Definitions

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

  • noun Any of various small birds of the family Emberizidae, having brownish or grayish plumage and found throughout the Americas, such as the song sparrow.
  • noun Any of various birds of the family Passeridae, especially the house sparrow.
  • noun Any of various similar birds of other families, such as the Java sparrow.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The housesparrow, Passer domesticus, a fringilline bird of Europe, which has been imported and naturalized in America, Australia, and other countries.
  • noun Some or any fringilline bird resembling the sparrow, as Passer montanus, the tree-sparrow; one of various finches and buntings, mostly of plain coloration.
  • noun Some little bird likened to or mistaken for a sparrow.

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

  • noun (Zoöl.) One of many species of small singing birds of the family Fringilligæ, having conical bills, and feeding chiefly on seeds. Many sparrows are called also finches, and buntings. The common sparrow, or house sparrow, of Europe (Passer domesticus) is noted for its familiarity, its voracity, its attachment to its young, and its fecundity. See House sparrow, under house.
  • noun (Zoöl.) Any one of several small singing birds somewhat resembling the true sparrows in form or habits, as the European hedge sparrow. See under Hedge.
  • noun See under Field, Fox, etc.
  • noun a small nail; a castiron shoe nail; a sparable.
  • noun (Zoöl.) The Australian collared sparrow hawk (Accipiter torquatus).
  • noun (Zoöl.) a small owl (Glaucidium passerinum) found both in the Old World and the New. The name is also applied to other species of small owls.
  • noun (Zoöl.), [Prov. Eng.] the female of the reed bunting.

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

  • noun The house sparrow, Passer domesticus; a small bird with a short bill, and brown, white and gray feathers.
  • noun A member of the family Passeridae, comprising small Old World songbirds.
  • noun A member of the family Emberizidae, comprising small New World songbirds.
  • noun Generically, any small, nondescript bird.
  • noun UK A quick-witted, lively person. Often used in the phrase cockney sparrow.

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

  • noun any of several small dull-colored singing birds feeding on seeds or insects
  • noun small brownish European songbird

Etymologies

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

[Middle English sparowe, from Old English spearwa.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English sparwe, sparowe, from Old English spearwa ("sparrow"), from Proto-Germanic *sparwô, *sparwaz (“sparrow”), from Proto-Indo-European *sper(w)-, *sper(g)- (“sparrow, bird”). Cognate with Dutch spreeuw ("sparrow"), Alemannic German Spar ("sparrow"), German Sperling ("sparrow"), Danish spurv ("sparrow"), Swedish sparv ("sparrow"), Breton frao ("crow"), Tocharian A spārāñ, Ancient Greek ψάρ (psar, "starling").

Examples

Comments

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  • From "The Ecclesiastical History of the English", written by the Venerable Bebe circa A.D. 700. Bebe tells how King Edwin of Northumbria held a council in A.D. 627 to decide on the religion to be accepted in his kingdom, and gives the following speech to one of the king's chief men:

    "Your majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter's day with your thanes and counselors. In the mist there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside, the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing."

    January 25, 2008

  • I've heard this analogy but didn't realise it went right back to Bede; I thought it was a Viking thing. It's perfect, except it makes life look rosier than it really is.

    January 25, 2008

  • Ah, well, we don't really know that, do we yarb? Kind of Bede's point.

    January 25, 2008

  • I wasn't being entirely serious - I'm only an amateur pessimist. The feasting hall may not be quite as joyous as King Edwin implies, but I can't complain, so far, about my own transient appearance.

    January 25, 2008

  • "Recently, bird lovers found a new and even more potent ally than St. Francis. In an unexpected bureaucratic onslaught on the gourmets, the national confederation of farmers declared that mass slaughter of the useful and insectivorous sparrows was highly prejudicial to the nation's agriculture. Madrid's authorities promptly forbade the sale of pájaros fritos anywhere within the city. Specially appointed vigilantes now prowl Madrid's alleys to see that the law is observed. The price of black-market sparrows has soared from 2¢ to 25¢."

    - Orchard Chops, time.com, 1 Feb 1954.

    February 24, 2009

  • *shudder* I can't finish reading that.

    February 24, 2009