crit·ter (krĭt’ər)
n. Informal 1) A living creature. 2) A domestic animal, especially a cow, horse, or mule. 3) A person.
[Alteration of CREATURE(Cf. ↑creature).]
Word History: In many American regional dialects, the word bull, meaning "adult male bovine," was once highly taboo. When speaking in mixed company, people would substitute a variety of words and call the bull a booman, brute, gentleman cow, or surly. In the Northeast in particular, critter was a common word used to avoid saying bull, both by itself and in combinations like beef critter and cross critter. The most common meaning of critter is "a living creature," whether wild or domestic; it also can mean "a child" when used as a term of sympathetic endearment, or it can mean "an unfortunate person." But in old-fashioned speech, critter and beast denoted a large domestic animal. The more restricted senses "a cow," "a horse," or "a mule" are still characteristic of the speech in specific regions of the United States. Critter itself originates as a dialectal variant of creature, but owing to the pronunciation spelling critter, the term has taken on something of a life of its own as a separate word. The American regional word also has its own variants, including creeter and cretter. In some ways, the pronunciation of critter would have been very familiar to Shakespeare: 16th- and 17th-century English had not yet begun to pronounce the -ture suffix with its modern (ch) sound. This archaic pronunciation survives not only in American critter, but also in Irish English creature, pronounced (krā’tŭr) and used in the same senses as the American word.

Word Histories. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Critter — may refer to: A domesticated animal An organism A human The mascot and call sign of ValuJet Airlines Chinese Pangolin ( The Critter ), one of the pets of the Raven FACs at their secret base in Long Tieng during the covert war in Laos Fearsome… …   Wikipedia

  • critter — crit ter (kr[i^]t t[ e]r), n. [from creature.] [Also spelled {crittur}.] 1. Any animal; as, lots of critters come out only at night. [U. S., western dialect] [PJC] 2. Specifically: A domestic animal or a non predatory wild animal; contrasted with …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • critter — 1815, dialectal or humorous pronunciation of CREATURE (Cf. creature) …   Etymology dictionary

  • critter — or crittur [krit′ər] n. dial. var. of CREATURE (esp. sense 2) …   English World dictionary

  • critter — UK [ˈkrɪtə(r)] / US [ˈkrɪtər] noun [countable] Word forms critter : singular critter plural critters American informal 1) an animal 2) a person, especially someone you feel sympathy for …   English dictionary

  • critter — [[t]krɪ̱tə(r)[/t]] critters N COUNT A critter is a living creature. [AM, INFORMAL] ...little furry critters …   English dictionary

  • critter — noun (C) AmE spoken a creature, especially an animal: Be careful, that horse is a mean critter! …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • critter — noun Etymology: by alteration Date: 1815 creature 1 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Critter — …   Википедия

  • critter — /krit euhr/, n. Dial. 1. a domesticated animal. 2. any creature. Also, crittur. [var. of CREATURE] * * * …   Universalium

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