Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of several brownish, long-legged shorebirds of the genus Numenius, having long, slender, downward-curving bills.

from The Century Dictionary.

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Zoöl.) A wading bird of the genus Numenius, remarkable for its long, slender, curved bill.
  • noun (Zoöl.) the whimbrel or lesser curlew.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a sandpiper (Tringa ferruginea or Tringa subarquata), common in Europe, rare in America, resembling a curlew in having a long, curved bill. See Illustation in Appendix.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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

Etymologies

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

[Middle English curleu, from Old French courlieu, perhaps of imitative origin.]

Examples

Comments

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  • 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

  • A confederate navy gunboat, according to Wikipedia.

    February 27, 2008

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

    February 27, 2008

  • 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