One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A seabird related to the gulls, typically smaller and more slender, with long pointed wings and a forked tail.
Family Sternidae (or Laridae): several genera, in particular Sterna, and many species
- ‘Although terns are closely related to seagulls, sharing a general black-and-grey pattern of plumage with their cousins, they have slim silvery bodies and deeply forked tails.’
- ‘Around the rocky shores sea birds such as gulls, terns, cormorants, gannets and puffins nested in the cliffs and dunes.’
- ‘Virtually every conservation body in the land controls foxes to stop predation of a range of birds from terns to avocets to grey partridges.’
- ‘The estate is home to a variety of bird life, from breeding common terns, nightingales and tufted ducks to vast numbers of wintering birds, such as wigeon, smew and goosander.’
- ‘Unlike many larger terns, the Common Tern does not have a crest.’
- ‘While there are few wild animals in Iceland, there is abundant birdlife - ducks, geese and, among the many sea-birds I spotted, petrels, puffins, tern, gannets, skuas and shearwaters.’
- ‘Lone Little Gulls are often found amidst flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls and terns.’
- ‘In this lagoon, brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, great and snowy egrets, and numerous terns and gulls forage for fish and other items of food all day long.’
- ‘Elegant Terns sometimes breed in mixed colonies with other terns or Heerman's Gulls, where their nests are packed closely together.’
- ‘Predators of barracuda include such birds as bald eagles and terns.’
- ‘Unlike seabirds like terns or shearwaters, which can rest and feed along the way, the curlews will drown if they land on the ocean.’
- ‘Here, 600 acres of the former Naval Air Station plus 400 acres of bay are being cleaned up for endangered California least terns as well as northern harriers, great blue herons, and brown pelicans.’
- ‘As you explore the tidal marshes and brackish ponds, remember to look upward from time to time: for osprey and terns diving in the sky and bald eagles on top of the tallest pines.’
- ‘The largest of the terns, the Caspian Tern is one of the most widespread tern species in the world, occurring on every continent except Antarctica.’
- ‘You may also observe jaegers, terns, and petrels as they make their long ocean journey and be rewarded with views of flying fish and the occasional humpback whale.’
- ‘Reports from South Beach, Chatham, indicate extraordinarily high numbers of terns and shorebirds.’
- ‘Even in Scotland, which has some thriving water-bird populations, species such as shag, arctic skua, herring gull, kittiwake and terns are under threat.’
- ‘Rhia was amazed that the marine birds - gulls, terns and cormorants - went about their business as though the weather were of little consequence.’
- ‘The waters surrounding Pigeon Island offer great fishing for sea birds including gulls, terns and the brown booby.’
- ‘In gulls and terns, differences in chick survival may be more affected by compositional changes in the amount of lipid or protein in the eggs than by overall size of the egg.’
Late 17th century: of Scandinavian origin; related to Danish terne and Swedish tärna, both from Old Norse therna.
A set of three, especially three lottery numbers that when drawn together win a large prize.
- ‘The terno seco, or "straight" tern, differs from the plain tern in being governed by some special conditions that heighten still more the risk, such as the requirement that the player must stake all on his ‘terno’, without the right, should he miss part of his three numbers, to claim the benefit of the resulting ‘ambo’ or ‘extracto’.’
- ‘Three lemons in a row on a fruit machine could be called a 'tern'.’
- ‘There were additional prizes for winning sequences of numbers, three in a row being a tern and four a quatern.’
Late Middle English: apparently from French terne, from Latin terni ‘three at once, three each’, from ter ‘thrice’.
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