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[koo-koo, koo k-oo] /ˈku ku, ˈkʊk u/
noun, plural cuckoos.
a common European bird, Cuculus canorus, of the family Cuculidae, noted for its characteristic call and its brood parasitism.
any of several other birds of the family Cuculidae.
the call of the cuckoo, or an imitation of it.
Slang. a crazy, silly, or foolish person; simpleton.
verb (used without object), cuckooed, cuckooing.
to utter the call of the cuckoo or an imitation of it.
verb (used with object), cuckooed, cuckooing.
to repeat monotonously.
Slang. crazy; silly; foolish.
of, relating to, or like a cuckoo.
Origin of cuckoo
1200-50; Middle English cuc(c)u, cuccuk(e) (imitative); compare Latin cucūlus, French coucou, German Kuckuk, Dutch koekoek, Modern Greek koûko Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for cuckoo
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I heard of a cuckoo that dispossessed a robin of its nest; of another that set a blue jay adrift.

    Wake-Robin John Burroughs
  • It deposits its eggs, like the cuckoo, in the nests of other birds.

    The Western World W.H.G. Kingston
  • The cuckoo sang (she loves the near neighbourhood of man) and flew over the channel towards a little copse.

    After London Richard Jefferies
  • After the first of July I neither saw nor heard a cuckoo of either species!

    The Foot-path Way Bradford Torrey
  • First of all, in August, went the cuckoo, seeking a winter resort in the north of Africa.

    A Cotswold Village J. Arthur Gibbs
  • He has bronze, marble, cuckoo, corner or "grandfather" clocks—all in his house.

    The Johnstown Horror James Herbert Walker
  • The cuckoo seems such an unpractical and inefficient bird that it is interesting to see it doing things.

    Under the Maples John Burroughs
  • The cuckoo, like the woodcock, is supposed to have its forerunner.

    Birds in the Calendar Frederick G. Aflalo
British Dictionary definitions for cuckoo


noun (pl) -oos
any bird of the family Cuculidae, having pointed wings, a long tail, and zygodactyl feet: order Cuculiformes. Many species, including the European cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and have a two-note call
(informal) an insane or foolish person
(informal) insane or foolish
an imitation or representation of the call of a cuckoo
verb -oos, -ooing, -ooed
(transitive) to repeat over and over
(intransitive) to make the sound imitated by the word cuckoo
Word Origin
C13: from Old French cucu, of imitative origin; related to German kuckuck, Latin cucūlus, Greek kokkux
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cuckoo

mid-13c., from Old French cocu "cuckoo," also "cuckold," echoic of the male bird's mating cry (cf. Greek kokkyx, Latin cuculus, Middle Irish cuach, Sanskrit kokilas). Slang sense of "crazy" (adj.) is American English, 1918, but noun meaning "stupid person" is first recorded 1580s, perhaps from the bird's unvarying, oft-repeated call. The Old English name was geac, cognate with Old Norse gaukr, source of Scottish and northern English gowk. The Germanic words presumably originally were echoic, too, but had drifted in form. Cuckoo clock is from 1789.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for cuckoo



Crazy; very eccentric; nutty: Where do you get these cuckoo ideas? (1918+)


A crazy or eccentric person (1581+)

[perhaps because of the bird's monotonous, silly-sounding call]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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cuckoo in the Bible

(Heb. shahaph), from a root meaning "to be lean; slender." This bird is mentioned only in Lev. 11:16 and Deut. 14:15 (R.V., "seamew"). Some have interpreted the Hebrew word by "petrel" or "shearwater" (Puffinus cinereus), which is found on the coast of Syria; others think it denotes the "sea-gull" or "seamew." The common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) feeds on reptiles and large insects. It is found in Asia and Africa as well as in Europe. It only passes the winter in Palestine. The Arabs suppose it to utter the cry _Yakub_, and hence they call it _tir el-Yakub_; i.e., "Jacob's bird."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with cuckoo


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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