Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a large Asian wild animal that has yellowish fur with black lines and is a member of the cat family

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The word tiger has very deep roots in English, having entered the language around the turn of the first millennium from Latin via Old French. It had various spellings including tigre, tygre and tyger before settling in its current form.


The tiger (Panthera tigris) is on the red list of endangered species, having declined catastrophically in the wild over the course of the 20th century. One of the best-loved books of the children’s author Judith Kerr, who has died at the age of 95, is ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’. The story, illustrated by the author and published in 1968, has delighted generations of children who thrilled at the idea of this enormous wild beast coming for tea in an ordinary family home, eating all the food and even drinking the taps dry. Tigers feature in many works of literature, including Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’, the Booker-prizewinning ‘Life of Pi’, and the poems of William Blake. The infrequent adjective tigerish refers to someone who is full of fierce energy. Tiger also forms part of many English compounds, from the names of plants and animals to idiomatic expressions, including paper tiger, tiger economy and tiger mother.


Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”
(William Blake)

Related words

cougar, jaguar, leopard, lion, puma

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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