I am given to understand that "crawdad" and "crayfish" refer to the same creature (or group of creatures resembling small lobsters that live in freshwater), and that the difference is dialectical.

According to Wikipedia, "crayfish" becomes "crawfish" in parts of the US (1), but what brought on the "-dad" ending change?

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    Can you include the details of your research results in the question? Where have you already looked, what did you find, etc. No point in duplicating effort.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 22:55
  • Thanks, I've added the link to the WIkipedia article I found when I checked to see if they're actually different creatures; and also to clarify that I can understand the "cray" to "craw" change, but it's the "-fish" to "-dad" that confuses me. Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 23:06
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    AKA: "CRAWDADDY, CRAWPAPPY, CRAYDAD, CRAWJINNY, CRAWCRAB, CRAWDAB(BER)" (wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=19174)
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 1:52
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    I'm thinking that "crawdad" probably arose out of Cajun culture in the US Gulf Coast area. (But I have nothing to back this up.) It might be worth checking the corresponding French terms.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 2:07
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    Related: How did “lobster” mean two different species?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 7:19

1 Answer 1


Crayfish, crawfish, and crawdad:

  • are interchangeable terms for a large group of freshwater crustaceans (not fish) resembling small lobsters and living in many regions throughout the world. Crayfish and crawfish are renderings of regional pronunciations of the same word, descended from the Middle English crevise (-vise became –fish), which in turn has Old French and Germanic origins.

  • Crawfish is preferred in the U.S., while crayfish is preferred in most other English-speaking areas. Crawdad is prevalent in parts of the U.S., and cray is frequently used in Australia and New Zealand.

The Grammarist)


  • fanciful alteration of crawfish (Collins Dictionary)

  • 1900-05, Americanism; craw(fish) + dad (perhaps dad); cf. doodad (Dictionary.com)

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