14 Paw-some Words About Dogs That Will Have You Rolling Over

From show dogs to service dogs to lazy household pets, let’s hear it for “man’s best friends”—the loyal Canis familiaris, or the domestic dog.

The word dog itself is very old. It was first recorded before the year 1050, and its origins are uncertain. In contrast, the origins of the word puppy, meaning “a young dog,” can be traced all the way back to the Latin pūpa, “doll.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest use of puppy in English was in the sense of a “small dog used as a lady’s pet.”

We are honoring pupperinos of all shapes and sizes with some of our favorite doggy terminology. And did you know? Dogs have their own official day too: International Dog Day on August 26.


Learn more about the perplexing origins of the word dog.


Dog lovers are so passionate that they have created their own internet slang related to their favorite pets: DoggoLingo. DoggoLingo uses cutesy spellings and doggy onomatopoeias like mlem, borf, and heckin to drool over man’s best friend online—and the many, many pictures and videos we post of them. One of these adorable slang terms is sploot, “slang for the pose an animal, especially dogs, cats, and other four-legged pets, makes when it lies on its stomach with its hind legs stretched out back and flat.”


  • Roxy the corgi’s favorite position was in a sploot right in front of the refrigerator.


The expression “it’s a dog’s life” is typically pejorative, but we think life as a dog would be excellent. The term dogdom captures a dog’s life and all other things related to dogs. It means “the category of all dogs” or “the state of being a dog.”


  • My father thought his loyal spaniel was the finest creature in all of dogdom.


The period from late July into August, when the weather in most of the Northern Hemisphere is particularly hot and sultry, is known as the “dog days of summer.” But where did the expression come from? Well, it is associated with the canicular days, when the Dog Star, Sirius, rises along with the sun in the sky. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed this contributed to the hot weather.


  • During the canicular period, many people leave for the countryside to beat the heat.


Dog owners know that every dog has their own personality quirks. But there are a few qualities most dogs have in common. For example, dogs are known for being loyal or steadfast, “firm in purpose, resolution, faith, or attachment.” 


  • Lassie was a steadfast, reliable pooch who waited on the porch every day for her boy to get home from school.


Another term that describes many (well-trained) dogs in general is duteous, “dutiful, obedient.”


  • Bowser was a duteous sheep dog who appeared to love his work herding the animals on the farm.

The term duteous particularly implies a deference to authority, such as a dog is expected to show to its owner.


From being steadfast to duteous, dogs make excellent therapy and emotional support animals. Explore the details about these terms and more.


Yet another way to characterize the personality of many dogs is as complaisant, an adjective meaning “inclined or disposed to please; obliging; agreeable or gracious; compliant.”


  • Her beagle rested with his head on her knee, looking up at her face with a complaisant expression and hoping for a scratch between the ears.

A related term from the same Latin root as complaisant is complacent, meaning “self-satisfied.”


Our domesticated pets are just that—domesticated. But there is some wild behavior that remains. One of these strange (and hilarious) habits is zoomies, the term given to the frantic running back and forth at a high speed, often for no discernable reason, of an animal, typically a dog or cat.


  • We woke up to the sound of our poodle, Kenneth, doing midnight zoomies around the kitchen island.

According to the American Kennel Club, the technical name for this behavior is FRAPs (Frenetic Random Activity Periods).


If you’re an expert of dog anatomy, you may already be familiar with the dewclaw, “a functionless claw of some dogs,” which doesn’t reach the ground in walking. The dewclaw is roughly analogous to the thumb or big toe in humans.


  • Somehow the rambunctious pup had managed to get a thorn stuck in the pad of his dewclaw.

While the origin of the term is uncertain, the Oxford English Dictionary suggests it may refer to the idea that the dewclaw only skims to dew on the grass rather than touching the ground.


While International Dog Day is all about celebrating dogs, not everyone feels warmly towards canines. One derogatory term for dogs is cur, “a mutt, especially a worthless or unfriendly one.” Wow, rude.


  • “Get out of here, you cur!” yelled the mean man as he threw rocks at the stray dog begging outside of his restaurant.

Fittingly, cur is used figuratively to mean “a mean, cowardly person.”


Before the word puppy came into common use, a young dog was known as a whelp, “the young of a carnivore, as a dog, bear, lion, seal, etc.”


  • Our sweet farmdog Polka gave birth to three adorable whelps we later named Dot, Dash, and Spot.

The noun whelp has also led to the use of whelp as a verb to mean “to give birth to.”


Many baby animals actually have unusual names. Discover some of them here.


A small dog is a whelp or a puppy, but what is the term for a big dog? Well, we have you covered. Towser [ tou-zer ] means “big dog,” but it is also used figuratively to mean “a big, hearty person, especially one who is very energetic.”


  • The general came striding up the path with his slobbery towser by his side.


There are literally hundreds of breeds of dogs, so we couldn’t possibly cover them all here. But there are a handful of really interesting names for dog breeds we want to touch on. One of those is kuvasz [ koov-ahs ], “one of a Hungarian breed of large dogs having a short, slightly wavy, white coat, used for herding sheep and as watchdogs.”


  • We slept soundly knowing that our loyal kuvasz Akos was guarding the sheep in their paddock.

Kuvasz comes from the Turkish kavas, meaning “guard.”


Another name for a dog breed that comes from a foreign language is papillon [ papuh-lon ], “one of a breed of toy spaniels having a long, silky coat and large, erect ears held so that they resemble the wings of a butterfly.” (Papillon is the French word for “butterfly.”)


  • As the reporter entered the elegant sitting room, Lady Marbury’s two champagne-colored papillons lifted their heads and stared at her.


Dog breeders will never stop innovating. This is how we got the relatively new dog breed, the Maltipoo, “a dog crossbred from a Maltese dog and a miniature poodle or a toy poodle.” The name is a blend of Maltese and poodle.


  • Because my dad is allergic to most dogs, we ended up getting a Maltipoo because they don’t make him sneeze.

The Maltipoo is far from the only new dog breed name that comes from a blend of two names. Recent years have also given us Bernedoodles, Labradoodles, Morkies, Puggles, and Yorkiepoos. These new breeds are often bred to be hypoallergenic, reduce shedding, or to have other desirable traits.

Did you dig all this doggo terminology? You can review all of these terms at our word list here. To compete for the blue ribbon at the Dictionary Dog Show, or at least to earn bragging rights, you can take our dog lingo quiz here.


Hopefully this collection got your interest wagging for more animal words. Why not visit our perfect descriptors for cats as well?

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