Zooglossia 7: Roosters, Cuckoos, Ravens and Crows

Yes. More animal sounds. When they stop making noise, I will stop searching for it…

The representation of birdsong tends to be onomatopoetic for fairly obvious reasons. There are other examples to add, but below are just a few instances of what birds say in ancient Greek. In English, birds caw; roosters cockle-doodle-do. In Greek, crows and ravens kro and krag-; roosters and cuckoos kokku kokku. Birds in general pip pip while birds giving birth go kakka.

Image result for ancient greek birds

Ammonius, On Improper Speech 2

“There is a difference between speaking and howling—speaking is used for humans; howling is for wolves. We should not the proper name for each of the rest, for example, we say goats , sheep bleat, cows moo, donkeys bray, horses whinny, lions roar, a dog barks among the Athenians from the sound ar of his voice, while we say they howl. For other birds: ravens and crows crow [krôzein], roosters go kok kuo as do the cuckoo birds. Doves [trugonoi] trill. The rest of the animals are similar.”

     διαφέρει μὲν οὖν τὸ φωνεῖν τοῦ ὠρύεσθαι, ὅτι τὸ μὲν φωνεῖν ἐπὶ ἀνθρώπου, τὸ δὲ ὠρύεσθαι ἐπὶ λύκων. παρατηρητέον οὖν καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν λοιπῶν τὸ οἰκεῖον ἑκάστου ὄνομα οἷον μηκᾶσθαι ἐπὶ αἰγῶν, βληχᾶσθαι ἐπὶ προβάτων, μυκᾶσθαι ἐπὶ βοῶν, βρωμᾶσθαι ἐπὶ ὄνων, χρεμετίζειν ἐπὶ ἵππων, βρυχᾶσθαι ἐπὶ λεόντων, ἀρρίζειν ἐπὶ κυνῶν παρ’ ᾿Αθηναίοις ἀπὸ τῆς αρ φωνῆς, παρ’ †ἡμῶν† τούτοις τὸ ὑλακτεῖν λέγεται. καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν πτηνῶν κρώζειν μὲν ἐπὶ κορωνῶν καὶ κοράκων, κοκκύζειν δὲ ἐπὶ ἀλεκτρυόνων καὶ κοκκύγων, τρύζειν δὲ ἐπὶ τρυγόνων. καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ὁμοίως.


Krôzein: to cry like a raven.”

*κρώζειν· ὡς κόραξ κράζειν

Etym. Gud.

“To krôzein: to make a sound like a raven, or, as a crow cries”

Κρώζειν, ὡς κόραξ, ἢ ὡς κορώνη κράζειν.

Crow Sounds

Rooster and Cuckoo

Cratinus, fr. 311

“They cannot endure the rooster crooning”

κοκκύζειν τὸν ἀλεκτρυόν’ οὐκ ἀνέχονται.

Aristophanes the Grammarian

kokkuzein is for the sound of a rooster”

Καὶ κοκκύζειν ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀλεκτρυόνος.

Hes. Works and Days, 486

“When the cuckoo cuckoos on the leaves of the oak tree.”

ἦμος κόκκυξ κοκκύζει δρυὸς ἐν πετάλοισι


General Chirping and Stranger Things


Pipiazein: “chirping, this lexical item is formed from the sound of birds. People also say potizein or pipiskein

πιπίζειν· κατὰ μίμησιν ἡ λέξις πεποίηται τῆς τῶν ὀρνέων φωνῆς.

     λέγουσι δὲ τὸ ποτίζειν, ἢ πιπίσκειν


The following terms are also likely onomatopoetic and may be similar to English “quack”. Note the reduplication common of other animal sounds. Also, note the strange assertion that there is a sound particular of birds producing offspring.


“Kakkazein: an imitation of the sound of birds producing young.”

Κακκάζειν: μίμησις τικτουσῶν ὀρνίθων φωνῆς.

“Kikkabizein: Aristophanes uses this sound for the noise of owls”

Κικκαβίζειν: τὴν τῶν γλαυκῶν φωνὴν οὕτως καλεῖ ᾿Αριστοφάνης.

Kakka 1


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