Etymology
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thunderbird (n.)

legendary cause of thunder in many Native American cultures, 1848, a translation of native words, such as Ojibwa (Algonquian) aninikii, Lakotah (Siouan) wakiya, Klamath /lmelmnis/. See thunder (n.) + bird (n.1). In Lakhota, "the thunderbirds call" is "the usual expression for thunder" [Bright].

updated on February 09, 2014

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Definitions of thunderbird from WordNet

thunderbird (n.)
(mythology) the spirit of thunder and lightning believed by some Native Americans to take the shape of a great bird;
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.