• synonyms


[tahr-mi-guh n]
noun, plural ptar·mi·gans, (especially collectively) ptar·mi·gan.
  1. any of several grouses of the genus Lagopus, of mountainous and cold northern regions, having feathered feet.
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Origin of ptarmigan

1590–1600; pseudo-Greek spelling of Scots Gaelic tarmarchan, akin to Irish tarmanach
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ptarmigan

Historical Examples

  • He knew clearly what was to be done, and this he did by promptly eating the ptarmigan.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • Could not a single gull or ptarmigan find a resting-place there?

  • Among birds, the ptarmigan is a fine example of protective colouring.

  • Around us we saw plenty of ptarmigan tracks, but no signs of foxes.

    A Woman who went to Alaska

    May Kellogg Sullivan

  • That is what grown-up foxes do to the Ptarmigan folks when they get a chance.

British Dictionary definitions for ptarmigan


noun plural -gans or -gan
  1. any of several arctic and subarctic grouse of the genus Lagopus, esp L. mutus, which has a white winter plumage
  2. (sometimes capital) a created domestic fancy pigeon with ruffled or curled feathers on the wings and back
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Word Origin

C16: changed (perhaps influenced by Greek pteron wing) from Scottish Gaelic tarmachan, diminutive of tarmach, of obscure 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 ptarmigan


bird of the grouse family, 1590s, from Gaelic tarmachan, of unknown origin. The pt- spelling (1680s) is a mistaken Greek construction (perhaps based on pteron "wing").

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper