[woo lvz]


plural of wolf.


[woo lf]

noun, plural wolves [woo lvz] /wʊlvz/.

any of several large carnivorous mammals of the genus Canis, of the dog family Canidae, especially C. lupus, usually hunting in packs, formerly common throughout the Northern Hemisphere but now chiefly restricted to the more unpopulated parts of its range.
the fur of such an animal.
any of various wolflike animals of different families, as the thylacine.
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Lupus.
the larva of any of various small insects infesting granaries.
a cruelly rapacious person.
Informal. a man who makes amorous advances to many women.
  1. the harsh discord heard in certain chords of keyboard instruments, especially the organ, when tuned on some system of unequal temperament.
  2. a chord or interval in which such a discord appears.
  3. (in bowed instruments) a discordant or false vibration in a string due to a defect in structure or adjustment of the instrument.

verb (used with object)

to devour voraciously (often followed by down): He wolfed his food.

verb (used without object)

to hunt for wolves.

Origin of wolf

before 900; Middle English; Old English wulf; cognate with German Wolf, Old Norse ulfr, Gothic wulfs, Polish wilk, Lithuanian vil̃kas, Sanskrit vṛka; akin to Latin lupus, Greek lýkos
Related formswolf·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wolves

Contemporary Examples of wolves

Historical Examples of wolves

  • Women were like she wolves for greed when they had a brood of whelps.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • Wolves or watch-dogs, it was hard to say from which the sheep had most to fear.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Down almost to our own day the depredations of wolves were frightful.

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • Why should a coyote, who is the least of all wolves, hunt for himself when he can find a man to follow?

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • Yes, they were wolves leaping at the throat of her father, and joying in the defeat of Lucretia.


    W. A. Fraser

British Dictionary definitions for wolves



the plural of wolf



Friedrich August (ˈfriːdrɪç ˈauɡʊst). 1759–1824, German classical scholar, who suggested that the Homeric poems, esp the Iliad, are products of an oral tradition
Hugo (ˈhuːɡo). 1860–1903, Austrian composer, esp of songs, including the Italienisches Liederbuch and the Spanisches Liederbuch
(wʊlf) Howlin'. See Howlin' Wolf


noun plural wolves (wʊlvz)

a predatory canine mammal, Canis lupus, which hunts in packs and was formerly widespread in North America and Eurasia but is now less commonSee also timber wolf Related adjective: lupine
any of several similar and related canines, such as the red wolf and the coyote (prairie wolf)
the fur of any such animal
Tasmanian wolf another name for the thylacine
a voracious, grabbing, or fiercely cruel person or thing
informal a man who habitually tries to seduce women
informal the destructive larva of any of various moths and beetles
Also called: wolf note music
  1. an unpleasant sound produced in some notes played on the violin, cello, etc, owing to resonant vibrations of the belly
  2. an out-of-tune effect produced on keyboard instruments accommodated esp to the system of mean-tone temperamentSee temperament (def. 4)
cry wolf to give a false alarm
keep the wolf from the door to ward off starvation or privation
lone wolf a person or animal who prefers to be alone
throw to the wolves to abandon or deliver to destruction
wolf in sheep's clothing a malicious person in a harmless or benevolent disguise


(tr often foll by down) to gulp (down)
(intr) to hunt wolves
Derived Formswolfish, adjectivewolflike, adjective

Word Origin for wolf

Old English wulf; related to Old High German wolf, Old Norse ulfr, Gothic wulfs, Latin lupus and vulpēs fox
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 wolves



Old English wulf, from Proto-Germanic *wulfaz (cf. Old Saxon wulf, Old Norse ulfr, Old Frisian, Dutch, Old High German, German wolf, Gothic wulfs), from PIE *wlqwos/*lukwos, from root *wlp-/*lup- (cf. Sanskrit vrkas, Avestan vehrka-; Albanian ulk; Old Church Slavonic vluku; Russian volcica; Lithuanian vilkas "wolf;" Old Persian Varkana- "Hyrcania," district southeast of the Caspian Sea, literally "wolf-land;" probably also Greek lykos, Latin lupus).

This manne can litle skyl ... to saue himself harmlesse from the perilous accidentes of this world, keping ye wulf from the doore (as they cal it). ["The Institution of a Gentleman," 1555]

Wolves as a symbol of lust are ancient, e.g. Roman slang lupa "whore," literally "she-wolf" (preserved in Spanish loba, Italian lupa, French louve). The equation of "wolf" and "prostitute, sexually voracious female" persisted into 12c., but by Elizabethan times wolves had become primarily symbolic of male lust. The specific use of wolf for "sexually aggressive male" first recorded 1847; wolf-whistle first attested 1952. The image of a wolf in sheep's skin is attested from c.1400. See here for a discussion of "wolf" in Indo-European history.



"eat like a wolf," 1862, from wolf (n.). Related: Wolfed; wolfing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with wolves


In addition to the idiom beginning with wolf

  • wolf in sheep's clothing

also see:

  • cry wolf
  • keep the wolf from the door
  • lone wolf
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.