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I am looking for a word that means "The one being fed on by an animal"

For example, if a mosquito or leech is sucking someone's blood, what is the best word for this person? Suckee? Victim? Prey?

The context is that I'm writing a script for a fantasy series I'm working on. I have a beetle that sucks blood and grants its [prey] good luck as it feeds on their blood. I'm looking for a better word to replace [prey].

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    What about the word 'prey' don't you like? What would make another word better? Jun 12 at 11:14
  • @KillingTime Prey makes it sound like the person being fed on is going to die. I think I want a word like suckee, if that's even a word. I just want something that means the one who's blood is being sucked
    – Nass King
    Jun 12 at 11:16
  • Good question for a new contributor +1, which also got a really good answer. I've clarified the title and the tags if you don't mind.
    – ermanen
    Jun 12 at 12:15
  • 2
    .... "Supper"! :P
    – Brondahl
    Jun 13 at 9:43
  • 3
    That is a Taxpayer.
    – Elliot
    Jun 14 at 3:32

8 Answers 8

40

"Host" would be the most correct term biologically, though it's more often associated with long-term parasites / guests that actually live in or on the host.

If you want to avoid the "long-term" connotations, you could say "the bitten one", "the person who was bitten", or other phrasings: e.g. "it gives good luck to those it bites". Wordy, but natural.

"Host" - common in biological/ecological descriptions. Use if you want to be more technical. Most often used for long-term parasites/guests (botflies, tapeworms, mites...) You could clarify by saying "short-term hosts".

"Prey" - common in biological/ecological descriptions. Use if you want to be technical (you could clarify that the prey survives). Implies death.

"Victim" - implies malice (negative connotation), does not imply death. Might be used by someone with a loathing of the parasite. (I definitely consider myself a victim of mosquitoes.)

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    Ohh this helps. Thanks a lot ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพ
    – Nass King
    Jun 12 at 11:56
  • 3
    @NassKing Edited my post facepalm as I just remembered "host". Oh god, I went to university for this. Jun 12 at 12:01
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    Good answer for a new contributor +1. I was also going to write the answer "host" and you edited your answer to include it. "Victim" can be used also, especially if the person is affected by the blood sucking animal. I would also suggest you to include relevant definitions and example sentences (possibly from scientific articles), then it would be a perfect answer.
    – ermanen
    Jun 12 at 12:05
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    Here is a National Geographic article about mosquitoes which uses both terms, 'host' and 'victim'.
    – ermanen
    Jun 12 at 12:07
  • 5
    Here is a scientific article/study from parasitesandvectors.biomedcentral.com titled "Understanding mosquito host-choice behaviour: a new and low-cost method of identifying the sex of human hosts from mosquito blood meals".
    – ermanen
    Jun 12 at 12:26
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From the perspective of a biologist

This is NOT an example of a predator / prey relationship. By definition, a predator KILLS its prey. If the person whose blood is being taken generally lives, they are not prey and the mosquito, leech, or what have you is not a predator.

A normal blood-sucker and the thing it feeds on is a parasite/host relationship. By definition, a parasite generally doesn't kill its host. If you wanted to specify further, you would say it is an ectoparasite, because it lives and does its feeding outside the host (as opposed to, say, a tapeworm).

A normal blood-sucker and its host are NOT in a symbiotic relationship. Symbiosis literally means 'live-with' and is reserved for long-term physically proximate relationships. It the leech feeds for a while, drops off, and never encounters this particular host again, that is not a persistent enough interaction to count as symbiosis.

However, in your fantasy work, the blood-feeder is granting its host 'luck'. If the benefit of the luck is greater than the cost of the blood, then the blood-feeder is no longer a parasite. By definition, a parasite/host relationship is one in which the parasite benefits and the host suffers. If the blood-feeder is actually benefitting the host, then this is a mutualistic relationship, such as the mutualistic zooxanthellae dinoflagellates that live inside of cnidarian corals - yes, the dinoflagellates feed on their hosts, but they also provide them with the results of their photosynthesis, such that both of them are better off. If your fantasy leeches stay attached to their hosts for much of their lives, you could call them (both) symbiotic mutualists. The organism being fed on is still the 'host', as it is providing the feeder food and a place to live.

Note that my use of these terms here is the correct biological usage, but may not be how they are used commonly, either by people in our world or your fantasy world. For example, many non-biologists use 'symbiosis' for a relationship that is only positive to both organisms (it could be, but doesn't have to be) and that could be short-term (it is definitely not), and a person could refer to themselves as being 'prey for mosquitos' (this would be commonly understood, even though it is biologically incorrect).

FWIW, I have a degree in Biology and teach it in high school.

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    zooxanthellae dinoflagellates, a term to remember. :) Good stuff.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13 at 17:09
  • After reading this and another answer, and being a lay person, I have to ask, is there some difference between a symbiotic mutualist and a mutualistic symbiote? Are some symbiotes non-mutualistic? Jun 15 at 12:48
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    @DarrenRinger I don't think there is any difference between symbiotic mutualist and mutualistic symbiont (or symbiote), other than grammatically which word is being used as the adjective and which the noun. I would use those interchangeably. However, there are lots of symbioses (physically proximate long-term relationships) that are NOT mutualistic: parasitism, parasitoidism, pathogenism, comensalism, amensalism...
    – Kirt
    Jun 15 at 16:12
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You say that the "suckee" receives a benefit โ€” namely, good luck โ€” in exchange for its blood. One could therefore argue that the relationship between sucker and suckee is symbiotic rather than parasitic; hence both participants could plausibly be described as symbionts. (I am assuming here that such a relationship qualifies de facto as "symbiotic" regardless of whether both parties participate willfully, or are aware of the mutual benefit.)

Note that some sources (e.g. M-W, AHD, Wordnik) offer symbiote as an alternative form to symbiont.

Note also that in a narrow technical context, the precisely correct term for a mutually-beneficial biological relationship is mutualism rather than symbiosis โ€” but in general, the two terms are often used interchangeably, as I'm doing here.

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To answer this question, more perspective is required. Remember that you're not writing a technical paper. You're writing fantasy. The word choice depends on what kind of picture you want to paint.

So, pick the term in a way that will illuminate something about someone's point of view. From the beetle's perspective, some appropriate words might be "friend," "meal," "food," "juicy," "blessed," "luck-sink", "mentor," "livestock," "carrier," "colony," "home," "snack," "victim," "George," "blood supply," "egg sac," and so forth. Each of these terms tells a little story on its own and should illuminate beetles' attitude.

Likewise for the perspective on the ones getting bitten. You could pick something like "lumper," "donor," "lucker," "holey," "carrier," "anemic," "blessed," "bandage gallery," "itcher," "bug lover," "nester," "bleeder," or such. You could even make up a word like "blugger" (evoking "bug," "blood," and "bugger"). The point is that the word should say something about whoever is using it. A character who uses "blugger" is clearly someone who hates people that are getting stuck by beetles.

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If the "suckee" agrees with the sucking to obtain a benefit, then "donor" might work. The donation might be voluntary or not, so it might need to be qualified: involuntary donor, say.

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I personally would go with the word host; it's what a doctor or a scientist (or anyone else) would use.

Cambridge
host:
a plant or animal that another plant or animal lives on as a parasite

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  • Or anyone else. This is really the only answer. Jun 14 at 18:57
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EDIT apologies; I didn't see the previous answer which said exactly this.

In seriousness, since your beetle is giving something useful in return, it isn't actually a parasite. This is a symbiotic relationship. Both animals could be considered "symbionts" .

Do not call them "symbiotes" unless you've jumped into the Marvel Comics universe .

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    Wouldn't "symbiont" generally only be used to refer to the beetle, not the person? I say this because it seems like the person could survive perfectly fine without the beetle, but the beetle could not survive long without a person to feed on. A better example than Marvel symbiotes might be the Trill symbionts in the Star Trek universe (mostly just DS9 with Dax, but there were others). They used the "host"/"symbiont" terminology. And while removal of the symbiont was potentially fatal for both, the vast majority of Trill lived perfectly fine without them. Jun 13 at 13:56
  • @DarrelHoffman according to wikipedia as well as some university biology departments, both animals are symbionts at least during the execution of the "transfer." Jun 13 at 13:57
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A blood-sucking creature - a mosquito, for instance - is referred to as a parasite. I've had arguments regarding this being the correct terminology for certain insects or animals, but for the sake of argument, the technical answer to your question would be "a host". The body from which the blood is being "sucked" or eaten doesn't necessarily have to be human, though regardless, the word for whatever is loosing blood is "the host"

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