One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A parrot with an erectile crest, found in Australia, eastern Indonesia, and neighbouring islands.
- ‘Many parrots, macaws and cockatoos are also being driven close to extinction by international trade.’
- ‘When living at the hotel on Thursday Island in 1891 he installed a cage of parrots and cockatoos on the verandah.’
- ‘The foreign birds, most of these parrots and cockatoos, unfortunately need to be kept in cages.’
- ‘Like other cockatoos, the cockatiel has a retractable crest which it raises up and down in response to alarm, excitement and other emotions.’
- ‘Surprisingly, parrots and cockatoos can get jealous of other pets, so if there's a new animal in the house be patient whilst your bird gets used to the newcomer.’
2NZ Australian informal A small-scale farmer.
3NZ Australian informal A lookout posted by those engaged in illegal activity.‘he is alleged to act as cockatoo during these meetings’
- ‘They say the louts are working in twos and watching as you leave to go fishing, with one acting as a cockatoo back along the wall, watching for other approaching vehicles.’
Mid 17th century: from Dutch kaketoe, from Malay kakatua, the spelling influenced by cock. cockatoo (sense 2 of the noun, date from the 19th century.
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