Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word



Feb 12, 2024
This week’s theme
Words coined after animals

This week’s words
eager beaver
big fish

Illustration: Anu Garg + AI

Previous week’s theme
Words derived from food
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share
with Anu Garg

Darwin once said, “The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.” Living beings lie on a continuum, from the single-celled amoeba to us humans, H. Sapiens, supposedly wise.

We, sapient ones, have judged the animals. Hares are supposedly harebrained. Stormy petrels supposedly bring trouble. (Well, Stormy does bring trouble, at least to one person who totally deserves it.)

Such characterizations are often unfair to the poor animal. Sometimes the coined word is apt though, as in the case of chameleonic because chameleons do change color based on their surroundings.

This week we’ll look at five words that are coined after animals. Imagine if the tables were turned: if animals could coin terms based on human behavior, what might they create? Share your inventive words, complete with definitions and usage examples below or email us at words@wordsmith.org. As always, include your location (city, state).


(rep-TIL-ee-uhn, -TIL-yuhn)

1. Contemptible.
2. Treacherous.
3. Like a reptile.

From Latin reptile, from repere (to creep). Earliest documented use: 1835.

“Whoever this individual was, he was an unmitigated villain -- a reptilian villain!”
Theodore Dreiser; An American Tragedy; Boni & Liveright; 1925.

See more usage examples of reptilian in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice. -Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (12 Feb 1809-1882) [Ichneumonidae: The family of parasitic wasps that deposit eggs inside or on top of the larvae of other insects. Once hatched, the ichneumonid larva slowly eats its host alive from inside out.]

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith