NIGHTINGALE (Heb. זָמִיר (mod.), zamir), a name applied to singing birds of the genus Luscinia, of which three species are found in Israel. The most outstanding for its song is the Luscinia megarhynchos which hatches its eggs in the thickets of the Jordan. It is a small brown bird, common in Western Europe. The Hebrew word is mentioned only once in the Bible in a description of spring in Ereẓ Israel: "The time of the zamir is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land" (Song 2:12). The parallelism between zamir and turtledove indicates that the reference here is to a bird and, according to the meaning of the Hebrew root, to a singing one. Apparently the nightingale is not specifically meant but rather all singing birds that in spring and during the breeding season fill the air with their melodious song. Some, however, maintain that zamir is derived from the root signifying "fruit-picking," since in the *Gezer Calendar there occurs the expression yarḥo zamor denoting the fruit-picking months in summer. But as the Song of Songs speaks of spring, this interpretation is improbable.
N.H. Tur-Sinai, Ha-Lashon ve-ha-Sefer, 1 (19542), 51; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 87.
nightingale, common name for a migratory Old World bird of the family Turdidae (thrush family), celebrated for its vocal powers. The common nightingale of England and Western Europe, Luscinia megarhynchos, is about 61/2 in. (16.3 cm) long, reddish-brown above and grayish-white below. It winters in Africa and reaches England about mid-April. Its famous song is delivered only by the male during the breeding season, at any time of day or night. A larger species is found in Eastern Europe. The bulbul, a prodigious songster of Persian literature, was once thought to be a nightingale but has been identified with another family; the Virginia nightingale is a grosbeak; and the Pekin, or Japanese, nightingale belongs to the babbler family. Nightingales are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Turdidae.
night·in·gale / ˈnītnˌgāl; ˈnīting-/ • n. a small European thrush with drab brownish plumage, noted for the rich melodious song of the male, heard esp. at night in breeding season. • Luscinia megarhynchos, subfamily Turdinae, family Muscicapidae.