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WH Hoover
Melville Bissell
Thomas Jefferson
Archimedes

Animal Names

04
Jun
2008
 

By Christine Lovatt

Can you imagine having the job of naming all the animals and birds? That’s the task Adam was given, as we read in Genesis 2:19: “the man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts.”

We don’t know what names he came up with, but we can tell what our ancestors thought about wild creatures when we look at the origins of the names we have now.

Orang-utan, for instance, comes from the Malay word for ‘wild man’, while moose comes from the American-Indian Narragansett for ‘he strips’ referring to its habit of stripping bark from a tree.

Corgi is from the Welsh for ‘dwarf dog’, and beagle is from the Old French for ‘noisy person’ from its loud bark. Spaniel means ‘Spanish dog’, and dachshund is German for ‘badger dog’, being the right shape to burrow into badger setts.

Caterpillar is ‘hairy cat’ and crocodile is from the Greek kroke and drilos, meaning ‘pebble worm’, from its habit of basking on shingle. Hippopotamus means ‘river horse’ and walrus is ‘whale horse’. Baboon comes from the old French for ‘grimace’, and platypus is Latin for ‘flat foot’.

Most birds are named after the cry they make, such as whippoorwill, crow and heron with a few exceptions.  Flamingo is so-called after its flaming pink colour and ostrich was originally called megas strouthos, meaning 'great sparrow' (the understatement of the ancient world) and also strouthokamelos because of its long camel-like neck.   

 

Happy puzzling!

2 Responses to

Animal Names

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June 11, 2008 at 11:01 PM

 

Very interesting. Christine, I presume? Can you find more origins? I would love to read them.

 

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piesmag said:
June 12, 2008 at 5:47 PM

 

I do love silly useless trivia like this. Who cares, but it's still interesting ay?