I've heard of "she-wolf" (partially from mythology, partially from pop music), and I'm wondering which animals "she-" can and can't be used on.

Wiktionary mentions a variety of animals (she-ass, she-bear, she-cat, she-dog, she-elephant, she-goat, she-monkey, she-wolf) but apart from them all being placental mammals, there doesn't seem to be anything in common between them - some are domesticated, some aren't, some are carnivorous, some are vegetarian.

Which animals can "she-" and can't be used on, and why?

I tried looking for information on this, but came up with http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/threads/115063-she-horse and http://lydbury.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=2148.0 which don't fully answer my question.

The online etymology dictionary doesn't have any information about she as a prefix.

  • 3
    Can you give me an animal that can't be prefixed by she-? Certainly she-wolf is used a lot more often than she-lion, while wolf and lion are roughly equal in frequency. But is she-lion incorrect? – Peter Shor Jan 16 '16 at 13:31
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    How about "she- Portuguese man-of-war"? Despite its nomenclature, a distinctly asexual beast. – Benjamin Harman Jan 16 '16 at 13:40
  • @PeterShor she-New Mexico whiptail would be rather monocephalic-esque. – Andrew Grimm Jan 16 '16 at 13:45
  • It should probably not be used, except in one of the already-familiar combinations, and then only in relatively informal contexts. – Hot Licks Jan 16 '16 at 18:52
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    She-shells sound like something that the sea sells when a speaker's tongue gets really twisted. – Sven Yargs May 29 '19 at 4:53

This site has the following list of female terms with "she-":

she-ass (mule), she-bear, she-chuck (woodchuck), she-fox, she-goat, she-lion (lion & cougar).

She-bear is mentioned in English Bibles

Oxford English Dictionary 2d Ed. has a subsense of a dictionary entry "she":

  1. Female. Applied to animals, as in she-ass, she-bear, she-wolf (also fig.), etc.; she-dog, chiefly transf. = bitch 2; she-dragon, a female dragon; also transf.; she-lion slang, a punning distortion of ‘shilling’; she-stock, -stuff U.S., female cattle.

OAD 2d Ed. also has she-ape, she-raven, she-sparrow, she-cat, she-dingo, she-panther, she-lion, she-tiger, she-pigs, she-whales, she-fairies, she-devil, she-griffin, she-giant, she-furies, she-cousin, she-pensioners, she-priest, she-bishop, she-waiter, she-surgeon, she-slaves, she-fool in the definitions and/or examples.

Webster's Unabridged 3d Ed. has she-ass as a dictionary entry, and she-goat, she-fox, she-serpent, she-monster, she-demon, she-wolf, she-mule in the definitions.

Besides, Unabridged M-W has she-crab "an immature female blue crab".

  • 1
    Interesting. Many of these have more common species-specific female terms, like "jenny" (ass), "vixen," "nanny goat," "lioness." – herisson Jan 16 '16 at 20:56

The prefix "she-" isn't listed in the dictionary. The only "she-" animal that is listed in the dictionary is a "she-wolf." There are no other "she-" animals listed.

The OED, while it doesn't list "she-bear" separately, it does list it as one of the two possibilities of "she-," along with "she-wolf," under the definition of "she."

  • 1
    You said, "There are no other "she-" animals listed." But I think its potential is limitless. – user140086 Jan 16 '16 at 13:47
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    Be that as it may, that thought can't be backed up with sources. How many times have I heard that this is a site about sources? You have to have references. It just doesn't hold up. – Benjamin Harman Jan 16 '16 at 13:49
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    I don't list Wiktionary links anymore. I get scathed every time because anyone can input anything they want to Wiktionary. I could go there and input "she-Rathony" and then you'd have another you could list. ;-) – Benjamin Harman Jan 16 '16 at 13:52
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    I like she-Rathony. Some definitions of Wiktionary are better than other top dictionaries. Their quality is getting better. We should avoid further comments. +1) – user140086 Jan 16 '16 at 13:53
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    Google's "guestimate" of "about 30,800 results" for she-camel may be a bit optimistic, but there are certainly enough instances to make it hard to deny that it's a "valid word". – FumbleFingers Jan 16 '16 at 15:46

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