American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. Any of several diving sea birds (family Alcidae) of northern regions, such as the razor-billed auk, having a chunky body, short wings, and webbed feet.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A diving bird belonging to the family Alcidæ and the order Pygopodes, characterized by having 3 toes, webbed feet, and short wings and tail. Originally the name was specifically applied to the great auk, or garefowl, Alca impennis, which became extinct about 1844, notable as the largest bird of the family and the only one deprived of the power of flight by reason of the smallness of its wings, though these were as perfectly formed as in other birds. It was about 30 inches long, the length of the wing being only about 6 inches. Its color was dark-brown above and white below, with a large white spot before the eye. It abounded on both coasts of the North Atlantic, nearly or quite to the arctic circle, and south on the American side to Massachusetts. The name came to be also specifically applied to the razor-billed auk, Alca or Utamania torda, a similar but much smaller species, about 15 inches long, with a white line instead of a spot before the eye; and finally, as a book-name, it was made synonymous with Alcidæ. Several North Pacific species still bear the name, as the rhinoceros auk (Ceratorhina monocerata), the crested auk (Simorhynchus cristatellus), etc.; but other special names are usually found for most of the birds of this family, as puffin, murre, guillemot, dovekie, auklet, etc. There are about 24 species belonging to the family. See Alca, Alcidæ.
- Same as awk.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Zoöl.) A name given to various species of arctic sea birds of the family
Alcidæ. The great auk, now extinct, is Alca impennis (or Plautus impennis) . The razor-billed auk is Alca torda. See puffin, guillemot, and murre.
- n. black-and-white short-necked web-footed diving bird of northern seas
- From Icelandic álka, from Old Norse álka ("auk"), from Proto-Germanic *allakōn, *allōn (“sea-bird”), from Proto-Indo-European *el- (a kind of bird). Cognate with Swedish alka ("auk"), Danish alke ("auk"), Swedish dialectal alla (fuligula glacialis, "long-tailed duck"), Latin olor ("swan"), Ancient Greek ελέα (eléa, "marsh-bird"), Welsh alarch ("swan"). (Wiktionary)
- Norwegian alk, from Old Norse ālka. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“On my way out, I take a few pictures of a great auk skeleton on a stand.”
“With huge 200,000-strong colonies of little auk thronging the cliffs and shores, kittiwakes next to the cobalt blue glaciers, walrus wallowing in the shallows, Arctic foxes, whales and, of course, one of the ultimate wildlife sightings, the mighty polar bear, frequently seen hunting in its frosty backyard on ice floes.”
“Decades before the Civil War astute observers noticed a decline in bison numbers and predicted that, like the great auk, the shaggy beasts would ultimately disappear.”
“Can genetic engineers do the same for the great auk?”
“The last European breeding bird to die out altogether was the great auk—an island species—in the 1840s.”
“Birdlife supporter Atwood - author of the Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake and the Blind Assassin - will speak at the exhibition as well as submitting a knitted great auk.”
“Like Monty Python's infamous dead parrot, the great auk that author Margaret Atwood is knitting probably shuffled off his mortal coil, ran down the curtain and joined the choir invisible 150 years ago.”
“As most news articles about the potential sale pointed out, studios are going the way of the great auk.”
“Many of us at the aquarium engaged in lively exchanges with visitors who insisted they saw penguins in Alaska or other locations in the Northern Hemisphere, but they likely saw razorbills, murres, puffins, guillemots, or other birds in the auk family.”
“At least one species, the great auk (Pinguinus impennis), is now extinct because of overexploitation.”
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