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28 votes
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Why hippopotamus instead of potamohippus?

As you mention, Latin hippopotamus, -i comes from Greek ἱπποπόταμος, which is a compound of ἵππος (hippos = horse) and ποταμός (potamos = river). In Latin, Lewis and Short cites instances in Pomponius ...
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18 votes
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What was a draco?

The word dragon is far older than the Medieval dragon or the West's knowledge of the Chinese dragon. In fact, it's no coincidence, either, that dragon is derived from draco. It's the meaning of the ...
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18 votes
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What do animals say in classical Latin?

Unfortunately, the verbs have survived much better in writing than the actual onomatopoeia. A few of these are fairly clearly based on the sound: baubor "bark", hinnio "whinny", ululo "howl" (and ...
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17 votes
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What is the correct way to say "Noctis Avem"?

If you want to say "night bird" with the words "night" (nox) and "bird" (avis), you should say "bird of the night", avis noctis. When you decline this expression, noctis (of the night) remains in the ...
16 votes
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Is any animal neuter in Latin?

Ostreum, -i n (seashell, oyster) gave the ancients trouble. There is also a feminine form ostrea, -ae f, and the neutral form was disparaged on the grounds that there were no neutral animal names in ...
13 votes
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Does animal include human?

Animal is certainly applicable to men, both in classical literary usage and in prevalent philosophical discourse. Classical Literary Usage Referring to man First, a few examples of animal being ...
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11 votes
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Beaver and Pollux?

The Online Etymological Dictionary states His [Castor's] name was given to secretions of the animal (Latin castoreum), used medicinally in ancient times. (Through this association his name replaced ...
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11 votes

Is any animal neuter in Latin?

In general, words referring to animate beings were not neuter in Latin. This goes for both words referring to types of humans and words referring to types of animals. (A small number of exceptions ...
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10 votes
Accepted

What did the Greeks and Romans call their pets?

Martial wrote a poem about Publius' dog called Issa. It begins: Issa est passere nequior Catulli, Issa est purior osculo columbae, Issa est blandior omnibus puellis, Issa est carior Indicis ...
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10 votes

Is there a Greek word meaning to purr?

Indeed, I cannot find any hits for "purr" in the LSJ, nor any verbs containing the words "cat" or "cats" in their entries! Quite a shame. But there are several ...
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9 votes

Do any Latin animal names start with Q?

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 ...
  • 18k
9 votes
Accepted

What is a black sheep in Latin?

Maybe dedecus familiae, the shame of or to the family (e.g. Cicero pro Cluentio). C. D. Yonge translates Cicero's original dedecus familiae as "disgrace of his family", which is what a black sheep ...
  • 278
9 votes

What did the Greeks and Romans call their pets?

In Petronius, Satyricon 64, Trimalchio's favorite, Croesus, has an 'indecently fat black puppy' (catellam nigram atque indecenter pinguem) named Margarita, which means 'pearl', and Trimalchio himself ...
  • 18k
8 votes
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"Desinat in piscem" in Horace's Ars Poetica: morphology or looks or what exactly?

Horatius describes a "combined animal" with human's head, horse's neck, bird's feathers and fish's rear end. This creature ends in a fish: instead of legs it presumably has a fishtail. No details of ...
8 votes

Where does the word "thlypis"/θλυπις come from?

According to LSJ, θλυπίς is a variation of θραυπίς, which occurred in Aristotle's Historia Animalium, Book viii, ch. 3: Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα τὰ μὲν ὅλως, τὰ δ´ ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ σκωληκοφάγα, ...
8 votes

How to decline a whale?

The attested nom. sing. is either the Latinised cetus m., or the borrowed cetos n. In the plural only the borrowed cete n., nom./acc. is attested, but by analogy one would expect gen. *ceton and dat. *...
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7 votes
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How did dogs and wolves compare in the Roman mind?

It seems that interbreeding between wolves and dogs was deemed possible in Roman culture at least at the time of Pliny the Elder (I cent. CE.) But so was the idea of interbreeding between dogs and ...
  • 10.6k
6 votes
Accepted

Do any Latin animal names start with Q?

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 ...
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6 votes
Accepted

Is a 'caper' just a goat, or also a boar?

It's normal, it happens but even if there's an anomaly, it's in Greek, not in Latin. The story behind this is that actually quite often cognates (word of common origin) designate related yet ...
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6 votes
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Where does "simia" come from?

Walde, following Kretschmer, thinks it is from σῑμός “snub-nosed”.
  • 15.9k
6 votes
Accepted

Is ulula a diminutive?

No, the form is accidental. Instead it's onomatopoeic, which can be deduced by it's cognates in: Greek ololyzein [ὀλολύζειν], Sanskrit ululih "a howling," Lithuanian uluti "howl," Gaelic uileliugh "...
  • 41.5k
6 votes

Does Latin have an animal-based term for "coward," like "scaredy-cat" in English?

I always liked Horace's simile comparing Chloe to a fawn in Odes 1.23: Vitas hinnuleo me similis, Chloe, quaerenti pavidam montibus aviis matrem non sine vano aurarum et siluae metu. ...
  • 41.5k
6 votes
Accepted

Did the Romans have a definition for a species of organism?

As Aristotle is generally considered as the father of biology — Darwin wrote: “Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods… but they were mere school-boys to old Aristotle.” (in a letter to W. Ogle, ...
  • 2,232
6 votes

What do animals say in classical Latin?

Three examples I have just now come across (edit make that four examples - see "owl" below): Donkey Lucius, having been turned into a donkey tries to draw attention to his plight, by calling upon ...
  • 8,371
6 votes

What did the Greeks and Romans call their pets?

Since there has not been a better answer as yet, I will put forth the example of Odysseus' famous dog, Ἄργος (which seems to be an epithet, rather than a human-type name).
  • 4,558
5 votes

What is the correct way to say "Noctis Avem"?

I second the recommendation of avis nocturna. (It would also be possible to say nocturna avis.) If you wanted something more poetic, you could also go with something like avis tenebrosa, which would ...
5 votes

Is any animal neuter in Latin?

The only exceptions to the rule "all animals must have gendered names" I can think of come with heavy qualifiers. Cete means whales, and it is neuter, but its singular is cetus, which is masculine. ...
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4 votes

Do any common/barnyard Latin animal names start with vocalic I?

[so far, up to entry group 8 of around 70 in L&S, currently in 'im-' in alphabetical order. Most of letter i- is made of in-, which is dominated by in- and inter- prefixed words less likely to be ...
4 votes
Accepted

Which verb do insects fly with?

I believe volare is used indeed with various insects, such as bees, flies, and cicadas. From the HP corpus: Publius Ovidius Naso, Ars Amatoria 1.95, 1.96: Granifero solitum cum vehit ore cibum, Aut ...
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