6

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
  • 2
    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
  • 1
    She-shells sound like something that the sea sells when a speaker's tongue gets really twisted. – Sven Yargs May 29 at 4:53
1

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." – sumelic Jan 16 '16 at 20:56
2

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
  • 1
    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
  • 2
    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
  • 2
    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
  • 1
    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

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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