Why is there a different word to explain the removal of testes for these three animals?

Also, can I use all three for any animal?

  • 2
    Only male dogs are neutered. Female dogs (bitches) are commonly spayed. Just to add to your confusion.
    – user
    Dec 31, 2015 at 10:50
  • 11
    To stop them having children! *baddum-tsh* Dec 31, 2015 at 11:55
  • 2
    @MichaelKjörling "geld" and "castrate" are also specific to males so I'm not sure what point you're making. Dec 31, 2015 at 11:56
  • 2
    'Why?'? Because people felt the need to distinguish. You can use 'castrate' for all three. You can't (or it would be really bizarre) to use neuter or geld for humans, or neuter for horses, or geld for dogs.
    – Mitch
    Dec 31, 2015 at 15:36

2 Answers 2


Castrate is a general term that can be applied both to human beings and animals. Geld and neuter are respectively used for horses and pets probably because they were originally mainly used to refer to those animals: See etymology below:

Castrate: (v.)

  • 1610s (implied in castrated), back-formation from castration (q.v.), or from Latin castratus, past participle of castrare.

Geld (v.):

  • "to castrate," c. 1300, from Old Norse gelda "to castrate," said in Watkins to be from Proto-Germanic *galdjan "to castrate," from PIE *ghel- (3) "to cut." Related to other words which, if the derivation is correct, indicate a general sense of "barren." Compare Old Norse geld-fe "barren sheep" and geldr (adj.) "barren, yielding no milk, dry,"which yielded Middle English geld "barren" (of women and female animals); also Old High German galt "barren," said of a cow.
  • Gelding (n.): late 14c., "castrated animal" (especially a horse), also "a eunuch" (late 13c. as a surname), from Old Norse geldingr "wether; eunuch," from gelda "castrate"

Neuter (v.):

  • 1903, from neuter (adj.). Originally in reference to pet cats,
  • 4
    Let's not forget "fix". (And one can't broach the topic without mentioning this cartoon.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 31, 2015 at 13:52

Neutering a male animal, you remove the testicles and leave the sac. To castrate means the whole thing is removed like on a gelding (castrated male horse). Neutering can be applied to either sex - it means removing the sex organs. Castrating means removing the testicles, so it refers to males only. Removing the uterus is called spaying.

Generally, the word neuter is being used for dogs for so long by people, but it doesn't mean that you can't use it for a horse or man. Here, the difference is of the process, whether it's on a man, dog or horse. The word can be changed from place to place. But neuter is generally not used for a human and to use castrate for females isn't a great idea.

  • 14
    Never use the word "neuter" in reference to a female cat. Call a spayed a spayed. Dec 31, 2015 at 10:49
  • 1
    Castration doesn't necessarily mean the removal of testicles. It means that you remove the use of them. For instance, chemical castration.
    – DA.
    Dec 31, 2015 at 21:12
  • @stubborn. You commented "Previous editor had changed the meaning of the senence.(From continuous present tense passive voice to simple present tense passive voice).". I didn't. What makes you think it is better to change it back to present continuous passive voice? Didn't I ask you to be more careful when editing any post?
    – user140086
    Jan 1, 2016 at 4:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.