photograph: Wikimedia Commons




The English eagle is from French aigle. The French noun is from the Latin feminine noun aquila, which is perhaps, in allusion to the bird’s common colour, from the adjective aquilus, feminine aquila, meaning dark-coloured, dun, swarthy. The Latin name denoted the bird and a military ensign surmounted by the figure of an eagle.


Also of Latin origin, in the other Romance languages, eagle is:

- aquila in Italian

- águila in Spanish

- àguila in Catalan

- águia in Portuguese

- acvilă in Romanian.

These five names are feminine. In French, aigle is masculine when it denotes the bird but feminine in the sense of a figure of the bird.


The Middle High German name adelar, adlar, a compound of adel, noble lineage, and ar(e), eagle, is the origin of German Adler and Dutch adelaar. From ar(e)/arn*, German also has Aar and Dutch arend. The German Adler and the Dutch arend are the common names of the eagle, whereas Aar and adelaar are literary terms.

* The Middle High German ar(e)/arn is related in other Germanic languages to Swedish örn, Norwegian and Danish ørn, and English erne, which was replaced by eagle. This Germanic base has helped to form several names, such as Arnold, composed of arn, eagle, and wald, ruler. The Greek ornis, bird (cf. English ornithology), seems to be ultimately related to these Germanic words.


The Latin aquila is the origin of the following English words:

- the adjective aquiline, meaning of, or resembling, an eagle, and specially, of a person’s nose, having the curved or hooked shape of an eagle’s beak

- the proper noun Aquila, a small northern constellation said to represent the eagle that carried Ganymede to Mount Olympus. (Ganymede was a Trojan youth who was so beautiful that he was abducted by Zeus, in the form of an eagle, to serve as cup-bearer.)

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