noun pl. crayfish,
- Any of various freshwater crustaceans of the families Astacidae and Cambaridae of the Northern Hemisphere and the family Parastacidae of the Southern Hemisphere, resembling a lobster but considerably smaller. Also called mudbug . Also called also called regionally crawdad .
- See spiny lobster.
Origin of crayfish By folk etymology from
Middle English crevise from
Old French crevice perhaps from
Old High German krebiz edible crustacean
; see gerbh-
in Indo-European roots.Word History:
The crayfish, also known as the crawfish, owes its name to a misunderstanding. The actual source of the word may be the Old High German word krebiz,
“edible crustacean,” or a word related to it. From this Germanic source came Old French crevice,
which when taken into English became crevise
(first recorded in a document written in 1311-1312). In Old French and Middle English these words designated the crayfish. People began to pronounce and spell the last part of this word as if it were fish,
the first fish
spelling being recorded in 1555. Because of a variation in Anglo-Norman pronunciation, two forms of the word have come down to Modern English: crayfish
(plural crayfishes or crayfish)
- (New England, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota) A freshwater crustacean (Cambaridae) resembling a small lobster, sometimes used as an inexpensive seafood or as fish bait.
- (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) A rock lobster.
The term crayfish predominates in New England (including New York and Pennsylvania) and in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In most of the United States—in the South, especially in Louisiana and Texas; in the Midwest and in the West—crawfish predominates. In a belt stretching across Kentucky through Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and in Oregon and northern California, the term crawdad predominates.
Alteration (by folk-etymology, influenced by fish) of Middle English crevis, from Old French crevice ("crayfish"; > Modern French: écrevisse), from Old Frankish *krebitja (“crayfish”), diminutive of Old Frankish *krebit (“crab”), from Proto-Germanic *krabitaz (“crab, cancer”), from Proto-Indo-European *grebʰ-, *gerebʰ- (“to scratch, crawl”). Akin to Old High German krebiz ("edible crustacean, crab"; > Modern German Krebs (“crab”)), Middle Low German krēvet (“crab”), Dutch kreeft (“crayfish, lobster”), Old English crabba (“crab”). More at crab.