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tern

1
[ turn ]
/ tɜrn /
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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.
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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. 2021

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
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