One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Treated as plural. A large order of birds (now usually called Passeriformes), comprising the perching birds and (formerly) some others; the perching birds collectively, the passerines.
Mid 18th century; earliest use found in Gilbert White (1720–1793), naturalist. From scientific Latin Passeres, use as order name (Linnaeus Systema Naturae (ed. 10, 1758) I. 162) of plural of post-classical Latin Passer genus name of sparrows (used by Gesner and other 16th- and 17th-cent. writers) from classical Latin passer sparrow, of unknown origin.
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