See more synonyms for curlew on
  1. any of several shorebirds of the genus Numenius, having a long, slender, downcurved bill, as the common N. arquata, of Europe.
  2. any of various similar birds.

Origin of curlew

1300–50; Middle English < Anglo-French curleu, cognate with Middle French corleu; perhaps imitative Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for curlew

Historical Examples of curlew

  • At that instant the curlew shot over her head with its deep, mournful cry.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

  • "The Curlew" dashed forward, rising and falling with the swells.

    Left on Labrador

    Charles Asbury Stephens

  • It was at once set; and "The Curlew" started on in the wake of the shower.

    Left on Labrador

    Charles Asbury Stephens

  • It ain't as if 'The Curlew' was loaded down, and lay low in the water.

    Left on Labrador

    Charles Asbury Stephens

  • Then silence again, save for the long-drawn wail of a curlew.

British Dictionary definitions for curlew


  1. any large shore bird of the genus Numenius, such as N. arquata of Europe and Asia: family Scolopacidae (sandpipers, etc), order Charadriiformes. They have a long downward-curving bill and occur in northern and arctic regionsCompare stone curlew

Word Origin for curlew

C14: from Old French corlieu, perhaps of imitative origin
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 curlew

mid-14c., from Old French courlieu (13c., Modern French courlis), said to be imitative of the bird's cry but apparently assimilated with corliu "runner, messenger," from corre "to run" (see current (adj.)). The bird is a good runner.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper