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  1. any of several breeds of usually small dogs, used originally to pursue game and drive it out of its hole or burrow.
  2. (initial capital letter) U.S. Military. a surface-to-air, two-stage antiaircraft missile.

Origin of terrier1

1400–50; < Middle French, short for chien terrier literally, dog of the earth (< Medieval Latin terrārius; see terra, -ier2); so called because used to start badgers from their burrows; replacing late Middle English terrere < Anglo-French (see -er2)


noun Law.
  1. a book or document in which are described the site, boundaries, acreage, tenants, etc., of certain lands.

Origin of terrier2

1470–80; < Middle French, short for registre terrier register of land (< Medieval Latin terrārius; see terra, -ier2); replacing earlier terrere < Anglo-French (see -er2


noun, plural ter·ries.
  1. the loop formed by the pile of a fabric when left uncut.
  2. Also called terry cloth. a pile fabric, usually of cotton, with loops on both sides, as in a Turkish towel.
  1. made of such a fabric: a terry bathrobe.
  2. having the pile loops uncut: terry velvet.

Origin of terry

First recorded in 1775–85; perhaps variant of terret
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for terrier

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Dogs are capering about, a collie, a setter, a Boston terrier.

  • I'll pay that up as soon as I'm able—and I'll work like a terrier until I do.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • It was a terrier, and one of those heavy, slow British bulldogs.

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • She thought to avoid him, but he was as quick as a cat and as wiry and strong as a terrier.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • I'll shake the life out of him yet as a terrier would a rat.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for terrier


  1. any of several usually small, active, and short-bodied breeds of dog, originally trained to hunt animals living underground

Word Origin

C15: from Old French chien terrier earth dog, from Medieval Latin terrārius belonging to the earth, from Latin terra earth


  1. English legal history a register or survey of land

Word Origin

C15: from Old French, from Medieval Latin terrārius of the land, from Latin terra land


  1. informal a member of the British Army's Territorial and Volunteer Reserve


noun plural -ries
  1. an uncut loop in the pile of towelling or a similar fabric
    1. a fabric with such a pile on both sides
    2. (as modifier)a terry towel

Word Origin

C18: perhaps variant of terret


  1. Dame Ellen. 1847–1928, British actress, noted for her Shakespearean roles opposite Sir Henry Irving and for her correspondence with George Bernard Shaw
  2. (John) Quinlan (ˈkwɪnlən). born 1937, British architect, noted for his works in neoclassical style, such as the Richmond riverside project (1984)
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 terrier


mid-15c., from Old French chien terrier "terrier dog," literally "earth dog," from Medieval Latin terrarius "of earth," from Latin terra "earth" (see terrain). So called because the dogs pursue their quarry (foxes, badgers, etc.) into their burrows.



"loop raised in pile-weaving, left uncut," 1784, possibly an alteration of French tiré "drawn," from past participle of tirer "draw out" (cf. German gezogener Sammet "drawn velvet").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper