Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search
See also: Callow



From Middle English calwe (bald), from Old English calu (bare, bald, callow), from Proto-West Germanic *kalu, from Proto-Germanic *kalwaz (bare, naked, bald), from Proto-Indo-European *gel(H)wo- (bare, naked, bald). Cognate with West Frisian keal (bald), Dutch kaal (bald), German Low German kahl (bald), German kahl (bald), Swedish kal and kalka (bald), Russian го́лый (gólyj, bare, naked, nude). Latin calvus (bald), Persian کل(kal), and Sanskrit कुल्व (kulvá) are probably false cognates.


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈkæloʊ/
  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈkaləʊ/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æləʊ


callow (comparative callower or more callow, superlative callowest or most callow)

  1. Bald, hairless, bare.
    • 1878, Alfred Egmont Hake, Paris Originals: With Twenty Etchings, page 25:
      Then there was a little Chinese in full azure costume, with long gesticulating arms, and large callow head, who pertinaciously threw in his squeaky plea for Confucius in the most unsyntactical French.
    • 1883, The American Angler, volume 3, page 20:
      In fact many of our fresh water fish are somewhat Chinese in their tastes, for I have frequently used, with great success, the callow and hairless young of field-mice as bait for mascalonge, pike, pickerel, bass and sheep'shead, []
    • 1890, Mayne Reid, The Naturalist in Siluria, page 5:
      [] while its congener of the land (A. agrestis) breeds in myriads over the adjoining meadows, hollowing out its nest just enough under the sward for its hairless callow young to be clear of the dangerous scythe-blade.
    • 1916, The Living Age, volume 290, page 24:
      There was a sense abroad as he spoke that the world was rocking together to great music, and this callow-headed professor by the table had caught a note of it.
    • 1944, Chambers's Journal, page 225:
      This time it held a callow-headed baby in a pink frock.
    • 2011, Altea, Happiness Was a Red Cadillac, page 17:
      These hands were marked of hard work and yet soft enough to tenderly hold the baby's little callow head.
  2. Unfledged (of a young bird), featherless.
    • 1717, John Dryden, “Book XII”, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Fifteen Books. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 731548838:
      And in the leafy summit spy'd a nest, / Which, o'er the callow young, a sparrow pressed.
    • 1883, Arthur Nicols, Zoological Notes on the Structure, Affinities, Habits, and Mental Faculties of Wild and Domestic Animals, page 104:
      When first born it is indeed more feeble and incapable of voluntary action of any kind than a callow bird, blind and hairless, covered with a delicate pink skin, []
  3. (by extension, life-cycle developmental stage) Newly emerged or hatched, juvenile.
    callow bee
  4. (by extension) Immature, lacking in life experience.
    Antonyms: mature, experienced
    Those three young men are particularly callow youths.
    • 2018 May 30, Zoe Williams, “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier – review”, in The Guardian[1]:
      The restless scrolling, the clammy self-reproach afterwards … we could recognise that as addiction quite easily, but the mathematical mechanism for having created it makes horrible sense (Lanier isn’t that interested in culprits, though he finds all of Silicon Valley pretty callow).
    • 2019 May 8, Barney Ronay, “Liverpool’s waves of red fury and recklessness end in joyous bedlam”, in The Guardian[2]:
      Barça had frozen. Alexander-Arnold saw it, caught Divok Origi’s eyes and pinged the perfect cross for a double-take of a winning goal. This was a 20-year-old local lad, product of down the road, out-thinking Barcelona, making them look like callow, pigeon-chested schoolboys.
  5. Lacking color or firmness (of some kinds of insects or other arthropods, such as spiders, just after ecdysis); teneral.
  6. Shallow or weak-willed.
  7. (of a brick) Unburnt.
  8. Of land: low-lying and liable to be submerged.

Derived terms[edit]



callow (countable and uncountable, plural callows)

  1. A callow young bird.
  2. A callow or teneral phase of an insect or other arthropod, typically shortly after ecdysis, while the skin still is hardening, the colours have not yet become stable, and as a rule, before the animal is able to move effectively.
  3. An alluvial flat.