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  1. a small, bold falcon, Falco columbarius, of the Northern Hemisphere.

Origin of merlin

1350–1400; Middle English merlioun, merlone < Anglo-French merilun, Old French esmerillon, diminutive of esmeril < Germanic; akin to German Schmerl, Old Norse smyrill
Also called pigeon hawk.


  1. Arthurian Romance. a venerable magician and seer.
  2. a male given name.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for merlin


  1. a small falcon, Falco columbarius, that has a dark plumage with a black-barred tail: used in falconrySee also pigeon hawk

Word Origin

C14: from Old French esmerillon, from esmeril, of Germanic origin


  1. (in Arthurian legend) a wizard and counsellor to King Arthur eternally imprisoned in a tree by a woman to whom he revealed his secret craft
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

Word Origin and History for merlin


small, strong European falcon, early 14c., from Anglo-French merilun, a shortened form of Old French esmerillon "merlin, small hawk" (12c., Modern French émerillon), from Frankish *smiril or some other Germanic source (cf. Old High German smerlo, German Schmerl "merlin"). Spanish esmerejon, Italian smeriglio also are Germanic loan-words.


sorcerer and soothsayer in Arthurian legends, from Old French form of Welsh Myrddhin, probably from Old Celtic *Mori-dunon, literally "of the sea-hill," from *mori "sea" (see mere (n.)) + dunom "hill" (see dune).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

merlin in Culture


In the legends of King Arthur (see also Arthur), a magician who acts as Arthur's principal adviser.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.