Deer - Terminology

Terminology

The word "deer" was originally broad in meaning, but became more specific over time. In Middle English der (Old English dēor) meant a wild animal of any kind. This was as opposed to cattle, which then meant any sort of domestic livestock that was easy to collect and remove from the land, from the idea of personal-property ownership (rather than real estate property) and related to modern chattel (property) and capital. Cognates of Old English dēor in other dead Germanic languages have the general sense of "animal", such as Old High German tior, Old Norse djur or dȳr, Gothic dius, Old Saxon dier, and Old Frisian diar.

This general sense gave way to the modern sense in English, by the end of the Middle English period, around 1500. However, all modern Germanic languages save English and Scots retain the more general sense: for example, German Tier, Alemannic Diere or Tiere, Pennsylvania Dutch Gedier, Dutch dier, Afrikaans dier, Limburgish diere, Norwegian dyr, Swedish djur, Danish dyr, Icelandic dýr, Faroese dýr, West Frisian dier, and North Frisian diarten, all of which mean "animal." (However, contrary to south European languages, Dama in Latin and daim in French mean "fallow deer" only).

For most types of deer in modern English usage, the male is called a "buck" and the female is termed a "doe", but the terms vary with dialect, and especially according to the size of the species. For many larger deer the male is termed a "stag", while for other larger deer the same words are used as for cattle: "bull" and "cow". The male Red Deer is a "hart", especially if more than five years old, and the female is a "hind", especially if three or more years old; both terms can also be used for any species of deer, and were widely so used in the past. Terms for young deer vary similarly, with that of most being called a "fawn" and that of the larger species "calf"; young of the smallest kinds may be a kid. A castrated male deer is a "havier". A group of deer of any kind is a "herd". The adjective of relation pertaining to deer is cervine; like the family name "Cervidae", this is from Latin: cervus, "deer".

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