deer still means animal in the word: deerfly?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Unoverwordinesslogged, Jul 29, 2014.

  1. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    Most writeups say the deerfly/deer fly feeds on: wildlife, livestock and mankind and nothing about deers as in harts, hinds, bucks, stags, does and so forth.

    Not getting strong etymology for deerfly/deer fly - can't find any dates nor anything straightforward as to why it is called a deerfly.

    German and Dutch google translation for deerfly gives: "Hirsche fliegen" and "herten vliegen" notwithstanding the aforesaid, reckon deerfly like the word: gadfly means fly which live off animals in general and not a fly known for living off harts/deers.

    So, is it known or not if deer still means animal in the word: deerfly?
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    You are right to say that English “deer”, like its cognates in other Germanic languages, originally meant any quadruped. But this meaning died out long ago: the latest reference in the OED is from ca. 1481. Its oldest reference for “deer-fly” is from 1853. So there is a gap of about 400 years during which “deer” means only “cervidae”.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  3. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    Thanks for looking that up. A bit taken aback that the animal meaning for deer (officially) died out that long ago - reckon the 1853 deer-fly could still be meant in the same way as a gad-fly - (any fly which bites any animal)
  4. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    Shakespeare: "mice and rats, and such small deer" Edgar's diet in King Lear written in 1605

    worth a byword.
  5. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    By the way, your google translate has simply translated “deer” and the verb “fly”. "Hirsche fliegen" means "Deer are flying". The correct name for this creature in German is Hirschlaus, or Hirschlausfliege, in Dutch hertenluisvlieg. The moral: google translate is not to be trusted.
  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Well spotted. The OED does have this quotation as well, under “small deer”, which seems to be a fossilised phrase. Shakespeare evidently quoted it from the Middle English (15th-century) romance of Sir Beves:

    "Ratons & myse and soche smale dere,
    That was hys mete that vii yere."

    In Lear:

    "But mise and rats, and such small Deere,
    Hath beene Toms foode for seuen long yeare."
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  7. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    Yes and it is also a good argument for English to compound words like "deer fly" as "horsefly" and "housefly" oft is...
  8. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    Deerfly are definately not Hirschlaus/Hirschlausfliege - which even outdo deerfies for creepiness. In German think deerfly would come under Think Fleischfliegen meaning is akin to gadfly (meaning something like flies which bite/feed on the flesh of animals). Can't see how there could be two endemic kinds of winged bugs (deerflies and deerliceflies) to deers (harts/bucks...) unless the deerflies sucked the blood out of the deerlice or something - so reckon it seems more likely now that the deer in deerfly does indeed mean animal - any thoughts?
  9. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    A Hirschlausfliege is a deer fly. There is absolutely no doubt about it; a Fleischfliege is a flesh fly. The confusion is probably because there are two species, a Eurasian and a North America one that go by the same common name. It happens sometimes that English common names for animals or plants get reused in AmE for vaguely similar looking but distinct species, like calling a wapiti "elk".
  10. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    Yes it seems a Hirschlausfliege is a deerfly but in Britain there seems to be two kinds of biting fly somehow going under the name deerfly...

    Winged hartlousefly deerfly thingy...
    They are parasites of elk, deer and other bovine animals
    L. cervi is a poor flier and can only fly for short distances. Once the insect reaches its target, it sheds its wings and starts burrowing through the fur
    They will not reproduce on any other host than deer. They will however bite humans

    Remains of Lipoptena cervi have been found on Ötzi, the Stone Age mummy
    Upon finding a host the adult fly wings breaks off and it is permanently associated with its host
    Distribution: Most of Europe including Great Britain (but absent from Ireland), Algeria, Eastern Siberia and Northern China. Introduced and established in the Eastern United States (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York). It has also recently spread to Finland from Russia in the early 1960s
    will occasionally commit to the wrong host

    Tabanids in the UK - it is this deerfly where I feel deer may mean animal...

  11. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Now to confuse you all and portrait the evolution upside down: While "dyr" in Danish still means "animal", many people - among them my dad, birth year 1914, Jutland, Denmark - often used the word "dyr" entirely meaning "deer" in its modern English meaning. Especially when talking about "countryside themes" like hunting, agriculture. Smaller animals like hare, fox, various birds would be mentioned using the proper terms and "dyr" was limited to mean any species of deer.
  12. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Did your father refer to male and female deer as dyr? In German, Tier is a synonym of Hirschkuh (hind).
  13. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    Women can be called dear/deer(?) in English
  14. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
  15. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    These words have no relation.
  16. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    Ok thanks.

    PS. berndf do reckon the deerfly (chrysop) was/is named so - from an (erstwhile) association with animals in general or (latterly) an association with animals with antlers?
  17. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Didn't I answer this one in no. 2?
  18. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    which "deer-fly" is from 1853

    deerfly (Lipoptena cervi)


    deerfly (chrysops)

  19. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    This is very markworthy but yet never seen it make it into the etymology background of deer and its older and newer meanings. Thought only English had deer meaning oft horned fourlegged animal. Anymore stuff about this Sepia?
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2014
  20. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    For some reason your reply to Sepia's post asidely minds me that Jutland was once Low German speaking - wonder if this has any bearing on how the two meanings of deer in English were gotten?
  21. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    edit* notwithstanding what I said in my first post, in truth google translated "deer fly" not "deerfly" - which isn't allowed by that translator.
  22. Lugubert Senior Member

    The Swedish cognate of 'deer' is djur, generally meaning 'animal.' So there's the rådjur 'deer' (Capreolus capreolus), which is a hjortdjur (member of the Cervidae family), belonging to the order partåiga hovdjur (even-toed hoofed animals) and so on until the kingdom Animalia (djur).
  23. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    Another language where deer can mean deer (hart). Anyway, hartdeer seems a good way of making the difference between the two sundry meanings of deer for the benefit of this thread - also seems to be said on the web too, suchlike: "hart-deer" "hart/deer" "hartdeer" (maybe hart-deer used to be a word before)
  24. Unoverwordinesslogged Banned

    English - Britain
    edit* notwithstanding what I said in my first post, in truth google mistranslated "deer fly" not "deerfly" - which isn't allowed by that translator.

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