I noticed in the Wycliffe Bible, in early Genesis, that the description of 'creeping creatures' and 'flying creatures' was 'reptiles and volatiles'.

I had not heard or read of bird species being called 'volatile' before. Apparently it is from the Latin volare, to fly, and comes through the French volatil.

'Reptile', I understand, comes from Latin, repere, to creep or crawl, then through Late Latin, reptilis.

I have not been able to find a similar -ile ending category for fish or for land animals which do not 'creep' or 'crawl'.

Can anyone help?

  • 2
    Well, there’s “sessile” for plants. But I think the obstacle you’re hitting is the linguistic concept of “marked/unmarked”. That is “marked” things — things that have. specific words for them — are usually the “anomalies”, the deviation from the norm, that create exceptions that need to be talked about. The “unmarked” things are the opposite: the standard, the quotidian. For the audience or the Bible, farmers, herders, animal husbanders, game hunters, the four legged beasts and edible fish were the “normal” things they encountered in everyday life. They needed only words for not those.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 9, 2019 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


The words that you are looking for are natatile (for fish) and gressile (for land animals).

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has entries for both adjectives, defined as "Able to swim; swimming" and "Able to walk" (via cross-reference to the synonym gressible). The OED entry for gressile includes the following citation that illustrates the parallel usage with volatile and reptile:

1659 D. Pell Πελαγος 193 Terrestrial. And under this term I would comprehend, 1. Gressile, 2. Volatile, 3. Reptile.

Gressile is mentioned also in the Dictionary of Early English, by Joseph T. Shipley (1955):

gressile, gressive; gressorial; adapted for walking. The simple forms from the Latin hardly survive in English (cp. couth), but we still use many compounds [...] Terrestrial creatures may be classified as walking, flying, or crawling: gressile, volatile, or reptile.

("gressible", p. 315)

Both adjectives are classified as "obsolete" by the OED, as is the "Birds, esp. wild-fowl." sense of the word "volatile". Regardless, if you're using volatile in the sense of "flying" and reptile in the sense of "creeping", those seem to be the usual terms used to complete this set of Latinate -ile adjectives for modes of animal motion. If you're not looking for these words, I don't understand the question.

Both words can be found alongside volatile and reptile in a Latin quotation from Gassendi in the book On Certain Modified Forms assumed by the Inductive Process in Different Sciences, by Robert Mortimer Glover (1837), p. 13.

Natatile is from the Latin verb nato "swim", and gressile is from the Latin verb gradior "walk" (the same gress as in the word progress).

  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth “But the Wycliffe Bible is still referred to reasonably frequently.” — by whom? That's certainly not my experience (as a British Christian); in fact, I don't think I've ever heard it referred to. (I don't even hear the AV/KJV much these days, as much better translations are available these days — as this question illustrates!)
    – gidds
    Aug 10, 2019 at 11:32
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    @gidds There's an organisation named for the Wycliffe Bible: the Wycliffe Bible Translators. This is a reference to that translation. The sense of 'refer to' I use can surely be deduced by the contrast with 'less well-known' and 'checked [number of hits on Google]'. Ask yourself (a) Had I heard of the Wycliffe Bible before reading this thread? (b) Had I heard of Glover's 'On Certain Modified Forms assumed by the Inductive Process in Different Sciences'? And I'd add (c) Would English people of Wycliffe's day have been better able to understand the NASB? Aug 10, 2019 at 14:39

Here, maybe aquatile would work -

aquatile (adjective)... (Entry 1 of 2):


aquatile (noun) plural -s (Entry 2 of 2) {obsolete}:

an aquatic animal or plant

History and Etymology for aquatile:


Latin aquatilis, from aqua

(from Merriam-Webster)

As you have said in the question -

I have not been able to find a similar -ile ending category for fish or for land animals which do not 'creep' or 'crawl'.

It takes care of the -ile ending category (aquatile) mentioned above.


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