late Old English–1500s Mai
, Middle English Mæi
, Middle English Maiȝe
, Middle English–1500s Maii
, Middle English–1500s Maij
, Middle English–1600s Maye
, Middle English– May
, 1500s–1600s Maie
, pre-1700 Maie
, pre-1700 Maii
, pre-1700 Maij
, pre-1700 Maye
, pre-1700 Mayi
, pre-1700 Mey
, pre-1700 1700s– May
, pre-1700 1700s– Mey
, 1800s– mei
; also Irish English
. (Show Less)
Origin: Of multiple origins. Partly a borrowing from French. Partly a borrowing from Latin. Etymons: French mai; Latin Māius.
< Anglo-Norman mai
, Old French, Middle French, French mai
1100) and its etymon classical Latin Māius
(adjective and, short for Māius mēnsis
, noun), probably < the name of a deity cognate with the name of the goddess Māia
(see ) and with magnus
great (see ).
Derivatives of the classical Latin word include: Hellenistic Greek Μάϊος
; Occitan mai
, Spanish mayo
, Portuguese maio
, Italian maggio
; Middle Dutch meye
), Middle Low German mey
, Old High German meio
(Middle High German meie
, German Mai
), Old Swedish mai
), Danish maj
is found in Anglo-Norman and regional French; sense
is found in French from the 16th cent., though the sense ‘green branches’ is attested from the 12th cent.
In Old English and Middle English texts Latin Maius
is often used for the month (in Old English sometimes alongside the vernacular names Þrīmeolce
OE Menologium 79
Cymeð wlitig scriðan þrymlice [prob. read Þrymilce] on tun, þearfe bringeð Maius micle geond menigeo gehwær.
OE Byrhtferð Enchiridion
ii. ii. 100
Nouember and December habbað fif and twentig ealdne monan,..and Aprelis and Maius eahta and twentig.
a1387 J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron.
(St. John's Cambr.)
He ordeyned a monthe and cleped hym Maius [?a1475 Harl. Maij], þat is, þe monþe of þe grete men.
G. Chaucer Treat. Astrolabe
i. §10. 6
Ianuare, Februare, Marcius, Aprile, Mayus.
Forms ending in ii
may have been influenced by the genitive of the Latin etymon, with which they are homographic, and which frequently occurred in dates.
[c1395 G. Chaucer 1695
That she this mayden, which þat Mayus highte..Shal wedded be vnto this Ianuarie.]
c1395 G. Chaucer 1886
Thilke day That Ianuarie hath wedded fresshe May.
1581 T. Howell sig. I.ij
In fayth doth frozen Ianus double face, Such fauour finde, to match with pleasant Maye.
1606 T. Dekker vii. sig. F4
You doe wrong to Time, inforcing May to embrace December.
1654 E. Gayton ii. iv. 50
When fifteen joines to Seventy, there's old doings (as they say), the Man and Wife fitting together like January and May day.
1734 11 May 1/1
In this our Town I've heard some Youngster say, That cold December does make Love to May.
1891 R. Buchanan 267
When asthmatic January weds buxom May.
1954 D. S. Davis in June 38/2
He was seeking advice on his daughter's infatuation with a man three times her age..the May and December affairs are rare indeed.
1981 P. F. Boller 97
When Tyler, a widower, married a woman thirty years his junior, the Whigs circulated jokes about the mating of January and May.
1506 in J. B. Paul
Item, to ane Quene of Maij at the Abbay ȝet, be the Kingis command xiiijs.
1557 H. Machyn
The lord and the lade of the Maye.
1577 Gen. Assembly in F. J. Child
III. v. 45
Discharge playes of Robin Hood, King of May, and sick others, on the Sabboth day.
a1586 Peblis to Play in W. A. Craigie
Sum said þat þai wer merkat folk Sum said the quene of may wes cumit.
1613 F. Beaumont v. sig. K3
I..by all men chosen was Lord of the May.
1673 J. Dryden ii. i. 28
Then I was made the Lady of the May.
1711 R. Steele No. 80. ⁋2
The Girls preceded their parents like Queens of May, in all the gaudy Colours imaginable, on every Sunday to Church.
1727 W. Somerville 32
At Whitson-ales king of the May..He tript it on each holyday.
1812 M. M. Sherwood
Why, Susan, you look as handsome as the queen of May in that hat.
1832 Ld. Tennyson May Queen i, in
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
1880 A. J. Munby iii. 66
Cleanly and sweet as she was, fit to be Queen of the May.
1948 E. Crozier
Has anyone heard of a King of the May?
1980 P. G. Winslow 8
What am I supposed to be?.. Queen of the May?
[1675 W. Winstanley sig. B
The Proverb saies..Of all the Moneths 'tis worst to Wed in May.
1821 J. Galt vi. 66
We were married on the 29th day of April..on account of the dread that we had of being married in May, for it is said, ‘Of the marriages in May, The bairns die of a decay.’]
1879 W. Henderson
The ancient proverb still lives on the lips of the people of Scotland and the Borders—Marry in May, Rue for Aye.
1913 E. M. Wright xiii. 218
Marry in May, You'll rue it for aye, is a Devonshire saying.
1936 C. Sandburg 123
Marry in May, repent always. May is the month to marry bad wives.
1981 28 June 27
On weddings and engagements we are told that May is an unlucky month for getting married, ‘Marry in May, rue for aye.’
Specific uses of particular dates in May.
1930 J. Chi-Hung Lynn vii. 105
The May 4th incident was only an upshot of the great popular movement, the influence of which is felt even to-day.
1938 11 314
Because of the strong development of capitalism in China during the World War, the bourgeois May Fourth Movement was possible in 1919.
1949 8 154
The introduction of scientific methods of historical research, especially after the May 4th movement in 1919.
1989 J. Hunter
The 1919 Versailles Conference decision to award Shandong to Japan sparked off the nationalist eruption of the 4 May Movement in Beijing.
1994 67 444
Tu provides correctives to both the May 4th view of Confucianism as a purely secular humanism and the somewhat related Weberian misunderstanding of it as this-worldly accommodationism.
1967 17 Nov. 9/2
It is proposed to transform Tongji University into the ‘May 7th’ Commune... The ‘May 7th’ Commune will abolish existing departments... The ‘May 7th’ Commune will set up political work departments.
1978 July 7/3
The general call for study is combined with a directive to reopen the Party schools for studying Marxism-Leninism, to make sure the May 7th Cadre schools are run well and to study and summarise Party history.
1986 C. Dietrich vi. 200
‘May 7 Cadre Schools’ began to be established all over the country. These were special farms set up, manned, and run by cadres of all ranks, assigned in groups for six-months to three years.
(In sense .)
May Evening Sports.
1836 C. Dickens
Although it was a May evening, their attachment to the wood fire appeared as cordial as if it were Christmas.
1988 M. Drabble 61
It was she herself that had seduced Cliff, in a field of cow parsley on a May evening.
a1889 G. M. Hopkins
May-hope of our darkened ways!
1877 G. M. Hopkins
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
a1470 T. Malory
(Winch. Coll. 13)
Lyke as May moneth flowryth and floryshyth in every mannes gardyne.
1600 S. Nicholson sig. B1v
In the May moneth of my blooming yeares.
1736 H. Fielding Ded. sig. Aiiv
A play judiciously brought on by you in the May-Month.
1887 T. Hardy III. iv. 295
The time of year..was just that transient period in the May month when beech trees have suddenly unfolded large limp young leaves.
I'm glad you came now. May month is always our most beautiful.
1576 G. Gascoigne Ep. Ded. sig. A.ijv
In the Maymoone of my youth.
1812 T. Moore Young May Moon in III. v. 18
The young May moon is beaming, love.
1948 W. C. Williams II. §iii.
Alone, watching the May moon above the Trees.
a1616 W. Shakespeare
i. ii. 120
My thrice-puissant Liege Is in the very May-Morne of his Youth.
1832–53 3rd Ser. (Sc. Songs) 73
Last Sunday, in your faither's dais, I saw thy bloomin' May-morn face.
1878 R. Browning xv
On May-morns, that primeval rite Of temple-building..lingers.
1922 E. Blunden 26
And petal-tambourines shall earn A largess this May morn.
1611 G. Chapman iv. 65
That will be at the May night shew at Signior Honorios.
1873 R. Browning ii. 71
Glisteningly beneath the May-night moon.
1990 R. Graham vii. 183
Siddhartha Gautama sat one May night beneath a peepul tree.
?a1513 W. Dunbar Tua Mariit Wemen in
Grein..as the gres that grew in May sessoun.
1901 G. Barlow 63
Sweetness of the bright May season.
Alle freliche foules..for merþe of þat may time þei made moche noyce.
1633 P. Fletcher xii. lxxxii. 179
More fruitfull then the May-time Geminies.
1807 W. Wordsworth I. 14
But all things else about her drawn From May-time and the chearful Dawn.
1930 T. S. Eliot 14
The broadbacked figure..Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
1996 F. Chappell
The illicit loving pair had kept their secret appointment and planned to meet again in the shining Maytime.
1773 R. Fergusson 5
The May-born Flourets of Spring.
1869 W. Davies No. 164
Clear memories and lofty hopes that bless, Like odours May-born breezes leave behind.
1884 Feb. 518
In June, when the May-yeaned lambs were skipping in the sunshine.
(In sense , esp. designating objects and events forming part of traditional May Day celebrations.)
1492–3 (Hertfordshire Archives: DP/21/5/1) f. 7
1497–8 in W. I. Haward & H. M. Duncan
In losse off evyll money taken at the may ale.
1516 in J. L. Glasscock
Item resseyvyd of the may ale above all charge ls.
1778 W. Hutchinson Anc. Customs 14, in II
The syllabub, prepared for the May feast.
1870 12 Mar. 297/2
It was an old custom in Northumberland to have a syllabub for the May Feast.
a1591 H. Smith
May-games, and May poales, and May fooles, and Morris-dancers are vanitie.
1724 W. Stukeley I. 29
Making a procession to this hill with may gads (as they call them) in their hands, this is a white willow wand the bark peel'd off, ty'd round with cowslips.
1848 E. Bulwer-Lytton I. i. i. 4
Boys, with their May-gads (peeled willow wands twined with cowslips).
The May garland or triumph without victory.
1822 W. Wordsworth iii. xx. 100
Shepherds sate of yore and wove May-garlands.
1959 I. Opie & P. Opie xii. 258
The traditional custom of shouldering little maypoles round the streets or visiting houses with may-garlands is still practised in some districts.
1824 M. R. Mitford I. 89
From the trunk of the chestnut the May-houses commence. They are covered alleys built of green boughs, decorated with garlands and great bunches of flowers..hanging down like chandeliers among the dancers.
1904 Jan. 55
Other May-keepers whose symbols are now but relics.
(In sense .)
1818 H. J. Todd
May-bloom, the hawthorn.
1901 G. Barlow 104
When silvery may-bloom glistens Is there one whitethorn leaf Sun-kissed and glad which listens To the cold song of grief?
1530 J. Palsgrave 666/1
In stede of a trapper he pricked his horse full of maye bowes.
1716 T. Purney i. 26
This Morn sweet sate we 'neath this sweet May-bough.
1902 W. Canton 155
When may-boughs cream in curdling white, And maids envy the bloom o' the apple.
1560 in J. T. B. Syme
Those boys who choose it may rise at four oclock to gather May branches.
1823 in W. Hone
On May morning..the girls look with some anxiety for their May-branch.
1579 E. Spenser May 10
To gather may bus-kets and smelling brere.
1791 T. Warton in J. Milton
Spenser has anglicised the original French word bosquet, in May, v. 10 ‘To gather May buskets and smelling breere’. If busket be not there the French bouquet, now become English.
1844 E. B. Barrett II. 109
There fell Two white may-leaves..From a blossom.
1891 F. Tennyson 326
Thro' smooth walks Under the rustling May-leaves.
1839 June 411/2
In the afternoon the little corpse was brought in, dressed up more like a living subject for a May ball, than a tenant for the grave.
1955 29 June 21/2
May Ball. The First and Third Trinity's Boat Club Ball held in Trinity College, Cambridge.
1988 M. Drabble
Alix herself had been to a May Ball or two in Cambridge, in her dancing days.
1842 S. Rodman
The little girls for the last two days have had the pleasant excitement attending the giving and receiving May baskets of flowers.
1918 W. Cather ii. xiii. 260
I remember I took a melancholy pleasure in hanging a May-basket for Nina Harling that spring.
1977 T. Tudor 24
On May Day the children left May baskets at our neighbors' doors.
1565 J. Jewel
Your late Chapter of Trident, with your worthie number of forty Prelates, whereof certaine were onlie May Bishops, otherwise by you called Nullatenses.
May Bowl, a type of white wine cup, of German origin, also called May drink and May wine.
1965 O. A. Mendelsohn 215
Maybowl, a festive compound of sweetened and flavoured wine, popular with continental students.
1851 H. W. Longfellow i. 37
Fill me a goblet of May-drink, As aromatic as the May From which it steals the breath away.
1855 E. Acton
Mai Trank (May-Drink). (German.) Put into a large deep jug one pint of light white wine to two of red,..then throw in some..woodruff.
1991 May 141/2
Mrs Beeton's May Drink is a refreshing drink for grown-ups with herb gardens—or a good local herb shop.
1603 G. Owen
At vsuall feastes that ys the one on our ladie Eve in March, the other at Maye Eve.
1649 Ld. Herbert 68
Two Apprentices playing onely at Buckerels in the street late on May-eve.
a1722 J. Toland
On May-eve the Druids made prodigious fires on those Carns.
1825 T. C. Croker I. 307
May-eve is considered a time of peculiar danger.
1898 Apr. 547
A bunch of birch twigs..are put up on May Eve ‘to keep off the witches’.
1996 R. Mabey 40/2
In the Isle of Man..flowers were strewn on doorsteps on old May Eve.
1848 Aug. 481/2
All things promised well for my graduating creditably at the approaching May examination.
1859 F. W. Farrar xv. 186
My getting a first class in the May examination.
1619 J. Chamberlain 2 Jan.
We cannot be out of feare till we see her past the top of May-hill.
a1661 T. Fuller
Whereas, in our remembrance, Ale went out when Swallows came in..it now hopeth (having climed up May Hill) to continue its course all the year.
1887 W. D. Parish & W. F. Shaw 99
‘I don't think he'll ever get up May hill,’ i.e., I don't think he will live through the month of May.
1917 E. W. Wilcox Over May Hill in I. 311
Day by day nearing and nearing..Cometh the shape and the shadow I'm fearing, ‘Over the May hill’ is waiting your tomb.
1519 W. Horman xxxii. f. 279v
It is the custome, that euery yere, we shal haue a may kynge.
1646 J. Gregory x. 47
To bear the Alytarcha's part and be a May-King, or Mock-Iupiter in these Revels.
1948 E. Crozier
May King! That'll teach the girls a lesson!
1690 J. Dryden iii. 33
Blear-ey'd, like a May-Kitten.
1853 12 Feb. 152/2
You should drown a May-kitten. It's unlucky to keep it.
1957 Sept. 413
May-born babies, like May kittens, are said to be weakly and unlikely to thrive.
1986 in I. Opie & M. Tatem
[South Shields, Co. Durham] I used to be quite upset as a child when people said to me, when they heard that my birthday was in May, ‘Oh, you're a May kitten—you should have been drowned!’
1999 alt.drunken.bastards 21 May
(Usenet newsgroup, accessed 17 April 2020)
As for ‘Victoria Day’, in this part o' Canada, we simply call it ‘The May Long’. The word ‘Weekend’ has even been dropped.
2019 @andieshaw 21 May in twitter.com
(accessed 24 Mar. 2020)
Even though I worked for 2 out of the 3 days, the weather was perfect for May long.
1582 C. Fetherston sig. D7
In your maygames..you doe vse to attyre men in womans apparrell, whom you doe most commenly call maymarrions.
1852 G. A. Sala in 19 June 312/1
May-meetings of bees, humming and buzzing.
1874 H. W. Longfellow
Dost thou remember, Hannah, the great May-Meeting in London, When I was still a child, how we sat in the silent assembly, Waiting upon the Lord in patient and passive submission?
1895 XLII. 228/2
She visited London every year for the May meetings.
(Trin. Cambr. R.3.14)
A. Prol. 5
On a may morwenyng vpon maluerne hilles.
1531 in D. Knowles
Rewards to them that singeth on maye mornyng men and women at grymley..3s.
G. Hay tr. 87
Traist scho till him maid To mete hir airly in ane May morning.
In till ane myrthfull Maij morning.
a1616 W. Shakespeare
iii. iv. 140
More matter for a May morning .
1812 W. Tennant ii. xxi. 34
Lasses..Gay as May-morning, tidy, gim, and clean.
1925 E. Blunden 88
And touch them into truth again May-morning bright.
1977 R. Dahl 104
The lake was beautiful on this golden May morning.
1868 G. L. Tottenham II. xxix. 249
Many men have loitered about, and bathed, or strolled,..or played tennis, and the interest of the University has been carried nearly to the end of the May races.
During the Lent or May Races.
1971 78 236
As soon as the last papers were handed in, [we] rushed from the hall and walked as fast as we knew how the three miles down to the river where the first of the May races were due to begin.
2000 J. Durack et al. Introd. 4
The present system was adopted in 1887 when the Lent and May races became entirely distinct, each being raced over four days.
1656 R. Fletcher Poems in 210
The game at best, the girls May rould must bee.
1497 A. Halyburton
Item..a sek off May skynis contenand 300.
1534–5 in J. T. Fowler
Pro xj may skynnes.
1676 Kirkcudbright Town Council Rec. 12 Jan. in (at cited word)
For fyve may skins.
1889 24 May 2/1
A mother..is gratefully received at Cambridge in the May term.
1905 4 May 281/1
The May term is seldom a good time for serious concerts.
1954 63 2
Ramsey states that he had been in close touch with Wittgenstein's work..during the Lent and May terms of 1929.
1583 Minute Bk. Dedham Classis 6 May in R. G. Usher
Mr Lewis and Mr Dowe were appointed to deale wth Mr James to staie the playes of Maietree.
1841 T. Moore V. 101
Sweet as a May tree's scented air.
1984 J. Frame
Facing an eastern hill, with the north boundary of hawthorn hedge, may trees, willow trees, [the house] had only brief sun in the morning.
1991 21 May 1/5
The May ‘two-four weekend’, named after the traditional camper's case of 24 beer, lived up to its name this year in cottage country.
2019 @lexmark66 18 May in twitter.com
(accessed 22 Apr. 2020)
Happy May two four! Have a great weekend.
1895 June 518
So many visitors are attracted to Cambridge for the ‘May week’.
1983 M. Cox vi. 64
The succeeding summer term brought Monty's first May Week at Cambridge.
1890 E. Field 140
I've pipes of Malmsey, May-wine, sack, metheglon, mead, and sherry.
1967 A. Lichine 346/2
May wine is served chilled and ladled from a bowl, usually with strawberries or other fruit floating in it.
1989 L. Deighton vi. 79
Come straight back. No sightseeing tours on the blue Danube, or tasting the May wine at the heuriger houses in Grinzing.
1720 J. Strype
II. v. xv. 238/2
Fallen May-Wool, rotten and other ill Wool.
In the names of plants and fruits.
1802 IV. 473/1
The May-beans are a larger sort of ticks, and somewhat earlier ripe.
1863 New Ser. 6 416
The Caltha palustris is called ‘May~blobs’ by the children who gather the flower in the meadows near Warwick; they also call the Wood Anemone (A. nemorosa) ‘Granny's Nightcap’.
1881 S. Evans
May-blob, the marsh-marigold.
1903 IV. 62/2
May-blob..(b) the cuckoo-flower, Cardamine pratensis; (c) the globe-flower, Trollius europaeus; (d) the celery-leaved crowfoot, Ranunculus sceleratus.
1908 20 94/2
Could they or their children after them pick out a May-blob from a May-pop?
1916 D. H. Lawrence 38
I can smell the gorgeous bog-end, in its breathless Dazzle of may-blobs.
1960 S. Ary & M. Gregory 4/2
Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)... The plant has many other names such as Kingcup and May Blobs.
1629 J. Parkinson iii. xii. 571
The May Cherrie in a standard beareth ripe fruite later then planted against a wall.
1664 J. Evelyn Kalendarium Hortense 66 in
1713 J. Addison in 2 July 2/1
To Zelinda two Sticks of May Cherries.
1718 J. Laurence 78
The little early May-Cherry is indeed worth nothing.
1832 L. Hunt I. xi. 261
The finest apples and pears, strawberries, and May-cherries.
1884 C. S. Sargent (10th Census IX) 84
Amelanchier Canadensis... May Cherry.
1901 A. Lounsberry 249
A. Canadensis... May-cherry... Those that find it eat it as regularly as they would cherries.
1952 R. L. Taylor 75
Common names are Juneberry, shadblow, and May cherry.
1658 tr. S. de Cyrano de Bergerac xii. 41
A girdle of May~fearne [Fr. fougere de May] woven in tresses.
1816 W. Scott II. viii. 226
You have used neither charm,..magic mirror, nor geomantic figure. Where be..your May-fearn, your vervain?
1842 2 19
Ye'll get round again, if ye had your fit (foot) on the May gowan.
1548 W. Turner sig. H.iij
Lunaria minor, which may be called in englishe litle Lunary or Maye Grapes, the duch cal this herbe..meydruuen.
1830 J. D. Maycock 61
Broad-leaved Panic Grass. Miller. May Grass.
1874 May 390
The slender May-grass holds conversation with the orchard-grass.
1999 4 June 32/5
We wander to Walberswick churchyard to find a friend's dust among the May grasses and bull-daisies.
1840 J. Torrey & A. Gray I. iii. 468
C. æstivalis... The fruit..is much esteemed for making tarts, jellies, &c.—May Haw. Apple-Haw.
1868 2 468
They [sc. deer] visit the ponds in which the May~haw grows, the fruit of which is juicy with the flavor of the apple.
1938 M. K. Rawlings xi. 112
He concentrated on light bread and mayhaw jelly.
1960 R. A. Vines 338
May Hawthorn... This [sc.Crataegus opaca] is the famous May Haw of the South, from which preserves are made.
1990 M. L. Hall 6
I make fig and mayhaw preserves and green tomato pickles.
1548 W. Turner sig. C.viij
The Poticaries in Germany do name it Lilium conuallium, it maye be called in englishe May Lilies.
1597 J. Gerard ii. 331
Of Lilly in the valley, or May Lillie.
1760 J. Lee App. 319
May Lily, Convallaria.
1832 W. D. Williamson I. 125
[We have] two varieties of meadow-lilies,..May-lily, or ‘lily of the valley’; and nodding-lily.
1945 R. S. R. Fitter ix. 147
The most famous of all the plants of Hampstead Heath, the may-lily (Maianthemum bifolium)..became extinct, allegedly owing to careless path-making.
1971 8 295
It is strange that such a conspicuous plant as the May Lily was not recorded for Norfolk until 1955.
1753 Suppl. at Rose
The small red rose, commonly called the May rose.
1812 M. M. Sherwood
In her hand she had a bunch of May-roses.
1908 M. J. Cawein II. 386
With your eyes of April blue, And your mouth Like a May-rose, fresh with dew.
1844 E. B. Browning Concl. 105
I receive The maythorn, and its scent outgive!
1882 C. F. Keary 107
Even the maythorn is to be met with.
1866 J. Lindley & T. Moore II. 725/2
Maywort, Galium cruciatum.
In the names of animals.
c1820 M. M. Sherwood 13
William had caught another may-bee, or cockchafer, or humbuzz (for so that insect is called in different places).
1880 M. A. Courtney W. Cornwall Words in M. A. Courtney & T. Q. Couch 40/2
Oak-web, a May-bee; the cock-chafer.
1899 7 63
Horn-bugs, May-bees, May-flies, [etc.].
1720 E. Albin 60
In the middle of May came forth a brown Beetle called the Chafer, Oak Web, or May Beetle.
1842 T. W. Harris
The best time..for shaking the trees on which the May-beetles are lodged, is in the morning.
1860 J. Curtis Index
May-bug or beetle—Anisoplia horticola.
1922 July 38/3
May beetles, click beetles and other harmful beetles are a joy to him.
1973 M. R. Crowell 200
At the bird bath I find a June bug—the early brown kind known as a May beetle.
1791 W. Bartram 291
Calandra pratensis, the May bird.
1823 Let. 6 July in J. W. Allston
The field on the main next to Coachmans was ruined by the may-birds.
1838 J. J. Audubon IV. 132
In that country [sc. South Carolina] it is called the ‘May Bird’, which, however, is a name also given to the Rice Bird.
1864 Mar. 18
May-bird, the whimbrel.
a1908 H. C. Hart MS Coll. Ulster Words in M. Traynor
May-bird, the whimbrel.
1917 T. G. Pearson I. 231/1
Knot. Tringa canutus... [Also called] May-bird.
1940 E. M. Coulter 77
Winged destroyers whirled over the fields bent on destruction. These were the ricebirds, sometimes called May birds.
1950 A. W. Boyd
2nd Ser. 162
‘May-bird’ is one of its [sc. the Whimbrel's] popular names, for its arrival is expected in this month.
1766 M. Harris 37
The Rose May-Chaffer.
1827 T. Carlyle tr. J. P. F. Richter in III. 132
Your idle May-chafers and Court-celestials.
1577 Exp. Entert. Gorhambury in J. Nichols
1610 W. Folkingham iv. iii. 83
May-Chit, Spawe, Churre, Peeper.
c1668 Sir T. Browne
The..May chit is a little dark grey bird.
1836 W. Yarrell II. 133
The Twaite Shad..in consequence of the time of its annual visit to some of the rivers of the European Continent is called the May-fish.
1879 G. B. Goode (Bull. U.S. National Mus. No. 14) 56
May-fish. Brackish waters; Cape Ann to Cape Hatteras.
1896 D. S. Jordan & B. W. Evermann (Bull. U.S. National Mus. No. 47) i. 639
Killifish; Mayfish; Rockfish.
1903 T. H. Bean 309
The striped killifish, [is] also known as the..mayfish.
1991 (Amer. Fisheries Soc. Special Publ. No. 20)
Mayfish, see striped killifish.
1852 W. Macgillivray IV. 253
[Syn.] Whimbrel, Little Curlew..Mayfowl.
1885 C. Swainson 200
Because they appear in the month of May..they [sc. whimbrels] have received the names of..May fowl (Ireland).
1841 XX. 364/1
The smaller summer parrs (called, in Dumfriesshire, May parrs).
1861 c. 109 §4
All migratory fish of the genus salmon, whether known by the names..mort, peal, herring peal, may peal, pugg peal, harvest cock,..or by any other local name.
1811 P. Neill in 1 553
May-skate, or Mavis-skate.
1828 J. Fleming 171
Raia oxyrinchus. Sharp-nosed Ray... White Skate, Friar Skate, May Skate.
1878 No. 12. 68
We have lately received a fine specimen taken in the Scioto River, Ohio,..where it is well known to the fishermen under the name of ‘May Sucker’.
1884 D. S. Jordan in G. B. Goode et al. 614
The ‘Rabbit-mouth’, ‘Hare-lip’,..or ‘May Sucker’ is found in abundance in many rivers of Tennessee and..Ohio.
1658 J. Rowland tr. T. Moffett Theater of Insects in
They hang the May-worm (for so he cals the Oyl-beetle) about the neck with a thred, especially in the moneth of May.
1778 Feb. 61
The May-Worm is an insect which Linnæus classes with the coleopteres.
1589 E. Hayes in R. Hakluyt iii. 684
Moris dancers, Hobby horsse, and Maylike conceits.
1592 T. Lodge
When..I..May-like young, of pleasure gan to taste.
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This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, March 2001; most recently modified version published online December 2021).
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