Penguin




What is the origin of the word Penguin?


This name was originally applied to the
great auk of the North Atlantic (now extinct). In the narrative of Hakluyt's voyages, Ingram (probably writing in about 1582) remarked that this seemeth to be a Welsh name and Celtic scholars have been very happy to accept this explanation (pen gwyn meaning white head in Welsh) ascribing the name to Welsh (or Cornish or Breton) sailors. However, the great auk in fact only had a white spot in front of each eye. And it seems odd that English-speaking sailors should pick up a word from Welsh (or Cornish or Breton). (The great auk's other English name garefowl is from Norse, a language much more associated with North Atlantic seafarers.)


The name
penguin was first reliably reported from Newfoundland in a letter of 1578, also given in the account of Hakluyt's voyages. But in Newfoundland the name is said usually to have been pronounced pin-wing. This accords with another theory that the bird was originally called the pin-wing with reference to its curiously rudimentary wings. It would also explain why, as early as 1588, the term was being applied also to the southern birds which we know as penguins today and which also have rudimentary wings (but not white heads). However, there is not much hard evidence in support of this theory either. A third suggestion, that the Latin word pinguis fat is somehow involved seems implausible on linguistic grounds, though it may have influenced the spelling of the auk's Latin name Pinguinus.





Other Related Links:


What are the Canons of Etymology?
Was the first computer Bug a real insect?
I'm sure I know The Origin of The Word...
What is the origin of the phrase Sleep Tight?
What are The Origins of a.m. and p.m.?

Batsman who makes no runs at cricket is said to be Out for a Duck. Why?
What is the origin of Love meaning nil in tennis scoring?
What is the origin of the phrase : The Bee's Knees?
What is the origin of the term Flea Market?
What is the origin of the term Dressed to the Nines?

What is the origin of the word OK?
What is the origin of the word Jaywalking?
What is the origin of the word Grockle?
What is the origin of the word Codswallop?
What is the origin of the term Brass Monkey?

What is the origin of the word Snob?
What is the origin of the word Quiz?
What is the origin of the word Posh?
What is the origin of the word Penguin?
What is the origin of the word News?

What is the origin of the word Lukewarm?
What is the origin of the word Love?
What is the origin of the word Loo?
What is the origin of the word Nous?

Frequently Asked Questions| Penguin to HOME PAGE

Follow These Links!