Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- A living creature.
- A domestic animal, especially a cow, horse, or mule.
- A person.
Origin: Alteration of creature.Regional Note: Critter, a pronunciation spelling of creature, actually reflects a pronunciation that 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 still exists in American critter and in Irish creature, pronounced (krāˈtŭr) and used in the same senses as the American word. 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.” 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. The use of critter among younger speakers almost always carries with it a jocular or informal connotation.