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  1. immature or inexperienced: a callow youth.
  2. (of a young bird) featherless; unfledged.
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  1. a recently hatched worker ant.
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Origin of callow

before 1000; Middle English, Old English calu bald; cognate with Dutch kaal, German kahl bald, OCS golŭ bare
Related formscal·low·ness, noun


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for callow

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The 87 Medium, who is at first indifferent, finally warns her callow child.

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

  • "There speaks your callow inexperience," said he, with a pitying smile.

    The Tavern Knight

    Rafael Sabatini

  • But even in those days as a callow, trusting youth, he'd been smarter than Boswell.

    Zero Data

    Charles Saphro

  • With bird nicknames may be mentioned Callow, unfledged, cognate with Lat.

    The Romance of Names

    Ernest Weekley

  • Culpepper sprang, a flash of green, straight at the callow boy.

    Privy Seal

    Ford Madox Ford

British Dictionary definitions for callow


  1. lacking experience of life; immature
  2. rare (of a young bird) unfledged and usually lacking feathers
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Derived Formscallowness, noun

Word Origin

Old English calu; related to Old High German kalo, Old Slavonic golú bare, naked, Lithuanian galva head, Latin calvus bald


  1. Simon. born 1949, British actor and theatre director
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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 callow


Old English calu "bare, bald," probably from West Germanic *kalwaz (cf. Middle Dutch calu, Dutch kaal, Old High German kalo, German Kahl), perhaps from Latin or Celtic. From young birds with no feathers, meaning extended to any young inexperienced thing or creature (1570s). Apparently not from Latin calvus "bald."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper