Zooglossia: Animal Sounds in Latin (and Greek)

Vita Aesop G = Fabula 302

“There was a time when all the animals spoke the same language”

ὅτε ἦν ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα…

A few years ago I was temporarily obsessed with animal sounds

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.

 

An number of these are very close to their Greek equivalents

Aelian Varia Historia 5.52

“Nature has produced animals which have the greatest range of voices and sounds, in the same way, in fact, as she has made people. Just as the Skythian speaks one way and the Indian speaks another, or the Aithiopian has his own language and the Sakai have theirs. And the language of Greece is different from Rome. Indeed, it is the same with animals who in various ways utter the a sound or an song native to their tongue. One roars, another moos, a neigh comes from another, a bray from one, a bleat or maaaa from another. A howl is dear to one; a bark to another; while some growl. There are those who scream, whistle, hoot, sing, croon and tweet. There are endless gifts proper to different animals by nature.”

51. Πολυφωνότατα δὲ τὰ ζῷα καὶ πολύφθογγα ὡς ἂν εἴποις ἡ φύσις ἀπέφηνεν, ὥσπερ οὖν καὶ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους. ὁ γοῦν Σκύθης ἄλλως φθέγγεται καὶ ὁ Ἰνδὸς ἄλλως, καὶ ὁ Αἰθίοψ ἔχει φωνὴν συμφυᾶ καὶ οἱ Σάκαι· φωνὴ δὲ Ἑλλὰς ἄλλη, καὶ Ῥωμαία ἄλλη. οὕτω τοι καὶ τὰ ζῷα ἄλλο ἄλλως προΐεται τὸν συγγενῆ τῆς γλώττης ἦχόν τε καὶ ψόφον· τὸ μὲν γὰρ βρυχᾶται, μυκᾶται δὲ ἄλλο, καὶ χρεμέτισμα ἄλλου καὶ ὄγκησις <ἄλλου>, ἄλλου βληχηθμός τε καὶ μηκασμός, καί τισι μὲν ὠρυγμός, τισὶ δὲ ὑλαγμὸς φίλον, καὶ ἄλλῳ ἀρράζειν· κλαγγαὶ δὲ καὶ ῥοῖζοι καὶ κριγμοὶ καὶ ᾠδαὶ καὶ μελῳδίαι καὶ τραυλισμοὶ καὶ μυρία ἕτερα δῶρα τῆς φύσεως ἴδια τῶν ζῴων ἄλλα ἄλλων.

Comparative Zooglossia:

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 some details.

1. What does a goat say?

Photius, s.v Μηκάδες (cf. Suda mu 901)

“An epithet for goats; it comes from their species’ sound”

Μηκάδες: ἐπιθετικῶς αἱ αἶγες· ἀπὸ τοῦ ἰδιώματος τῆς φωνῆς.

2. What does a donkey say?

Photius

brômasthai: this is the braying of a hungry donkey. Also, brôma. This is the sound itself.”

Βρωμᾶσθαι· τὸ ὀγκᾶσθαι πεινῶντα ὄνον. καὶ βρῶμα· ἡ φωνὴ αὕτη.

3. Pigs grunting in Greek

Schol ad Ar. Pl. 22

“Who says “oink”—this is either from the sound of pigs or from trash [grutê, small bits, inconsequential things].

… ὃς γρῦ λέγεται· ἢ  ἀπὸ τῆς τῶν χοίρων φωνῆς ἢ ἀπὸ τῶν γρυτῶν·

4. Sheep go Baaaaaa.

Aristophanes, fr. 642

“He is about to sacrifice me and he is telling me to say “baa”.”

θύειν <με> μέλλει καὶ κελεύει βῆ λέγειν.

5. Greek Moo Cows

Suda, cf. Photius s.v. Μυκηθμός

“Mukêthmos: the sound of bulls”

Μυκηθμός: ἡ τῶν βοῶν φωνή.

6. A Real Dogamma: Dogs Bark and Howl

Zonaras, beta 379

“Barking: ulaktôn: In Aristophanes [Thesm. 173] “Barking, for I was like this….”

Βαΰζων. ὑλακτῶν. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· βαΰζων γὰρ καὶ ἐγὼ τοιοῦτος ἦν.

7. Roosters, Cucckoos, Ravens and Crows

Etym. Gud.

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

Κρώζειν, ὡς κόραξ, ἢ ὡς κορώνη κράζειν.

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

8. Talking Horse in Ancient Greek

Schol in Lyk. 244

“Snorting is neighing. A snorting echo. This, I believe, means neighing. But neighing is not the same as snorting. It is the sound that comes through horses’ noses when they prance.”

     φριμαγμός ὁ χρεμετισμός.φριμαγμὸν ἦχον. οὗτος, οἶμαι, τὸν χρεμετισμόν φησιν· οὐκ ἔστι δὲ φριμαγμὸς ὁ χρεμετισμός, ἀλλὰ διὰ τῶν ῥινῶν *τῶν ἵππων* ἐκπεμπόμενος ἦχος, ὅταν γαυριῶσιν.

9. Searching For Cat Sounds, Finding Weasels

Mosaic in lapidary of the Archaeological Museum of Delphi

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

Zooglossia 9: Cats of Many Names but Few Sounds

This is likely the penultimate, or at least the antepenultimate, post about animal sounds. I am not losing steam, exactly; but I am losing material. This post is a little bit of a failure. But, along the way, we will get to sounds for weasels, snakes, and mice. This is a win, even if the elusive cat’s meow remains beyond me. If anyone finds evidence, I will gladly post it.

Related image
Colorful Cat Mosaic from a dining room (triclinium) in the House of the Faun in Pompeii
Photographed at the Palazzo Massimo venue of the National Museum of Rome, Rome, Italy.

A proverb (in Arsenius and elsewhere; this version is from the Etymologicum Magnum)

[Comparing] a cat to Athena. This is used for those who poorly compare serious things with minor because of some minor similarity, as the proverb applies—as if someone compares Athena with a cat because they both have gray eyes.”

᾿Αθηνᾷ τὸν αἴλουρον: ἐπὶ τῶν κακῶς συγκρινόντων τὰ κρείττονα τοῖς ἥττοσι διὰ μικρὰν ὁμοιότητα ἡ παροιμία εἴρηται· ὡς εἴ τις διὰ γλαυκότητα τὸν αἴλουρον τῇ ᾿Αθηνᾷ συμβάλλοι.

As I have posted about before, there is confusion in early Greek between weasels and cats because both are used in an early period to rid the home of rodents and cats are not as well-represented until the Hellenistic period or later. This complicates finding evidence for ancient Greek representations of cat sounds (I cannot find any) and weasel sounds (very little evidence). But there are some interesting things to say about cats.

The first thing to note is that there are different names and spellings for the felix domesticus. The early Αἴλουρος appears in Herodotus (with an extra syllable). By the early Byzantine period we find an interesting etymology based on the cat’s twirling tail.

Etym. Magnum.

Ailouros: An animal. The name comes from twisting, turning and moving the tail.  Also an ailourios, some call a root this”

    Αἴλουρος: Τὸ ζῷον, παρὰ τὸ αἰόλειν καὶ ἀνάγειν τὴν οὐρὰν καὶ κινεῖν. Καὶ αἰλούριος, ῥίζα τὶς οὕτω καλουμένη.

N. B. Aelian has Αἰλούρων ὁ [7.27]

Cf. Etym. Gen.

Aielouros> This is not pleonasm but instead antithesis. It comes from “curling” [aiolein] the tail [ourên]

     Αἰέλουρος (Soph. Ichn. 296)· τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστι πλεονασμὸς ἀλλὰ ἀντίθεσις· παρὰ γὰρ τὸ αἰολεῖν τὴν οὐρὰν ἐτυμολογεῖται

Moeris

“Attic speakers say aielouros; Greeks say ailouros

αἰέλουρος ᾿Αττικοί, αἴλουρος ῞Ελληνες.

N.B. This form does appear in Herodotus, Sophocles, and more!

Additional evidence gives us little information about the ailouros. It is clear that Herodotus’ cat is the cat as we might recognize it. In other early Greek authors, the evidence gets a bit muddy. This scholion to Aristophanes provides some interesting information. It conflates names and animals, I think, but presents some catty behavior.

Schol. ad Aristophanes Pl. 693

“Stinkier than a weasel”: There are two kinds of weasels, one is wild, which is twofold. It is called an ailouros and another small animal which has red skin. And there is also a *hêmeron. This is the creature which homer calls a ktis but is commonly called katis. This one has really the worst smelling excrement. And when this animal defecates and excretes it throws dirt over it and covers what it excreted. You should also know that that ktis to which, according to the language in homer, the lexicographers of that divine man do not understand, that it is syncope for katis. This animal, they say, is a birdeater, and a complete troublemaker, like an ailouros.”

δριμύτερον γαλῆς· δύο
γένη τελοῦσι γαλῶν, τό τε ἄγριον—
ὅπερ διττόν ἐστιν· ὅ τε καλούμενος
αἴλουρος καὶ σμικρὸν ζῷον ἕτερον
πυρρὰν ἔχον τὴν χρόαν—καὶ τὸ
ἥμερον. ἥμερον δέ ἐστιν ἡ παρ’
῾Ομήρῳ μὲν κτὶς καλουμένη, κοινῶς
δὲ κατίς. ἔστι δὲ τούτου ἡ ἄφοδος
δυσοσμότατος, ὅθε καὶ ἀποπατοῦν
καὶ ἐκκρῖνον τὸ ζῷον κόνιν ἐπιβάλλει
καὶ περικαλύπτει τὰ ἐκκρινόμενα.
καὶ τοῦτο δέ σοι ἰστέον ὡς καὶ τὸ
“κτίς” τὴν παρ’ ῾Ομήρῳ λέξιν
αὐτῆς οἱ τοῦ θείου ἐκείνου ἀνδρὸς
λεξιγράφοι μὴ συνιέντες, ὅτι συγκο-
πὴ τοῦ “κατίς” ἐστι, ζῷον τοῦτό
φασιν εἶναι ὀρνιθοφάγον καὶ πανοῦρ-
γον κακῶς ἤτοι αἴλουρον.

Cf. Aelian 6.27

“People claim that cats hate and dread everything that smells bad. For this reason, they dig a hole and hide their fecal matter so that they might make it invisible when they cover it with earth.”

φασὶ δὲ τοὺς αἰλούρους πάντα ὅσα δυσώδη ἐστὶ μισεῖν τε καὶ βδελύττεσθαι. ταύτῃ τοι καὶ τὸ σφέτερον περίττευμα ἀφιέναι πρότερον βόθρον ὀρύξαντας, ἵνα ἀφανίσωσιν αὐτὸ τῆς γῆς ἐπιβαλόντες.

*I cannot find more information about this type of weasel. We need a weasel-specialist.

What I suspect might be going on here–apart from the delightful description of whatever animal this is as a bird-eater and a troublemaker–is that this scholiast is building a phonetic bridge between the Homeric weasel (ktis) and the latter Greek word for domesticated cat (kattês). The overlapping conceptual space of cat and weasel in the galea  (γαλέη) facilitates this, I think. You will note from the passages below some behavior that seems feline and some that does not.

Schol. at Arist. Clouds 169a

“Now he says that the spotted lizard is the small and red wild weasel, not the ailouros or the hêmeron weasel, this is the ktis or also the katis about which Homer also says “he placed a hat well made from a weasel on his head.” This wild weasel scrambles up and down and runs around the walls”

νῦν δὲ οὗτος ἀσκαλαβώτην φησὶ τὴν μικρὰν καὶ πυρρὰν ἀγρίαν γαλῆν, οὐ τὸν αἴλουρον οὐδὲ τὴν ἥμερον γαλῆν, ἥτις ἐστὶν ἡ κτὶς καὶ ἡ κατίς, περὶ ἧς καὶ῞Ομηρος λέγει·  κρατὶ δ’ ἔπι κτιδέην κυνέην εὔτυκτον ἔθηκεν.ἀσκελῶς δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀγρία γαλῆ ἀναρριχᾶται καὶ περιτρέχει τοὺς τοίχους.

Apollonius Sophista [cf. Hesychius s.v. κτιδέα]

“The ktis is an animal similar to a small weasel (galê, differing from the weasel in size….

κτὶς γάρ ἐστι τὸ ζῷον ὅμοιον γαλῇ μικρῷ, μεγέθει διαφέρουσα τῆς γαλῆς…

Suda

Kattês, kattou: a domesticated ailouros.”

Κάττης, κάττου: ὁ κατοικίδιος αἴλουρος.

“Home-born”: A kattês which was born in the home. “Does A homeborn cat, after eating my partridge, expects to live in my home? [=Greek Anthology 7.205, attributed to Agathias Scholasticus]

Οἰκογενής: ὁ κάττης, ὁ ἐν οἴκῳ γεννηθείς. οἰκογενὴς αἴλουρος ἐμὴν πέρδικα φαγοῦσα ζώειν ἡμετέροις ἔλπεται ἐν μεγάροις.

Here is a fragment that will horrify ailouranthropes [“cat-people”]:

Anaxandrides  (fr. 40.12-13; Athenaeus 7)

“If you see a cat in pain, you mourn.
But I am happy to kill it and flay it.”

τὸν αἰέλουρον κακὸν ἔχοντ᾿ ἐὰν ἴδῃς
κλάεις, ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἥδιστ᾿ ἀποκτείνας δέρω.

γαλῆ γαλέα mostly describes a weasel but sometimes indicates a cat, since both were used domestically to catch mice.

Aelian 6.41.30-32

“this is also a particular quality of mice. Whenever they hear the trilling of a weasel or the hissing of a serpent they transfer their young from one mouse hole to another”

…ἰδιότης δὲ ἄρα μυῶν καὶ ἐκείνη. ἐπειδὰν ἀκούσωσι γαλῆς τριζούσης ἢ συρίττοντος ἔχεως, ἐκ τῆς μυωπίας τῆς μιᾶς τὰ ἑαυτῶν βρέφη ἄλλο ἄλλῃ μετοικίζουσιν

This passage is the only place I could find evidence of the sound that weasels make. This verb is used to indicate the trilling or squeaking of multiple types of animals, usually small ones like mice and weasels.

trizein

This is not the only place where this sibilant verb is used to describe a snake’s hiss. Again, in a scholion to Aristophanes, we get a description of multiple animals sounds that includes the sssssscary snake:

Schol ad. Aristoph. Pl. 689

“Each of the animals has its own particular voice—so a goat maaaas, a cow moooos, a raven crows and other animals are similar. Thus a snake also hisses [surizei].

«ἐξάραντες ἐπικροτήσατε.») …. ἕκαστον γὰρ τῶν ζῴων ἰδίαν φωνὴν ἔχει, ὡς αἲξ τὸ μηκάζειν, βοῦς τὸ μυκᾶσθαι, κορώνη τὸ κρώζειν, καὶ τἄλλα ὁμοίως· οὕτω καὶ ὁ ὄφις τὸ συρίζειν. —ὑφῄρει δὲ ἀντὶ τοῦ ἐκτείνει.

The verb used here, however, seems to be denominative from σῦριγξ, a noun which has a bit of a messy prehistory.

surinx

The verb trizein is used for many different animals. A unique compound appears to evoke the panicked squeaking of a dying mouse. In Latin, mice pipitare.

Batrakhomuomakhia 88

“He was squeezing his hands together and he was squeaking while he died”

καὶ χεῖρας ἔσφιγγε καὶ ὀλλύμενος κατέτριζε.

An Anecdote from Aelian

“Aristeides the Lokrian, after he was bitten by a Tartessian weasel and was dying, said “It would have been much better to die after being bitten by a lion or leopard than, if there would be some excuse for death other than this creature.” I think he felt the shamefulness of the bite to be more burdensome than death itself.

     ῞Οτι ᾿Αριστείδης ὁ Λοκρὸς ὑπὸ Ταρτησσίας γαλῆς δηχθεὶς καὶ ἀποθνήσκων εἶπεν ‘ὅτι πολὺ ἂν ἥδιον ἦν αὐτῷ δηχθέντι ὑπὸ λέοντος ἢ παρδάλεως ἀποθανεῖν, εἴπερ οὖν ἔδει τινὸς τῷ θανάτῳ προφάσεως ἢ ὑπὸ θηρίου τοιούτου,’ τὴν ἀδοξίαν ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν ἐκεῖνος τοῦ δήγματος πολλῷ βαρύτερον φέρων ἢ τὸν θάνατον αὐτόν.

Varia

Antigonus Paradoxographer, 68

“A weasel’s genitals are bony”

Τῆς δὲ γαλῆς ὀστοῦν εἶναι τὸ αἰδοῖον.

Schol P ad Arist. Plut 693 

“The feces of a weasel are completely bad-smelling”

πάνυ γὰρ δύσοσμός ἐστιν ἡ τῆς γαλῆς πορδή

Physiologos 21

“Don’t eat a weasel or anything like it”

     Μὴ φάγῃς οὖν γαλῆν, μηδὲ τὸ ὅμοιον αὐτῆς.

 

Zooglossia 8: Horse Sounds in Ancient Greek

Did Ancient Greek horses go khraaaaaaay?

Apthonius, 3 [Aesop’s Fables = Perry 396]

“Once, nature provided a song to kites as great as that of swans. But when they heard the horses neighing they fell in love and tried to mimic it. As they tried to imitate them, they lose their own voice. They never learned to neigh and they forgot how to sing.

The imitation of something different deprives you of what is yours.”

     ὅσην τοῖς κύκνοις ἡ φύσις ᾠδήν, τοσαύτην ἰκτίνοις παρέσχε τὸ πρότερον. ἵππων δὲ χρεμετιζόντων ἀκούσαντες εἰς ἔρωτα ἧκον τῆς ἐκείνων φωνῆς καὶ μιμεῖσθαι πειρώμενοι συναποβάλλουσιν ἃ εἶχον, οἷς μαθεῖν ἐπετήδευον. χρεμετίζειν μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ἔμαθον, ᾄδειν δὲ ἐπελάθοντο.

     φέρει τῶν προσόντων τὴν στέρησιν ἡ τοῦ μὴ προσήκοντος μίμησις.

The most common representation of horse sounds in Ancient Greek is seems to be based off a root with uncertain origins. I suspect it might have, at least to some speakers, represented a similar vocalism to that of English neigh.

Image result for ancient greek horse

Hesychius

khremetismos: the sound of horses.”

χρεμετισμός· ἡ φωνὴ τῶν ἵππων

Cf. Zonaras Χρεμετισμός. ἡ τῶν ἵππων βοή

Herodian = Schol. T ad Il. 21.575b

“Then he heard the barking” Aristarchus says that some have “dog-howling” [kunulagmon]. Stesichorus also seems to read this, for he says (fr. 78) “the endless dog-howling”, We don’t know of any other examples of the compound. For howling  [ulagmos] is elsewhere the name properly applied for hearing dogs, just as neighing is for horses.

     Hrd. ἐπεί κεν ὑλαγμὸν ἀκούσῃ: ᾿Αρίσταρχός τινάς φησι γράφειν „κυνυλαγμόν”· καὶ Στησίχορος (fr. 78 P. = P.M.G. 255) δὲ ἔοικεν οὕτως ἀνεγνωκέναι· φησὶ γοῦν „ἀπειρεσίοιο κυνυλαγμοῖο”.  οὐχ ὁρῶμεν δέ τι πλεῖον ἐκ τῆς συνθέσεως· ὁ γὰρ ὑλαγμὸς καὶ χωρὶς τοῦ προσκεῖσθαι τὸ ὄνομα ἰδίως ἐπὶ κυνῶν ἀκούεται, ὡς ὁ χρεμετισμὸς ἐπὶ τῶν ἵππων.

Beekes (2010)

kremet

Anyone who has spent time with horses knows that they do not make only one type of sound. There are two basic lexical items for equine snorting: the somewhat uncommon φρυάγμα and the slightly more common φριμαγμος. Both are understood by ancient authors to be onomatopoetic representations of nasalized snorting. But some sources make one or the author a synonym of neighing. All of these words seem to be nominalized abstracts from (what ancient speakers considered) animal-sound roots.

Zonaras

“Snorting [phrimagmos]: whinnying [khrêtismos]

Φριμαγμός. ὁ χρεμετισμός.

Lexicon Vindobenese, khi 5

“Whinnying [krêtismos] and snorting [phruagmos] are poetically applied to horses.

χρεμετισμὸς καὶ φρυαγμὸς ποιητικῶς ἐπὶ ἵππων.

Schol in Lyk. 244

“Snorting is neighing. A snorting echo. This, I believe, means neighing. But neighing is not the same as snorting. It is the sound that comes through horses’ noses when they prance.”

     φριμαγμός ὁ χρεμετισμός.φριμαγμὸν ἦχον. οὗτος, οἶμαι, τὸν χρεμετισμόν φησιν· οὐκ ἔστι δὲ φριμαγμὸς ὁ χρεμετισμός, ἀλλὰ διὰ τῶν ῥινῶν *τῶν ἵππων* ἐκπεμπόμενος ἦχος, ὅταν γαυριῶσιν.

Schol. PT ad Theocr. 5.2

“Snorting [phrimasseo] This means to prance with pleasure, to leap, the whole herd. The verb snorting is onomatopoetic from the sound of goats. The verb is also applied to horses. It is onomatopoeia from their sound.”

PT φριμάσσεο: τουτέστι μεθ’ ἡδονῆς σκίρτα, ἐπαίρου, πᾶσα ἀγέλη. τὸ δὲ φριμάσσω ἀπὸ τοῦ ἤχου τῶν αἰγῶν ὠνοματοπεποίηται. τὸ δὲ φριμάσσω λέγεται ἐπὶ τῶν ἵππων· κατὰ ὀνοματοποιΐαν δὲ τοῦτο ἀπὸ τοῦ ἤχου.

phrima

Zonaras, Phi 1823

“Phruagmos: this is a meaningless sound, mixed with fierce breath, emitting through the nose of horses and mules. They do this especially when they are responding to the treatment of those taming them”

Φρυαγμός. ἠχὴ τὶς ἀσημοτάτη, πνεύματι ῥαγδαίῳ συμμιγὴς, διὰ τῆς τῶν ἵππων καὶ ἡμιόνων ῥινὸς ἐκπίπτουσα. δρῶσι δὲ τοῦτο μάλιστα, ὅταν παραιτούμενοι ὦσι τὰς τῶν τιθασσευόντων θεραπείας.

More Beekes (2010)

phruagm

The sound I find most intriguing is attested only in one author but may be parallel to Latin hinnitus.

Hesychius

“Mimikhmos: a horse’s voice

μιμιχμός· τοῦ ἵππου φωνή

Mimaksasa: whinnying, making a sound”

μιμάξασα· χρεμετίσασα. φωνήσασα

From the LSJ 1902

mimikhmos

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.

Hesychius

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

Hesychius

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

Pipo

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.

Photius

“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

Kikka

Zooglossia 6: A Dog Goes Βαὺ Ϝαύ

This is yet another entry in the search for Greek animal sounds. You can find earlier notes on goats, pigs, sheep, donkeys and cows.

Aristophanes Wasps, 902-3

Ph.“Where is the plaintiff, the Kudathênaian dog?

Dog: Ow, Ow!

ποῦ δ’ ὅ γε διώκων, ὁ Κυδαθηναιεὺς κύων;

ΚΥΩΝ   αὖ αὖ.

When I was in graduate school I had a few table lecterns built by my late father who used to spend time under the influence working in the woodshop in his later years. He made a series of unfinished lecterns that worked to various degrees. One of them had some of my favorite lines from Greek scrawled on them—as I worked my way through the PhD reading list, I would throw fragments on it when they entertained me. (This practice, if any, represents the extreme origin of this blog and the twitter feed).

The dog’s comment above from the Wasps was one of a dozen on it. For years, I thought of ancient Greek dogs as saying au au until, last week, in a fit of fancy over animal noises, I posted this on twitter and was corrected. Ancient Greek dogs don’t say au au. They probably spoke the same language our dogs do and said Βαὺ Ϝαύ.

There was a lively twitter conversation about this.

As usual, the Suda would have helped explain the confusion. According to it (and a comment repeated in the scholion to Aristophanes’ Wasps), “au au is the imitation of the howling of dogs” (αὖ αὖν: μίμημα ὑλακῆς κυνῶν). The verb   ὑλακτεῖν—a secondary formation from the onomatopoetic ὑλάω—is, as any student of Athenaze would know, used at times to mean “bark”, but it more properly means to howl. From Beekes:

Ulaw

Aristonicus, De Signis Iliadis ad 21.575

“The howl is the special sound of dogs.”

ὁ γὰρ ὑλαγμὸς ἴδιος κυνῶν.

Zonaras, beta 379

“Barking: ulaktôn: In Aristophanes [Thesm. 173] “Barking, for I was like this….”

Βαΰζων. ὑλακτῶν. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· βαΰζων γὰρ καὶ ἐγὼ τοιοῦτος ἦν.

That Greek dogs likely said bau wau like our own is confirmed by a few fragments and the existence of another onomatopoetic verb, βαΰζειν. The loss of the digamma in Greek obscures the similarity, but, as we have seen from other Greek words for animal sounds, there is a tendency to represents them through reduplication. There is probably something interesting to say about this and Greek phonetic representations of linguistic otherness, as in the reduplicated bar-bar-os.

BauFCG Anonymous Fragments, Fr. 195 (=IEG fr. 50)

“Bau, bau—you also utter the sound of a dog!”

Βαὺ βαὺ καὶ κυνὸς φωνὴν ἱείς.

Pseudo-Herodian, De prosida Catholica 3.1.495

“The bau is accented in imitation of a dog….from this too comes the word “to bark”

καὶ τὸ βαύ κατὰ μίμησιν κυνὸς ὀξύνεται «βαὺ βαὺ καὶ κυνὸς φωνὴν ἱείς». ἐξ οὗ καὶ τὸ βαύζω ῥῆμα.

Aristophanes, Thesmo. 173-4

“Stop barking at him. I was also the like this
When I was that age, when I was beginning to compose.”

ΕΥ.                Παῦσαι βαΰζων· καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ τοιοῦτος ἦν
ὢν τηλικοῦτος, ἡνίκ’ ἠρχόμην ποεῖν.

Zooglossia 5: Cows Go Moo in Mycenae

Another entry in an animal obsession. Sheep go baa, baa. Ancient Greek cows may have said moo….

Did Ancient Greek cows say Μῦ μῦ?

Suda, cf. Photius s.v. Μυκηθμός

“Mukêthmos: the sound of bulls”

Μυκηθμός: ἡ τῶν βοῶν φωνή.

Cf. Schol. Q ad Hom. Od. 10.413:  μυκώμεναι] βοῶσαι· μυκηθμὸς γὰρ ἡ τῶν βοῶν φωνή. Q.

We also have independent confirmation that cows may have said mu as early as the Mucynean period:

This nominal root, likely onomatopoetic from the sound of animals, has a few verbal reflexes in Greek, including μυκάομαι and μύζω. There are additional derivatives: μυκητής (“bellower”, μυκήμων “bellow”, μύκημα (“lowing, bellowing”; used of lions and thunder too). The upsilon is long to contrast with the short vowel in μύκης (“mushroom”) and Μυκήνη (Mycenae).  Here’s Beekes again:

Mu 1Mu 2

Perhaps this is not a sound exclusive to cattle, however. Consider Suda mu 1390:

Mycalê and Mukalêsos: name for a city. It comes from the fact that the Gorgons bellowed here.”

Μυκάλη καὶ Μυκαλησός, ὄνομα πόλεως. παρὰ τὸ ἐκεῖ μυκᾶσθαι τὰς Γοργόνας.

The verb is also used to indicate the low sound of objects or the roar of a lion. See Suda, mu 1394

Mukêsantos: “after it sounded”—Homer has “on their own, the gates of heaven sounded, the gates the seasons hold” and in the Epigrams, “after the drum sounded deeply, the boldest of the rest of the animals ran off faster than a deer.”

Μυκήσαντος: ἠχήσαντος. Ὅμηρος: αὐτόμαται δὲ πύλαι μύκον οὐρανοῦ, ἃς ἔχον Ὧραι. καὶ ἐν Ἐπιγράμμασι: οὗ βαρὺ μυκήσαντος, ὁ θαρσαλεώτερος ἄλλων τετραπόδων ἐλάφων ἔδραμεν ὀξύτερον.

And the sound moo seems to be used for non-verbal soundmaking for humans too:

Aristophanes, Thesm. 231-231   

Kê: Moo, Moo

Eu: Why are you mootering? Everything has been done well.

 ΚΗ.                Μῦ μῦ.

 ΕΥ.                       Τί μύζεις; Πάντα πεπόηται καλῶς.

There might be multiple layers of onomatopoetic derivatives here—one for the cow and another for the human moan, and even this is probably a simplification.

Zonaras, s.v. Μῦ (=Etymologicum Magnum s.v)

Moo: a simple sound, this utterance imitates a moan. A moan is an echo of moo, a sound coming from the nose.”

Μῦ. τὸ στοιχεῖον, ὅτι μυγμόν τινα ἔχει ἡ τούτου ἐκφώνησις. μυγμὸς δέ ἐστιν ὁ τοῦ μῦ ἦχος, διὰ τοῦ μυκτῆρος ἐξερχόμενος.

Image result for ancient Greek cow