Origin of cuckoo

1200–50; Middle English cuc(c)u, cuccuk(e) (imitative); compare Latin cucūlus, French coucou, German Kuckuk, Dutch koekoek, Modern Greek koûko
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for cuckoo

fool, nuts, screwball, silly, clock, batty, daffy, insane, wacky

Examples from the Web for cuckoo

Contemporary Examples of cuckoo

Historical Examples of cuckoo

  • The cuckoo clock struck nine, and Claude made a gesture of annoyance.

    His Masterpiece

    Emile Zola

  • Perhaps it was only the striking of the cuckoo clock in my room.

  • When you get the cuckoo into the garden, build a wall round and keep it in.'

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

  • For it's not I'll be the cuckoo to push you out, McMurrough, lad.

    The Wild Geese

    Stanley John Weyman

  • Come, my cuckoo; here we are at the bottom of the valley; now or never.

    Hidden Hand

    Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth

British Dictionary definitions for cuckoo


noun plural -oos

any bird of the family Cuculidae, having pointed wings, a long tail, and zygodactyl feet: order Cuculiformes. Many species, including the European cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and have a two-note call
informal an insane or foolish person


informal insane or foolish


an imitation or representation of the call of a cuckoo

verb -oos, -ooing or -ooed

(tr) to repeat over and over
(intr) to make the sound imitated by the word cuckoo

Word Origin for cuckoo

C13: from Old French cucu, of imitative origin; related to German kuckuck, Latin cucūlus, Greek kokkux
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 cuckoo

mid-13c., from Old French cocu "cuckoo," also "cuckold," echoic of the male bird's mating cry (cf. Greek kokkyx, Latin cuculus, Middle Irish cuach, Sanskrit kokilas). Slang sense of "crazy" (adj.) is American English, 1918, but noun meaning "stupid person" is first recorded 1580s, perhaps from the bird's unvarying, oft-repeated call. The Old English name was geac, cognate with Old Norse gaukr, source of Scottish and northern English gowk. The Germanic words presumably originally were echoic, too, but had drifted in form. Cuckoo clock is from 1789.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with cuckoo


see cloud-cuckoo land.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.