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See also: yard bird


Alternative forms[edit]


Attested since 1956 in the sense of ‘convict,’ derived from the idea of prison yards. During World War II, it meant ‘basic trainee’ among the armed forces.[1]



yardbird (plural yardbirds)

  1. (chiefly US, slang) A chicken.
  2. (chiefly US, slang) A person who is imprisoned.
    • 1985, John P. Conrad, "Charting a Course for Imprisonment Policy," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 478, p. 126:
      The working convict is a rare exception, sometimes envied because his time is occupied, sometimes derided for his deviance from the yardbird norm.
  3. (chiefly US, slang) A soldier who is required to perform menial work on the grounds of a military base.
    • 1943, "In the Rough," Time, 5 Jul.:
      As the Marines expanded to war strength, Lou Diamond was the ideal liaison between crusty old-timers and impressionable recruits. He taught quick action by threats of yardbird detail.



  1. ^ yardbird” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.