Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of several brownish, long-legged shore birds of the genus Numenius, having long, slender, downward-curving bills.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of several migratory wading birds in the genus Numenius of the family Scolopacidae, remarkable for their long, slender, downcurved bills.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A wading bird of the genus Numenius, remarkable for its long, slender, curved bill.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A bird of the genus Numenius.
  • n. A name of several grallatorial birds with slender decurved bill, not of the genus Numenius.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. large migratory shorebirds of the sandpiper family; closely related to woodcocks but having a down-curved bill

Etymologies

Middle English curleu, from Old French courlieu, perhaps of imitative origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

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  • The sea is flecked with bars of gray,
    The dull dead wind is out of tune,
    And like a withered leaf the moon
    Is blown across the stormy bay.

    Etched clear upon the pallid sand
    The black boat lies: a sailor boy
    Clambers aboard in careless joy
    With laughing face and gleaming hand.

    And overhead the curlews cry,
    Where through the dusky upland grass
    The young brown-throated reapers pass,
    Like silhouettes against the sky.

    -- Oscar Wilde

    January 28, 2010

  • No kidding? And here I've always believed it was just a bird. ;-) Thanks, John!

    February 27, 2008

  • A confederate navy gunboat, according to Wikipedia.

    February 27, 2008

  • A grallatorial bird of the genus Numenius (family Scolopacidae), with a long slender curved bill; esp. the common European species N. arquatus (called in Scotland whaup).

    Have you ever walked the lonesome hills
    And heard the curlews cry
    Or seen the raven black as night
    Upon a windswept sky
    --"Young Ned of the Hill," the Pogues, c. 1989 Terry Woods & Ron Kavana

    February 7, 2007