Silly names that are actually in use for animals

the Sumatran one looks like a tapir X goat X boar X deer which is silly in of itself. I’m pretty sure Hillbilly Antelope and Speed Goats hang out.

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The Spanish phrase for peacock is “pavo real” (royal turkey).

And in some languages, German for one, bats are referred to as “flying mice”.

I think the Chinese word for horned owls translates to “cat-head eagle.”

If you think about it, English “butterfly” is kind of silly-- what do they have to do with butter?

One of my high school teachers referred to House Sparrows as “McDonaldsLand Sparrows.”

And Pete Dunne’s Field Guide Companion has a lot of humorous nicknames for birds. The coot, for example, is “Black Teapot With A White Spout.”


It is the same in German - Schmetterling can be translated as ‘creamling’. You can find some etymological background on wikipedia or

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I actually think a lot of german names for animals would apply here ;-D
We are seemingly not that creative…

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well, literally peacock is pea cock

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Thinking about other animal names in chinese:

Panda is 熊猫 which translates to “bear-cat”
Hippo is 河马 which translates to “river horse”
Giraffe is 长颈鹿 which translates to “long-neck deer”
Salticidae are known as 跳蛛 which literally means “jumping spider” but is also known as蝇虎 which means “fly tiger”

the list goes on…


omg, “fly tiger” is so cool!
@mira_l_b another tool in the enlightenment of the “nope-ers” !


Just as an fyi the “fly” actually refers to Diptera rather than the action (that kinda thickens the mystery a bit), but I’m sure google translate already “explained” that to you ;)

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yeah, I assumed diptera meaning… as in “hunter of flies”… I watch them on my kitchen windowsill, very much stalking and pouncing… :)


ahhh! that makes sense!

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we’ve always called gulls beach rats


Flap-flap or sea pancake for stingrays.


I’ve often heard of hippos being called river horses.

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I’ve heard manatees being called sea cows. :-)

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I don’t have the evidence to back up my claim, but I think the Chinese translation is directly borrowed from the meaning of the genus Hippopotamus, which literally translates to “river horse” or “horse of the river” in Ancient Greek or something.

And speaking of manatees, they indeed are often known as sea cows. The chinese name for them is 海牛 which literally translates to “sea cow”!


“Cat-headed-eagle” (猫头鹰) is for all owls, not just Horned Owls.

I’ve heard that “Butterfly” is a pronunciation change from “Flutter-by”, but that may just be folk entomology.

All of those are interesting, but I’m trying to stick with names from English, or that have been adopted into English.

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I heard somewhere that the used to be called “flutterby”, but it got mixed up somehow ;)

River horse, yes. In German thy’re known as “Flusspferd”, which translates to the same thing.


Many similarities to German - they are called the same here, or, in the case of the Pandas, they wre formerly put into the family ‘cat-bears’

I made a separate topic for translations of species names from other languages here:


Well, it depends. I like how so many duck species have their proper names in English, as well as there is such a great diversity of cool moth names.

On the other hand, talking about creativity:
These are not fish: starfish, jellyfish, crayfish, cuttlefish…
These are not flies: dragonfly, butterfly, firefly, sawfly…
and little brown birds are just warblers - no matter which family they belong to or in what habitat they live in.

In most of these cases, German is more accurate, so it is more a matter of what you focus on.

And talking about a silly name: Deer is quite simply derived from the word for animal (cognate to german ‘Tier’)