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Oct 5, 2015
This week’s theme
Bird words

This week’s words

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with Anu Garg

Coleridge had his albatross, Poe his raven; Shelley had his skylark, Keats his nightingale. And we have barely begun to explore the literary aviary.

Here at A.Word.A.Day we love all our feathery friends. They have their songs, but we are partial to the words they give us: canard (from duck) to kibitzer (from lapwing) to gossamer (from goose) and beyond.

This week we’ll look at five other words that are derived from birds. Call them bird words.



1. A large seabird known for catching fish by diving from a height.
2. A greedy person.

From Old English ganot. Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghans- (goose), which also gave us goose, gosling, gander, and gunsel. Earliest documented use: before 1000. Gannets’ reputation for being greedy isn’t deserved though. See here.

“Michael Buerk -- I am afraid there is no delicate way to put this -- is a gannet. He steals the very food from your plate. I recall one meal when he had polished off his own steak while I was eating rather more delicately. ‘Don’t you want the rest of that?’ he asked. And before I could answer, it was gone. -Broadcaster John Humphrys.”
The Things They Say...; The Western Morning News (Plymouth, UK); Dec 8, 2014.

“You’re going to have to pace yourself. Nobody likes a gannet, even at a buffet.”
Gareth May; The Ultimate Buffet Etiquette Guide; China Daily (Beijing); July 11, 2015.

See more usage examples of gannet in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

Within one linear centimeter of your lower colon there lives and works more bacteria (about 100 billion) than all humans who have ever been born. Yet many people continue to assert that it is we who are in charge of the world. -Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author (b. 5 Oct 1958)

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