Insective adjectives

A chance tweet from the Horniman Museum Walrus (yes, he has his own Twitter account) suggested that the English language was all the poorer for not having an adjective for all things of a walrus nature. His own suggestions — walrussian, walrusite — were quickly followed by walrusful, walrusellian, tuskous, odobensine and, my own modest contribution, walrish.

This immediately got me thinking that there are also precious few insectival adjectives.

A quick search comes up with just a very few in common use, many of these pejorative:

Antsy (like an ant), Apian (of, or belonging to bees), Formic (of or from from ants, but really limited to acid), grubby (having lots of grubs, slightly archaic), Larval (like, or of, a larva, mostly technical talk though), Lousy (like, or infested with lice), Maggoty (full of maggots), Mothy (really just an alternative for moth-eaten), Waspish (although this is not often applied to wasps).

Admittedly there are plenty of pseudo-English adjective-like words, but these are merely clipped versions of Latin names used in academic texts — things like carabid, tachinid, capsid, for example, from Carabidae, Tachinidae, Capsidae, or dipteran and lepidopteran from Diptera and Lepidoptera. Dropping one of those casually into the conversation usually means stopping and explaining, something not very helpful to the flow of easy dialogue.

I’ve had a go at drawing up some more colloquial adjectives. So here are a few to be getting on with. First the easy ones: Aphish (like aphids), Beey (like a bee), Bugly (I prefer this over ‘buggy’), Bumblebling (just to differentiate from bumbling, which is unfair on bumblebees), Caterpillory, Caddish, ChaferousCicadian (like a cicada), Clegular (like a cleg, or indeed other horsefly), Crickish, Dumbledoric (like the large black dungbeetle of that name), Earwiggly, Grasshopeful, Locustardly, Mantish (or Mantic), Gnatty, Midgely, Roachy, Scarably, Silverfishy, Sticky (like a stick insect, obviously), Termighty, Thripsical (like or of thrips), Whirligiggly (like a whirligig).

Several butterflies and moths can have their own adjectives: Angleshady, Bloodvain, Brimstoney, Burnetly, Cabbish-white, Clifden-unparalleled, Eggarly, Fritillarious, Hairstreaky, Looperior, Orange-tipical, Peacocky, Reddish- and Whitish-admirable, although I’m not quite so sure about Speckled-woody, Small-coppery or Small-heathy.

And finally, a few slightly more subtle ones, based on my best bastard pidgin Latin: Cicindelicious (of tiger beetles, or glow-worms, depending on your classical bent), Coccinelly (to do with ladybirds), Grylled (of crickets), Libellulous (of dragonflies), Sphingy (like a hawkmoth).

All further suggestions welcomed….

5 responses to “Insective adjectives

  1. I use aphidy rather than aphish

  2. I like the expression ‘best bastard pidgin Latin’

  3. Pingback: Lots ‘o’ Links: Finals Edition November 23 – December 13 2013 | Scientia and Veritas

  4. An old post, I know, but I found it while hunting whether there’s a preferred spelling for an adjective meaning cicada-like. Cicadian? Cicadan?
    Alas! Everything thus far keeps auto-correcting to circadian. I know the difference, but that’s not what I’m hunting.
    Nevertheless, I enjoyed your post. Just wanted you to know. :)

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