deer

deer (dîr)
n. pl. deer Any of various hoofed ruminant mammals of the family Cervidae, characteristically having deciduous antlers borne chiefly by the males. The deer family includes the white-tailed deer, elk, moose, and caribou.
[Middle English der, beast, from Old English dēor.]
Word History: In Middle English texts one finds a fish, an ant, or a fox called a der, the Middle English ancestor of our word deer. In its Old English form dēor, the word referred to any animal, including members of the deer family, and continued to do so in Middle English, although it also acquired the specific sense "a deer." By the end of the Middle English period, around 1500, the general sense had all but disappeared. In Shakespeare's works, for example, the word deer usually refers to the antlered animals that we call deer today. However, a memory of the earlier, broader meaning is preserved in the words of the character Edgar in King Lear, which Shakespeare wrote sometime between 1603 and 1606. After being unjustly declared an outlaw by his father, Edgar disguises himself as a lunatic and lives in misery in the countryside under the name "Poor Tom." When he later meets his father, who has been blinded and cannot recognize his son, "Tom" explains that he survives by eating toads and tadpoles and whatever else he can catch: "But mice and rats, and such small deer / Have been Tom's food for seven long year." Here, such small deer would seem to mean "other such small animals." Another trace of the earlier meaning of deer is probably found in wilderness. This word is thought to descend from an unattested Old English word *wilddēornes, made up of Old English wilddēor or wildedēor, "wild animal" and the noun suffix -nes, the equivalent of the Modern English suffix -ness. Wilderness is thus "wild-animal-ness," so to speak. The German word Tier, the cognate of Old English dēor and Modern English deer, still has the general sense of "animal."

Word Histories. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Deer — (d[=e]r), n. sing. & pl. [OE. der, deor, animal, wild animal, AS. de[ o]r; akin to D. dier, OFries. diar, G. thier, tier, Icel. d[=y]r, Dan. dyr, Sw. djur, Goth. dius; of unknown origin. [root]71.] 1. Any animal; especially, a wild animal. [Obs.] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Deer — heißen: Deer (Arkansas), Vereinigten Staaten Deer (Missouri), Vereinigten Staaten Deer (New Mexico), Vereinigten Staaten Deér, namentlich: Josef Deér (József, 1905–1972), ungarischer Historiker Siehe auch: John Deere, Landmaschinenhersteller… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • deer — [ dır ] (plural deer or deers) noun count * a large brown animal with long thin legs. The adult male deer is called a stag and may have antlers growing from its head. The female deer is called a doe and a young deer is called a fawn …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • deer — O.E. deor animal, beast, from P.Gmc. *deuzam, the general Germanic word for animal (as opposed to man), but often restricted to wild animal (Cf. O.Fris. diar, Du. dier, O.N. dyr, O.H.G. tior, Ger. Tier animal, Goth. dius wild animal, also Cf. R …   Etymology dictionary

  • deer — [dir] n. pl. deer or deers [ME der < OE deor, wild animal, akin to Ger tier, ON dȳr < IE base * dhewes, *dheus , to stir up, blow, breathe (> DUSK, DOZE1, FURY): for sense development cf. ANIMAL] 1. any of a family (Cervidae) of… …   English World dictionary

  • deer — [dıə US dır] n plural deer ↑antler [: Old English; Origin: deor animal ] a large wild animal that can run very fast, eats grass, and has horns …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • deer — ► NOUN (pl. same) ▪ a hoofed grazing or browsing animal, the male of which usually has branched bony antlers that are shed annually. ORIGIN Old English, originally also denoting any quadruped …   English terms dictionary

  • Deer — This article is about the ruminant animal. For other uses, see Deer (disambiguation). Fawn and Stag redirect here. For other uses, see Fawn (disambiguation) and Stag (disambiguation). Deer Temporal range: Early Oligocene–Recent …   Wikipedia

  • deer — /dear/, n., pl. deer, (occasionally) deers. 1. any of several ruminants of the family Cervidae, most of the males of which have solid, deciduous antlers. 2. any of the smaller species of this family, as distinguished from the moose, elk, etc.… …   Universalium

  • Deér — Josef Deér (auch: József Deér) (* 4. März 1905 in Budapest; † 26. September 1972 in Bern) war ein ungarischer Historiker. Der Sohn eines Apothekers und einer Lehrerin studierte von 1923 bis 1929 an den Universitäten Budapest und Wien Geschichte.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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