Bees in different languages and its etymologies
The King of insects has to be the first

The term “bee” is part of a “swarm” of languages originating from an ancient Indo-European root *bʰey-, spanning from Icelandic “bý(fluga)” to Bulgarian “пчела” (pchela).

Romance languages form a “colony” in the south west derived from Latin “apis” or “apicula” (except Romanian): Spanish “abeja”, French “abeille”, or Venetian “Eva”. Interestingly, “apis” have traditionally hypothesized as Proto-Indo-European *e/a(m)p-i-. If accurate, the meaning would be akin to “stinging insect”.

A third linguistic family, Proto-Indo-Iranian *mákš, is shared by Kurdish, Hungarian, and Finnish, despite geographical distances.


Etymology map of the insect "grasshopper" in different languages
Jumping all over the grass

The word for this insect is quite easy to analyze from Fench “sauterelle”, which stems from “sauter”, to Bulgarian скакалец, which comes from ска́чам (skáčam), all of them meaning “jump”. Because the ability to hop is the most remarkable of other insects.

Also very simple to analyze the English name: “grass” and “hopper.” The former refers to the plant upon which these insects often feed, while the latter suggests their remarkable jumping ability. Most but not all of the Germanic languages uses this image. In Icelandic, they jump meadows. In a much less realistic fashion, in Spanish, “saltamontes” merges “salta” (to jump) and “montes” (grass or hills).

Some languages just derived it from “jump”. No grass, no meadow, no hill. If we move eastwards the most common metaphor is “little horses (or mares)”. We can find in Polish “konik” and Italian “cavalletta”. Even in German, there is a “hay horse”.


Etymology map of "tick" in different languages

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