I'm curious whether we know the Classical Latin or Greek names of the ladybug. I can't find the word in any of the dictionaries I have access to at the moment, and googling turns up this reddit thread where the question is raised but not answered. Obviously there is a modern scientific Latin name for the ladybug (Coccinella), but that doesn't seem to have been used in antiquity, as far as I can tell. Do we know what the Greeks or Romans called this beetle?

  • 1
    My Dutch-Latin dictionary doesn't have it either.
    – Cerberus
    Nov 2, 2018 at 4:51
  • Not sure either, but coccinella seems to refer to κοκκινέλη, red-like.
    – Helen
    Nov 4, 2018 at 10:55
  • The scientific term coccinella was invented by Linné in 1740 from the Latin coccinus (greek κοκκινος). At least in French an older name for the coccinelle (ladybug, « bête/vache à bon Dieu ») is escarbot. It comes from Latin scarabeus and could have different meanings : scarab, leaf beetle, ladybugs… Perhaps there is something similar in Latin…
    – Luc
    Dec 14, 2018 at 1:33
  • The reddit thread seems to confirm this hypothesis…
    – Luc
    Dec 14, 2018 at 1:35

1 Answer 1


Two obvious candidates are the general words for beetles. One is scarabaeus and the other is hister. An example of the former is in this book of poems, from 1841, both in Latin/Greek and with an English translation. In page 60 we read:


Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home;
Your house is on fire, your children will burn.

Then, the translation in page 61 says:


Parva rubens, Scarabaea, domum cito confuge pennis;
Ardet enim domus haec, ardebit parvula proles.

Having said that, there is this English-Latin dictionary from 1711, which in the entry for "lady cow" (another name for ladybird/bug) says:

scarabaeus punctatus, maculatus

I haven't found evidence for the latter to be used elsewhere (one exception could be here).

Hister as Latin for beetle can be seen here.

None of the above is really Classical. A corpus search for scarabaeus is not very fruitful.

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    I made an edit; please double-check my work. I think the 1711 dictionary had a typo: punctatns for punctatus. The hexameter translation of "Fly away home" is a great find!
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jan 2, 2019 at 12:17
  • BTW, I was just about to post a question asking if citŏ was a mistake to fit the hexameter, since normally it's citō, but a quick Google search turned up this book, explaining that it's a common poetic convention: books.google.com/…
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jan 2, 2019 at 21:20

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