One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Poetic (A name for) the swallow (frequently treated poetically as a variety of songbird).
2Zoology. A genus of birds of the family Hirundinidae which comprises several American martins, notably the purple martin of North America, P. subis. Formerly also: †a martin of this genus (obsolete).
Late Middle English; earliest use found in Geoffrey Chaucer (c1340–1400), poet and administrator. From classical Latin Prognē, variant of Procnē (ancient Greek Πρόκνη), the name of Procne, the sister of Philomela, according to Greek mythology transformed into a swallow, also (in poetic use) a swallow.
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