One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A black-breasted auk (seabird) with a narrow pointed bill, typically nesting on cliff ledges.
Family Alcidae, genus Cepphus: several species, in particular the North Atlantic black guillemot (C. grylle), with a white wing patch in summer and pale plumage in winter
- ‘The lines of supporting buoys have been adopted by cormorants, gulls, guillemots, eider ducks, oystercatchers and even the odd heron.’
- ‘Along thousands of miles of coastline, you will see colonies of seabirds clustered in cliffs - gannets, puffins, guillemots, razorbills, and kittiwakes.’
- ‘The razorbill, fulmar, guillemot, kittiwake, chough and short-eared owl will all make your acquaintance on this magical island.’
- ‘There's always the chance of a minke whale, too, while terns, fulmars, guillemots, puffins and shearwaters come as standard.’
- ‘If something black and white whirs by, it's probably a pigeon guillemot, a cousin of the puffin that nests in cliffside cavities.’
Late 17th century: from French, diminutive of Guillaume ‘William’.
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