Sally Thomason at Language Log has a post in which she describes how she came to learn the synonyms stot and pronk, both of which describe the “hilarious pogo-stick bounds” of mule-deer (and antelope, gazelles, and the like). The etymology of stot is unknown, but pronk is “from an Afrikaans word meaning ‘to show off, strut, prance’, and ultimately from Dutch pronken ‘to strut’; and it was first applied to the spectacular bounds of the little South African antelope called a springbok.” I felt it my bounden duty to tell you about these wonderful words, even if few of us will have the chance to use them in the course of our daily lives.


  1. But does anyone ever let you use them in Scrabble? No they don’t.

  2. Chris Booth says:

    Stot is a fairly common word in Scots, meaning to bounce (or to walk with a bounce). So you might hear kids in playground talking about stotting a ball. Chambers English Dictionary (published in Edinburgh, so it’s always good on Scots words) lists it, so yes Harry, I think I could use it in Scrabble! Unfortunately Chambers has [Origin obscure], so no joy on the etymology. There’s also the lovely word stotious, meaning drunk, which Chambers thinks might be connected.

  3. In his fantastic book The Behavior Guide to African Mammals, Richard Despard Estes uses pronking only when referring to the springbok, and stotting for all other species. He calls pronking “the unique springbok version of stotting, during which the back is bowed, the tail is clamped, the neck is lowered, and the straightened legs are bunched.” I don’t know if anyone else makes this distinction between the two terms — indeed, Estes is contradicted by the glossary of his own book, which says that pronking and stotting are synonyms — but I’m reluctant to argue with a guy whose colleagues refer to him as “The Guru of Gnu.”

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    I’m quite sure I have seen at least one of these words, and possibly both, in Stephen Jay Gould’s writings. (The evolutionary point of the behavior is to demonstrate to predators that the individual will be a difficult catch, so better look for easier prey.) I think “stot” is the word I have seen, but I would have to go digging to be sure.

  5. “Pronking” is fairly commonly used in South Africa. As someone above has said, pronking usually describes the athletic leaps made by springboks, and stotting describes the less graceful moves of other animals. “Stot” in north east English dialects means bounce. My dialect dictionary links it to Dutch “stuiten” = to bounce. “Stotting” in the same dialects means angry, and is ultimately from the same root as “stuttering”.

  6. The online Scrabble dictionary at does not allow either stot or pronk. Considering some of the words they do allow, I’m surprised.

  7. I can confirm that stot is a commonly used word in Scotland. I associate it mostly with hard rain “stotting off” the pavement. Oddly enough, when I google “stotting rain” I get a link to a Scottish Parliament – Official Report in which an SMP pleads for greater awareness of the need to repect linguistic diversity gives some examples of borrowings from other languages and claims, in passing, that the word “stotting” is derived from the Dutch ‘stotten’.

  8. “The little stotting bugger came pronking into my life.”
    Sorry, I just had to use these words in an anglo-sized sentence…a sentence of life in the prison of the absurd (in Guantanamo, I assume)…and I accept the pun-ish-ment.
    in sackcloth and ashes,
    Ur fiend

  9. dearieme says:

    And in Scotland a “stotter” can be a shapely lass.

  10. “(aan-)stoten” (long o, only on t in the middle) in Dutch means bumping (into), as in bumping your toe into doorposts in the night, or giving someone a shove. The shove-part sounds about right as a description of what wildebeests do to eachother.

  11. Right… Springboks, I mean. Sorry. Don’t Wildebeests pronk & stot too?

  12. No, wildebeest don’t stot or pronk. But they do cavort!

  13. I think of prinking, an old canting term for dressing like a swell, or Spenser’s Gentle Knight, “pricking on the plain”.

  14. A fabulous verb is "to pronk".
    The antelopes jump when you honk.
    Its synonym, "stot"
    Was made up by some Scot.
    I think that he must have been dronk.

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