One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A swift-flying insectivorous songbird of the swallow family, typically having a less strongly forked tail than a swallow.
Family Hirundinidae: several genera and numerous species, e.g., the purple martin
- ‘House martins breed over a vast area of the Palearctic region from the Atlantic towards the Pacific and as far north as arctic Scandinavia.’
- ‘In flight, European Starlings can be confused with Purple Martins, but the narrower wings, forked tails, and typical swallow flight of martins distinguish the two.’
- ‘Both bats and martins, it turns out, prefer larger insects such as beetles, moths, flies, wasps and bees, which give a better return on their energy efforts.’
- ‘Particularly special is the pine martin, a member of the weasel family about the size of a house cat and found only in a few northern regions in the United States.’
- ‘The eaves and thatch of the houses would have supplied nesting sites for many birds such as wrens, swallows and martins, and also for bats in the older less well tended buildings.’
Late Middle English: probably a shortening of obsolete martinet, from French, probably from St Martin of Tours, celebrated at Martinmas.
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