difference between "hide" and "skin"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by chechocol, Feb 2, 2011.

  1. chechocol

    chechocol Member

    Dubai, UAE
    Colombian spanish
    In the english definitions of wordreference.com I find this definition for the word HIDE:

    the skin of an animal, especially when tanned or dressed.
    – phrases
    hide nor hair of [with neg.] the slightest trace of.
    save one's hide escape from difficulty.
    tan (or whip) someone's hide beat or flog someone.


    Now, as far as I can see, wordreference is implying that both HIDE and SKIN are synonyms, having roughly the same meaning. But in Wikipedia, I find this sentence, about the making of gelatin:

    "If the raw material is hides and skin, size reduction, washing, removing hair from the hides, and degreasing are the most important pretreatments used to make the hides and skins ready for the main extraction step."

    This sentence seems to show that "hides" and "skins" are two different parts of the same animal, which could be perfectly differenciated one from the other. Please help me understand the difference between both of them. Excuse me if I made any mistake in my writing.

  2. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    My use of the two comes from exposure and experience -- and my sense is that the difference is that hides are thicker: cowhide, snakeskin.

    (We may talk about being thick- or thin-skinned, but we're talking about people who we generally imagine encased in skin -- although we do sometimes use hide in a humorous way: I'm going to tan your hide [give you a spanking].)
  3. ColinForhan Senior Member

    English - American
    The expression "to tan someone's hide" is only an expression. People don't have hides. Even if you were to skin a person (horrible...), you would not call it a hide, in my opinion. It would still be a skin. "To tan someone's hide" is kind of a joke, because it implies that the person you're whipping is an animal.

    So only animals have hides. However, Copyright brings up a good example: you say snakeskin, not snakehide. I think that only some animals have hide. Hide is thicker, and is often only used for large mammals. You say cowhide, but pigskin.

    Hide is also often detached from the animals. I guess that means that hide also carries with it a connotation of having a practical purpose. You use cowhide to make leather, etc.

    Hope this helps!
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2011
  4. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Note that a "hiding" can mean a "beating."
  5. chechocol

    chechocol Member

    Dubai, UAE
    Colombian spanish
    Thank you very much, this has been very helpful in understanding the matter.
  6. 500cents700 New Member

    This thread may already be settled, but I just ran across the same problem and found some good concrete info. Skin if preferable in contexts outside of hunting, tanning and the like -- hide implies these uses to an extent. However, as the previous poster said, within the contexts of processing animal skin, hide often refers to the skin of larger animals (which is thicker) and skin refers to smaller ones (thin).

    on the online getty art and architecture thesaurus, you can find an extremely comprehensive list of materials with brief descriptions:

    (collagenous material): Note: Integument of a large animal such as a cow or buffalo separated from the body with or without hair, whether green, dry, tanned, or dressed. For the integument of a small animal, use "skin." For tanned hide, use "leather."

    (collagenous material): Note: Integument of animals such as sheep, calves, or goats, separated from the body, with or without hair, whether green, dry, tanned, or dressed. For the integument of large animals use "hide." For tanned skin, use "leather." For dried and stretched skin, use "parchment" or "vellum."
  7. The Accountant New Member

    English - England
    Don't know if this thread is still active, but I was having this discussion just today with an English teacher. The examples cited are all good, but it falls down when you think about the big cats. For instance: tiger skin, leopard skin etc. I like the equine examples. We have traditionally called it a horses hide, but always refer to a pony skin. Then there is Rolf Harris's song "Tie me Kangaroo Down" where the dying old Aussie asks his friends to "Tan my hide when I'm dead, Fred"...."so we tanned his hide when he died Clyde, and that's it hanging on the shed!"
    I think this defies a distinct definition, but whereas you can probably get away with using "skin" in 99% of circumstances, the same can not be said of using "hide".
  8. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Welcome to WRF, The Accountant,

    500cents700 in #6 probably gives a good enough explanation. I happen to know that the dying old Aussie was not a member of the editorial board of the OED :)D) and had a tendency to colloquial speech in which "hide" is a figurative reference to "skin", which we saw in #3: "The expression "to tan someone's hide" is only an expression."
  9. The Accountant New Member

    English - England
    An expression I heard many a time from my mother when I was a child!
    Thank you for your welcome. I love your tag line.

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