For the past two posts we’ve considered the etymologies of well-known ungulates like pigs and deer. Today, we’ll wrap up with some of the lesser-known ungulates of the world.
In 1774 English speakers first wrote the word tapir to refer to a 330-700 pound South American mammal with a prehensile snout. The English word tapir came from the Tupi language of Brazil, probably through French.
The springbok is a gazelle of South Africa. Springbok came to English from Afrikaans in 1775. Springbok is a compound word using springen, to leap & bok, antelope.
The dik-dik is a tiny (7-16 pound) African antelope. The word came to English in 1880 from one of the many east African languages; sadly, nobody knows which one. It’s likely that the name is onomatopoeic, as the “bark” of the dik-dik sounds much like its name.
Another African antelope, the kudu, got its name from the Xosa-Kaffir language (originally iqudu). Kudu made its way into English in 1777.
In the year 1900 the Mbuba language of the Congo gave English the word okapi, a short-necked giraffe of the region.
Another African antelope, the impala, got its name from another native African language, Zulu. The word impala showed up in English in 1875. Impala didn’t make its way in chrome onto the side of a Chevrolet until 1958.
The ibex is a goat native to parts of Africa and Eurasia. The word ibex first appeared in English in the early 1600s, coming through Latin from an unidentified source.
The Tibetan word q-yag gave us yak, the wild ox of Central Asia. Yak came to English in 1795.
Here’s hoping a little attention has raised the spirits of the world’s underappreciated ungulates.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Ultimate Ungulate, Etymonline, & the OED.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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