any of numerous tube-nosed seabirds of the families Procellariidae, Hydrobatidae, and Pelecanoididae.

1670–80; earlier pitteral, of uncertain origin; perhaps altered by association with St. Peter (who attempted to walk on the water of Lake Gennesareth), alluding to the bird's habit of flying close to the ocean surface Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
petrel (ˈpɛtrəl)
See also storm petrel any oceanic bird of the order Procellariiformes, having a hooked bill and tubular nostrils: includes albatrosses, storm petrels, and shearwaters
[C17: variant of earlier pitteral, associated by folk etymology with St Peter, because the bird appears to walk on water]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1676, pitteral, modern spelling first recorded 1703 by Dampier, who says the bird was so called from its way of flying with its feet just skimming the surface of the water, which recalls the apostle's walk on the sea of Galilee (Matt. xiv:28); if so, it likely was formed in Eng. as a dim. of Peter (L.L.
Petrus). If this is folk-etymology, the true source of the name is undiscovered. Fr. pétrel (1760) probably is from Eng.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
We are enjoined to see the penguins as good and the giant petrel as wicked.
Authorities identified the large birds as a type of petrel known as the sooty shearing.
Images for petrel
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