The Meaning of Owl: What It Is and How To Use It

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Have you ever seen an owl flying in the wild or heard the hoot of an owl early in the morning? Many people have seen and heard owls before, but few know what they mean and symbolize. 

In this piece, we will be covering what the word owl means, as well as what owls symbolize in different cultures. By the time you reach the end of this article, you will be as wise as an owl!

What Does Owl Mean?

Owls are majestic birds of prey with large eyes. This species of bird exists all over the world, and some can even live in freezing arctic temperatures. Most owls are nocturnal, but some hunt during the day as well. 

Since most owls are nocturnal, it can be difficult to spot an owl while they are hunting for their prey. If you’re lucky enough to happen upon an owl, what does that mean? Below, we will explore the symbolism behind seeing owls in different cultures. 

What Do Owls Symbolize?

Often, owls are thought to symbolize wisdom and independence. Their large eyes and ethereal nature are often associated with independent thinking, observant listening, intuition, and knowledge. Owl symbolism can mean different things to various cultures around the world. 

Owls and Native American Culture

Native American culture often contains the concept of a totem animal or spirit animal. To find your own spirit animal or animal spirit guide, that animal chooses you in the kinship you find with them or in a special life experience or dream. 

For example, an owl dream means an owl has chosen to guide you into the spirit world as a symbol of wisdom. Many Native American tribes also associated owls with being a symbol of death. This stems from ancient Roman beliefs.

Owls in Ancient Roman and Greek Culture

In Ancient Rome, they believed that owls were a bad omen and a foretelling of bad luck. If you heard the hoot of an owl, it was a harbinger of death. However, owls symbolized quite the opposite in Ancient Greece. Here, their spiritual meaning is related to the goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

Some people also think each owl dream means something different. You might think that dreaming of a dead owl is a sign of bad luck, but this can actually signify a new beginning. 

If you dream of an owl flying or have owl encounters, such as finding owl feathers, this can be a sign of good luck.

What Are Different Types of Owls?

There are many different types of owls that you might see, depending on where you live. In fact, there are over 200 species of owls that live around the world! 

Below, you will find a list of the most common owls in North America. Keep an eye out for a black owl, brown owl, or white owl, and see if you can identify which type of owl it is with the help of this list from Birds of North America.

  • Boreal Owl
  • Elf Owl
  • Long-eared Owl
  • Western Screech-Owl
  • Northern Boobook
  • Snowy Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Barn Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Stygian Owl Stygian Owl
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Oriental Scops-Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
  • Mottled Owl 
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
  • Whiskered Screech-Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
  • Great Gray Owl
  • Northern Pygmy-Owl
  • Flammulated Owl 
  • Barred Owl
  • Celtic Owl

What Are Translations of Owl?

Owls live all around the world and symbolize different things in different cultures. If you are an avid birdwatcher who is traveling to try and see new species of birds, or if you are simply trying to improve your knowledge of other languages, you can study this list of translations of owl from Nice Translator

Can you determine which of these translations of owl might have the same root or language of origin?

  • Norwegian: ugle
  • Italian: gufo
  • Arabic: بُومَة
  • Swahili: bundi
  • Polish: sowa
  • Spanish: búho
  • Slovak: sova
  • Russian: сова
  • Telugu: గుడ్లగూబ
  • Romanian: bufniţă
  • Hebrew: יַנשׁוּף
  • Dutch: uil
  • Marathi: घुबड
  • Catalan: òliba
  • Bengali: পেঁচা
  • Gujarati: ઘુવડ
  • Danish: ugle
  • Portuguese (Brazil): coruja
  • Malay: burung hantu
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 貓頭鷹
  • Hungarian: bagoly
  • Filipino: Owl
  • Swedish: Uggla
  • Japanese: フクロウ
  • Basque: hontza
  • Vietnamese: con cú
  • Amharic: ጉጉት
  • Hindi: उल्लू
  • Bulgarian: сова
  • Urdu: اللو
  • Indonesian: burung hantu
  • Slovenian: sova
  • Serbian: сова
  • Portuguese (Portugal): coruja
  • Welsh: tylluanod
  • Latvian: pūce
  • Icelandic: ugla
  • Kannada: ಗೂಬೆ
  • Finnish: pöllö
  • Turkish: baykuş
  • Thai: นกฮูก
  • Korean: 올빼미
  • Chinese (PRC): 猫头鹰
  • Czech: sova
  • Greek: κουκουβάγια
  • Malayalam: മൂങ്ങ
  • French: chouette
  • Estonian: öökull
  • Tamil: ஆந்தை
  • Croatian: sova
  • Ukrainian: сова
  • German: Eule
  • Lithuanian: Pelėda

What Are Other Nocturnal Birds?

Owls are not the only kind of bird that sleeps during the day and are awake during the night! In fact, there are plenty of species of nocturnal birds all around the world. See if you recognize any of the nocturnal birds listed below from The Spruce

Have you ever gone bird-watching at night to try and find nocturnal birds?

  • Potoos
  • Nightjars
  • Woodcocks
  • Ashy storm-petrels
  • Night-herons
  • Poorwills
  • Kiwis
  • Owlet-nightjars
  • Kakapos
  • Frogmouths
  • Night parrots
  • Pauraques
  • Stone-curlews
  • Little penguins


The owl is a species of nocturnal bird. This bird of prey can be found all over the world, and there are over 200 different kinds of owls! Even in North America alone, there are several different species of owl.

Owls have different symbolic meanings to cultures all over the world. In some cultures, owls are considered a sign of death and bad luck. In other cultures, they are a sign of wisdom and independence. Do you think owls are good luck or bad luck?


How to Identify and Observe Nocturnal Birds | The Spruce 

Owl Symbolism, Meaning & The Owl Spirit Animal | UniGuide 

A Brief Introduction to the Common Types of Owls | Bird Eden 

Owls | Classic Collection of North American Birds | Birds of North America

Owl | Nice Translator