any of numerous predaceous oscine birds of the family Laniidae, having a strong, hooked, and toothed bill, feeding on insects and sometimes on small birds and other animals: the members of certain species impale their prey on thorns or suspend it from the branches of trees to tear it apart more easily, and are said to kill more than is necessary for them to eat.
any of several other birds having similar bills, as the vanga shrikes.
(initial capital letter) Military. a 10-foot (3-meter), 400-pound (180-kg) U.S. air-to-ground missile designed to destroy missile batteries by homing in on their radar emissions.

Origin of shrike

1535–45; perhaps continuing Old English scrīc thrush; akin to Old Norse skrīkja to twitter; see shriek Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shrike

Historical Examples of shrike

  • The shrike is said to catch mice, but it is not known to attack squirrels.

  • But the shrike pleaded his innocence, and I had no proof against him.

    Policeman Bluejay

    L. Frank Baum

  • The shrike did not see him till the owl was almost within the branches.

  • It is unusual to see a shrike at as high an elevation as 6000 feet.

  • It was the shrike, who thought he was sure of a dinner when he saw those canaries.


    John Burroughs

British Dictionary definitions for shrike



Also called: butcherbird any songbird of the chiefly Old World family Laniidae, having a heavy hooked bill and feeding on smaller animals which they sometimes impale on thorns, barbed wire, etcSee also bush shrike (def. 1)
any of various similar but unrelated birds, such as the cuckoo shrikes
shrike thrush or shrike tit another name for thickhead (def. 2)

Word Origin for shrike

Old English scrīc thrush; related to Middle Dutch schrīk corncrake; see screech 1, shriek
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 shrike

1540s, apparently from a survival of Old English scric "a shrike or thrush," literally "bird with a shrill call," probably echoic of its cry and related to shriek (cf. Old Norse skrikja "shrieker, shrike," German schrik "moor hen," Swedish skrika "jay").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper