either of two corvine birds, Pica pica (black-billed magpie), of Eurasia and North America, or P. nuttalli (yellow-billed magpie), of California, having long, graduated tails, black-and-white plumage, and noisy, mischievous habits.
any of several related corvine birds.
any of several black-and-white birds not related to the true magpies, as Gymnorhina tibicen, of Australia.
an incessantly talkative person; noisy chatterer; chatterbox.
a person who collects or hoards things, especially indiscriminately.
Western U.S. a black-and-white cow or steer, as a Holstein.

Origin of magpie

1595–1605; Mag Margaret + pie2 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for magpie

Contemporary Examples of magpie

Historical Examples of magpie

  • And best of all, the empty chatter of the magpie Mrs. Hanway-Harley—who knows nothing, being a fool!

    The President

    Alfred Henry Lewis

  • On the following day the Magpie called for the kettle they had borrowed.

  • He let her slip to the ground, and then assisted her to mount Magpie, and thus they rode slowly back to camp.

    Ted Strong in Montana

    Edward C. Taylor

  • Then the magpie got angry and said: "One's enough, I tell you!"

    Good Stories For Great Holidays

    Frances Jenkins Olcott

  • On going up to the bush they discovered a magpie crouched among the leaves.

    The Romany Rye

    George Borrow

British Dictionary definitions for magpie



any of various passerine birds of the genus Pica, esp P. pica, having a black-and-white plumage, long tail, and a chattering call: family Corvidae (crows, etc)
any of various similar birds of the Australian family CracticidaeSee also butcherbird (def. 2)
any of various other similar or related birds
(often capital) a variety of domestic fancy pigeon typically having black-and-white markings
British a person who hoards small objects
a person who chatters
  1. the outmost ring but one on a target
  2. a shot that hits this ring

Word Origin for magpie

C17: from Mag diminutive of Margaret, used to signify a chatterbox + pie ²
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 magpie

the common European bird, known for its chattering, c.1600, earlier simply pie (early 13c.); first element from Mag, nickname for Margaret, long used in proverbial and slang English for qualities associated generally with women, especially in this case "idle chattering" (cf. Magge tales "tall tales, nonsense," early 15c.; also French margot "magpie," from Margot, pet form of Marguerite).

Second element, pie, is the earlier name of the bird, from Old French pie, from Latin pica "magpie," fem. of picus "woodpecker," from PIE root *(s)peik- "woodpecker, magpie" (cf. Umbrian peica "magpie," Sanskrit pikah "Indian cuckoo," Old Norse spætr, German Specht "woodpecker"); possibly from PIE root *pi-, denoting pointedness, of the beak, perhaps, but the magpie also has a long, pointed tail. The birds are proverbial for pilfering and hoarding, can be taught to speak, and have been regarded since the Middle Ages as ill omens.

Whan pyes chatter vpon a house it is a sygne of ryghte euyll tydynges. [1507]

Divination by number of magpies is attested from c.1780 in Lincolnshire; the rhyme varies from place to place, the only consistency being that one is bad, two are good.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper