Does the English language have specific words for narrow and fat ends of eggs?

What are they called?

  • 4
    Anatomically speaking, the head and butt would likely be understood with minimal effort. – MonkeyZeus Dec 15 '16 at 17:34
  • 8
    @MonkeyZeus: It wouldn't necessarily be all that obvious to me! Even with all my Google-Fu, it's just taken me a couple of minutes to establish that we usually find the embryo parallel to the long axis of the egg, with the head towards the large end of the shell Until I saw that I'd have probably guessed the head would be at the pointy end. The egg would be more stable with the fat end at the bottom, so why would the chicks want to be "upside down"? – FumbleFingers Dec 15 '16 at 18:14
  • 6
    @@MonkeyZeus: I don't understand that. Are you telling me it's obvious that head / butt should correspond to the pointy / rounded ends of the egg, just because adult humans' butts are bigger than their heads? This despite the fact that any chick still in an egg probably has a head bigger than its whole body, let alone its "butt". And the fact that I've laboriously established that chicks are oriented "upside down" relative to the container if we anthropomorphise the egg as being something like a Russian doll or wobbly man toy. – FumbleFingers Dec 15 '16 at 19:09
  • 4
    @MonkeyZeus As a reader, I can assure you that no, it is not obvious which end of the egg the head would be in. So the claim of "would likely be understood with minimal effort" is false, I think. – ShreevatsaR Dec 16 '16 at 5:02
  • 5
    @MonkeyZeus I've never heard the terms head and butt applied to an egg, but I assumed head=pointy-end; not because of our shape, but because -- as FumbleFingers said -- the egg would be more stable with the fat end at the bottom. – TripeHound Dec 16 '16 at 9:22

I found this in Smolin and Thoft's The Cornea: Scientific Foundations and Clinical Practice...

A better description of corneal shape is that it is aspherical, where the central 4 mm of the cornea tends to be spherical, but then gradually flattens toward the periphery, much like the pointed (prolate) end of an ellipsoid or an egg.

Given the well-established oblate / prolate distinction, I think it should be easy for anyone to understand that the oblate end of an egg would be the rounded (not "pointy") one.

In principle, I suppose you could also refer to them as the Lilliputian and Blefuscuan ends (after the satirical treatment in Gulliver's Travels) but Swift himself would probably be horrified by that. His whole point was that these are "trivial, meaningless" distinctions, so he wouldn't like to think later generations of real people might actually incorporate his "terminology" into English itself.

Both Swift and people referencing his work today refer to the above factions as Big-Endians and Little-endians, but in practice when talking about the actual ends of eggs it's usually the rounded and the pointed (facetiously, pointy) ends.

  • 13
    Big-end and Little-end were my first thoughts with this question. – Andrew Leach Dec 15 '16 at 15:33
  • 7
    "Big-endian" and "little-endian" are terms used in computing to describe the arrangement of bits in a data word. – Hot Licks Dec 15 '16 at 17:57
  • 3
    @Hot Licks: I know, but even without looking it up, I'd be prepared to bet that the computing sense originated as a facetious allusion to Swift anyway. – FumbleFingers Dec 15 '16 at 17:59
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers - Definitely true. – Hot Licks Dec 15 '16 at 18:02
  • 4
    I can confirm that the computer science terms "big endian" and "little endian" do indeed originate from Gulliver's Travels. "Middle endian," however, is our own atrocity and we have to own up for it from time to time. – Cort Ammon Dec 16 '16 at 0:10

Big end and little end are the usual names, due to the story by Swift.

See also:

  • 2
    You should expand this useful answer to give the relevant quotes from the linked sources -- and perhaps a brief mention of the title and nature of Swift's story. – JeremyDouglass Dec 16 '16 at 17:02

"Apical" for the pointed (small) end; "Abapical" for the other end

These are anatomy terms - "Apical" means "the apex end", like the pointed end of the heart. "Abapical" means "the end opposite the pointed end", like the "base" of the heart.

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.