Middle English lappewinke (late 14c.), lapwyngis (early 15c.), folk etymology alteration of Old English hleapewince "lapwing," probably literally "leaper-winker," from hleapan "to leap" (see leap (v.)) + wince "totter, waver, move rapidly," related to wincian "to wink" (see wink (v.)).
Said to be so called from "the manner of its flight" [OED] "in reference to its irregular flapping manner of flight" [Barnhart], but the lapwing also flaps on the ground pretending to have a broken wing to lure egg-hunters away from its nest, which seems a more logical explanation. Its Greek name was polyplagktos "luring on deceitfully."
updated on May 06, 2016