least bit tern

least bittern

See under bittern1 ( def 2 ).

1805–15, Americanism

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1 [bit-ern]
any of several tawny brown herons that inhabit reedy marshes, as Botaurus lentiginosus (American bittern) of North America, and B. stellaris, of Europe.
any of several small herons of the genus Ixobrychus, as I. exilis (least bittern) of temperate and tropical North and South America.

1510–20; bitter, bittor bittern + -n (perhaps by association with heron), Middle English bito(u)r, butur, boto(u)r < Anglo-French bytore, Anglo-French, Old French butor < Vulgar Latin *būtitaurus, equivalent to *būti-, perhaps to be identified with Latin būteō a species of hawk (see buteo) + Latin taurus bull (cited by Pliny as a name for a bird emitting a bellowing sound)

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
bittern1 (ˈbɪtən)
any wading bird of the genera Ixobrychus and Botaurus, related and similar to the herons but with shorter legs and neck, a stouter body, and a booming call: family Ardeidae, order Ciconiiformes
[C14: from Old French butor, perhaps from Latin būtiō bittern + taurus bull; referring to its cry]

bittern2 (ˈbɪtən)
the bitter liquid remaining after common salt has been crystallized out of sea water: a source of magnesium, bromine, and iodine compounds
[C17: variant of bittering; see bitter]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

13c., botor, from O.Fr. butor, from Gallo-Romance *butitaurus, from L. butionem "bittern" + taurus "bull" (see steer (n.)); according to Pliny, so called because of its booming voice, but this seems fanciful.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Bible Dictionary

Bittern definition

is found three times in connection with the desolations to come upon Babylon, Idumea, and Nineveh (Isa. 14:23; 34:11; Zeph. 2:14). This bird belongs to the class of cranes. Its scientific name is Botaurus stellaris. It is a solitary bird, frequenting marshy ground. The Hebrew word (kippod) thus rendered in the Authorized Version is rendered "porcupine" in the Revised Version. But in the passages noted the kippod is associated with birds, with pools of water, and with solitude and desolation. This favours the idea that not the "porcupine" but the "bittern" is really intended by the word.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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