I'm writing an example of constructing logic, and I need to differentiate between an adult female dog, an adult male dog and a puppy and am searching for polite terms.

Unfortunately, the word "bitch" has impolite connotations, so I'd rather not use it, but I'm not sure of any other terms for a female dog. Likewise, I don't know of a gendered term for a a male dog, apart from 'dog'.

Given the linguistic baggage that the term 'bitch' has in non-specialist areas, is there an alternative, polite term for a 'female dog'?

For context: in the logic I'm describing, if the dog is young it is a 'puppy', otherwise if it's female it's a 'term X', or if it's male it is a 'term Y'.

  • 6
    I would suggest using geese instead of dogs: goose, gander and gosling.
    – user53102
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 5:46
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    Is there some reason you need to use dogs for the example and not an animal with less linguistic baggage? Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 6:18
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    @BraddSzonye No there isn't. And Michael suggested geese as an alternative and its great suggestion.
    – user53089
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 6:58
  • 5
    I didn't realise it, but this was a classic XY Problem as thankfully pointed out by several people, including Michael
    – user53089
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 0:10
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    Unless you edit your question, Michael's suggestion would at best be just that, a suggestion, not an answer. Please clarify by improving the question.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 6:38

8 Answers 8


I think the obvious answer (the one you already know!) is the best:

  • You can refer to a female dog as a female dog.
  • You can refer to a male dog as a male dog.

Of course, if you really need to specify that they're adults, you could do that:

  • An adult male dog could be referred to as an adult male.
  • An adult female dog could be referred to as an adult female.

In circles where bitch is commonly used, I think dog is the male counterpart, believe it or not. Those two words would be the right answer, I think, if you hadn't ruled them out.

(My apologies if you're looking for something more esoteric.)

  • 1
    Wasn't looking for esoteric, just hopefully more compact and less repetitive. But sometimes, there aren't better terms.
    – user53089
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 1:18
  • @LegoStormtroopr it really is bitch and dog for male and female canines. Snailboat is absolutely correct. Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 1:39
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    @JohnQPublic is correct; it's bitch and dog for female and male domestic canines, respectively. In the context of dogs, the term "bitch" is not considered rude or derogatory. However, if you are writing for a wider audience and specifically want to avoid "bitch", at least be consistent and just use "male" and "female" respectively as appropriate (examples are in the answer).
    – user
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 7:25
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    This is the most technically correct answer, the best kind of correct.
    – user53089
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 0:11

If you are referring to a breeding pair and offspring, you can use dam and sire instead of bitch and dog.

However, the best answer may be to use a different animal for your example. While many animal terms can be applied pejoratively to humans, few will provoke a visceral reaction like bitch can.

Pigs and horses make good examples because they both have separate, familiar terms for the species, adult males, adult females, and offspring, analogous to human, man, woman, and baby:

Pig: boar, sow, piglet
Horse: stallion, mare, foal

If you decide that you also need terms for young males and females, analogous to boy and girl, horses are a perfect fit with colt and filly.

  • 6
    Per the American Kennel Club, "A mated pair is a sire and dam combination that has been mated and/or produced a litter." The offspring would simply be referred to as pups or puppies.
    – JLG
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 4:23
  • 1
    Dam, as in Dame, has similar connotations outside of proper dog terms. It wouldn't be as bad, but certain groups might still be offended.
    – cde
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 20:47
  • Is dam actually used outside of dog circles? I've never heard it used that way. I did consider that it's a homophone of damn, but that wouldn't be a problem in writing. Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 21:22
  • Brad, If I could mark two answers correct, I'd mark yours too, but it seems that bitch is the most generic, correct term as @snailboat stated. But your edits, especially regarding colt and filly will be useful for other logic explanations. Thanks :)
    – user53089
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 0:06
  • @BraddSzonye - not sure about "Dam" form, but "Dame" was a staple term in "hard-boiled detective" type of literature in 20th century.
    – DVK
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 11:56

It is not at all impolite to refer to a female dog as a bitch if in fact you mean female dog. It will be clear that you don't mean bitch the pejorative through context.

If you don't like using male dog and female dog, you could use stud for the male. You put a male out to stud when you breed it and that word is used for other male animals.

But I believe bitch and dog are the equivalents of hen and rooster strictly speaking about analogues for sex of course (obviously they are different types of animals).

  • 4
    Depending on the situation involved, "stud" may be appropriate in the context of breeding, but it isn't in general discussion about non-breeding matters (and even then, the term commonly used for the individual dog is actually "stud dog"); I certainly don't refer to my male dog as "stud" anything anywhere, and I'm somewhat active in the dog world. And if someone who reads a work that deals with breeding dogs is offended by the female dog being called "bitch" then they probably shouldn't be breeding dogs in the first place, because that's one of the things you need the least thick skin for!
    – user
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 7:38
  • @MichaelKjörling You're splitting hairs. I suggested the term as an alternate because people use their dogs as studs. Purebread male dogs (and horses) are put out to stud (yes I know that's a verb). But I did say that dog is the right term for a male dog. Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 15:03

There's nothing inherently impolite about using bitch to refer to a dog. These days, this sense of bitch is mainly used as dog-breeders' jargon, so there is little likelihood of confusion. In the rare cases where confusion is possible, female or just use of the feminine pronoun should suffice.

If you insist on avoiding any word that has been used as a term of abuse for a women, you'll have to steer clear of cow, tart, slag, dog (yes, dog!) and many, many more. Are you sure you want to go down that path?

  • 4
    Tart, cow and dog are all used commonly enough that they are what I'd term 'safe' words. Slag (although used in ironworks) and bitch are generally used as insults nowdays, hence the trepidation.
    – user53089
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 6:57
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    @LegoStormtroopr tart has even more of a negative connotation toward women that bitch does. At least bitch is used in professional circles. Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 15:24

Unfortunately, due to the commonality of dogs/canines and cats as pets and frankly any common animal, with the habit of common terms going through pejoration, most terms related to these animals have negative connotations outside of their proper use and context.

Dog, Bitch, Wolf, She-Wolf, fox, vixen, coyote, cur, bastard, butch, mynx/minx, hen, cock, chicken, chick, pig, boar, cow, heifer, calf, bull, mule, donkey, jackass, mare, gelding, cat, pussy, queen, dam/dame, sow, hyena, sheep, ewe, manatee, whale, skunk, vulture, snake, worm, and princess & dictator (lemurs, who knew).

If it can have a negative connotation, it will be used as one. Some are more popular/common than others (cur is wholly obsolete/antiquated), and some might be used positively at times, but over all, most of the terms are negative.

The correct terms for Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) is Pup/Dog/Bitch. This is also the correct terms for any Canine in general, though specific species might have different ones (Wolf has cub and she-wolf, Fox has vixen and reynard as alternative terms).

If you are simply using puppy/dog/bitch as a single example, avoid it and use a more pc term. If you are talking at length about a subject where they are used in the correct context, you should use the proper terms and hope your audience is mature enough not to get insulted.

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    While most animal words can be used as “inappropriate” terms for people, I don't think most of them will cause problems in animal contexts. Bitch is only troublesome because it's so loaded that it causes a visceral reaction in people. Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 23:26
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    @BraddSzonye calling someone a cow would also produce a great visceral reaction in people. I fail to see any situation where bitch used in proper context (ie you are writing about dogs or about gendered animal names) would be such a huge problem.
    – cde
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 1:23
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    I strongly disagree. Many people react badly to bitch regardless of context, which is why this question even exists. The same is not true of cow unless you're actually using it as an insult. Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 1:54
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    @Bradd: Would those "many people" be the same ones who find "nigardly" offensive? I don't see why the literate majority should have to limit their vocabulary to avoid upsetting an illiterate minority. How will they ever learn any better? Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 14:47
  • A minor point – in first sentence you probably mean commonness (“the quality of being common”) rather than commonality (“The joint possession of a set of attributes or characteristics”). Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 18:28

What about "she-dog"? I read that formula used for a wolf in Jack London's White Fang.

Anyway, I agree that bitch is appropriate. It is pejoratively used for humans the same way a kid is used to refer to children as well as young goats.

  • 7
    "Kid", when used to describe children, is generally not pejorative though. On the other hand, "bitch", when referring to women, is almost always grossly offensive.
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 6:35
  • 1
    That too seems to have negative connotations, if not worse than bitch.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 6:58
  • @Kris is agree that it sounds much worse than bitch. It's sounds childish/cartoonish to me. Reminds me of He-Man. It also reminds me of the pejoratives she-man and he-she. Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 15:17
  • @Matt Yes, I understand that difference. My point is that both expressions are about animals and only later were used to refer to people.
    – LexLythius
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 17:17
  • @JohnQPublic Does she-dog actually sound worse than bitch? It certainly did not feel that way in Jack London's tale (it was just necessary to make a distinction with male wolves). Or maybe usage has changed quite a bit in time? On the other hand, I think she-man is pejorative because of the mismatch between those two words.
    – LexLythius
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 17:23

You could always opt for "the cur's mate." Although cur is only colloquially referring to male dogs in some places and may not be relevant for your intended audience (but if anyone wants an example, Google "Kerr's cur" and follow the YouTube links).

  • I believe cur is as commonly used to refer to a breed of dog. It is also sometimes used to mean mutt despite there being a cur breed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cur Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 14:05
  • Right, which is why I said it was used that way colloquially. Specifically in Australia (where "mate" is generally used as "friend" as well).
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 14:10
  • Cur is also a (antiquated) pejorative, basically bastard.
    – cde
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 20:55

If it is clear from the context that you are literally speaking of dogs, then it is fine to use these terms. If your audience is uneducated, you may need to inform them of this. Don't dodge this responsibility if it arises.

A female canis lupus familiaris = a bitch
  A male canis lupus familiaris = a bastard

It will be understood that you talking about adult dogs unless you specify:

A puppy = pup | juvenile


A female canis lupus familiaris PUPPY = a bitch pup   | a juvenile bitch
  A male canis lupus familiaris PUPPY = a bastard pup | a juvenile bastard

Of course, "juvenile" also has insulting conotations when used against an adult person too, which makes using this language SUPER-FUN! Shakespeare would approve strongly! (But for your use, I would probably stick to _____ pup myself.)

There may be some people unfamiliar with these literal meanings, who only know them as insults, not realizing that original insult was in comparing a person to a dog. For some reason, "bitch" as a personal insult carries a heavy anti-female conotation that "bastard" does not possess in equal measure against men.

Neither one of these words is in the FCC's "7 Filthy Words" list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_dirty_words#The_words

So if you're a guest on "The View", bring along your 2 pet laboradors (1 of each sex), let 'er rip, & watch Barbara Walters blush.

If you can't make the context clear, or can't be certain who the audience is, or don't have the time or desire to have the same fun conversation about language we're having here, then you are stuck with the plain old boring:

female dog, male dog, female puppy, male puppy

as no other one-word alternatives exist in American language.

  • 26
    Can you please provide a source for: "A male canis lupus familiaris = a bastard?"
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 10:35
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    In case the upvotes on the comment from @Lumberjack aren't making the point, Let me ditto him. Please source your statement that "bastard" fits this usage.
    – TecBrat
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 12:38
  • Linnean taxonomy specifies animals by latin names. Common dogs used for pets, such as Great Danes, Boxers, or Bulldogs are named Genus -> Species -> Subspecies :: Canis Lupus Familiaris. It specifies that these terms refer to dogs, but not to wolves or foxes. The scientific classification box here makes the scientific name clear:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog The section on Etymology specifies the female dog is called a "bitch", and the male dog is a "dog". One does not need to point to an explicit example of sex + scientific name = common name elsewhere, one simply reads & thinks.
    – Ace Frahm
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 21:06