Where Did The Word ‘Dog’ Come From?

The word ‘dog’ traces its origin from the Old English name – docga. This is a rare, late word used in some Middle English sources to refer to a specific canine breed. The origins of the rare word are unknown. In the 1300s in England, the term hound – which comes from hund, an Old English reference – was used as an umbrella word to refer to all domestic canines. At that time, the word dog was used for the canine that looked like the bulldog and the mastiff. By the 1500s, the word dog became the general word. The other one – hound – adopted a special use; it started to refer to the breed used for hunting. At that time, the word dog was taken up by some European countries to replace the word mastiff.

This article will explore the meaning of the word dog in brief. It will then bring your attention to the meanings of the various names used for different dog breeds. Also, you will get the top adjectives you can use to describe a dog. In the end, you will get a bonus section that captures the A to Z of the canine. 

Dog – A Wonderful English Word

For many dog owners and enthusiasts globally (especially in the United States), the word dog is beautiful – more than other words in the English language. As agreed by many people and specifically, the linguistic community, the term has its origins from earlier, old English or Germanic.

Many linguistic historians look at the Old Germanic language as the origin of the word. As mentioned in the kicker, dog comes from docga, which is an Old Germanic word that pointed to a powerful canine breed. The root of the word docga, as linguists believe, is dukkon, a reference for strength and power. The reasons why these references were used is because the most common dog types in the Middle Ages in England were the mighty fighting and hunting dogs. The fluffy and toy type of dogs were not very popular. The way the word dog became famous is a mystery. While the English-speaking community has dog, the German has dogge, the Swedish has dogg, the French have dog, and the Spanish have dogo.

All over the world, linguists were amazed to find out that Mbabaram, an extinct Australian Aboriginal language, used the word dog for, well, a dog. Many people believe that there is neither a connection nor a relationship between the word dog, which is English, and the word canis, which is Latin. You may already know that the scientific name of the family of dogs is Canis.

In other languages (mostly Central and Eastern Europe), the word for dog is based on kutt, a common term in ancient Indo-European languages. In Hungary, the reference for a dog was kutya, and in Bulgaria, it would be kuche.

Explaining The Various Names Of Dog Breeds

Of all the names used for specific dog breeds, some have little or no mystery. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, the English Shorthaired Pointer, and the Golden Retriever – for example – are precisely how their names describe them. However, other breeds have seemingly wonderful and weird names. These names have triggered searches for origins of the names.

In this part, you will find info that brings together ancient idioms, misleading misnomers, and cultural quirks to explain the origins of the monikers that we love to death. There is always much behind a name, such as Collie and Mastiff, which have exciting and colorful etymological origins. Sometimes, dog breed names communicate a lot about the culture and the history of the place of origin and upbringing of the breed.

Here are some dog breed names and explanations of their meanings:

1. The Terrier 

The name of this energetic and feisty breed comes from the Latin word terre, which means ‘go to ground.’

2. The Mastiff 

This moniker comes from the French word mastin, which is also a development from the Latin word mansuetus, which means tame.

3. The Collie

The derivative word for Collie is the coll, which is Anglo-Saxon and is also the mother of the word coal. The meaning is obvious – black.

4. The Pinscher

This is the German equivalent of terrier and is used for many types of dogs.

5. The Poodle

This is a corruption of Puddlehund, which is a German word. Its meaning is born of the phenomenon of a dog splashing water.

6. The Parson Russell Terrier And The Jack Russell Terrier

These dogs are all named after one Reverend John Russell. From a small terrier, the reverend brought and bred them.

7. The Dobermann

A German tax collector, who went by the name Friedrich Louis Dobermann, realized that he needed protection from the thieves who would rob him. To give rise to the Doberman, he bred the Greyhounds with Rottweilers and the Pinschers with Manchester Terriers.

8. The Labrador

This is the name of a Canadian coastal region in the Atlantic where the breed was bred. The Labrador is the direct descendant of the Newfoundland, and it is separated by the Strait of Belle Isle from the region of Newfoundland. 

9. The Newfoundland

The origin of this name is pretty self-explanatory – you may have already captured this from the previous dog breed. When you say the word, many people put the stress on the word found.

10. The Leonberger

This one’s name comes from Leonberg, which is a German Town. However, the naming of this breed wasn’t the mere breed-and-name-after-this-place thing. The dog was bred to represent the town. The people of Leonberg has a coat of arms which has a lion. They decided that they wanted a dog to replace and resemble the lion. Then, they bred the Newfoundland, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, and Saint Bernard to arrive at the dog, which we love to bits today.

11. Akita Inu

This one smells like Japanese, and it is! We know it as the Japanese Akita, but the Japanese know it as the Akita Inu. The prefix –inu, is a reference for dog in several Japanese tongues, while Akita is the origin of the breed.

12. The Spaniel

Before anything else is said, you should know that the Spaniel exists in types. More relevantly, the word itself comes from the French word espaigneul and is mothered by the Latin hispaniolus. The Springer and the Cocker are the two popular types of the Spaniel breed. At one time, the Springer Spaniels and the Cocker Spaniels used to be the same, but the AKC changes this by dividing them by weight. Spaniel dogs weighing less than 25 pounds were classed as Cocker Spaniels and Springer spaniels if they were above 25 pounds.

13. The Rottweiler

This name is formed from two words from Old German, rote meaning red and wiell, a reference for tiles. The breed is also tied to the town Rotweill, which was called so because many of its buildings had roofs with red tiles. The breeder who brought the dog together put the name of the town on the dog.

14. The Dalmatian

In the former Yugoslavia, there was a region called Dalmatian. Now, the region lies in what we know as Croatia. However, the dog was not bred in the region. The area just inspired the dog’s name, and then the English (the name-givers) took it back home to use it as a carriage animal.

15. The Alaskan Malamute

Bred by the Alaskan tribe known as the Mahlemut, this is a breed of sled dogs. From the two names, Alaska and Mahlemut, it is pretty apparent how the combination of terms was born.

16. The Bichon Frise

The name of this breed of dogs comes from the French words barbichon, meaning ‘a little Spaniel of the water’ and frisé¸, which means ‘hair in curls.’

17. The Borzoi

This name is born of Russian moniker borzaya. In the Russian language, this means ‘quick dog.’ In Russia, and more often than not, the word borzaya is used as a collective term to address Sight Hounds.

18. The Schnauzer

This name has German origins, and its mother word is schanuz. In the German language, it translates to nose or muzzle. You may know the slang word snozz, which many people use for nose – it has the same roots as the schnauzer.

19. The Great Dane

The Great part of the name explains itself – the dog itself is enormous, more massive than any other dog. For quite a period, people have been speculating over the origin of the other portion of the name, Dane. As of now, the breed is accepted as a German one. The Great Dane reference is the description that came from the English noblemen during their travels in Denmark. They describe the dog as the great Danish dogge. Time passes, and the now-used name was adopted.

20. The Chow Chow

Two main ideas are theorized concerning the naming of this breed. The first brings to attention the word chou, which is a Chinese slang word meaning edible. This theorization is inspired by the fact that Koreans and Chinese would breed the smooth-haired kind of dogs for food.

The second theory talks about a chipper ship which, in the nineteenth century, has been to England from China. The suggestion was that the ship’s hold’s name – the one that has miscellany – was referred to as the chow chow hold. During one of the journeys, a ship docked in England, and a dog emerged. The name then stuck to the dog.

21. The Komondor

The origins of this moniker are extensively debated. Like with the Chow Chow, two theories explain the origin of this guarding breed known famously in Hungary. Several people say that the name borrows from komor, which is Hungarian for somber.

Others say that it borrows from kumundr, a Turkish word that can phonetically be broken down into three portions: ku – dog, mund – command, and ur – master.

Describing Dogs

Many times, it comes naturally to many dog owners to use the word smart to describe their dogs. It has now become a sort-a cliché. However, calling dogs smart does not necessarily mean that they are, in fact, intelligent. Intelligence in dogs is dependent on the task involved and context.

Behaviorists and trainers use many other words to describe dogs – terms that are valuable in understanding the canines. Here are the most common of them: 

1. The Dog Is BIDDABLE

A biddable dog is one that is willing and ready to do everything that you ask of it. A biddable bog is agreeable and docile, and many people want to own it. If a dog wants nothing more or less than what its owner wants, the owner appreciates it. If a dog is biddable, it is one that a dog owner finds easy to live with. If you don’t know a lot about dog-training skills and are looking at getting one, you have a better chance at training a biddable dog than other dog kinds.


If a dog is trainable, it engages with people more often. It eagerly and curiously works its way in trying new behaviors. Also, it gets a lot of treats, and thus, it stays motivated. A dog that one can coach and train has the innate ability to keep its focus and maintain a high attentiveness degree. Many people who say that their dogs are smart are, more often than not, talking about the enthusiasm and the quickness that their furry friends show in learning things – this has a great relation to trainability.

3. The Dog Is SOFT

A soft dog is, for the most part, sensitive in its unique way. If a dog is weak, it can be affected easily by any form of disapproval, even the gentlest. A soft dog will feel cowed even if you lovingly and inadvertently express your displeasure. Even when you sound a calm oh my, the dog is likely to be upset immensely.

This is opposed to the behavior, reactions, and mannerisms of other non-soft breeds. Those will remain relaxed and take in your gentle and soft exclamations peacefully. Many times, a quiet dog suffers – whether physically or verbally – the greatest form of pain. This is the reason why there are advocacy and a drive not to punish dogs. You never know if you are dealing with a soft or a hardened dog breed.


When many behaviorists and trainers describe a completely calm and collected dog, they use the word bombproof. For a dog to be considered as a bombproof one, it needs to show tolerance for any array of issues such as:

a. annoying children who try to poke it;

b. loud and startling noises, such as the falling of pans and pots to a floor or the popping of a balloon;

c. the lunges, snaps, and barks of other dogs

d. and a person who keeps sneaking up on them or picking them up suddenly.

Some dog behaviorists will use bombproof dogs in dog-dog aggression incidences. However inappropriate the other dog acts, the bombproof dog will not be damaged psychologically.

5. The Dog Is GALOOPY

While this one may not be the most formal term in the world of terms, it is making its way and settling in the mainstream. This term is used for carefree, goofy, and exuberant pups who are happy as they are energetic. These kinds of dogs will leap every chance they get. From time to time, they will collide with whoever and whatever is around. These dogs will find merry and delight in whatever a moment brings.

If your dog is galoopy, it will often smile, especially when it is part of a social situation. Also, you might see it trying to move in more than one direction at the same time.


If a dog is a persistent kind, you cannot divert its attention or distract it easily. Also, it is a dog that will not give up on a task easily. These kinds of dogs enjoy the advantage of insightful thinking since they will try to figure things out till they reach a viable solution. A persistent dog would be excellent to keep if you want them involved in a task until they complete it. However, you may not like a dog that persistently barks or scratches.


An affiliative dog tends to bond strongly and stay connected with its owner and other dogs. For most of its life, the pup will want to be close to its owner and often seek physical attention. These dogs, which are loving and affectionate, make more people – even those who don’t fancy dogs – start being fond of the canines.

When it comes to developing relationships or training dogs, there are several ways to describe the canines without using the word smart. If you make the most of those specific adjectives, you will talk about your dog in a more informative way.

Bonus Section: A Little About The Dog

Dogs are domesticated mammals whose scientific name is Canis lupus familiaris. The dog’s origin trace back to the wolves, from which they were bred. Having been the first domesticated animal, the dog has been human-bred for the longest time. Different researches and studies have it that the domestication of dogs happened between 15,000 and 100,000 years.

These days, most dogs have been taken into human homes as pets. Others offer a helping hand to humans, for example, when men and women go into hunting expeditions. As powerful animals, dogs can serve as hunters, herders, rescuers, army personnel, police units, and messengers.

Because they listen to humans, are loyal, friendly, and helpful, dogs have become very popular pets globally. In the United States only, the number of registered pet dogs is a whopping thirty million.

While dogs may be carnivores, living with humans has made them adopt omnivorous tendencies. Thus, they eat both vegetables and meat. Owners can mix natural food with pet food sold in stores.

In most reads about dogs, you will find them being referred to as canines. The word dog is sometimes used to describe wolves, which are other canids. The young one of a dog is called a puppy or a pup, and it only stays as a puppy for about a year.

The phrase man’s best friend refers to the loyalist character of dogs and how they like to be around their humans. You should know that although dogs like petting, they do not like being petted from behind; they want to see your hand before anything else. In the United States, the National Dog Day is on August 26 and the National Puppy Day is on March 26.

How Dogs Appear And Behave

As compared to humans, dogs have better hearing and smell. However, they have problems with their eyesight as they cannot see excellently in color; they are color blind. The anatomy of the dog’s eye makes it easier and better for a dog to see when the lights are dim – something challenging to humans. The other visually advantageous thing is that they have a wide field of vision.

Like wolves, who are their ancestors, dogs out there in the wild like traveling in packs. Dog packs are usually ordered by rank. If a dog has a low or a lower rank compared to another, they will have to submit. In a pack, the dog with the highest ranking is the alpha male. In groups, dogs try as much as they can to help and care for each other. It is said that dogs obey their humans because they see them as alpha males.

The Lifespan Of A Human Canine

Lifespans differ with variation in breed type. Nonetheless, bigger dogs live short lives as compare to the smaller ones. On average, the dog’s size changes and determines the length of the dog’s life. For example, the little Chihuahuas can get to twenty years, and the big Dachshund may live for up to 15 years. The Great Dane, which is the largest dog breed, lives for between 6 and 10 years.

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