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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ But we were hoping for a much rarer black bird ... Offshore, fished arctic terns.
▪ We have publicised the plight of arctic terns, seals, badgers and intensively reared animals.
▪ Only the egrets, spoonbill, and least tern, however, faced actual extinction before help arrived.
▪ Rare species like the roseate tern, which breeds on our rocky islands, are severely threatened in their wintering areas.
▪ The tern is swift, turning tightly among the flock to avoid the pirate.
▪ The Forster's tern occurs year-round in our area.
▪ They have been known to swim to an offshore tern colony and kill dozens of chicks and adults in a single night.
▪ This has to be the most elegant and beautiful of all the tern tribe.
▪ We identified two different types of albatross, four species of petrel, and a tern.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Tern \Tern\, a. [L. pl. terni three each, three; akin to tres three. See Three, and cf. Trine.] Threefold; triple; consisting of three; ternate.

Tern flowers (Bot.), flowers growing three and three together.

Tern leaves (Bot.), leaves arranged in threes, or three by three, or having three in each whorl or set.

Tern peduncles (Bot.), three peduncles growing together from the same axis.

Tern schooner (Naut.), a three-masted schooner.


Tern \Tern\ (t[~e]rn), n. [Dan. terne, t[ae]rne; akin to Sw. t["a]rna, Icel. [thorn]erna; cf. NL. sterna.] (Zo["o]l.) Any one of numerous species of long-winged aquatic birds, allied to the gulls, and belonging to Sterna and various allied genera.

Note: Terns differ from gulls chiefly in their graceful form, in their weaker and more slender bills and feet, and their longer and more pointed wings. The tail is usually forked. Most of the species are white with the back and wings pale gray, and often with a dark head. The common European tern ( Sterna hirundo) is found also in Asia and America. Among other American species are the arctic tern ( Sterna paradis[ae]a), the roseate tern ( Sterna Dougalli), the least tern ( Sterna Antillarum), the royal tern ( Sterna maxima), and the sooty tern ( Sterna fuliginosa).

Hooded tern. See Fairy bird, under Fairy.

Marsh tern, any tern of the genus Hydrochelidon. They frequent marshes and rivers and feed largely upon insects.

River tern, any tern belonging to Se["e]na or allied genera which frequent rivers.

Sea tern, any tern of the genus Thalasseus. Terns of this genus have very long, pointed wings, and chiefly frequent seas and the mouths of large rivers.


Tern \Tern\, n. [F. terne. See Tern, a.] That which consists of, or pertains to, three things or numbers together; especially, a prize in a lottery resulting from the favorable combination of three numbers in the drawing; also, the three numbers themselves.

She'd win a tern in Thursday's lottery.
--Mrs. Browning.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

gull-like shore bird (subfamily Sterninae), 1670s, via East Anglian dialect, from a Scandinavian source (compare Danish terne, Swedish tärna, Færoese terna) related to Old Norse þerna "tern" (also "maid-servant"), cognate with Old English stearn.


Etymology 1 n. Any of various sea birds of the family ''Sternidae'' that are similar to gulls but are smaller and have a forked tail. Etymology 2

a. threefold; triple; consisting of three; ternate n. 1 That which consists of, or pertains to, three things or numbers together. 2 (context dated English) A lottery prize resulting from the favourable combination of three numbers in the draw.


n. small slender gull having narrow wings and a forked tail


Terns are seabirds in the family Sternidae that have a worldwide distribution and are normally found near the sea, rivers, or wetlands. Previously considered a subfamily of the gulls, Laridae, they are now usually given full family status and divided into eleven genera. They are slender, lightly built birds with long, forked tails, narrow wings, long bills, and relatively short legs. Most species are pale grey above and white below, with a contrasting black cap to the head, but the marsh terns, the Inca tern, and some noddies have dark plumage for at least part of the year. The sexes are identical in appearance, but young birds are readily distinguishable from adults. Terns have a non-breeding plumage, which usually involves a white forehead and much-reduced black cap.

The terns are birds of open habitats that typically breed in noisy colonies and lay their eggs on bare ground with little or no nest material. Marsh terns construct floating nests from the vegetation in their wetland habitats, and a few species build simple nests in trees, on cliffs or in crevices. The white tern, uniquely, lays its single egg on a bare tree branch. Depending on the species, one to three eggs make up the clutch. Most species feed on fish caught by diving from flight, but the marsh terns are insect-eaters, and some large terns will supplement their diet with small land vertebrates. Many terns are long-distance migrants, and the Arctic tern may see more daylight in a year than any other animal.

Terns are long-lived birds and are relatively free from natural predators and parasites; most species are declining in numbers due directly or indirectly to human activities, including habitat loss, pollution, disturbance, and predation by introduced mammals. The Chinese crested tern is in a critical situation and three other species are classed as endangered. International agreements provide a measure of protection, but adults and eggs of some species are still used for food in the tropics. The eggs of two species are eaten in the West Indies because they are believed to have aphrodisiac properties.

Tern (disambiguation)

A tern is a seabird in the family Sternidae.

Tern may also refer to:

  • Alan Tern (b. 1976), Singaporean actor
  • Miller Tern, glider
  • River Tern, a river in Shropshire, England
  • Tern (company), a folding bicycle company in Taiwan
  • Tern oil platform, an oil field in the Shetland basin in Scotland
  • , more than one United States Navy ship

The abbreviation TERN refers to

  • the Trans-European road network
  • DARPA's TERN project to return fixed-wing UAVs to surface combatants.
Tern (company)

Tern is a privately held company that designs, manufactures, markets, and sells versatile bikes for everyday use. The company is based in Taipei, Taiwan and has offices in the US, China, Finland, and the UK. The company's primary products include folding bicycles and cycling accessories, which are currently sold in 65 countries. Though founded only in 2011, the company's bikes have already received a number of international design awards, including iF and Red Dot awards.

In 2013, the company secured from private investors US$4.3 million in funding, which the company will use to accelerate global expansion and to ramp up its product development.

Usage examples of "tern".

The most they saw that day was a school of silver pannies swimming south, but never a dolphin leapt nor did the flight of gull or murre or tern break the grey air.

But Tioni had warned that if they mated, they would set forces in motion that would affect not only all of Volter Terra, but his home, Tern Terra, as well.

There is no place but Volter, Terra, Tern Terra, and the Mountains of The Gods.

Hunter is the only Great Carnivore from Tern Terra in all of Volter and Terra.

When the Great Carnivores came down from Tern Terra, they would life mate with the women of Volter Terra.

Soon, the men of Volter Terra, jealous and fearful of losing all their women to the Tern Terrians, began to hunt the Great Carnivores.

But Tioni had warned that if they mated, they would set forces in motion that would affect not only all of Volter Terra, but his home Tern Terra as well.

For what began with cat and mouse torments me today in the form of crested terns on ponds bordered with rushes.

As they went down the Danian coast aboard the Tern, they saw several bargeloads of cargo from Bliggen, destined for the Lord Paramount, so it was said by the bargemen.

The buntings, longspurs, and terns were gone from the top of the world.

Cassie moved slowly along the beach, oblivious to the terns and gulls wheeling overhead and the sandpipers skittering ahead of her as they searched the tidelands for morsels of food.

Coues saw the gulls to Buphogus--the sea-hen of the sealers-- pursue make them disgorge their food, while, on the other side, the gulls and the terns combined to drive away the sea-hen as soon as it came near to their abodes, especially at nesting-time.

Squinting against the cold gale blowing in his face, the cardsmith recognized sooty seagulls, wide-winged albatrosses, tiny black-masked terns, long-necked cormorants, fat pelicans: birds built for gliding great distances, that could cross vast oceans without weakening and dying.

Ceaseless screeching and cawing and hissing testified to the competition for prime sites among dragonets and puffins, gulls and terns.

Terns, gulls, and petrels, all hinds of sea birds frequent this sanctuary, and its porch is cooled by the continual fanning of their wings still moist from the sea.