Desfayes' Thesaurus of Bird Names

Swiss Etymologist and Natural Historian Michel Desfayes has spent a lifetime collating and collecting folknames of birds from across Europe. In 1998 the Musée Cantonal d'Histoire Naturelle, Switzerland published his A Thesaurus of Bird Names: Etymology of European Lexis Through Paradigms in two volumes of more than 2400 pages. The Thesaurus, which contains more than 100,000 European names of birds in 11 languages, was simultaneously published as a fully searchable CD. Volume 1 contains the names (see sample above), and Volume 2 the etymology based on Michel Desfayes’ principles of paradigms*. In 2014 Michel Desfayes and the Musée cantonal d'histoire naturelle generously gave EWA permission to present the Thesaurus through EWA, with the ultimate aim to map the names and provide users the facility to add to the collection, to add stories, songs, testimonies etc. relating to the names.

The EWA Community will be forever grateful to Michel Desfayes for his inspirational lifelong commitment to conserving this knowledge for us all. Without his dedication much of this heritage would have been lost forever.  We present the Thesaurus here in its original CD form. Please use and enjoy it, use it for research, teaching and conservation. We suggest that appropriate citation for research publication accessed through EWA is: Desfayes, M. 1998. A Thesaurus of Bird Names: Etymology of European Lexis Through Paradigms Musée cantonal d'histoire naturelle, Switzerland at * Note that the paradigmatic approach used by Michel Desfayes is rarely used by linguists today, and therefore etymologies derived by this approach might disagree with those based on other principles used by linguists today.

Access A Thesaurus of Bird Names: Etymology of European Lexis Through Paradigms here: and click on 'search'

EWA Secretariat's Andy Gosler discusses the EWA project with Michel Desfayes
(Volume 1 of the Thesaurus on his lap), 16 Dec 2014. Photo: Stefano Doglio

Access Desfayes Collection here: and click on 'search'.

Please note that searches are case specific and will return all references to the search term. 


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