Some Words I Love

30 Mar 2007

In my last entry I used the word “bovine” (coming from a cow, but it also means like a cow). You have probably heard this word, and you’ve certainly heard of canine (dog-like) and feline (cat-like), but do you know all these similar words?

There are a lot more, but they are uncommonly used. Anserine is goose-like; aquiline (almost always used to refer to a nose) means eagle-like, specifically like the hooked beak; caprine mean goat-like, while hircine means “smells like a goat”; corvine means crow-like; murine means mouse- or rat-like, as in “a murine plague.” There are more, but they are used pretty rarely.

You probably know what an aviary is, but how about an apiary? (And the word avian, as opposed to apian). What about hirsute? And don’t get me started on collective nouns!

UPDATE: the Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp” just supplied me with another word: “vespiform.” It was apparently a fairly obscure word before it became the name of a fictional alien race. It means, naturally, “wasp-shaped.”

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