From Middle English oule, owle, from Old English ūle, from Proto-Germanic *uwwalǭ (compare West Frisian ûle, Dutch uil, Danish and Norwegian ugle, German Eule), diminutive of *uwwǭ (“eagle-owl”) (compare German Uhu), of imitative origin or a variant of *ūfaz, *ūfǭ (compare Old English ūf or hūf, Swedish uv (“horned owl”), Bavarian Auf), from Proto-Indo-European *up- (compare Latvian ũpis (“eagle-owl”), Czech úpět (“to wail, howl”), Avestan ???????? (ufiieimi, “to call out”) ‘’).. A Germanic variant *uwwilǭ was the source of Old High German ūwila (German Eule).
owl (plural owls)
- Any of various birds of prey of the order Strigiformes that are primarily nocturnal and have forward-looking, binocular vision, limited eye movement, and good hearing. [from 8th c.]
- (by extension) A person seen as having owl-like characteristics, especially appearing wise or serious, or being nocturnally active. [from 14th c.]
- The owl pigeon. [from 18th c.]
- (politics, uncommon) A politician with moderate views that are neither hawkish nor dovish.
- Any of various nymphalid butterflies having large eyespots on the wings.
owl (third-person singular simple present owls, present participle owling, simple past and past participle owled)
- (archaic, intransitive) To smuggle contraband goods.