Zooglossia 10: No Translation Needed, Catalogs of Animal Sounds in Latin

Varro, Menippiean Satire, fr. 3 [4. 156, 23]

“A cow moos, a sheep baas, horses whinny, and a chicken clucks”

mugit bovis, ovis balat, equi hinniunt, gallina pipat.

We do have preserved from antiquity a list of animal sounds. I find myself incapable of translating all of them faithfully. But here’s the list:

Suetonius, De Naturis Animantium

“It is characteristic of lions to growl or roar. Tigers roar [rancare]; panthers growl [felire]. Female panthers caterwaul [caurire]. Bears growl [uncare] or roar [saevire]. Boars gnash teeth. Lynxes roar [urcare]. Wolves howl. Snakes hiss. Donkeys honk [mugilare]. Deer grow [rugire]. Bulls moo [mugire]. Horses whinny. Donkeys snort and honk [oncere]. Pigs snort [grunire]. Boars snarl [quiretare]. Rams bleat [blatterare]. Sheep baaaa [balare]. Male goats mutter [miccire]. Small goats go baaa [bebare]. Dogs bark or bay [latrare seu baubari]. Foxes go gag a [gannire], Wolf cubs whelp [glattire]. Hares trill [vagire]. Weasels trill [drindare]. Mice mutter and squeak [mintrire vel pipitare]. Shrews snap [desticare]. Elephants trumpet [barrire]. Frogs croak [coaxare] Ravens crow [crocitare]. Eagles shriek [clangare]. Hawks caw [plipiare]. Vultures shriek [pulpare]. Kites coo and mourn [lupire vel lugere]. Swans sound drensare. Cranes grurere. Storks crotolare. Geese honk [gliccere vel sclingere]. Ducks quack [tetrissitare]. Peacocks paupulare. Roosters cockadoodledoo or sing [cucurrire] vel cantare. Jackdaws cacaa [fringulire]. Owls cuccube [cuccubire. Cucckoos cuckoo [cuculare’. Blackbirds gnash and buzz [zinzare]. Thrushes trill [trucilare] and chirp [soccitare]. Starlings sound passitare. Swallows either whisper or murmer—for their murmur is the smallest of all the birds. Hens cluck [crispier] Sparrows chirp [titiare]. Bees buzz [bombire or bombilare]. Cicadas snap [frinitare].

Leonum est fremere uel rugire. tigridum rancare. pardorum felire. pantherarum caurire. ursorum uncare uel saeuire. aprorum frendere. lyncum urcare. luporum ululare. serpentium sibilare. onagrorum mugilare. ceruorum rugire. boum mugire. equorum hinnire. asinorum rudere uel oncare. porcorum grunnire. uerris quiritare. arietum blatterare. ouium balare. hircorum miccire. haedorum bebare. canum latrare seu baubari. uulpium gannire. catulorum glattire. leporum uagire. mustelarum drindrare. murium mintrire uel pipitare. soricum desticare. elephantum barrire. ranarum coaxare. coruorum crocitare. aquilarum clangere. accipitrum plipiare. uulturum pulpare. miluorum lupire uel lugere. olorum drensare. gruum gruere. ciconiarum crotolare. anserum gliccire uel sclingere. anatum tetrissitare. pauonum paupulare. (gallorum cucurrire uel cantare.) graculorum fringulire. noctuarum cuccubire. cuculorum cuculare. merulorum frendere uel zinziare. turdorum trucilare uel soccitare. sturnorum passitare. hirundinum fintinnire uel minurrire – dicunt tamen quod minurrire est omnium minutissimarum auicularum – gallinae crispire. passerum titiare. apum bombire uel bombilare. cicadarum fritinnire.

Image result for Ancient Roman animal mosaic
The Lod Mosaic

An number of these are very close to their Greek equivalents

Serpents: sibilare; cf. Greek surizein: ὁ ὄφις τὸ συρίζειν

Dogs: baubari, cf. Greek βαΰζειν

Rooster: cucurrire; cf. Greek “kokkuzein is for the sound of a rooster” Καὶ κοκκύζειν ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀλεκτρυόνος.

Ravens: crocitare; cf. Greek “Krôzein: to cry like a raven.” κρώζειν· ὡς κόραξ κράζειν

Cows: mugire cf. “Mukêthmos: the sound of bulls” Μυκηθμός: ἡ τῶν βοῶν φωνή.

Ouium: balare. Cf. τῶν δὲ οἰῶν βληχή, “The bleating of sheep” and “Baa” [βᾶ] (Hermippus, fr. 19).

Pigs: grunnire, cf. Greek goggrusai (“goggrusai: to make noise like a pig” γογγρύσαι· ὡς χοῖρος φωνῆσαι)

Horses: hinnire; cf. Greek “Mimikhmos: a horse’s voice μιμιχμός· τοῦ ἵππου φωνή

Donkeys: rudere uel oncare, cf. Greek ongkasthai: ὀγκᾶσθαι: “to bray like a donkey” and “ongkêthmos” (ὀγκηθμός· κραυγὴ ὄνου)

Goats: miccire, cf. Greek mêkades for goats, (Μηκάδες)

Frogs: coaxare, cf. the frog song Βρεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ

Cuckoo: cuculare, cf. Hes. Works and Days 486: “When the cuckoo cuckoos on the leaves of the oak tree.” ἦμος κόκκυξ κοκκύζει δρυὸς ἐν πετάλοισι

Owl: cuccubire; cf. Greek “Kikkabizein: Aristophanes uses this sound for the noise of owls” Κικκαβίζειν: τὴν τῶν γλαυκῶν φωνὴν οὕτως καλεῖ ᾿Αριστοφάνης.

Weasel: drindrare; cf. Aelian γαλῆς τριζούσης (“trilling weasel”)

Also consider:

Lion: fremere cf. Hesychius brimazein is the sound used for a lion’s voice” βριμάζων· τῇ τοῦ λέοντος χρώμενος φωνῇ

Eagle: clangere, cf. a generic bird sound in Greek: κλαγγή· φωνή, ἠχή (Il. 1.49), βοή. *ἢ κλαγγὴ ὀρνέων (1. 3)  Cf. Photius Κλαγγή: ποιά τις φωνὴ ὀρνέου.


Here are links to the previous Zooglossia posts for the details.

  1. What does a goat say?
  2. What does a donkey say?
  3. Pigs grunting in Greek
  4. Sheep go Baaaaaa.
  5. Greek Moo Cows.
  6. A Real Dogamma: Dogs Bark and Howl
  7. Roosters, Cucckoos, Ravens and Crows
  8. Talking Horse in Ancient Greek
  9. Searching For Cat Sounds, Finding Weasels

9 thoughts on “Zooglossia 10: No Translation Needed, Catalogs of Animal Sounds in Latin

  1. GRATIAS!!!–So is this your more or less complete compilation?


  2. Now you need someone to make a custom “Speak and Say” (or whatever that old Fisher Price toy was called) to use the Greek and Latin instead of the English (or other modern languages)…

  3. please clean up the horrible typos in the translation of the passage :
    ship -> sheep
    gece -> geece

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