Just how do you call someone dolphin-like? Rhino-like? Or even mongoose-like?

8 Apr

With a bit of luck, at some point in our education, we’ve all had at least one teacher who was exceptional at developing and encouraging us, helping us take a great leap forward under their tutelage.

Mine was when I was 10-11 – and of the many, many things I remember him teaching us, one thing that has stayed with me was his love of descriptive animal words.

We’re all familiar with canine for ‘dog-like’, feline for ‘cat-like’ or even equine for ‘horse-like’ – but there’s actually a whole zoo of these words.

Our teacher taught us about 10 of these different –ine words to describe animal-like qualities.  He believed that a wider vocab would improve our writing.   Over the years, perhaps as a tribute to him, I’ve collected as many examples as I can find.  And the more obscure, the better!

So if you’re ever stuck for a word to describe someone who reminds you of an animal … here are just a few you can try out!

Some of the ones I learned in school are:

  • Aquiline – Eagle-like
  • Bovine – Cow-like   (we were taught to think of Bovril, the beef-based drink)
  • Caprine – Goat-like (our memory trick was ‘Capricorn’)
  • Elephantine – Elephant-like.  I’ve also since learned you could use ‘pachydermic’
  • Leporine – Rabbit or Hare-like
  • Lupine – Wolf-like
  • Ovine – Sheep-like
  • Porcine – Pig-like
  • Ursine – Bear-like   (again, we learned to remember this via the constellations Ursa Major and Minor)
  • Vulpine – Fox-like
  • Zebrine – Zebra-like

The words I’ve collected over the years include:

  • Acarine – Mite-like
  • Alcelaphine – Antelope-like
  • Anatine – Duck-like
  • Ceratorhine – Rhino-like
  • Cervine – Deer-like
  • Columbine – Dove-live
  • Cygnine – Swan-like
  • Delphine – Dolphin-like
  • Hippocampine – Sea-horse-like
  • Hystricine – Porcupine-like
  • Lutrine – Otter-like
  • Macropodine – Kangaroo-like
  • Murine – Mouse-like
  • Pavonine – Peacock-like
  • Phocine – Seal-like
  • Ranine – Frog-like
  • Soricine – Shrew-like
  • Sciurine – Squirrel-like
  • Strigine – Owl-like
  • Turdine – Blackbird or Robin-like
  • Vituline – Calf-like
  • Viverrine – Mongoose-like

There are other words, like simian for ‘ape-like’ that don’t share the –ine ending, but I’ve excluded those from this list for reasons of tidiness!

The –ine ending derives from the Latin and is suffixed to names, animals or things to indicate ‘of the nature of’, ‘pertaining to’ or ‘like’.  We can see the same ending in words like masculine and Alpine – ‘of a man-like nature’ and ‘pertaining to the Alps’.

I often think these would make a great pub quiz question!

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2 Responses to “Just how do you call someone dolphin-like? Rhino-like? Or even mongoose-like?”

  1. Melanie Richards April 25, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    This list is awesome; thanks for sharing!

    • Rum Ram Ruf April 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

      I’m glad you enjoyed them – they’re such fun words!

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