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[mag-pahy] /ˈmægˌpaɪ/
either of two corvine birds, Pica pica (black-billed magpie) of Eurasia and North America, or P. nuttalli (yellow-billed magpie) of California, having long, graduated tails, black-and-white plumage, and noisy, mischievous habits.
any of several related corvine birds.
any of several black-and-white birds not related to the true magpies, as Gymnorhina tibicen, of Australia.
an incessantly talkative person; noisy chatterer; chatterbox.
a person who collects or hoards things, especially indiscriminately.
Western U.S. a black-and-white cow or steer, as a Holstein.
Origin of magpie
1595-1605; Mag Margaret + pie2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for magpie
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Of course you can answer no questions when I keep chattering like a magpie.

    A War-Time Wooing

    Charles King
  • Now the magpie was lazy, and she sat still and watched the others at their work.

    The Book of Nature Myths Florence Holbrook
  • Before long all the birds but the magpie had their nests built.

    The Book of Nature Myths Florence Holbrook
  • But the magpie was lazy, and she thought, "If I do not learn, they will build a nest for me."

    The Book of Nature Myths Florence Holbrook
  • Out upon you, magpie; would you delude the old man with fables?

    The Mirror of Taste, and Dramatic Censor Stephen Cullen Carpenter
  • But, just as she was going to leave the ‘fould,’ a magpie flew before her.

    Welsh Folk-Lore Elias Owen
  • But p. 327ever since then I know it is unlucky to see a magpie.

    Welsh Folk-Lore Elias Owen
  • He might as well have provided them for a squirrel or a magpie.

    Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
British Dictionary definitions for magpie


any of various passerine birds of the genus Pica, esp P. pica, having a black-and-white plumage, long tail, and a chattering call: family Corvidae (crows, etc)
any of various similar birds of the Australian family Cracticidae See also butcherbird (sense 2)
any of various other similar or related birds
(often capital) a variety of domestic fancy pigeon typically having black-and-white markings
(Brit) a person who hoards small objects
a person who chatters
  1. the outmost ring but one on a target
  2. a shot that hits this ring
Word Origin
C17: from Mag diminutive of Margaret, used to signify a chatterbox + pie²
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 magpie

the common European bird, known for its chattering, c.1600, earlier simply pie (early 13c.); first element from Mag, nickname for Margaret, long used in proverbial and slang English for qualities associated generally with women, especially in this case "idle chattering" (cf. Magge tales "tall tales, nonsense," early 15c.; also French margot "magpie," from Margot, pet form of Marguerite).

Second element, pie, is the earlier name of the bird, from Old French pie, from Latin pica "magpie," fem. of picus "woodpecker," from PIE root *(s)peik- "woodpecker, magpie" (cf. Umbrian peica "magpie," Sanskrit pikah "Indian cuckoo," Old Norse spætr, German Specht "woodpecker"); possibly from PIE root *pi-, denoting pointedness, of the beak, perhaps, but the magpie also has a long, pointed tail. The birds are proverbial for pilfering and hoarding, can be taught to speak, and have been regarded since the Middle Ages as ill omens.

Whan pyes chatter vpon a house it is a sygne of ryghte euyll tydynges. [1507]
Divination by number of magpies is attested from c.1780 in Lincolnshire; the rhyme varies from place to place, the only consistency being that one is bad, two are good.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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