Etymology
Advertisement

scarecrow (n.)

1550s, from scare (v.) + crow (n.). Earliest reference is to a person employed to scare birds. Meaning "figure of straw and old clothes made to resemble a person and set in a grain field or garden" to frighten crows and other birds from the crop is implied by 1580s; hence "gaunt, ridiculous person" (1590s). For the formation, compare daredevil.

An older name for such a thing was shewel. Shoy-hoy apparently is another old word for a straw-stuffed scarecrow (Cobbett began using it as a political insult in 1819 and others picked it up; OED defines it as "one who scares away birds from a sown field," and says it is imitative of their cry). Also fray-boggard (1530s). Middle English had skerel, apparently in the same sense, from skerren "scare."

updated on January 18, 2022

Advertisement
Advertisement
Definitions of scarecrow from WordNet

scarecrow (n.)
an effigy in the shape of a man to frighten birds away from seeds;
Synonyms: straw man / strawman / bird-scarer / scarer
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.