a common European thrush, Turdus merula, the male of which is black with a yellow bill.
any of several American birds of the family Icteridae, having black plumage.Compare crow blackbird, red-winged blackbird, rusty blackbird.
any of several other unrelated birds having black plumage in either or both sexes.
(formerly) a person, especially a Kanaka, who was kidnapped and sold abroad, usually in Australia, as a slave.

verb (used with object)

to kidnap (a person), as in blackbirding.

verb (used without object)

to engage in blackbirding.

Origin of blackbird

1480–90; earlier blacke bride. See black, bird Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for blackbird

Contemporary Examples of blackbird

Historical Examples of blackbird

  • A note of exultation in his laugh, like that in a blackbird's call, alone proclaimed it.


    William J. Locke

  • Yet the blackbird is older even than I. Go listen to her story.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

  • However, when you can't get a thrush, eat a blackbird, as the proverb says.

  • No amount of hushing has any effect; you might just as well hush a blackbird or a thrush.

    Jan and Her Job

    L. Allen Harker

  • That'll spake to you like the blackbird's whistle, as the saying is.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for blackbird



a common European thrush, Turdus merula, in which the male has a black plumage and yellow bill and the female is brown
any of various American orioles having a dark plumage, esp any of the genus Agelaius
history a person, esp a South Sea Islander, who was kidnapped and sold as a slave, esp in Australia


(tr) (formerly) to kidnap and sell into slavery
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 blackbird

late 15c. (late 13c. as a surname), from black (adj.) + bird (n.1). OED says so called for being the only "black" (really dark brown) bird among the songbirds, reflecting an older sense of bird that did not include rooks, crows, ravens.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper