03 January 2017

Word for the day: drey

I've spent most of my life with squirrels in the yard or somewhere nearby.  I've watched them build nests (these photographed in our neighborhood yesterday) and marveled at how such a porous structure could provide shelter in -20 degree temperatures.

But in all these years I have never read (or heard) a squirrel nest referred to as a "drey" until I encountered the term this past week, I think in a Fortean Times article.  Perhaps the term is more commonly used in Great Britain.

The etymology is unknown.  Even my OED doesn't offer a suggestion, other than to indicate that it is "local."  Perhaps it is an ancient word, dating back to Saxon times.

Interesting fact:  "Even though they are brown in the winter, the leaves surrounding the drey continue to cling tightly to their branches because they were harvested well before the tree began the process of shutting down and shedding its leaves."  I had wondered about that too.  You learn something every day.


  1. It's a word I have known since early childhood, thanks to reading Enid Blyton. And yes, I'm in the UK.

  2. Around here, they are called "squirrel nests". They are so easy to spot when the leaves fall off. It always amazes me that something could survive the extended below 0F temps in something like that. I guess if you are that small, you do not need a lot of insulation.

  3. I could swear you covered this years ago.
    Your site is where I learned the word.

    1. You're quite right ! Four years ago -


      I even used the exact same title!

      You learn something every day. And then you forget it.

  4. Another Brit here: I've also been using the word since childhood, and a quick check around my office demonstrated that it's common parlance. (The only person who didn't call a drey a drey was an American colleague!)


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