Names Of Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs of the late cretaceous and Jurassic period , carnivorous and plant-eating have names which derive from Latin and Greek.

Ever thought what dinosaur names mean? Where they derive from and why we gave them that specific name? Well, you wouldn't be able to guess unless you spoke Greek and Latin.

To start with, the name "˜dinosaur' comes from the Greek deinò (= terrifying) and saurus, a most common suffix (= savra), which means lizard.

One of the most terrifying dinosaurs is Tyrannosaurus Rex; the King of the dinosaurs. This flesh-eating biped, which "tyrannized" every living being in the late Cretaceous, was justifiably given the name tyrant from the Greek tyrannos.

While on the subject of carnivorous dinosaurs, an allosaurus is a different dinosaur (from àllo = other, different). One of its basic characteristics is its legs which are curved backwards to prevent prey from escaping.

A stegosaur on the other hand is a small-headed plant-eating dinosaur with two bony plates on the back. Thus, the name stegosaur from the Greek word stège = covering.

Triceratops, another plant-eating dinosaur of the late Cretacious with two horns and a smaller one on the snout. Its name announces the dinosaur with the three-horned face (tria = three + ops = face).



Ichthyosaur comes from the Greek word ichthys which means fish. If you take a close look though, you'll see that this dinosaur was justifiably given than name.

Brachiosaurus, a huge long-necked plant-eating dinosaur of the Jurassic period with forelegs longer than its hind legs. Its name comes from the Greek brachìon (=arm) for obvious reasons.

A Megalosaurus is a mega dinosaur ! A huge flesh-eating dinosaur whose name derives from the Greek word megàlo (=huge)

An Apatosaurus (from the Greek apàte = deceit) is a huge plant-eating dinosaur of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Its former name Brontosaur declares the thunder, from the Greek brontè = thunder.

But where do pterosaur, pteranodon and pterodactyl derive from? For those speaking a bit of Greek the common word you come across in all three is pterò which means wing. A pterosaur is a Mesozoic flying reptile, thus its name flying lizard. A pteranodon is another flying pterosaur whose name derives from pterò (=wing), an (=the Greek prefix meaning no, without) and òdon, dònti (=tooth), since this lizard was completely toothless! Whereas pterodactyl comes from pterò + dàctylo (=finger).

The name pachycephalosaur derives from the words pachy + cephalè which mean thick head in Greek since this dinosaur's most distinctive feature is a marked thickness on the forehead; a great protection against their head-butting activities.

Archaeopteryxes are the oldest known fossil birds dating from the late Jurassic period. Thus the name archaìos (=ancient) + ptèryx (=wing).

Psittacosaurus : the name of this small dinosaur (the smallest baby dinosaur yet discovered was just 9 inches long) is really interesting. It derives from the Greek word psittacòs which means parrot. But with a beak like that it definitely looks like a parrot.

Oviraptor: this small, 4 feet long biped has been associated with the nest of other dinosaurs. It most likely ate dinosaur eggs and led to it being named Oviraptor, after the Latin ovum (=egg) and raptor (=robber).

Finally, Compsognathus, the star of Jurassic Park, is a small lizard which may be less than 3 feet tall but boasts a pretty jaw, since its name derives from the Greek compsòs (=pretty) and gnàthos (=jaw).

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