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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Passerine \Pas"ser*ine\, a. [L. passerinus, fr. passer a sparrow.] (Zo["o]l.) Of or pertaining to the Passeres.

The columbine, gallinaceous, and passerine tribes people the fruit trees.
--Sydney Smith.


Passerine \Pas"ser*ine\, n. (Zo["o]l.) One of the Passeres.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1776, from Latin passerinus "of a sparrow," from passer "sparrow," possibly of imitative origin. The noun is 1842, from the adjective.


a. Of, or relating to a passerine or perching bird. n. Any bird of the order Passeriformes, which comprises more than half of all bird species.

  1. adj. relating to or characteristic of the passeriform birds [ant: nonpasserine]

  2. n. perching birds mostly small and living near the ground with feet having 4 toes arranged to allow for gripping the perch; most are songbirds; hatchlings are helpless [syn: passeriform bird]


A passerine is any bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. A notable feature of passerines compared to other orders of Aves is the arrangement of their toes, three pointing forward and one back, which facilitates perching. Sometimes known as perching birds or, less accurately, as songbirds, the passerines form one of the most diverse terrestrial vertebrate orders, with over 5,000 identified species. It has roughly twice as many species as the largest of the mammal orders, the Rodentia. It contains more than 110 families, the second-most of any order of tetrapods (after Squamata, the scaled reptiles). The passerines contain several groups of brood parasites such as the viduas, cuckoo-finches, and the cowbirds. Most passerines are omnivorous, while the shrikes are carnivorous.

The names "passerine" and "Passeriformes" are derived from Passer domesticus, the scientific name of the eponymous species (the house sparrow) and ultimately from the Latin term passer for Passer sparrows and similar small birds.

Usage examples of "passerine".

But being a Passerine had been better than being a clerk for his uncle.

I owe you greatly for bringing my Passerine where he could spy for me.

Seraph found that the robes obscured enough differences that she had a hard time picking out Toarsen, the only Passerine she knew, from the rest.

If it were, it was a much larger one than the inconsiderable passerine songsters that fluttered about him.

For the use of beginners a brief field color key to genera of some of the common Passerine birds is given in an appendix.

They and their passerine pattern are, so to speak, mutually creative of each other.

Each one of them, without the society of the others organised in this passerine manner, would be something different through and through from what it is.

These expeditions are called hunting, and on feast-days the more athletic citizens urge their horses about the stony deserts in search of a more or less fabulous creature said to resemble a hare and blaze away at the very few things that move, usually a dingy, inedible passerine which I take to be a dwarvish subspecies of Sturnus horridus.