Monday, September 22, 2008

-ine: Do You See Yonder Cloud...

The English language is rich in adjectives, and some of the most descriptive are those that compare an object (or its attribute) to an animal. I was surprised to see nobody has tried to catalog these terms (or at least not in a way Google can find). So here are the ones that occurred to me:

aquiline (eagle)
bovine (ox or cow)
canine (dog)
caprine (goat)
equine (horse)
feline (cat)
lupine (wolf)
ovine (sheep)
piscine (fish)
porcine (pig)
ursine (bear)

There are surely numerous other animals that have entered the descriptive pantheon (rats, anybody?), but I don't know and can't find terms for them.


Michael Greenberg said...

First result, Googling for "list of animal adjectives"...

steck said...

Here are some more:

leonine - lion
asinine - ass
vulpine - fox
corvine - crow

and don't forget

hominoid - human

-- Paul

Shriram Krishnamurthi said...

Oh boy. I stand humbled by the superiority of the Internets.

Michael Greenberg said...

A lot of them seem bullshitty, funny, pre-Linnaean ways to list the animals that Noah took on the ark.

The truly disappointing thing is the aim of the website: to help people cheat at pub quizzes.

Maurice said...

My favorite: formicate.


Shriram Krishnamurthi said...

Trina Avery offered:

‘elephantine’—which can also mean ‘made of ivory’, as in the chryselephantine (made of gold and ivory) statue of Athena in the Parthenon.

korinthe said...


I never would have guessed that "ostracize" had to do with oyster shells.

Why would a word's antiquity make it "bullshitty"? The Romans and Greeks had words for these animals and that's where most of these adjectives come from.

Michael Greenberg said...

It's not the antiquity itself that makes a word bullshitty. For example, the word "antiquity" is not bullshitty, nor is "example". What makes "batrachian" and "phalacrocoracine" bullshitty is that no one knows what they mean or uses them anymore. They sound more like antidepressants than descriptive names for animals. These words are, in a word, obsolete: formed freely and naturally in Latin, etched in absurd stone in English. The word for "batrachian", in our times, is "toad-like". "Batrachian" is wishful thinking and, in my book, bullshit -- and I'm sorry if that makes me seem asinine.

Shriram Krishnamurthi said...

On the other hand, I refuse to hear absolutely anything negative about one of my all-time favorite words, “boustrophedonic”.

korinthe said...

Hm. I figured most of them would still be current in specialized fields (zoology, maybe)... much as "riparian" and "lacustrine" are still used by ecologists where the rest of the world might say "river-like" or "lake-like".

mmwaikar said...

And the latest one which is spreading like fire ;) "swine" flu...