AskDefine | Define jay

Dictionary Definition



1 United States diplomat and jurist who negotiated peace treaties with Britain and served as the first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court (1745-1829) [syn: John Jay]
2 crested largely blue bird

User Contributed Dictionary

see Jay



French geai, Old French gai, jaj, perhaps from Old High German gāhi; compare gay.
Its currency in the early 1900s can be gauged by this portion of the popular title song of a George M. Cohan musical play of 1905, Forty-five Minutes from Broadway:
Oh, what a fine bunch of reubens Oh, what a jay atmosphere; They have whiskers like hay, And imagine Broadway Only forty-five minutes from here!


  • , /dʒeɪ/, /dZeI/
  • Rhymes with: -eɪ


  1. Any one of the numerous species of birds belonging to Garrulus, Cyanocitta, and allied genera, allied to the crows, but smaller, more graceful in form, often handsomely colored, and usually having a crest.
  1. An old-fashioned term for a dull or ignorant person. It survives today in the term jaywalking.



Derived terms

See also

Extensive Definition

The jays are several species of medium-sized, usually colorful and noisy, passerine birds in the crow family Corvidae. The names jay and magpie are somewhat interchangeable, and the evolutionary relationships are rather complex. For example, the Eurasian Magpie seems more closely related to the Eurasian Jay than to the Oriental Blue and Green Magpies, whereas the Blue Jay is not closely related to either.

Systematics and species

See classification box for relevant genera links. Traditionally, the Crested Jay (Platylophus galericulatus) is placed here, but apparently this is not correct, as suggested by anatomical and molecular evidence. Its placement remains unresolved; it does not seem to be a corvid at all. It should be noted that according to the research of Ericson et al. (2005), jays are not a monophyletic group. Rather, they can be divided into an American and an Old World lineage (the latter including the ground jays and the Piapiac), while the gray jays of the genus Perisoreus form a group of their own. The Black Magpie, formerly believed to be related to jays, is classified as a treepie.
Old World ("brown") jays
Grey jays
American ("blue") jays
Also see treepies, magpies, nutcrackers, and crows.

Jays in culture


The word "jay" has an archaic meaning in American slang meaning an impertinent person.
The term jaywalking'' was coined in 1915 to label persons crossing a busy street carelessly and becoming a traffic hazard. Eventually the behavior became defined as illegal in many communities in the USA. Eventually, traffic control regulations were introduced that would levy a fine against pedestrians who were not using the delineated crosswalks marked on streets, but rather, cutting across traffic where they pleased. A public relations campaign began in the 1950s as the new regulations were introduced in Manhattan and many communities across the country instituted similar laws. Rarely is the regulation exercised.
The term began to imply recklessness or impertinent behavior as the convention became established. ().

Organizational symbols


  • Ericson, Per G. P.; Jansén, Anna-Lee; Johansson, Ulf S. & Ekman, Jan (2005): Inter-generic relationships of the crows, jays, magpies and allied groups (Aves: Corvidae) based on nucleotide sequence data. Journal of Avian Biology 36: 222-234. PDF fulltext

External links

jay in German: Eichelhäher
jay in French: Geai
jay in Ido: Jeo
jay in Portuguese: Gralha
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