Great or funny species names in other languages

While this post was referring to (colloquial) usage in English, and this post is more for funny but rather rare names, here I want to ask you to share names of (common) species in your language that are just great or funny when giving it a second thought.

I love the peculiarities and diversity of languages dealing with certain aspects.

From the other thread:

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Nice idea! Off the top of my head two German names:

  • Turteltaube (Streptopelia turtur, European Turtle Dove). “turteln” is a verb meaning “to whisper sweat nothings” (translation by leo.org)
  • Waschbär (Procyon lotor, Common Raccoon). “waschen” meaning “to wash”.

There are also a lot of strange and funny names for insects; I’ll keep thinking.

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Mandarin is a treasure-trove of silly seeming names for animals, as are some of the scientific names:

  • 猫头鹰 (Māo tóu yīng) - Owl - literally: Cat Headed Eagle
  • 企鹅 (Qì’ é) - Penguin - literally: Business/Administrative Goose (this one has made it’s way into English)
  • 龍蝦 (Lóng xiā) - Lobster - literally: Dragon Shrimp

Here is a page of them:

Kangaroo - Bag Rat
Skunk - Stinky Weasel
Cobra - Glasses Snake
Turkey - Fire Chicken
Squirrel - Pine Tree Rat
Beaver - River Raccoon
Walrus - Ocean Elephant
Sloth - Tree Lazy
Platypus - Duck Mouth Beast
Giant Panda - Bear Cat

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Xanthoria elegans in Polish has two similar names:
Złotorost pyszny (something akin to delicious goldengrow) or Pysznorost wspaniały (splendid deliciousgrow). I often wonder whether it is really that tasty,…

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Hard to find both funny and easily translated, in Russian:
Fringilla coelebs - Chaffinch - зяблик - someone who is chilled
Acrocephalus schoenobaenus - Sedge warbler - камышевка-барсучок - badger-warbler
Grebes - поганки - amanita shrooms

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Hey, same in Polish, zięba, from ziąb - chill

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in Greek Giraffe is καμηλοπάρδαλη, which means Spotted camel

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In Hebrew a mantis is called Solomon’s Camel.
גמל שלמה

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Pyszny is not only delicious.Synonyms for pyszny are cudowny,doskonaly,olszniewajacy, etc. So zlotorost pyszny is splendid goldengrowth. Or (this I know directly from the creator of the name): splendid golden(li)chen,because he merged zloto and second part of the word porost (lichen).

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In Lithuania we have great names for fungi (even better in dialects): Boletus erythropus – thunder bolete, Leccinum scabrum and most of brown species of Leccinum are called lepšis (milksop or nincompoop) or težiukas (squidgy), Cantharellus cibarius – squirrell or cockerell, Cortinarius caperatus – little German or little Belorussian (depending upon region), Amanitas (all) – musmirė (fly death), Sarcodon - cow’s tongue.There are more,but I can’t remember for the moment.

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Thank you all for this! My sister was actually looking for names like these from different languages. :-)

To continue with the mandarin,

Dolphin is 海豚 which translates to “sea pig”
Somewhat ironically, the character 鲸 translates to “Whale” but often its called 鲸鱼 with the latter character meaning “fish”

In mandarin, birds are 鸟 but in cantonese (which is a lot more colloquial) they are known as 雀 which translates to “sparrow”.

The word monkey is interesting, in cantonese its colloquially known as 馬騮 with the former character meaning “horse” and the latter being a quite unused word, which apparently translates to “red horse with black hair on its neck and a black tail”.

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In Lithuanian porpoises (Phocoena) are also called sea pigs, in cotrast to guinea pigs which are called little sea pigs (not sea piglets!).

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Talking about sea creatures
Bearded Seal in Russian is Sea Hare, because of how it “jumps” on the land.
And there’s definitely something going on with Phocoenidae, I can’t find what resembles pigs in them, either sounds or maybe the skull? I don’t think they’re fatter than other small whales, but it can be a reason too.

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I was looking through my Hong Kong Butterflies fieldguide and found some interesting chinese translations:

  1. Burara gomata (Pale Green Awlet) is 白伞弄蝶 where 白伞 means white umbrella and 弄蝶 describes Hesperiidae
  2. Pachliopta aristolochiae (Common rose) is 红珠凤蝶 where 红珠 means red pearl and 凤蝶 describes Papilionidae. Interestingly 凤 means phoenix.
  3. Delias pasithoe (Redbase Jezebel) is 报喜斑粉蝶 which roughly translates to “The spotted Pierid that is the bringer of good news”
  4. Taraka hamada (forest Pierrot) is 蚜灰蝶 where 蚜 means aphid, and 灰蝶 describes Lycaenidae, since the caterpillars eat aphids.
  5. Zemeros flegyas (Punchinello) is 波蚬蝶. 波 means wave (the noun), and 蚬蝶 is for Riodinidae. Curiously 蚬 translates to clam.
  6. Dichorragia nesimachus (constable) is 电蛱蝶 with 电 meaning electricity and 蛱蝶 meaning Nymphalidae
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Found several more great Lithuanian name equivalents: Harbour seal –sea dog (jūrų šuo); Tarsius – long-heels (ilgakulnis); muskox - sheep ox (avijautis); pikas – squeakers (cypliai); marmots – whistlers (švilpikai); porcupine – spiny rabbit (dygliatriušis) or spiny pig (dygliakiaulė); skuas – robbers (plėšikai); boobies – madcaps (padūkėliai); Phylloscopus – name pečialinda that translates as “the one that climbs into stoves”; robin – little flame (liepsnelė); Anthus- little blacksmith (kalviukas); Lepas anatifera – little sea ducks (jūrų antytės); Aeschnidae – fairies horses (laumžirgiai); Gomphidae – little stream horses (upeliniai žirgeliai); Coenagrionidae – little arrows (strėliukės); Phyllopteryx taeniolatus - long ragamuffin (ilgasis skarmalius); Nomeus gronovii – little sea shepherd (jūrospiemenėlis); Ophioblennius – sea puppies (jūrų šuniukai).

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The plant Lagotis minor is “Little Weaselsnout.”

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For direct translations from Korean into English …

‘Shaman’ is used in several Korean animal names as well as for (all the?) Russula mushrooms. Some examples are:

  1. Russula amoena | 가지무당버섯: Eggplant Shaman Mushroom
  2. Russula cyanoxantha | 청머루무당버섯: Wild Green Grape Shaman Mushroom
  3. Russala pectinata | 달팽이무당버섯: Snail Shaman Mushroom

  1. Bombina orientalis | 무당개구리: Shaman Frog
  2. Emberiza sulphurate | 무당새: Shaman Bird
  3. Megacopta punctatissima | 무당알노린재: Shaman Egg Bug
  4. Trichonephila clavata | 무당거미: Shaman Spider
  5. Aiolocaria hexaspilota | 남생이무당벌레: Freshwater Tortoise Shaman Beetle

Actually, all the ladybird beetles are some variation of ‘Shaman Beetle’ but most have names similar to their English equivalent like ‘Seven Spot Shaman Beetle’.

A few other interesting Korean wildlife names:

Eschrichtius robustus | 귀신고래: Ghost Whale
Balaenoptera musculus | 대왕고래: Great King Whale
Balaenoptera physalus | 긴수염고래: Long-whiskered Whale
Dolphin | 돌고래: Rock Whale
Phocoenoides dalli | 까치돌고래: Magpie Rock Whale

Fish | 물고기: Water Meat
Pungtungia herzi | 돌고기: Rock Meat
Sturgeon | 철갑상어: Armor Shark

Lemnoideae / Duckweeds | 개러리밥: Frog Rice
Jeffersonia dubia | 깽깽이풀: Hopping Grass
Pulsatilla koreana | 할미꽃: Grandmother Flower

Zebra | 얼룩말: Spotted Horse
Seal | 물개: Water Dog
Hare | 산토끼: Mountain Rabbit
Ochotona hyperborea | 우는토끼: Crying Rabbit/Weeping Rabbit

Swan | 백조: White Bird
Stork | 황새: Yellow Bird

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Our Quechua names for wildlife are quite creative!

Long-nosed armadillos - qarachupa - naked tail - qara: naked, chupa: tail
Spider monkey - makisapa - big hands - maki: hand, sapa: refers to big
Flying leaf-cutter ants - sikisapa - big butt - siki: butt, sapa: refers to big
Tapir - sachavaca - wild cow - sacha: wild or of the wild/forest, vaca: cow in spanish.
Spix’s guan - pukakunka - red throat - puka: red, kunka: throat

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In Malaysia, I have heard cobras called both ‘ular sendok’ (spoon snake) and ‘ular tudong’ (hijab snake), both referencing the shape of the hood.
Proboscis monkeys are called ‘monyet belanda’ (Dutch monkey) because they thought the monkeys looked similar to the dutch colonists, with their sunburnt skin, red/blonde hair, big noses, and big stomachs.

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