Dictionary.com

Behind the simplest words one can often find the most compelling questions. Take for example, “dog.”

Canis familiaris, also known as “dog,” is essentially a domesticated wolf. The dog is a member of the Canidae family, like the jackal and the fox.

About seven centuries ago, the word “hound,” which came from the Old English hund, was the word for all domestic canines. “Dog” was just used to refer to a subgroup of hounds that includes the lovely but frequently slobbering mastiff.

Of course, the opposite is now true. We use dog to talk about all of man’s best friends, from lovable golden retrievers to panting chow chows. And hound is now used to indicate a type of dog used just for hunting. Hound especially refers to a dog with a long face and large, droopy ears. Linguists still speculate about the reversal of fortune for “hound” and “dog.” One idea suggests that the sub-breed known as “dogs” became so populous that “dog” simply became the generic term (sort of an animal equivalent of the way brand names can become so ubiquitous that they start to be used as a general term for their purpose.)

The number of uses of “dog” is remarkable even by the standards of the dictionary. We call sleazy men dogs. We also call our feet dogs. A worthless object, such as a wobbly, rusty bike, is also called a dog.

(Don’t forget about the hot dog. Read about the gross but amazing origin of this dish, here.)

There also seems to be an endless number of idioms incorporating the word, such as “sick as a dog.”

The expressions “a dog’s life” and “go to the dogs” likely refer to a time when the animals were used primarily for hunting and not kept as pets.

The phrase “put on the dog” means to “get dressed up.” It may refer to the stiff, stand-up shirt collars (also known as dog collars) that were all the rage in the late nineteenth century.

A dog-eared page is named after the way many dogs’ ears fold down, as opposed to the perky, upright wolf ear.

Employing the phrase “hair of the dog” to talk about using alcohol as a hangover cure may be as old as drinking itself. The first recorded use is with Pliny, the ancient Roman writer.

We would be remiss if we didn’t throw a bone to cat lovers. Who is the “Tom” that “tomcats” are named for? Find out this fun feline fact, here.

72 Comments

  1. sdfsdf -  July 24, 2013 - 12:09 pm

    asdasdas

    Reply
  2. Francis -  April 14, 2011 - 1:20 pm

    A discussion about dogs? Wow, you people really have time to waste.
    :|

    Reply
  3. DTK513 -  March 7, 2011 - 5:00 pm

    A Dog-Eat-Dog World…

    Reply
  4. Xzurihni -  February 17, 2011 - 11:52 am

    Why does everything with a tail have a story behind it?

    Reply
  5. Whiskers -  February 17, 2011 - 5:13 am

    God created Dogs so man could know what it feels like to be worshiped. Then He created Cats to bring man back to reality.

    Reply
  6. Ooga Booga -  February 16, 2011 - 11:38 am

    I have a 102lb. long haired german shepard dog…..he run’s the family. I don’t think he knows he is our pet dog…..we are his pet people.

    Reply
  7. Cass -  February 8, 2011 - 2:51 pm

    Did you guys not see that he was writing a script? When you write it’s ok to tweak things.

    Reply
  8. Kate -  November 2, 2010 - 9:25 am

    I like the dog picture they chose for the article! Dogs are great but i love animals of all kinds. Oh, and did that Ray guy really think that Eve was Adam’s sister? Ha.

    Reply
  9. smoothius -  October 28, 2010 - 7:33 am

    dogs definitely rule! they love you unconditionally. they want to please you. they want to be with you always. they defend and protect you. they truly are man’s best friend.

    Reply
  10. smoothius -  October 28, 2010 - 7:28 am

    other dog referenced sayings:
    every dog has his day
    that dog won’t hunt
    dog days of summer

    Reply
  11. Amy-Lou -  October 25, 2010 - 8:00 am

    I have a long legged short haired chihuahua. His name is oliver and he is so cute and playful!!! Also I have a dog named remme and he is half chihuahua and half shih shu, So therefore he is a shichuahua. Hehe try saying it, it’s really fun to say: shichuahua. LoL.

    Reply
  12. #1 Skillet Fan -  October 22, 2010 - 4:11 pm

    I have a mini shnaucher half yorkie mix. Called a snorkie

    Reply
  13. alexa13 -  October 22, 2010 - 8:26 am

    i have a german sheperd halp wolf it amazin

    Reply
  14. Dutchie -  October 21, 2010 - 7:11 am

    Interestingly, in Dutch the meaning of hound (hond) and dog (dog) are not reversed! ‘Hond’ is still the general word, and ‘dog’ refers to a subcategory (indeed including Mastiffs and Great Danes).

    Reply
  15. The Plane of Apes -  October 20, 2010 - 6:22 pm

    In a short story of Kafka, a son who was invited for his best friend’s funeral was about to turn his life of a dog saw his father who had been laid up in bed for a while,springing up from his bed.

    And the dog goes back into the wild.

    Reply
  16. DOGS | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  October 20, 2010 - 2:32 pm

    [...] DOGS! ROUSSEAU says, “It’s Deja vu all over again.” quoting Yogi Berra. — A whispering DOG and amusing and like “Travels with Charley” by Steinbeck, where Charley was a Standard Poodle, — Such is Rousseau, though Apricot, still knows how to use his noodle. — Some consider it a compliment when someone says Harley’s are HOGS and we take it as such if one should look at our lives and say “We’ve gone to the Dogs”. –>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

    Reply
  17. carie oliquino -  October 20, 2010 - 2:01 pm

    wow soooo many random cooments O_O hey if u like wolves or vamps go to immortalnight.com

    Reply
  18. Mariah -  October 20, 2010 - 1:04 pm

    I love Pitbulls also i was rased with 72 of thim in my life.

    Reply
  19. Mariah -  October 20, 2010 - 12:59 pm

    I love all kinds of animals. also this dog is so cute.

    Reply
  20. louis paiz -  October 19, 2010 - 7:20 am

    the dog is also can it may be beacause as you say is desendiet from the canis may deduction is that when a dog eats it does not chew but (rasga)form where the name of tooths are caninos also the walking stick is calleda can. dogs has been have had many uses including transportation or pulling of goods inthe arthic . thanks

    Reply
  21. ms.karma -  October 18, 2010 - 10:08 pm

    i like dogs but i hate it when i see their fur/hair scattered on the floor, sofa, wherever. i like carrying them but i don’t want some hair left on my clothes.

    Reply
  22. Jocantha Telsey -  October 16, 2010 - 9:14 pm

    awww such a cute little doggy…..

    Reply
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