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

  • noun A large flightless seabird (Pinguinus impennis) formerly common on northern Atlantic coasts but extinct since the mid-1800s.

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

  • noun A large auk, Pinguinus impennis.

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

  • noun large flightless auk of rocky islands off northern Atlantic coasts; extinct


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  • The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis, formerly in genus Alca) is an extinct bird. It was the only species in the genus Pinguinus - flightless giant auks from the Atlantic - to survive until modern times, but it has been extinct since the mid-19th century. It was also known as garefowl or gairfowl (from the Old Norse geirfugl, meaning "spear-bird", a reference to the shape of its beak), or penguin (before the birds known today under that name were called so).

    In the past, the Great Auk was found in great numbers on islands off eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Ireland and Great Britain, but it was eventually hunted to extinction.


    January 30, 2008