Old English cran "large wading bird," common Germanic (cognates: Old Saxon krano, Old High German krano, German Kranich, and, with unexplained change of consonant, Old Norse trani), from PIE *gere-no-, suffixed form of root *gere- (2) "to cry hoarsely," also the name of the crane (cognates: Greek geranos, Latin grus, Welsh garan, Lithuanian garnys "heron, stork"). Thus the name is perhaps an echo of its cry in ancient ears.
Metaphoric use for "machine with a long arm" is first attested late 13c. (a sense also in equivalent words in German and Greek). The constellation was one of the 11 added to Ptolemy's list in the 1610s by Flemish cartographer Petrus Plancius (1552-1622) after Europeans began to explore the Southern Hemisphere.
"to stretch (the neck)," 1799, from crane (n.). Related: Craned; craning.
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