- any of several large carnivorous mammals of the genus Canis, of the dog family Canidae, especially C. lupus, usually hunting in packs, formerly common throughout the Northern Hemisphere but now chiefly restricted to the more unpopulated parts of its range.
- the fur of such an animal.
- any of various wolflike animals of different families, as the thylacine.
- (initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Lupus.
- the larva of any of various small insects infesting granaries.
- a cruelly rapacious person.
- Informal. a man who makes amorous advances to many women.
- the harsh discord heard in certain chords of keyboard instruments, especially the organ, when tuned on some system of unequal temperament.
- a chord or interval in which such a discord appears.
- (in bowed instruments) a discordant or false vibration in a string due to a defect in structure or adjustment of the instrument.
- to devour voraciously (often followed by down): He wolfed his food.
- to hunt for wolves.
- cry wolf, to give a false alarm: Is she really sick or is she just crying wolf?
- keep the wolf from the door, to avert poverty or starvation; provide sufficiently for: Their small inheritance kept the wolf from the door.
- throw to the wolves. throw(def 57).
- wolf in sheep's clothing, a person who conceals his or her evil intentions or character beneath an innocent exterior.
Origin of wolf
- Friedrich August (ˈfriːdrɪç ˈauɡʊst). 1759–1824, German classical scholar, who suggested that the Homeric poems, esp the Iliad, are products of an oral tradition
- Hugo (ˈhuːɡo). 1860–1903, Austrian composer, esp of songs, including the Italienisches Liederbuch and the Spanisches Liederbuch
- (wʊlf) Howlin'. See Howlin' Wolf
- a predatory canine mammal, Canis lupus, which hunts in packs and was formerly widespread in North America and Eurasia but is now less commonSee also timber wolf Related adjective: lupine
- any of several similar and related canines, such as the red wolf and the coyote (prairie wolf)
- the fur of any such animal
- Tasmanian wolf another name for the thylacine
- a voracious, grabbing, or fiercely cruel person or thing
- informal a man who habitually tries to seduce women
- informal the destructive larva of any of various moths and beetles
- Also called: wolf note music
- an unpleasant sound produced in some notes played on the violin, cello, etc, owing to resonant vibrations of the belly
- an out-of-tune effect produced on keyboard instruments accommodated esp to the system of mean-tone temperamentSee temperament (def. 4)
- cry wolf to give a false alarm
- keep the wolf from the door to ward off starvation or privation
- lone wolf a person or animal who prefers to be alone
- throw to the wolves to abandon or deliver to destruction
- wolf in sheep's clothing a malicious person in a harmless or benevolent disguise
- (tr often foll by down) to gulp (down)
- (intr) to hunt wolves
Word Origin for wolf
Old English wulf, from Proto-Germanic *wulfaz (cf. Old Saxon wulf, Old Norse ulfr, Old Frisian, Dutch, Old High German, German wolf, Gothic wulfs), from PIE *wlqwos/*lukwos, from root *wlp-/*lup- (cf. Sanskrit vrkas, Avestan vehrka-; Albanian ulk; Old Church Slavonic vluku; Russian volcica; Lithuanian vilkas "wolf;" Old Persian Varkana- "Hyrcania," district southeast of the Caspian Sea, literally "wolf-land;" probably also Greek lykos, Latin lupus).
This manne can litle skyl ... to saue himself harmlesse from the perilous accidentes of this world, keping ye wulf from the doore (as they cal it). ["The Institution of a Gentleman," 1555]
Wolves as a symbol of lust are ancient, e.g. Roman slang lupa "whore," literally "she-wolf" (preserved in Spanish loba, Italian lupa, French louve). The equation of "wolf" and "prostitute, sexually voracious female" persisted into 12c., but by Elizabethan times wolves had become primarily symbolic of male lust. The specific use of wolf for "sexually aggressive male" first recorded 1847; wolf-whistle first attested 1952. The image of a wolf in sheep's skin is attested from c.1400. See here for a discussion of "wolf" in Indo-European history.
"eat like a wolf," 1862, from wolf (n.). Related: Wolfed; wolfing.
Raise a false alarm, as in Helen's always crying wolf about attempted break-ins, but the police can never find any evidence. This term comes from the tale about a young shepherd watching his flock who, lonely and fearful, called for help by shouting “Wolf!” After people came to his aid several times and saw no wolf, they ignored his cries when a wolf actually attacked his sheep. The tale appeared in a translation of Aesop's fables by Roger L'Estrange (1692), and the expression has been applied to any false alarm since the mid-1800s.
In addition to the idiom beginning with wolf
- wolf in sheep's clothing
- cry wolf
- keep the wolf from the door
- lone wolf