Bookshelp header image for page World Wide Words logo

Bunny rabbit

Q From Paul Savarese: My wife was wondering about the origin of bunny. She can’t find the answer in the dictionary.

A Alas, it’s not there largely because we don’t know. Bun was an English dialect word, recorded from the sixteenth century, which was used for a squirrel or rabbit. It seems that the word turned into the endearment bunny in the following century, and only later was it transferred back to the rabbit. There is a suggestion that the word may have originally referred to the small tail of the rabbit, in the same way that a tight coil of hair at the back of the neck was also called a bun, because both were roughly the shape and size of the cake. Others argue that the origin was the Gaelic word bun that meant a stump or root, and which could refer to the tail of a hare. But neither origin explains why it was applied to a squirrel, whose tail looks rather different. But then, we don’t know for sure where the word bun in the sense of the cake comes from either, so it’s all quite obscure.

Share this page
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Google+

Search World Wide Words

Support World Wide Words!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 13 Mar. 1999

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-bun1.htm
Last modified: 13 March 1999.