• synonyms

night owl

noun Informal.
  1. a person who often stays up late at night; nighthawk.
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Origin of night owl

First recorded in 1585–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for night-owl

Historical Examples

  • Thrice has the night-owl come at thy call—now it must wing away.

    Eric Brighteyes

    H. Rider Haggard

  • Even the night-owl hooted it from the boughs of the ghostly old sycamore.

    The Conquest

    Eva Emery Dye

  • Great warriors are they, but in our forests blind as the night-owl.

  • Like a night-owl, I see better in the dark; the light of day dazzles me.

  • The girl started nervously as a night-owl hooted suddenly from a near-by thicket.

    Peggy Owen and Liberty

    Lucy Foster Madison

British Dictionary definitions for night-owl

night owl

night hawk

  1. informal a person who is or prefers to be up and about late at night
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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 night-owl


"owl which flies at night," 1590s; applied since 1846 (American English) to persons who are up or out late at night. Cf. night-hawk, also French hirondelle de nuit "prostitute," literally "night-swallow."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with night-owl

night owl

A person who habitually stays up late and is active at night, as in You can call her after midnight, for she's a night owl. This colloquial term, originally used in the late 1500s for an owl that is active at night, was transferred to nocturnal human beings in the mid-1800s.

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