Where does the expression “Mother Carey’s chicken” come from and What does it mean?

Both this name bestowed by sailors, two hundred or more years ago, and the regular name, the storm petrel, carry us to the New Testament.

Petrel, French for “little Peter,” was so named from its seeming to walk on the water like the disciple Peter, as related in Matthew xiv, 29.

And Mother Carey (or Cary) was the British seaman’s version of the title often used by Levantine sailors, Mater cara, “beloved Mother.”

The small bird, so the sailors believed, exhibited great activity at the approach of a storm.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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