Word for Wednesday: Rhinoceros

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Our chosen theme for April's Word for Wednesday posts is animals

The word animal has been used in English to describe sentient living creatures since the early fourteenth century, before which the word beast was more common. It comes from the Latin 'animale' meaning ‘being which breathes’, from ‘anima’ which means ‘breath’ or ‘soul’.  

Over the next few weeks, we will look at a range of animals and the origins of their names. Starting with…rhinoceros!

Native to Africa and southern Asia, the rhinoceros is a large mammal known for the one or two horns on its nose. It is heavily built and has thick folded skin. Rhinoceros are hunted for their horns which are considered very valuable on the black market. Horns are kept as trophies and used as ornaments or for medicinal purposes. Because of this, along with habitat loss, three species of rhinoceros are critically endangered. Rhinoceros horns are made from keratin, which is was human hair and nails are made of too.

The literal translation of rhinoceros is ‘nose-horned’. It comes from the Greek word 'rhinokeros' from ‘rhinos’ meaning ‘nose’ and 'keras' meaning 'horn of an animal’. You may have heard of the terms 'rhinoscope' (an instrument used to examine the inside of a nose) and 'rhinoplasty' (the medical word for a nose job) which come from the same word root. 'Keras' is  also the root of the word 'triceratops' (a three-horned dinosaur) and 'keratin' (the protein horns are made from). 

Rhino has been used as an abbreviation for rhinoceros since 1884.

Learn more about rhinoceros here



Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary



01 Apr 2020
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