I’m in a bit of an animal
rut groove the last couple weeks. I found this neat link to animal adjectives, most of which I never heard of. But it’s the familiar ones that got me thinking about how some of them get applied to people, sort of a reverse anthropomorphism.
These definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. They are in addition to “having the characteristics of” said animal.
aquiline – curving like an eagle’s beak (an aqualine nose)
elephantine – having enormous size or strength: massive; clumsy, ponderous (elephantine verse)
feline (cat) – sleekly graceful; sly, treacherous; stealthy
porcine – overweight to the extent of resembling a pig
Don’t you think ALBERT Einstein (hey, an A word) looks rather leonine in this photograph? (Or is it that the noble lion is looking Einsteinesque?)
bovine – having qualities (as placidity or dullness) characteristic of oxen or cows
ursine (bear) – (a lumbering ursine gait)
serpentine – subtly wily or tempting; winding or turning one way and another (a serpentine road); having a compound curve whose central curve is convex
reptilian – cold-bloodedly treacherous (a reptilian villain — Theodore Dreiser)
(Why does a quite provocative Paula ABDUL video – yet another A – suddenly come to mind?)
canine (dog) – a conical pointed tooth; especially one situated between the lateral incisor and the first premolar [OK, that was a cheat]
I discovered that some of the words on the adjective list don’t show up in Merriam-Webster at all, such as troglodytine. Words such as hircine and limacine generate a message such as this:
Limacine, it turns out, isn’t in the free Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, where you just searched.
However, it is available in our premium Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. To see that definition in the Unabridged Dictionary, start your FREE trial now.
Fortunately, there is Wordnik, which has all of these words:
troglodytine -Resembling or having the characters of wrens, or Troglodytinæ (doesn’t this sound prehistoric?)
hircine – Of or characteristic of a goat, especially in strong odor.
limacine – Of, relating to, or resembling a slug.
The Wordnix definitions tend to be more complete, in large part because it pulls from multiple sources, including something called the Century Dictionary. While M-W says of asinine, “extremely or utterly foolish (an asinine excuse)”, Wordnik says, “stupid; obstinate; obtrusively silly; offensively awkward.”
Many of the prefixes match the animal’s scientific names, such as “a slug of the subfamily Limacinæ or family Limacidæ.”
I KNEW I should have studied Latin or Greek.
(Confidential to Lisa: THIS post.)