[rey-vuh n]


any of several large, corvine birds having lustrous, black plumage and a loud, harsh call, especially Corvus corax, of the New and Old Worlds.
the divine culture hero and trickster of the North Pacific Coast Indians.
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Corvus.


lustrous black: raven locks of hair.

Origin of raven

before 900; Middle English; Old English hrǣfn; cognate with German Rabe, Old Norse hrafn
Related formsra·ven·like, adjective


[rav-uh n]

verb (used without object)

to seek plunder or prey.
to eat or feed voraciously or greedily: to raven like an animal.
to have a ravenous appetite.

verb (used with object)

to seize as spoil or prey.
to devour voraciously.


rapine; robbery.
plunder or prey.
Also ravin.

Origin of raven

1485–95; earlier ravine < Middle French raviner, ultimately < Latin rapīna rapine

Raven, The


a lyric poem (1845) by Edgar Allan Poe.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for raven

Contemporary Examples of raven

Historical Examples of raven

  • The tresses of this lady were shining and black, like the plumage of the raven.

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • The raven, wolf, and eagle are the regular epic accompaniments of battle and carnage.



  • But the raven flew off and returned with a letter for the judge.

  • And in one tree sat a raven, beating his wings and cawing loudly.

  • If there's any wickedness going on, that raven's in it, I'll be sworn.'

    Barnaby Rudge

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for raven




a large passerine bird, Corvus corax, having a large straight bill, long wedge-shaped tail, and black plumage: family Corvidae (crows). It has a hoarse croaking cry
  1. a shiny black colour
  2. (as adjective)raven hair

Word Origin for raven

Old English hrǣfn; related to Old High German hraban, Old Norse hrafn




to seize or seek (plunder, prey, etc)
to eat (something) voraciously or greedily; be ravenous in eating
Derived Formsravener, noun

Word Origin for raven

C15: from Old French raviner to attack impetuously; see ravenous



a traditional trickster hero among the native peoples of the Canadian Pacific Northwest

Word Origin for Raven

from raven 1
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 raven

Old English hræfn (Mercian), hrefn; hræfn (Northumbrian, West Saxon), from Proto-Germanic *khrabanas (cf. Old Norse hrafn, Danish ravn, Dutch raaf, Old High German hraban, German Rabe "raven," Old English hroc "rook"), from PIE root *ker-, imitative of harsh sounds (cf. Latin crepare "to creak, clatter," cornix "crow," corvus "raven;" Greek korax "raven," korone "crow;" Old Church Slavonic kruku "raven;" Lithuanian krauklys "crow").

Raven mythology shows considerable homogeneity throughout the whole area [northern regions of the northern hemisphere] in spite of differences in detail. The Raven peeps forth from the mists of time and the thickets of mythology, as a bird of slaughter, a storm bird, a sun and fire bird, a messenger, an oracular figure and a craftsman or culture hero. [Edward A. Armstrong, "The Folklore of Birds," 1958]

Old English also used hræmn, hremm. The raven standard was the flag of the Danish Vikings. The Quran connects the raven with Cain's murder of Abel; but in Christianity the bird plays a positive role in the stories of St. Benedict, St. Paul the Hermit, St. Vincent, etc. It was anciently believed to live to great old age, but the ancients also believed it wanting in parental care. The vikings, like Noah, were said to have used the raven to discover land. "When uncertain of their course they let one loose, and steered the vessel in his track, deeming that the land lay in the direction of his flight; if he returned to the ship, it was supposed to be at a distance" [Charles Swainson, "The Folk Lore and Provincial Names of British Birds," London, 1886].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper