A is for Animal Adjectives

Why does a quite provocative Paula Abdul video suddenly come to mind?

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.)

ABC Wednesday – Round 7

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

41 thoughts on “A is for Animal Adjectives”

  1. Great post as always, Roger! By golly that lion and Einstein do look a lot alike — even the expression! Guess we’re more like animals than we like to admit! Thanks for being a team member! Fun participating with you! Have a wonderful week!


  2. Nice one, and you must be alone here (though the lion shown here is a female and Albert most definitely was a male…) 🙂

  3. RuneE – You’re right of course, but the male lion mane didn’t work as well visually.

  4. Got a chuckle with your post! F\Great post for A – will have to remember some of these adjectives!

  5. Oh, Roger!
    I just love this post! I have been interested in animal-words for weeks now!
    I am glad that you reminded me of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. Silly me; that I haven’t been using it for this meme. It’s such a heavy book!
    Best wishes,

    A is for Anna!

  6. Lovely selection of adjectives, Roger. They’re words that roll off the tongue – a joy to pronounce as well as to think about. I wish I’d learnt Latin and/or Greek too!

  7. Great Post…this a a wonderful lesson in adjectives and animals…now you have me thinking on writing something with those words….blessings..bkm

  8. Kalimera! I have actually studied both Greek and Latin. But I can barely write in English! *laughter*. I read a little Latin when I was young, and Greek course was just a bit of vacation needs.
    But here you can learn a lot, I understand, interesting and fun.

    (I´m late with my comments, here it´s tuesday afternoon. I didn´t realise that you started so soon, sorry. It won´t happen again.)
    Great to be part of your team!

    Annelie, ABC Wednesday

  9. Of course, you know you’ve peaked EVERYONE’S curiosity about the confidential note to Lisa!
    What a great array of animal adjectives! So obscure-I wonder who uses some of them (especially the reference to smelling like a goat or have a nose like a sparrow’s beak).
    I always learn something new here in Roger’s corner!

  10. I KNEW IT! I wondered if this was it as soon as I started reading. Great way to sneak in a bunch of non-A words today. Love it.

  11. Oh my word, who would have thought there could be so many Adjectives about Animals.. I think I’ll put my tail between my legs and get on home.

  12. Do you get extra Scrabble points for using words from the PREMIUM Merriam-Webster dictionary? Better start your free trial! 🙂

  13. Wonderful imaginative adjectives, – can’t you just see them in your mind’s eye, applied to someone that you know.

  14. I recognize some because of their latin roots…(Spanish is my first language), very interesting take on the theme. Einstein looks very leonine indeed. It is the mane!!

    A is for aerial

  15. Pingback: ABC Wednesday
  16. A wonderful selection of words which certainly add to the language. Must be useful to know a bit of Latin.

  17. I have to admit I came to visit because of the lion photo, before I realized it was you, Roger. I think Einstein and the lion definitely have some features that resemble one another. By the way I learned Latin and Greek and it only helps in spelling! Down here near the Mexican border, I should have learned Spanish — MUCH more useful.

  18. Darn! I thought I knew the definition of hircine. WRONG. Good to know though because I really love the way it sounds.

  19. Interesting! I wonder what the connection is between “troglodytine” and “troglodyte,” meaning “cave-dweller.” Do wrens live in caves? I didn’t think so, but I really have no idea.

  20. There is so much to learn from words – I use to love exploring with the children i taught – fun!
    Thanks Roger as ever a wonderful contribution.

  21. i’m sort of a lion type.. wonder what’s the adjective for that.. 🙂 i liked this.. lot to learn.. knew bovine though..

  22. Annelie- Tuesday p.m. is NOT late
    Molokai Girl – Lisa had done a post 3 or 4 weeks ago that triggered this one
    Reader Wil- no apology needed
    Megan – was thinking the same thing. Birds are descendents of dinosaurs, but still don’t get it.
    Leo -HA!

  23. Keep up the wonderful piece of work, I read few content on this website and I think that your website is really interesting and contains lots of fantastic information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.