Definition of ratite in English:


Pronunciation /ˈratīt/ /ˈrætaɪt/


  • (of a bird) having a flat breastbone without a keel, and so unable to fly.

    Contrasted with carinate

    ‘When the ratite birds first roamed Gondwana, they could walk from any of the places where they later dwelt, to any other.’
    • ‘About 30 years ago, Joel Cracraft sketched out the central melodies of ratite evolution.’
    • ‘They may well have been native to Africa - just one link in a continuous chain of ratite species that circled Gondwana until it broke up.’
    • ‘Further data of the energetic cost of breeding for males and females of other ratite species would be valuable for testing that hypothesis.’
    • ‘What aspect of the ratite genome accounts for the larger size relative to volant birds?’


  • Any of the mostly large, flightless birds with a ratite breastbone, i.e. the ostrich, rhea, emu, cassowary, and kiwi, together with the extinct moa and elephant bird.

    ‘Other ratites, the elephant bird of Madagascar and the moas of New Zealand, have been extinct for several centuries, probably as a result of human hunting.’
    • ‘Moas were ratites, flightless birds considered the sister group of all other birds.’
    • ‘Cassowaries are large ratites, and are among the largest birds in the world.’
    • ‘Living relatives of moa include the emus, ostrich, and kiwi, which are members of a bird group called ratites.’
    • ‘They are found in mammals, turtles, squamates, and crocodilians, as well as a few bird taxa, particularly ratites and ducks.’
    • ‘They belonged to a primitive group of birds known as ratites.’


Late 19th century from Latin ratis ‘raft’+ -ite.