Dictionary.com

tern

1
[ turn ]
/ tɜrn /
Save This Word!

noun
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.
QUIZ
WILL YOU SAIL OR STUMBLE ON THESE GRAMMAR QUESTIONS?
Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of tern

1
First recorded in 1670–80; from Danish terne or Norwegian terna; cognate with Old Norse therna

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH tern

tern , turn

Other definitions for tern (2 of 2)

tern2
[ turn ]
/ tɜrn /

noun
a set of three.
three winning numbers drawn together in a lottery.
a prize won by drawing these.

Origin of tern

2
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. 2022

How to use tern in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for tern (1 of 2)

tern1
/ (tɜːn) /

noun
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

Word Origin for tern

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

British Dictionary definitions for tern (2 of 2)

tern2
/ (tɜːn) /

noun
a three-masted schooner
rare a group of three

Word Origin for tern

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
FEEDBACK