Girrafe/Camelopard

Detail of OED - giraffe

See OED entry for Giraffe

The OED describes a giraffe as ‘a ruminant quadruped found in Africa, remarkable for the length of its neck and legs, and for having its skin spotted like that of a panther’. The word has a very unusual letter sequence – how often do you see a word that ends in ‘raffe’? In fact the word comes originally from the Arabic zarāfah: this becomes the Italian giraffa, and the old French orafle and giraffle, reaching Middle English as gerfaunt and orafle.

Interestingly another word, camelopard, exists for the same animal, but has fallen into disuse, as the OED entry shows. In common with other older words, the quotation list presents a history of the English language in microcosm, and maps the kinds of contexts in which giraffes and their words would be found in the English-speaking world.