1. a nocturnal European bird, Caprimulgus europaeus, of the family Caprimulgidae, having a short bill and a wide mouth and feeding on insects captured in the air.
  2. Also called goatsucker. any other nocturnal or crepuscular bird of the family Caprimulgidae.

Origin of nightjar

1620–30; night + jar2 (from its harsh cry) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for nightjar

Historical Examples of nightjar

  • That's the churning of the nightjar going up to Ballure glen.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • "Like going from the nightingale to the nightjar," said Arabella.

  • The general habits of the Nightjar are quite as remarkable as its note.

    Bible Animals;

    J. G. Wood

  • Coultas (field notes) found the nightjar in mangrove swamps.

  • This and the nightjar were the only nightingales I heard that night.

    Fresh Fields

    John Burroughs

British Dictionary definitions for nightjar


  1. any nocturnal bird of the family Caprimulgidae, esp Caprimulgus europaeus (European nightjar): order Caprimulgiformes. They have a cryptic plumage and large eyes and feed on insects

Word Origin for nightjar

C17: night + jar ², so called from its discordant cry
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 nightjar

nocturnal bird, goatsucker, 1620s, from night + jar (v.). So called for the "jarring" sounds made by the male when the female is brooding, which have been described as a "churring trill that seems to change direction as it rises and falls." An Old English word for it was nihthræfn "night raven."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper