August 05, 2016
- deer (noun)
- What does it mean?
- : any of a family of cloven-hoofed cud-chewing animals (as an elk, a caribou, or a white-tailed deer) of which the males of almost all species have antlers while the females of only a few species do
- How do you use it?
- The moose, the largest member of the deer family, has antlers that resemble a large hand with the fingers outspread, unlike other deer species, whose antlers look like twigs.
- Are you a word wiz?
The word "deer" is very old, but long ago it did not specifically mean the animal we now think of as a deer. Which of these do you think "deer" originally referred to?Answer C is more than a wild guess. The Old English "deor," which dates back at least a thousand years, was synonymous with "beast," and could refer to any animal, tame or wild, or to wild animals in general. This meaning was still in use in Shakespeare's time, as seen in this quote from _King Lear_: "But mice and rats, and such small deer/Have been poor Tom's food for seven long year." In time, "deer" came to be used only for wild animals that were hunted and then for the red deer, once widely hunted in England. From that usage, the term has spread to related animals, such as elk and caribou, becoming somewhat more general again.