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penguin

[peng-gwin, pen-]
noun Ornithology.
  1. any of several flightless, aquatic birds of the family Spheniscidae, of the Southern Hemisphere, having webbed feet and wings reduced to flippers.
  2. Obsolete. great auk.
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Origin of penguin

1570–80; origin uncertain; perhaps < Welsh pen gwyn literally, white head (referring to the great auk in its winter plumage); later misapplied to the Spheniscidae
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for penguin

penguin

noun
  1. any flightless marine bird, such as Aptenodytes patagonica (king penguin) and Pygoscelis adeliae (Adélie penguin), of the order Sphenisciformes of cool southern, esp Antarctic, regions: they have wings modified as flippers, webbed feet, and feathers lacking barbsSee also emperor penguin, king penguin
  2. an obsolete name for great auk
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Word Origin for penguin

C16: perhaps from Welsh pen gwyn, from pen head + gwyn white
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 penguin

n.

1570s, originally used of the great auk of Newfoundland (now extinct), shift in meaning to the Antarctic bird (which looks something like it, found by Drake in Magellan's Straits in 1578) is from 1580s. Of unknown origin, though often asserted to be from Welsh pen "head" (see pen-) + gwyn "white" (see Gwendolyn), but Barnhart says the proposed formation is not proper Welsh. The great auk had a large white patch between its bill and eye. The French and Breton versions of the word ultimately are from English.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper