The Animal and the Meat: Why Are the Names Different?

A common mistake ESL students make when they first start at Hancock International College is mixing up the name of the animal for the name of the meat. This begs the question, why is there a difference? Are English speakers simply trying to make themselves feel better about eating an animal because they are not saying its name? To find out check out this article titled “Why does English have different names for animals and their meat?” by Wil from Wil’s World of Words.

Wil explains, “In English, we have different names for animals and their meat. For example, a cow is still a cow when it’s alive but when it’s been killed and is ready to eat, we call it ‘beef’. The same for ‘pig’ and ‘pork’, ‘sheep’ and ‘mutton’, ‘deer’ and ‘venison’, and so on. The reason for this comes from a long time in the past when most of England was ruled by French-speaking lords and noblemen. The peasants working in the fields spoke old English but the lords in their castles and their chefs spoke French. So, in the field, an animal had an English name but once it got to the kitchen, the French name was used.

Over time, the expertise of the French-speaking chefs was passed on to regular people and the words for ingredients came with it. The words changed a little but if you look carefully, you can still see their relation to the French words. So that’s why we have different words for animals and their meat in English.”

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Idiom of the Day

Beg the question

Meaning: to cause an obvious question to be asked


Thomas said, “Oh, I am not from around here.”

Johnathan replied, “Well then, that begs the question, ‘Where are you from?’”