Etymology
Advertisement
bird (n.2)
"maiden, young girl; woman of noble birth, damsel, lady, lady in waiting," also "the Virgin Mary," c. 1200, perhaps a variant of birth (n.) "birth, lineage," confused with burd and bride (q.q.v.), but felt by later writers as a figurative use of bird (n.1), which originally meant "young bird" and sometimes in Middle English was extended to the young of other animals and humans. In later Middle English bird (n.2) largely was confined to alliterative poetry and to alliterative phrases. Modern slang meaning "young woman" is from 1915, and probably arose independently of the older word (compare slang use of chick).
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
bird (n.3)
"middle finger held up in a rude gesture," slang derived from 1860s expression give the big bird "to hiss someone like a goose," kept alive in vaudeville slang with sense of "to greet someone with boos, hisses, and catcalls" (1922), transferred 1960s to the "up yours" hand gesture (the rigid finger representing the hypothetical object to be inserted) on notion of defiance and contempt. The gesture itself seems to be much older (the human anatomy section of a 12c. Latin bestiary in Cambridge describes the middle finger as that "by means of which the pursuit of dishonour is indicated").
Related entries & more 
nest (n.)

"structure built by a bird or domestic fowl for the insulation and rearing of its young," Old English nest "bird's nest; snug retreat," also "young bird, brood," from Proto-Germanic *nistaz (source also of Middle Low German, Middle Dutch nest, German Nest; not found in Scandinavian or Gothic), from PIE *nizdo- (source also of Sanskrit nidah "resting place, nest," Latin nidus "nest," Old Church Slavonic gnezdo, Old Irish net, Welsh nyth, Breton nez "nest"), probably from *ni "down" + from PIE root *sed- (1) "to sit."

From c. 1200 of an animal or insect. Used since Middle English in reference to various accumulations of things, especially of diminishing sizes, each fitting within the next (such as a nest of drawers, early 18c.). Nest egg "retirement savings" is from 1700; it was originally "a real or artificial egg left in a nest to induce the hen to go on laying there" (nest ei, early 14c.), hence "something laid up as the beginning of a continued growth."

Related entries & more 
nest (v.)

Middle English nesten, from Old English nistan "to build (a bird's) nests, to make or live in a nest," from Proto-Germanic *nistijanan, from the source of nest (n.). The modern verb is perhaps a new formation in Middle English from the noun. Related: Nested; nesting.

Related entries & more 
bird (n.1)

"feathered, warm-blooded vertebrate animal of the class Aves," Old English bird, rare collateral form of bridd, originally "young bird, nestling" (the usual Old English for "bird" being fugol, for which see fowl (n.)), which is of uncertain origin with no cognates in any other Germanic language. The suggestion that it is related by umlaut to brood and breed is rejected by OED as "quite inadmissible." Metathesis of -r- and -i- was complete 15c. (compare wright).

Despite its early attestation, bridd is not necessarily the oldest form of bird. It is usually assumed that -ir- from -ri- arose by metathesis, but here, too, the Middle English form may go back to an ancient period. [Liberman]

Still up to c. 1400 it was often used in the specific sense "the young of a bird, fledgling, nestling, chick," and of the young of other animals (bees, fish, snakes) and human children. Compare the usual Balto-Slavic words for "bird" (Lithuanian paukštis, Old Church Slavonic pŭtica, Polish ptak, Russian ptica, etc.), said to be ultimately from the same root as Latin pullus "young of an animal."

The proper designation of the feathered creation is in E. fowl, which in course of time was specially applied to the gallinaceous tribe as the most important kind of bird for domestic use, and it was perhaps this appropriation of the word which led to the adoption of the name of the young animal as the general designation of the race. [Hensleigh Wedgwood, "A Dictionary of English Etymology," 1859]

Figurative sense of "secret source of information" is from 1540s. Meaning "man, fellow, person" is from 1799. Bird-watching attested from 1897. Bird's-eye view "the view as seen from above, as if by a bird in flight," is from 1762. For the birds recorded from 1944, supposedly in allusion to birds eating from droppings of horses and cattle. The bird-spider (1800) of the American tropics is a large sort of tarantula that can capture and kill small birds.

A byrde yn honde ys better than three yn the wode. [c. 1530]

The form with bush is attested by 1630s.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
crows-nest (n.)

"box fitted up the maintopmast or maintopgallant on arctic and whaling vessels for the shelter of the lookout man," 1818; see crow (n.) + nest (n.).

Related entries & more 
bird-cage (n.)
also birdcage, "portable enclosure for birds," late 15c., from bird (n.1) + cage (n.).
Related entries & more 
bird-lime (n.)
viscous sticky stuff prepared from holly bark and used to catch small birds, mid-15c., from bird (n.1) + lime (n.1). Used as rhyming slang for time (especially time in prison) by 1857; hence bird (n.) "jail" (by 1924).
Related entries & more 
sea-bird (n.)

"marine web-footed bird," 1580s, from sea + bird (n.1). Middle English had sæfugol "sea-bird, sea-fowl."

Related entries & more 
bird-bath (n.)
also birdbath, 1862, from bird (n.1) + bath (n.).
Related entries & more