Sunday, 26 February 2017


When someone recently referred to me as a 'dinosaur', they were suggesting I am reluctant to take on new technologies and changes. As 'dinosaur' is first used in this context in 1952, thus isn't it about time they found a new one?

Used in its better-known context it was coined in 1841 and coined by Sir Richard Owen from the Greek deinos sauros 'terrible lizard'. Something of a misnomer as dinosaurs are not lizards but are reptiles which could be said to be another translation. The term saurus is common to many of the names, its origins are unclear but may be related to saulos 'twisting, wavering'.

Scientists have identified more than one thousand non-avian species. Clearly that is far too many to define etymologically but here follows a selection of the better-known types.

Allosaurus were first identified in 1877 by Othniel Charles Marsh who, rather unimaginatively, named it from the Greek allos saurus 'different lizard'.

Ankylosaurus was first named in 1907. This armoured creature is named from the Greek ankylos saurus or 'curved lizard' and a reference to the shape of the ribs, the first part of the creature to be discovered.

Brachiosaurus is another from the Greek, where brakhion saurus literally means 'arm lizard' and a reference to its front limbs being much more evident than the rear.

Brontosaurus were first named in 1879, where the Greek bronte saurus referred to this as the 'thunder lizard'. While Brontes was the name of a Cyclops in Greek mythology, both share a root in Proto-Indo-European bhrem meaning 'growl'.

Hadrosaurs were named as such in 1865, where Greek hadro saurus describes the 'stout lizard'.

Iguanodon dates from 1825, a composite noun taking 'iguana', itself the local Arawakan name for the creature, and the Greek odonys 'tooth'.

Megalosaurus almost speaks for itself, the Greek megas saurus meaning 'great lizard'.

Mosasaurus is the marine dinosaur seen in Jurassic World and named from the Latin Mosa and Greek saurus describe 'the lizard found near the river Meuse' near Maastricht.

Stegosaurus is first identified in 1892 and named from the Greek stegos saurus, literally 'rood lizard'. This refers to the armour plates which instantly identify the creature, the first element having changed little since Proto-Indo-European steg 'having a roof'.

Diplodocus is from the Greek diplos dokus, quite literally 'double beam' and a reference to the doubling of the bones beneath the long tail.

Tricertops, first identified in 1890, is named from the Greek tirkeratos ops meaning 'three-horned face'.

Tyrannosaurus, first named in 1905, comes from the Greek tyrannos saurus 'tyrant lizard'.

Velociraptors were named in 1924, with the Latin velox raptor 'speedy, swift robber'.

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