There are as many foreign words for dog as there are languages. In English, dog is, of course, the preferred nomenclature, but there are even a wide range of variants in our own tongue, with new ones popping up all the time. We’ve got pup, pupper and doggo, for instance. You might think a word like pooch has been around forever, but both the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster assert that it didn’t appear until the 1920s! How do people say dog in other languages?
What is Spanish for dog?: Romance languages
Romance languages have nothing whatever to do with wine, roses, candlelight or the 1955 Disney film, Lady and the Tramp, where the titular dogs eat the same piece of spaghetti until they’re kissing. No, we simply mean those languages that developed from Latin. Why don’t we start there?
- How do you say dog in Latin? The word is canis, which you’ll recognize as the root of words we use all the time, like canine and canid. Interestingly, the word for puppy — catulus — is the same word used for many baby animals, including kittens and puppies. Little Caecilius must’ve been shocked when his parents told him he could finally have a catulus, only to find a bear cub sharing his room.
- How do you say dog in French? In the Francophone world, a male dog is a chien, while its female counterpart is a chienne!
This “chien,” a French Bulldog, is lazy in any language. (Photo via MaxPixel)
- How do you say dog in Italian? Let’s jump to Italian, where they call a dog cane or cagna, depending on whether it is male or female. Fans of large breeds will recognize the term from the name of the Cane Corso. Like Latin, the “a” in cane is pronounced with an “ah”sound.
- What is Spanish for dog? With over 400 million speakers, Spanish is actually the most dominant of the Romance languages currently in use around the world. In Spanish, the word for dog is perro or perra.
- How to say dog in Portuguese? The words you’re looking for when you visit Portugal, Brazil or Mozambique will be cão and cadela! Try resist laughing and making barnyard noises when a native speaker points to a dog and says a word that sounds like cow. Cachorro is also an acceptable term for any dog.
What is the Dutch word for dog?: Germanic languages
Many police dogs and military dogs employed by law enforcement agencies all over the globe are bred and trained in Belgium and Germany. Agents to whom they are assigned may likewise be taught the basic commands of the training language. This tends to be a simpler approach, after dogs have been through a 12-16 week instruction program, then having to retrain them to acknowledge all new commands in another tongue.
- How do you say dog in German? The German word for dog is Hund. Nouns, including proper names, are typically capitalized in the German language. You’ll have noticed by now, that, outside of English, in which dog is equally applicable for males and females, most other languages draw a distinction between them. In German, a female dog is called a Hündin.
- What is the Dutch word for dog? Should you find yourself in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Belgium, Curaçao or Suriname, you’ll ask people if you can pet their hond. Not since Latin and Italian have we had two words so similar in spelling and appearance. The word for a female dog is teef, pronounced with a long “A” sound.
- What is the Danish word for dog? In Denmark, the word for dog is exactly the same as it is in Germany, to wit, hund. A female dog, on the other hand, is a hunhund.
- How to say dog in Norwegian? There’s a noteworthy symmetry among the major Germanic languages. In Norway, a dog is a hund.
Languages of the Pacific Rim
Asian languages could not be more distinct from each other, due in part to historical isolation and specific dialects. Let’s look at what you’d call a dog in some of the primary languages of the Far East.
- How do you say dog in Japanese? You might not realize it, but you probably already know the word for dog in Japan. It’s written 犬, and transcripted as “Inu,” as in the always popular Shiba Inu and the Akita Inu breeds.
- What is the Chinese word for dog? This one’s a bit of a totalizing question, since there are many dialects spoken throughout China, the top 4 of which have tens of millions of speakers. The most common, by far, is Mandarin, and the word in that tongue is 狗, transcripted as “gǒu.” Its pronunciation is similar to the Portuguese, something like “cow.”
- How to say dog in Korean? On the Korean Peninsula, the word for dog is 개, written out as “gae,” and pronounced “geh.”
In the global bazaar: Saying dog around the world
We readily admit that even our first two language-family groupings, Romance and Germanic, are imprecise at best. Both of those language groups, and a few individual languages we’ll cover next, are members of the larger Indo-European language family.
- How do you say dog in Arabic? Arabic is in the Semitic language family. There are nearly 300 million people on Earth who refer to a dog with the word الكلب, which is transcripted as “al kalb” or just “kalb.”
- How do you say dog in Hebrew? Hebrew is another in the Semitic family of languages. In Israel, the proper word is כֶּלֶב, written out and pronounced “kelev.”
In Arabic, the dog is “al kalb.” (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
- What is the Russian word for dog? Russian is a member of the Indo-European family, like French, English and German. In Russia and several former territories of the Soviet Union, a dog is a собака, which is transcripted and pronounced as “sobaka.”
- What is dog in Greek? Technically an Indo-European language, Greek is in its own category as the primary Hellenic language. In Greece, a dog is a σκύλος, written out as “skýlos,” where the “y” is spoken with an “ee” sound.
- What is dog in Hindi? We conclude our survey of how people say dog around the world on the subcontinent. In India, a dog is a कुत्ता, written out as “kutta,” where the “u” is pronounced as “oo.”
Since dogs began living with human beings many thousands of years ago, they’ve followed us all over the world and have begged us for table scraps at every stop along the way. Dogs have crossed land bridges on foot, taken to the waves on sea-going vessels and, these days, they find homes by way of planes, trains and automobiles. Wherever they go, they find a new linguistic tradition with a different name for the species. What words for dog that we didn’t cover here are your particular favorites?