secret source of information:
A little bird told me that today is your birthday.
bird in the hand, a thing possessed in fact as opposed to a thing about which one speculates:
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Also, bird in hand.
birds of a feather, people with interests, opinions, or backgrounds in common:
Birds of a feather flock together.
eat like a bird, to eat sparingly:
She couldn't understand why she failed to lose weight when she was, as she said, eating like a bird.
for the birds, Slang. useless or worthless; not to be taken seriously:
Their opinions on art are for the birds. That pep rally is for the birds.
kill two birds with one stone, to achieve two aims with a single effort:
She killed two birds with one stone by shopping and visiting the museum on the same trip.
the birds and the bees, basic information about sex and reproduction:
It was time to talk to the boy about the birds and the bees.
Origin of bird
before 900; Middle English byrd, bryd, Old English brid(d) young bird, chick
Related forms
birdless, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for eat like a bird


nickname of (Charlie) Parker


any warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrate of the class Aves, characterized by a body covering of feathers and forelimbs modified as wings. Birds vary in size between the ostrich and the humming bird related adjectives avian ornithic
(informal) a person (usually preceded by a qualifying adjective, as in the phrases rare bird, odd bird, clever bird)
(slang, mainly Brit) a girl or young woman, esp one's girlfriend
(slang) prison or a term in prison (esp in the phrase do bird; shortened from birdlime, rhyming slang for time)
a bird in the hand, something definite or certain
(informal) the bird has flown, the person in question has fled or escaped
(euphemistic or jocular) the birds and the bees, sex and sexual reproduction
birds of a feather, people with the same characteristics, ideas, interests, etc
(informal) get the bird
  1. to be fired or dismissed
  2. (esp of a public performer) to be hissed at, booed, or derided
(informal) give someone the bird, to tell someone rudely to depart; scoff at; hiss
kill two birds with one stone, to accomplish two things with one action
like a bird, without resistance or difficulty
a little bird, a (supposedly) unknown informant: a little bird told me it was your birthday
(informal) for the birds, strictly for the birds, deserving of disdain or contempt; not important
Derived Forms
birdlike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English bridd, of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for eat like a bird



Old English bird, rare collateral form of bridd, originally "young bird, nestling" (the usual Old English for "bird" being fugol), of uncertain origin with no cognates in any other Germanic language. The suggestion that it is related by umlaut to brood and breed is rejected by OED as "quite inadmissible." Metathesis of -r- and -i- was complete 15c.

Middle English, in which bird referred to various young animals and even human beings, may have preserved the original meaning of this word. Despite its early attestation, bridd is not necessarily the oldest form of bird. It is usually assumed that -ir- from -ri- arose by metathesis, but here, too, the Middle English form may go back to an ancient period. [Liberman]
Figurative sense of "secret source of information" is from 1540s. Bird dog (n.) attested from 1832, a gun dog used in hunting game birds; hence the verb (1941) meaning "to follow closely." Bird-watching attested from 1897. Bird's-eye view is from 1762. For the birds recorded from 1944, supposedly in allusion to birds eating from droppings of horses and cattle.
A byrde yn honde ys better than three yn the wode. [c.1530]



"maiden, young girl," c.1300, confused with burd (q.v.), but felt by later writers as a figurative use of bird (n.1). Modern slang meaning "young woman" is from 1915, and probably arose independently of the older word.



"middle finger held up in a rude gesture," slang derived from 1860s expression give the big bird "to hiss someone like a goose," kept alive in vaudeville slang with sense of "to greet someone with boos, hisses, and catcalls" (1922), transferred 1960s to the "up yours" hand gesture (the rigid finger representing the hypothetical object to be inserted) on notion of defiance and contempt. Gesture itself seems to be much older (the human anatomy section of a 12c. Latin bestiary in Cambridge describes the middle finger as that "by means of which the pursuit of dishonour is indicated").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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eat like a bird in Science
Any of numerous warm-blooded, egg-laying vertebrate animals of the class Aves. Birds have wings for forelimbs, a body covered with feathers, a hard bill covering the jaw, and a four-chambered heart.

Our Living Language  : It is generally believed that birds are descended from dinosaurs and probably evolved from them during the Jurassic Period. While most paleontologists believe that birds evolved from a small dinosaur called the theropod, which in turn evolved from the thecodont, a reptile from the Triassic Period, other paleontologists believe that birds and dinosaurs both evolved from the thecodont. There are some who even consider the bird to be an actual dinosaur. According to this view, the bird is an avian dinosaur, and the older dinosaur a nonavian dinosaur. Although there are variations of thought on the exact evolution of birds, the similarities between birds and dinosaurs are striking and undeniable. Small meat-eating dinosaurs and primitive birds share about twenty characteristics that neither group shares with any other kind of animal; these include tubular bones, the position of the pelvis, the shape of the shoulder blades, a wishbone-shaped collarbone, and the structure of the eggs. Dinosaurs had scales, and birds have modified scales—their feathers—and scaly feet. Some dinosaurs also may have had feathers; a recently discovered fossil of a small dinosaur indicates that it had a featherlike covering. In fact, some primitive fossil birds and small meat-eating dinosaurs are so similar that it is difficult to tell them apart based on their skeletons alone.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for eat like a bird



  1. : a gaggle of the guys in a Third Avenue bird bar (late 1800s+)
  2. a bird colonel


  1. A person of either sex, usually a man and often elderly: I'm a literary bird myself/ She was a tall old bird with a chin like a rabbit (mid-1800s+)
  2. Somebody or something excellent; beaut, lulu (mid-1800s+)
  3. A young woman; chick: Much commoner in British usage; regarded by some women as offensive (1900+ College students)
  4. An odd or unusual person; an eccentric; flake, weirdo: He was a funny bird in many ways (mid-1800s+)
  5. A male homosexual; gay (late 1800s+)
  6. The eagle as an insignia of a colonel's rank (Armed forces fr WWI)
  7. Any aircraft, esp a helicopter (1918+)
  8. A rocket or guided missile (1950s+ Astronautics)
  9. A communications satellite: A VTR operator in Vancouver is editing a local piece for The National. ''Gotta make the bird,'' the guy says confidently/ an agreement to put Satellite News Channel up on its bird (1970s+ Aerospace)

Related Terms

early bird, for the birds, gooney bird, have a bird, jailbird, lovebirds, off one's nut, railbird, take off like a bigass bird, whirlybird, yardbird

[homosexual senses may be based on or be revived by Yiddish faygele, ''homosexual,'' literally ''bird'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with eat like a bird

eat like a bird

Eat very little, as in Jan is very thin—she eats like a bird. This simile alludes to the mistaken impression that birds don't eat much (they actually do, relative to their size), and dates from the first half of the 1900s. An antonym is eat like a horse, dating from the early 1700s, and alluding to the tendency of horses to eat whatever food is available. For example, I never have enough food for Ellen—she eats like a horse!
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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