Etymology of Aardvark

In the 1600’s, Dutch settlers in Africa named this nocturnal mammal aardvark, which is a combination of the word aard (nature, earth) and vark (pig).

The closest English translation of aardvark is earth pig.

The word itself is borrowed from Afrikaans aardvark, and is related to the Old High German word farah (Ferkel in German, meaning young pig, unweaned piglet, the production of a litter of pigs or suckling pig).

In Old English this would be fearh.

The aardvark is native to Africa, and it’s easy to imagine why Dutch settlers named it earth pig—it looks a lot like our oinking friend, sports a pig-like snout and digs cave-like burrows.

It eats ants and termites almost exclusively.

Pigs have been domesticated for over nine-thousand years, so when the Dutch settlers came face-to-face with this strange pig-like creature, they decided to name it after the familiar pigs of home.

Aardvark in Other Languages

Spanish for aardvark is cerdo hormiguero.

You say orictéropo or porco-formigueiro in Portuguese.

In Dutch: Afrikaanse miereneter.

In Turkish: yerdomuzu.

In Italian: aardvark.

In German: Erdferkel.


Campbell, Lyle. Historical Linguistics: An Introduction. Third ed.

Montroll, John. African Animals in Origami. New York: Dover Publications, 1991.