Does a snake crawl or slither?

Coolpal

New Member
Tamil
Hello friends,
What's the exact word that we can use for a snake's movement from one place to another?
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I see nothing wrong with "crawl", and it has been the choice of many modern Bible translators:
    So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.​
    Genesis 3:14, New International Version (1973)​
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    I would use ‘slither’, but interestingly the Free Dictionary says:

    crawl
    to move in a prone position with the body close to the ground, as a worm or caterpillar, or on the hands and knees.

    Worms, like snakes, don’t have arms or legs.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    :thumbsup: - However, in God's defence, the verb "crawl, which is quite specific, is not there. The Ancient Hebrew verb He used1 is הלך -> hâlak ->haw-lak' (H1980)
    Akin to H3212; a primitive root; to walk (in a great variety of applications, literally and figuratively): -[...] go (about, abroad, along, away, forward, on, out, up and down), [...] move (self), [...], walk (abroad, on, to and fro, up and down, to places), wander, [...].

    The commonest translation is "go".

    1 Strong's Bible dictionary Hebrew Concordance with Strong's Numbering - Bible Software by johnhurt.com
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'd say that 'crawl' for snakes is technically incorrect but common.
    I don't know how you can say it is "technically incorrect". The first definition in Random House (crawl - WordReference.com Dictionary of English) is:
    to move in a prone position with the body resting on or close to the ground, as a worm or caterpillar, or on the hands and knees, as a young child.​

    The earliest quotes in OED refer to worms:
    a1400 (▸a1325) Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 11836 Wormes creuld [Gött. cruled, Fairf. crauled, Trin. Cambr. cruled] here and þare.​
    a1400 (▸a1325) Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 6612 Þai fand bot wormes creuland [Gött crouland, Fairf. crawlande, Trin. Cambr. crulyng] emid.​

    The compilers of the New International Version of the Bible clearly thought that "crawl" was the best verb to describe a snake's movement in 1973, and I don't think English has changed that much since then.
     

    iribela

    Senior Member
    USA
    Spanish - Uruguay
    slither: To move or slide by twisting or undulating the body over a surface, as in the manner of a snake.
    crawl: (Zoology) (of insects, worms, snakes, etc) To move with the body close to the ground.

    The difference I see is that with slither, the snake twists or undulates, and with crawl, it drags its body. In each case, the snake moves by using its muscles in different ways.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    Both words mean "move with the body close to the ground".

    The word "slither" means "move forward using a sideways or sliding motion (like a snake)".
    The word "crawl" does not have that meaning.
     

    iribela

    Senior Member
    USA
    Spanish - Uruguay
    I’m with those who say that as correct as it may technically be, it sounds totally off. The idea of a snake crawling just doesn’t compute for me.
    It sounded off to me as well, and that's how I ended up here on Saturday, but after reading a few online sources, I see that it's not incorrect. I'd found the phrase "...snakes crawled off a rock..." while translating instructional materials and wondered if I should query that, but I guess not. It was a choice to use 'crawl.'
     
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    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I vote for changing the dictionary. At one time "crawl" might have referred to the movement of worms and snakes but, these days, it does not. As far as I am concerned, crawling requires legs, or at least limbs of some sort.

    Dictionaries can fall behind the times unless readers are vigilant.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Crawl is fine for snakes where I live. It is also fine for what your skin does when you see a snake.

    Creep is another choice.
    Snakes definitely don't creep around here!*

    __________________________________

    * The snake crept into the crypt, crapped, and crept out again. Just doesn't cut it in my neighbourhood!
     
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