carrier pigeon

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Alternative forms[edit]


carrier pigeon (plural carrier pigeons)

  1. A domestic pigeon which transports attached messages or very small parcels from the place where it is released to a familiar destination.
    • 1843, Charles Dickens, chapter 21, in Martin Chuzzlewit:
      At length, after wheeling his toothpick slowly round and round in the air, as if it were a carrier pigeon just thrown up, he suddenly made a dart at the drawing,
    • 1914, Mary Roberts Rinehart, chapter 25, in The Street of Seven Stars:
      Once on her window-sill Harmony found among the pigeons a carrier pigeon with a brass tube fastened to its leg.
    • 1944 Feb. 7, "World Battlefronts: Men at War—The Bird," Time:
      Two days after the first U.S. bridgehead had been thrown back at Rapido (see p. 23), a U.S. carrier pigeon winged wearily into its home base in Italy. Clipped to its leg was this German sneer: "Herewith your message pigeon is returned. We have plenty to eat."
    • 2009 July 3, "Brazil: A Cellphone Carrier Is Thwarted," New York Times (retrieved 5 Dec 2011)
      For the second time in four months, prison guards foiled an attempt to smuggle a cellphone into a prison by carrier pigeon.


Usage notes[edit]

  • The term carrier pigeon is often used, especially in newspaper and magazine articles, for a homing pigeon or racing pigeon that carries messages. Many pigeon fanciers (particularly homer men and homer women) consider this to be a misnomer because the term is outdated and originally referred to the ancestors of present-day Old English carriers.[1]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Carrier, or certainly the Horseman, was the first breed used in England for message-bearing purposes. The name, “Carrier Pigeon,” is still used today erroneously by many writers, especially in newspapers and periodicals, to describe the true Racing Homer. The Carrier today has been developed into a show bird alone, its homing propensities having long since ceased to be developed. — Wendell M. Levi, The Pigeon, 1941 (Renewed 1968), 1946, 1957, and 1963; p57.