Ideally I'm looking for common or barnyard animals attested in the Classical period, but Late Latin or early Medieval Latin that has a good case of going back to the Classical period would suffice.

I thought about quaccula, but I don't think the word is very ancient.

  • 2
    I just looked through Whitaker's Words and the closest I found was QUADRIIUGUS, a four-horse team. Classically attested, but possibly not found in barnyards. (Thanks to a couple helpful folks on CONLOQVIVM.)
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 9, 2017 at 2:48
  • 1
    @BenKovitz If we go that route, quadrupes would work, too.
    – cmw
    May 9, 2017 at 3:09
  • I assume scientific names w/o an ancient origin don't count
    – Rafael
    May 9, 2017 at 10:09
  • @Rafael I was really hoping for an actual ancient word.
    – cmw
    May 9, 2017 at 14:03

3 Answers 3


DuCange reports qualea (quail) with qualia (!) and quaquilia as alternate spellings. The work cited by DuCange, by Johannes de Janua, better known as Johannes Balbus (d. c. 1298), explains that the bird got its name from the sound it makes, "quaquera". Possibly this was a medieval development, as in classical Latin, this bird would be called a cōturnīx—apparently also imitative. No word on the vulgo, so it's theoretically possible that ordinary folks in Ancient Rome said something that sounded like qualea, but the word for quail in both the Vulgate and Vetus Latina is coturnix. The OED's etymology of "quail" also reports the spellings quaquila and quaila, and quaccola from the 8th century.

By the way, qualeæ and similar birds are protected by this law in the 1628 edition of the Ius municipale Vicentinum against being caught with nets or hoods during April, May, and June.

The Birds of the Latin Poets by Ernest Whitney Martin (1914) lists one bird whose name starts with Q: querquedula, "probably the Teal (Anas crecca) or the Garganey (Anas querquedula)."

Columella in De Re Rustica 8.15 writes:

Nessotrophii cura similis, sed maior impensa est. Nam clausae pascuntur anates, querquedulae, boscides, phalerides, similesque volucres, quae stagna et paludes rimantur. …

A place for rearing ducks requires similar attention but is more costly. For mallard, teal, garganey and coots and similar birds, which root about in pools and marshes, can be kept in captivity. …

Translation: Forster & Heffner, Loeb Classical Library 407

Varro, in his own Rerum Rusticarum 3.3.3, quotes a playful debate about what constitutes a villa, in which one Cornelius "Blackbird" Merula says that querqedulae need both land and water—important to know if you're keeping them in an enclosure. In De Lingua Latina 5.79, Varro claims that the querqedula gets its name from its cry (or some quality), and that the word originates from Greek κερκήδης. You can judge for yourself here. Note the pitch mark in the Greek word; the pitch and rhythm do seem to match the male call.

So, querquedula is definitely a farm animal and definitely Classically attested.

  • Thanks for the research! In the absence of any hint of antiquity for qualea (in any of its forms), I'll have to go with querquedula, no matter how strange that sounds. I am filing away the Medieval words for quail for later, though, so it's much appreciated.
    – cmw
    May 11, 2017 at 1:02

While checking something in the queror entry in OLD, I just happened to glance down and see querquēdula, 'a kind of water-fowl, prob. the teal.' It's not exactly a barnyard animal, though. Or maybe it would hang out with the ducks – or I should say other ducks, since the teal is a type of duck.

Otherwise, aside from quadriiugus and quadrupes, there's also quadriga, which can refer to the team of four horses that pulls a quadriga. In addition, OLD tells me that, in the plural, it can mean 'chariot-horses.'


After a quick review of letter Q in L&S, I only found what cnread found: querquedula, which is apparently a kind of duck.

Other near misses (besides the already mentioned quadrupes, quadriiugus and quadriga):

  • Quelea, scientific name Quelea quelea, an african bird, first described in the XVIII century by Linneus as a species, later become a whole genus, present in most of Africa south of the Sahara. (Perhaps the Romans knew it by that name?) It is the most numerous and destructive bird species in the world. It has been argued that there is a link between quelea and the coturnices (quails) mentioned at the end of Num 11. It has also been argued that the name comes from an aboriginal African name. (Source.) Thanks Ben Kovitz.
  • Quercus, the oak tree. I know a tree is not an animal, but just maybe it fits as a second best for someone looking for this question in the future.
  • As far as I understand L&S, quadrigarius is applied to the racing horse: pulvis quadrigarius, e.g. in Vegetius's Digesta Artis Mulomedicinae (p. 140 of the pdf, 85 in printed page numbers)
  • 1
    Two factoids learned during my own recent googling (which you're welcome to include in your answer if you see fit): (1) Quelea quelea is the most numerous bird species in the world—and the most destructive. (2) Linnaeus used quelea as the specific difference, not the genus (i.e. as a modifier, not the noun), and it's not clear if he was likening Q. quelea to a Bible story involving numerous and destructive quail or drawing upon an African word—or at least that's what I read in these two paragraphs.
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 9, 2017 at 15:12
  • @BenKovitz Yeah, Wikipedia's vague on the etymology, too. I love the way it discusses the etymology of "quelea" and then, in the very next section, says that the bird is called a "kwelea domo-jekundu" in Swahili without any mention of which name came first. May 9, 2017 at 15:18
  • Some more amateur but fanatic googling reveals… The genus was named in 1850 by H.G. Reichenbach, according to this and other sources; depicted here, defined here. Linnaeus named the species Emberiza quelea here. Emberiza apparently means "bunting".
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 9, 2017 at 19:19
  • Thanks for the research! I am planning on doing something with trees soon, but quercus is already known. If you find any direct evidence for quelea before the Medieval period, though, that would be a more desirable word than querquedulea.
    – cmw
    May 11, 2017 at 1:04

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