The terms accipitrine hawk and buteonine hawk are used to distinguish between the types in regions where hawk applies to both. The term "true hawk" is sometimes used for the accipitrine hawks in regions where buzzard is preferred for the buteonine hawks.
All these groups are members of the Accipitridae family, which includes the hawks and buzzards as well as kites, harriers and eagles. Some authors use "hawk" generally for any small to medium Accipitrid that is not an eagle.
The common names of some birds include the term "hawk", reflecting traditional usage rather than taxonomy. For example, some people may call an osprey a "fish hawk" or a peregrine falcon a "duck hawk".
Falconry was once called "hawking" and any bird used for falconry could be referred to as a hawk.
Aristotle listed eleven types of ἱέρακες (hierakes, hawks, singular ἱέραξ hierax): aisalōn (merlin), asterias, hypotriorchēs, kirkos, leios, perkos, phassophonos, phrynologos, pternis, spizias, and triorchēs. Pliny numbered sixteen kinds of hawks, but named only aigithos, epileios, kenchrēïs (kestrel), kybindis, and triorchēs (buzzard).
The accipitrine hawks generally hunt birds as their primary prey. They are also called "hen-hawks", or "wood-hawks" because of their woodland habitat.