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Baby face

© Brand XI was watching one of those ‘ahh-inducing’ animal rescue programmes the other day, and noticed a rather fun, and cute, word for the young of a particular species (I can’t tell you what it was, as it’s in the quiz below).

Anyway, it set me thinking. We’re all familiar with terms like cub, pup, kit and calf, but do you know how many different species they can relate to? It’s actually a lot more than I would have thought; some of them pretty much to be expected, others a bit of a surprise.

So just for fun, see if you can put these into the right groups of pup, kit, calf and cub:

guinea pig          dolphin           giraffe          raccoon       walrus
bat                        chinchilla       hippopotamus                 skunk
giraffe                  badger             rabbit         seal                 bat

How did you get on? The answers are shown below.

What about other words for animals’ young, though, including the one that caught my interest the other day? Well, see if you can work out what these babies would be called:

crocodile                             hedgehog                         gorilla                 alpaca
peacock                               possum                             owl                        pigeon
cockroach                          eel                                       hare                      squirrel

(I should point out that there is some disagreement on the ‘right’ term to use for some of these – particularly some of the pup / kit / cub ones – depending on what reference source you use. I’ve gone for the most common usage, but if you got something different, you’re probably right somewhere!)

It’s fascinating, though, that animals which seem so different – a cat and a squirrel, or a dolphin and a giraffe, for example – can have the same word for the name of their young. And whilst a baby dolphin is a calf, a baby shark is a pup (Yes, I know, mammal versus fish, but even so). There are some really quite appropriate-seeming names too though – a baby snake can be called (among other things) a snakelet, a baby spider is a spiderling, and a baby platypus is a puggle (sounds like something JK Rowling might have come up with!).

Of course, we call our own young anything from baby to bairn to tot, toddler or urchin, so I suppose it’s not that surprising that there are so many words out there for offspring.


pup                            kit                            calf                                cub
guinea pig               chinchilla               dolphin                        badger
bat                              rabbit                      giraffe                           raccoon
seal                            skunk                       hippopotamus          walrus

crocodile – hatchling      hedgehog – hoglet              gorilla – infant
alpaca – cria                       peacock – peachick           possum – joey
owl – owlet                           pigeon – squab                    cockroach – nymph
eel – elver                             hare – leveret                       squirrel – kitten

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Sharon Creese


  • Wow this was indeed fun and educational. Are baby spiders called spinsters? Actually I went to the web and found ‘spiderling’, dahling. 🙂

  • @Rich – I hope that’s speechless in a good way! Spiders are spiderlings (see penultimate paragraph). I think that’s possibly one of my favourites – it seems so appropriate somehow!

  • Just the sort of thing, that tickles my fancy…………

    IN answer to Posted by Robert N. Hedberg on 13th May, 2010
    Are baby spiders called spinsters?

    Perhaps : LADY SPIDERS are called (should be called) SPINSTERS

    also : I know a JOEY as the young of a kangaroo (and also possum apparently)

  • I find the expression “ahh-inducing” very interesting. “Ahh“ is meant in the sense of “how cute!”, isn’t it? Or is it more like “ahh, how interesting, I didn’t know this”?

  • Thanks for your comment Katrin. I meant it in the sense of ‘ahh, how cute!’, as you suspected, though I can see where the confusion might lie.

    I think if I’d meant the ‘how interesting!’ meaning, I would probably have used ‘aha’ instead of ‘ahh’, or even just ‘ah’. The extra ‘h’ in ‘ahh’ indicates the longer, falling sound of the ‘how cute!’ meaning, while the single ‘h’ in ‘ah’ is less emotional, more rational/intellectual (to my mind, anyway).

    ‘Aha’ tends to be for those instances of realisation, so I might have used it to suggest I’d only just realised how interesting something was.’Aha-inducing’ doesn’t sound quite right though, so I would probably have used the colloquial phrase ‘aha moment’ , and so the sentence would have been more like: “I had one of those ‘aha moments’ watching an animal rescue programme the other day…”

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