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tern1

[turn]
See more synonyms for tern on Thesaurus.com
noun
  1. any of numerous aquatic birds of the subfamily Sterninae of the family Laridae, related to the gulls but usually having a more slender body and bill, smaller feet, a long, deeply forked tail, and a more graceful flight, especially those of the genus Sterna, as S. hirundo (common tern), of Eurasia and America, having white, black, and gray plumage.
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Origin of tern1

1670–80; < Danish terne or Norwegian terna; cognate with Old Norse therna

tern2

[turn]
noun
  1. a set of three.
  2. three winning numbers drawn together in a lottery.
  3. a prize won by drawing these.
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Origin of tern2

1300–50; Middle English terne < Middle French < Italian terno < Latin ternus, singular of ternī three each, triad, akin to ter thrice; see three
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tern

Historical Examples

  • A name on our northern coasts for the Sterna hirundo, the tern, or sea-swallow.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • The tern, a bird resembling the gull, but more slender and swift.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • The bird which produces the guano is a sort of tern, with red bill and legs.

  • As regards pace on the wing the kingfisher is no match for the tern.

  • He had not risen a yard above the water when the tern noticed that he had quarry.


British Dictionary definitions for tern

tern1

noun
  1. any aquatic bird of the subfamily Sterninae, having a forked tail, long narrow wings, a pointed bill, and a typically black-and-white plumage: family Laridae (gulls, etc), order Charadriiformes
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Word Origin

C18: from Old Norse therna; related to Norwegian terna, Swedish tärna

tern2

noun
  1. a three-masted schooner
  2. rare a group of three
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Word Origin

C14: from Old French terne, from Italian terno, from Latin ternī three each; related to Latin ter thrice, trēs three
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 tern

n.

gull-like shore bird (subfamily Sterninae), 1670s, via East Anglian dialect, from a Scandinavian source (cf. Danish terne, Swedish tärna, Færoese terna) related to Old Norse þerna "tern," cognate with Old English stearn "starling."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper