• synonyms


  1. any of numerous American finches of the family Emberizinae.Compare chipping sparrow, song sparrow.
  2. any member of the Old World genus Passer, formerly thought to be closely related to the weaverbirds but now placed in their own family, Passeridae.
  3. British. the house sparrow.
  4. any of several other unrelated small birds.Compare Java sparrow, hedge sparrow.
  5. (initial capital letter) Military. a 12-foot (4-meter), all-weather, radar-guided U.S. air-to-air missile with an 88-pound (40-kg) high-explosive warhead.
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Origin of sparrow

before 900; Middle English sparowe, Old English spearwa; cognate with Gothic sparwa, Old Norse spǫrr
Related formsspar·row·less, adjectivespar·row·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for sparrow


  1. any weaverbird of the genus Passer and related genera, esp the house sparrow, having a brown or grey plumage and feeding on seeds or insects
  2. US and Canadian any of various North American finches, such as the chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina), that have a dullish streaked plumage
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Related formsRelated adjective: passerine
Derived Formssparrow-like, adjective

Word Origin

Old English spearwa; related to Old Norse spörr, Old High German sparo
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 sparrow


small brownish-gray bird, Old English spearwa, from Proto-Germanic *sparwan (cf. Old Norse spörr, Old High German sparo, German Sperling, Gothic sparwa), from PIE *sper- (cf. Cornish frau "crow;" Old Prussian spurglis "sparrow;" Greek spergoulos "small field bird," psar "starling"). Sparrowhawk is attested from c.1400. Sparrowfarts (1886) was Cheshire slang for "very early morning."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper