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  Dictionary Definition of tern

tern [1]
noun any bird of the subfamily Sterninae (family Laridae), comprising numerous aquatic species which are allied to the gulls but usually with a more slender body and bill, smaller feet, a long and deeply forked tail, and a more graceful flight, especially any of those constituting the genus Sterna, as the crested tern, the little tern and the fairy tern.
[Scand.; cf. Dan. terne ]