Pali words for animals

Not entirely sure what possessed me to do this… :sweat_smile:

But for some reason I just tried looking up words for animals that happen to have an emoji. I used mostly Nature and the Environment in Early Buddhism by S. Dhammika and the PTS. I tried to infer which of multiple possible translations was the most “default” but in some cases it was mostly just a more or less random choice. (Gharials or marsh crocodiles for :crocodile:… hmm…)

Anyway, if anyone else finds this interesting, additions, corrections, and comments welcome of course.

:ant: ant: pipīlikā
:bat: bat: vagguli
:bear: bear: accha
🪲 beetle:
:bird: bird: sakuṇa
:blowfish: blowfish:
:boar: boar: varāha
:bug: bug: maṅkuna
:butterfly: butterfly:
:dromedary_camel: camel: oṭṭha
:cat2: cat: biḷāla
:chicken: chicken: kukkuṭa
🪳 cockroach:
:cow2: cow: go
:cricket: cricket: cīriḷikā
:crocodile: crocodile: kumbhīla
crow: kāka
:deer: deer: miga
🦤 dodo:
:dog2: dog: soṇa, kukkuro
:dolphin: dolphin: susu
:dove: dove:
:dragon: dragon: nāga
:duck: duck: setahaṁsa
:eagle: eagle: sakuṇagghi
:elephant: elephant: hatthin
:sheep: ewe: urāṇī
:fish: fish: maccha
:flamingo: flamingo: rājahaṁsa
🪰 fly: makkhikā
:fox_face: fox: jambukā
:frog: frog: maṇḍūka
:giraffe: giraffe:
:goat: goat: aja
:gorilla: gorilla:
:hamster: hamster:
:hedgehog: hedgehog:
:hippopotamus: hippopotamus:
:honeybee: honeybee: madhukara
:racehorse: horse: assa
:kangaroo: kangaroo:
:koala: koala:
:leopard: leopard: dīpi
:lion: lion: siha
:lizard: lizard: kakaṇṭaka
:llama: llama:
🦣 mammoth:
:monkey: monkey: kapi
:mosquito: mosquito: makasa
:mouse2: mouse: mūsī
:octopus: octopus:
:orangutan: orangutan:
:otter: otter: udda
:owl: owl: kosika
:ox: ox: camara
:panda_face: panda:
:parrot: parrot: suka
:peacock: peacock: mayūra
:penguin: penguin:
:pig2: pig: sūkara
:poodle: poodle:
:rabbit2: rabbit: sasa
:raccoon: raccoon:
:ram: ram: urabbha, eḷaka
:rat: rat: ākhu
:rhinoceros: rhinoceros: khagga
:rooster: rooster: kukkuṭa
:scorpion: scorpion: vicchika
🦭 seal:
:shark: shark: susukā
:skunk: skunk:
:sloth: sloth:
:snail: snail:
:snake: snake: nāga
:spider: spider: makkaṭaka
:chipmunk: chipmunk: kalandaka
:swan: swan: rājahaṁsa
:tiger2: tiger: vyaggha
:turkey: turkey:
:turtle: turtle:
:unicorn: unicorn:
vulture: ghijja
:whale2: whale:
:wolf: wolf: koka
🪱 worm: kimi, gaṇḍuppādā
:zebra: zebra:


As the Didus ineptus belongs in the pigeon family and gets its popular name from an obsolete form of the Portuguese word for a simpleton, I suggest mūḷhakapota (“silly pigeon”) for the male and either mūḷhakapotī or mūḷhakapotikā for the female.

Alternatively, just import the word: doda and dodī / dodikā.


Haha! That is great. I tried to filter out the most unlikely ones (llama, panda, chipmunk, skunk…) but I missed the dodos.

Actually your suggestion does bring up the interesting topic of what happened to borrowed words in Pali. Do we know of any borrowings from languages besides Sanskrit or various flavors of Prakrit?


Thomas Burrow published several surveys of alleged Dravidian loanwords in Vedic, Classical Sanskrit and various Prakrits, including Pali. I’m afraid I haven’t myself read any of his papers, so I can’t give you any examples.


You could make this post a Wiki perhaps, so others can add to it? :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


Oh yes! I didn’t know that was a thing, will do.


No regular swan? :swan: hansa in Sanskrit, I think…

Or did the :flamingo: get royal preference because of its superior yo-yo skills :grin:?


The English-Pali dictionary by Buddhadatta Mahathera may be of some use here.

Also, don’t forget Vulture and Squirrel!


crow: kāka :bird: :smiley:


nāga :dragon_face:

And to make D&D happy, I still say “hello”!


Oh hey, I didn’t know about that dictionary, thank you!

I don’t believe there’s an emoji for vulture yet? There isn’t one for squirrels, either, which as an avowed squirrel admirer is a source of dukkha for me, but perhaps let’s enlist the chipmunk emoji as kalandaka. :chipmunk:


Jackal m. : sigāla
Crab: kakkataka (t has a dot below)

Permission to add it @khagga ? I don’t want to ruin the lovely sequence of emojis :grin:

From the glossary in my copy of ‘Pali made easy’, Ven. B. Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thero

Found this interesting word:
vassita, n. : cry of animals

Also @sabbamitta , in the above book-
naga : elephant, cobra :snake:
Garula, m. Woodpecker, Garuda king of birds


Kāka-sūra: clever like a crow. :nerd_face:

( oh no, I see what you mean @khagga about getting lost in the dictionary)


By all means! I am nerdily updating a data file with all the changes in the background, I’ll keep everything tidy, fear not, and edit away!


Bhante Sujato translates nāga as “dragon”, unless the context says it’s an elephant—or even the Buddha.


That’s interesting, I was under the impression that the primary interpretation of nāga was ‘snake’?


Well, isn’t a dragon a mythological sort of a snake?


My prototypical dragon has legs! :smiley:

…where dragons come from is an interesting topic!

Draconic creatures appear in virtually all cultures around the globe. Nonetheless, scholars dispute where the idea of a dragon originates from and a wide variety of hypotheses have been proposed.

In his book An Instinct for Dragons (2000), anthropologist David E. Jones suggests a hypothesis that humans, like monkeys, have inherited instinctive reactions to snakes, large cats, and birds of prey. He cites a study which found that approximately 39 people in a hundred are afraid of snakes and notes that fear of snakes is especially prominent in children, even in areas where snakes are rare. The earliest attested dragons all resemble snakes or have snakelike attributes. Jones therefore concludes that dragons appear in nearly all cultures because humans have an innate fear of snakes and other animals that were major predators of humans’ primate ancestors. Dragons are usually said to reside in “dank caves, deep pools, wild mountain reaches, sea bottoms, haunted forests”, all places which would have been fraught with danger for early human ancestors.

In her book The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times (2000), Adrienne Mayor argues that some stories of dragons may have been inspired by ancient discoveries of fossils belonging to dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. She argues that the dragon lore of northern India may have been inspired by “observations of oversized, extraordinary bones in the fossilbeds of the Siwalik Hills below the Himalayas” and that ancient Greek artistic depictions of the Monster of Troy may have been influenced by fossils of Samotherium, an extinct species of giraffe whose fossils are common in the Mediterranean region. In China, a region where fossils of large prehistoric animals are common, these remains are frequently identified as “dragon bones” and are commonly used in Chinese traditional medicine. Mayor, however, is careful to point out that not all stories of dragons and giants are inspired by fossils and notes that Scandinavia has many stories of dragons and sea monsters, but has long “been considered barren of large fossils.” In one of her later books, she states that “Many dragon images around the world were based on folk knowledge or exaggerations of living reptiles, such as Komodo dragons, Gila monsters, iguanas, alligators, or, in California, alligator lizards.”

from Wikipedia


Urabbhaṃ ?!

From the Loṇakapalla Sutta (AN 3.100), although this is used by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, while Bhante Sujato uses Urabbhaṃ for Sheep :sheep:

From Paṭhamachiggaḷayuga Sutta (SN 56.47)
BTW the Pali for Tortoise is Kumma

I have come across only Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s usage of ‘Whale’ for the Pali Timi
Uposatha sutta (udāna 5.5)

Hope this helps!


Also, kukkuro. Though Bhante Sujato translates kukkuro as wild dog (SN17.36).

Ooh I just learned goat :goat:! It’s ajo (male goat) and ajā (female goat)

It’s in like the first or second lesson from OCBS, i.e. the only way I know it :laughing:

I really like how this rolls off the tongue~