Sure, we all know that a baby cat is called a kitten, a baby deer is a fawn, and some might even know that a baby goat is called a kid. But did you know a shark baby is called a pup?
Some names are truly weird and cute, but there’s a reasoning behind them. They’ll make you go ‘aww’ and they’ll help you learn — here are some of our favorite baby animal names.
Bird baby names
Most young birds are typically called chicks, hatchlings, nestlings, or fledglings. This describes their developmental stage. For instance, “fledgling” refers to a young bird that has wings large enough to fly, but is still immature and just learning to get by. “Hatchling” refers to a baby bird that has just hatched from its egg and has not yet developed its feathers or the ability to fly. “Nestling” is a bird that still stays in the nest. These terms are used to describe the different stages of development in baby birds, and to help identify their specific needs and behaviors. However, some species of birds an additional, more specific name.
Young eagles are eaglets, owls are owlets. The suffix “-et” is a diminutive, and this separate name makes it clear that the name refers to a youngling of a specific species.
But by far, my favorite are puffins. As if puffins weren’t cute enough, baby puffins are called pufflings.
Swans, geese, and ducks, also have a specific word — being called cygnets, goslings, and ducklings, respectively. A baby pigeon is called a squab, while a baby hen is called a pullet, from the French poulet and probably, the Latin pullus.
Baby hawks and falcons are called eyasses, a term that originates from 15th-century falconry.
Curiously, the word “eyass” shouldn’t have existed — it came to be because of a mistake. It is derived from the word “neias”, which itself comes from the Anglo-French “niais” (which means fresh from the nest). But the first “n” was lost in translation, and became “eyas”. The word “apron” also emerged through this process, as it initially used to be called an napron.
Baby mammal names
The baby llama (or alpaca) is one of the lesser known animal names — they’re called a crya or cria, from the Spanish word cría, meaning “baby”. When Spanish explorers reached South America, they quickly adopted the term, especially as llamas make sounds resembling those of babies.
Another weird one is the baby elephant seal, which is called… a weaner. The term comes from weaning, which means to stop giving milk to a baby.
Most people will know to differentiate rabbits from hares, but few will know that a young hare is called a leveret. Yet again, the origin comes from French: in Old French, the word “levre” means “young hare”. The rabbit younglings are colloquially called bunnies, but technically, they’re called kittens. Yes, baby rabbits are also kittens.
Although they’re often called pups, the young coyotes are also referred to as whelps, as are the young otters, wolves, and even tigers.
The weirdest animal on Earth, the platypus, was bound to stir up controversies. Some claim that the name of a baby platypus is a puggle, which is colloquially also the name for a crossbreed dog with a Beagle and a Pug parent, and the name for a baby echidna. Another name that’s recently risen in popularity is platypup. However, neither of those are technically correct. A baby platypus will be simply called a baby platypus.
A baby ferret is called a kit and a baby opossum, like a kangaroo, is called a joey. “Kit” may come from the Middle English word “kitling”, which means “young creature”.n the aborigine language, ‘joey’ means ‘small animal’. Young foxes are also called kits.
Interestingly, monkeys, our closest living relatives, share the name for their young with humans. A baby monkey will be called an infant. A baby ape will be called… a baby.
Another favorite of mine is the young porcupine, which is called a porcupette.
Young medusas (it’s kind of weird to call them ‘babies’ right?) are called ephyra during their larval stage. Ephyra was the capital of the ancient Greek region of Thesprotia. Young fish are called fry; while that doesn’t sound like a bright future for them, the name actually comes from an Old Norse word, “frío, freó, fraé” meaning “seed” or “offspring.” You may have heard of a “small fry”, and “Young fry of treachery,” is an insult hurled at a character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Little eels are called elvers. A special mention goes to the codfish, whose young are called codlets (not to be confused with a group of cod-like fishes).
For the ‘babies’ of insects such as bees or butterflies we use the name larvae, though for the latter, you might be more familiar with caterpillar. For insects without a pupal stage, like praying mantises, the young are called nymphs, a rather beautiful name also used for female mythical spirits associated with nature. Young ants are sometimes called antlets. A young oyster is called a spat.
A special mention goes to cub, pup, and calf, which seem to be very common names for the younglings of a variety of species. For instance, the term ‘pup’ is used for the young of all canines, while ‘cub’ is a generic word used for the young of animals. Meanwhile, ‘calf’ is used not only for cows, but also for elephants, bison, elks, and even whales.
Ultimately, it’s nice (and it can be useful) to call baby animals by their designated name. The use of specific names for the young of different species helps to identify and understand specific traits of different species. But unless you really want to be pedantic, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Still, it can be an interesting conversation starter ar the very least.
So, which ones are your favorites? It’s hard to pick just one, but if I could pick two, I’d go for puffling and porcupette.