Why “Mosquito”?

I finally checked out frequent commenter Fancua’s blog, also called Fancua (“Languages, Linguistics, and Translation”), and it has lots of good stuff. The first post I saw was Why Does the Word “Mosquito” Come from Spanish?, which investigates the history of the word “mosquito”:

Looking up the etymology of the word, I found that “mosquito” was in fact a post-Columbian borrowing from Spanish, with the earliest occurrence of the word in English being from the 1580s (although the website does not specify if the borrowing occurred in the Americas or Europe). But were mosquitoes present in Europe before colonization, and if so, what were they called in English?

Recently, I decided to dig deeper. Mosquitoes apparently did exist in Europe before Columbus, being a thorn in the side of the Byzantines, Ancient Greeks, and Romans. Given that mosquitoes were present in pre-Columbian Britain and that the English word “mosquito” is of post-Columbian origin, the original word for the animal must have been something else. I found a page on the Maryland Department of Agriculture website stating the English word for “mosquito” was originally “gnat”, but it cites no sources. Nevertheless, coming across that page led me to look up “gnat” in the Historical Thesaurus of English, and as a result, I found that the word has indeed been used since Old English times to refer to mosquitoes, though only to certain genera (I assume the genera present in Britain during that period). The first word to be used to refer to the entire Culicidae family was “mosquito” in about 1583.

But the fact that the word “mosquito” is used throughout the English-speaking world rather than only in North America puzzled me. There is nothing unusual in North American anglophones in close contact with Spanish speakers borrowing Spanish equivalents for existing words, but for British English to do so strikes me as odd. Why would British English borrow a term for an animal already existing in Europe from Spanish (presumably Latin American Spanish via North American English) rather than French or Latin, which are geographically and culturally closer and its usual sources of loanwords?

Given that “gnat” originally referred to a specific subset of mosquitoes, I assume that English speakers felt the need to refer to the mosquitoes they encountered in the Americas as “mosquitoes” rather than “gnats” because they were different from European “gnats” in some noticeable way, with this semantic difference thus providing a reason for the adoption of the word in British English. In what way specifically these species might have differed, I don’t know, as I neither am a biologist nor know the historical differences between European and American mosquitoes. If anyone has more information, please let me know.

A good question that hadn’t occurred to me. And if you’re wondering about the word “fancua” itself, here’s what his About page says:

In Oscan, an extinct Italic language closely related to Latin, fancua means “tongues” and is related to the Latin word lingua, meaning “tongue” or “language”.

However, according to Matthew Dillon and ‎Lynda Garland, Ancient Rome (p. 163), “The meaning of fancua is unknown.” Clearly, further research is needed.


  1. I’m glad to hear you find my blog interesting!

    Regarding fancua: I figured starting the millionth blog with a name starting in “ling-” or “lang-” would be boring, but instead of being creative, I just tried to find a non-Romance equivalent that (a) sounded like it would make a good name, and (b) was sufficiently opaque that people wouldn’t mistake me for a native speaker of that language (Sprachwissenschaft is a lovely word, but it would be a rather pretentious name for a blog written by someone who barely knows German).

    There is one thing that I wonder: is fancua the expected outcome of Latin-Oscan sound correspondences?

  2. It’s amazing how widespread and durable reflexes of ñamuk are in Austronesian languages.

  3. I don’t know about olden times, but in modern Britain a gnat is a generic and not very scientific term for small flies that are a nuisance but don’t bite. Mosquito (in common parlance, anyway) refers to the various tropical or subtropical biting insects that give you unpleasant diseases. As far I know, those kinds of mosquitoes aren’t found in the UK. At least they weren’t when I was growing up. Climate change may have altered things.

  4. As far I know, those kinds of mosquitoes aren’t found in the UK.

    Really? This website says that “The UK is home to more than 30 types of native mosquito species, some of which bite and create a general nuisance.”

  5. De Vaan’s Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages treats Latin lingua/dingua and Oscan fancua (Acc. Sg. fangvam) as related (and synonymous) words, but according to his discussion the precise phonological relationship is anything but straightforward: “We find tabooistic or simply associative (with ‘to lick’) changes of the phonological form of ‘tongue’ in many Indo-European languages” (p. 343)

  6. Lars Mathiesen says

    biting insects that give you unpleasant diseases — there are mosquitoes in Denmark, yea even unto all of Svealand. However (we’re told) the climate is — so far — too cold for Anopheles sp. to host the malaria parasite. (I don’t know if the mosquito species transmitting other nasties are found here, but if so their nasties are not infecting people in significant numbers).

    Further north I think it’s blackflies (not an improvement). And we do have tick-borne encephalitis but that’s an arachnid.

  7. Russian has two main words for mosquitoes – komar which means all types of mosquitoes native to Russia and Europe (including malaria mosquitoes) and moskit (from Spanish “mosquito”) which refers to tropical flying insects known in English as “sand flies” (Subfamily Phlebotominae).

    It is strange why English lost its native word for such an important insect and replaced it with Spanish borrowing.

  8. David Eddyshaw says


    Never saw a mosquito (that I recognised as such, anyway) until I went to Africa; previously, exceedingly familiar with gnats, and indeed midges (having been traumatised in youth by holidays in Wester Ross.)

    I think the solution is that (as your link suggests) we Brits only call them mosquitos if they’re foreign. Otherwise, they’re just good old patriotic Gnats (in the case of Wester Ross, Scots Gnats, of course.)

    “Mosquito” in Kusaal is duŋ, the stem of which is homophonous with dum “bite.” Doubtless sheer coincidence.

  9. but according to his discussion the precise phonological relationship is anything but straightforward:

    Thanks for the source!

    Further north I think it’s blackflies (not an improvement).

    Apparently not.

    I think the solution is that (as your link suggests) we Brits only call them mosquitos if they’re foreign. Otherwise, they’re just good old patriotic Gnats.

    That makes a lot more sense to me.

  10. Lars Mathiesen says

    foreign — ah. Danes call them myg regardless of the nationality they profess. The systematics appear to be in flux, but entomologists seem to think that gnat and mosquito are distinct clades and that they are all flies anyway (but close to basal to that group).

  11. I wonder if the important difference in how mosquitoes are named and perceived is related to how much their bites itch. In the countless hours I spent in the outdoors* in the New World, I have been bitten many times by mosquitoes and black flies. My opinion is that the former are much worse, not because the tend to spread diseases (mosquito-borne diseases are relatively uncommon in temperate areas), but because their bites itch, a lot. The saliva they inject prevents their bites from being instantaneously painful (the way a black fly bite would be), but it also causes an allergic reaction that makes the bite site swell up and itch. Gnats are annoying, because they buzz around (and as my four-year-old brother discovered, they are cold and painful if you get one in your eye), but that is nothing compared to the unpleasantness of biting mosquitoes.

    * I have slept in the woods, in pouring rain, more than once. It’s not fun, but it’s not too bad if it’s not so cold and you know what you’re doing. I did contract an unknown infection (which put me in the hospital with a fever of 105) on one of those occasions, however, so maybe I shouldn’t be too glib about it.

  12. David Eddyshaw says

    “Blackfly” to me immediately conjures up the all-too-appropriately named Simulium damnosum. Quite apart from transmitting river blindness, the fly has a particularly painful and messy bite.

    Almost certainly, the reason why Kusaal, spoken in an area less than forty miles square, has two dialects at least as different from each other as Spanish from Portuguese, is that the area is divided by the White Volta, and the whole river zone is sparsely populated because of the onchocerciasis endemic there until recent decades.
    (It’s the same with Bisa, the Mande language just to the north.)

    So the blackfly has linguistic consequences.

  13. Gnats

    Forgot this one. General term for all biting flying insects in Russian is “gnus”, likely a cognate of English “gnat”.

    Russian word for “vile, abominable” is formed from “gnus”.

  14. Like David Eddyshaw, I was never aware of anything that I would call a mosquito until I moved away from England. Or indeed anything that looked like what I now know a mosquito looks like. Maybe they’re just not that common. Or perhaps too small for their shape to be readily apparent.

    Interestingly, that website mentions that the Asian Tiger mosquito has been seen in southern England in recent years, due to a combination of climate change and global trade. They arrived in the DC area in the mid to late 1990s, as far as I recall. They are nasty little bastards, active throughout the day.

    The biting fly that I remember from English summers is the horse-fly, which is definitely not a mosquito but more like a regular house-fly on steroids.

  15. Here, John Cleese’s narration describes mosquitoes as “inoffensive”:

    Mosquito Hunters

  16. Lars Mathiesen says

    Mosquito bites do tend to swell and itch, though it’s different for different people — for me they are gone in 30 minutes if I don’t scratch and they aren’t under a sandal strap or in a similar location, but I know people who can suffer from a single bite for weeks.

    I don’t know why they aren’t so noticeable in Britain, maybe they are more aggressive towards humans here because there are fewer mammals and we have lots of wetlands, or otherwise they have fewer predators.

  17. I don’t know why they aren’t so noticeable in Britain

    Did you watch Brett’s clip? Mortars, machine guns, and tanks keep the blighters down!

  18. John Cowan says

    I find that denting a mosquito bite with a fingernail, enough to press it down but not to break the skin, and doing this four times so that it becomes a tiny pink pizza, is sufficient to deal with the itch.

  19. We may draw a parallel with the French for mosquito, “moustique,” which also comes from the Spanish, while the equivalent of gnat was “cousin”.

    “Cousin” seems to derive from the latin culex. It was used to refer to the native flying and biting annoyance, while “moustique” was the foreign, tropical species (my source is Littré, who defined it as “Insecte voltigeant des pays chauds, dont la piqûre est douloureuse”).

    Nowadays the biting ones are unanimously hated as “moustiques” and “cousin” is a non-biting pest also known as Tipula paludosa.

  20. But the Monty Python clip is a documentary look at mosquito hunting in Australia. Sure, they speak English there, after a fashion anyway, but they’re still foreigners.

  21. Good point. But you’d think the Brits would learn from their cousins Down Under.

  22. Trond Engen says

    Lars M.: Danes call them myg regardless of the nationality they profess.

    I first read it as myg “soft”, not myg “gnat, mosquito, whatever”. The pronunciations are wildly different. Well, as wildly different as two Danish words with the same onset can be. As they should, one being a regular cognate with ‘meek’ and the other with ‘midge’. I don’t think I’ve pointed out this particular weird ambiguity of Danish spelling before.

  23. David Marjanović says

    The pronunciations are wildly different.

    So what are they?

  24. Trond Engen says

    black fly

    Wikipedia informs me that this is what we call knott, presumably some sort of irregular cognate of gnat. A hiker in Norway in summer will find them everywhere. Well, actually they will find the hiker.

    Other pests are klegg “horsefly” and its relative blinding “deer-fly”, and also a couple of types of brems “botfly”, but all of these are mostly found near farm animals.

  25. Trond Engen says

    Per Wiktionary:

    Meek: /myː/, [myːˀ]
    Midge: /myɡ/, [myɡ̊]

    I imagine hearing different vowel qualities as well, the long vowel somewhat diphtongized and the short vowel more central, but that may be just me.

  26. Angus Macdonald says

    “Other pests are klegg “horsefly ….”

    In Scotland a horsefly is known as a cleg

  27. Lars M.: Danes call them myg regardless of the nationality they profess.

    I think that word will be related to English ‘midge’, which etymonline thinks is widespread in Germanic languages/Swedish mygga/”no certain cognates beyond Germanic”.

    in the case of Wester Ross, Scots Gnats, of course.

    As an outdoorsy Brit, I call those Highlands/Western Isles things ‘midges’, not gnats. And I believe Doctor Johnson complained of the swarms of them in his travels with Boswell.

    In New Zealand/Pacific islands we have ‘sand flies’ (again there are several species). Definitely not midges/gnats, but smaller than mosquitoes. However far more deadly because they’re silent and lurk below eye level.

    Typically tourists in NZ who are not experienced trampers take off their boots to cross streams (mistake 1); then after crossing sit on the banks to let their feet dry (mistake 2). By the time they finish their walk, their ankles/feet are maddeningly itchy inside their boots, so they try scratching the bites (mistake 3). Medical Centres are used to applying ointment to red/swollen/pustulated ankles.

    Insect repellent (like Deet) is almost totally ineffective; there’s various noxious folk repellents made from household chemicals. The only way I’ve found to avoid them is don’t stop/keep moving until you’re a good way above the river flats/swamp.

  28. “Mosquitoes” it is in Australia, more commonly abbreviated to “mozzies” (have they borrowed that one in Britain?) We also have biting midges or sandflies.

    In Mongolia mosquitoes are known as shumuul, although it seems (and I had difficulty confirming this) that non-biting swarms — which can also harbour biting insects — are also called shumuul.

    According to Wikipedia, the word “mosquito” (formed by mosca and diminutive -ito) is Spanish for “little fly”….

  29. Vasmer notes that гнус “small biting insects / blackflies” / “something disgusting” is present in all other Slavic languages in the 2nd meaning but not in the first. Perhaps it’s a borrowing from some local substrate like Finno-Ugric, altered to fit the obvious folk etymology? A synonym for гнус is мошка (with the final syllable stressed) which is congnate with mosquito

  30. Rob Solheim says

    Dmitry Pruss: мошка (with the final syllable stressed). Really? I’ve only encountered this word stressed initially. Plenty of them around where I am in Siberia, the scourge of fishermen. They aren’t put off by mosquito repellant, it seems, and the prevailing wisdom here is that vanilla is what you need. Hence the odd combination one encounters of your typical мужик in his fishing gear smelling like a cake shop.

  31. There’s a charming country hotel-restaurant in the Dutch village Muggenbeet, “mosquitos bite,” you would think, but no, Wikipedia disappoints us:
    “De naam is een verbastering van mücken beecke, Oudsaksisch voor kleine beek.” (“The name is a corruption of mücken beecke, Old Saxon for a small stream.“)

  32. My guess is that England is so built up that mosquitoes are rare there. In Scandinavia and Finland they are vastly more common in nature than in cities, where you might not notice them at all. That doesn’t solve the question of what they used to be called, though. Maybe they were called something different in different regions and the common term mosquito came from abroad as travelers became more aware of them.

    Malaria was endemic in Europe until quite recently. There was malaria of native origin in Finland until at least the 19th century. This wasn’t the more dangerous Falciparum type, though.

  33. PlasticPaddy says

    Re muggenbeet there is also the nearby Poepershoek.

  34. Lars Mathiesen says

    myg/myg: cf Sw mjuk/mygg(a) — original simplex vs geminate stop (coordinate with vowel length, of course, and I can’t say which reduction came first). Also the adjective is not part of my active vocabulary, we say blød now. (Both words started out meaning ‘wet’).

    Wiktionary is right in principle that the long vowel is just that (with stød), cf syg = ‘sick’, but since myg feels archaizing I tend to give it a very weak i-glide at the end as a reminiscence of the quondam velar fricative. It’s possible that that was normal when I learned to speak, but how can I tell how my own pronunciation has changed?

    Also it’s true that living in a built-up area now I rarely encounter mosquitoes, much less horseflies (klæger*) — but anywhere within half a mile of open water is a danger zone for the former. In fact you only need a rainwater puddle to remain in the back garden for a few days, and a new generation will spawn.
    (*) In my family we called them hestebremser, but those are properly bot flies and do not bite.

  35. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    The Spanish word mosquito doesn’t mean “mosquito”, it is a diminutive of mosco (fly), and means “small flying insect” (in Chile, anyway). The word for “mosquito” is zancudo.

  36. мошка

    Khmer: មូស (km) (muuh)


  37. The Spanish word mosquito doesn’t mean “mosquito”, it is a diminutive of mosco (fly), and means “small flying insect” (in Chile, anyway). The word for “mosquito” is zancudo.

    This thread would appear to indicate that mosquito can in fact mean “mosquito” depending on the region.

  38. AJP Crown says

    that is nothing compared to the unpleasantness of biting mosquitoes.
    Unpleasant work but someone’s gotta do it.

    My guess is that England is so built up that mosquitoes are rare there.
    Have you been to England? Somewhere like Pen-y-ghent or Dartmoor might be in the Norwegian Rondane, except that outside of lockdown are usually more tourists in the Rondane mtns.

    Trond:Myg (referring to the Danish).
    But mygg in Norway. Being brought up during the cold war I’ve always felt a connection to MiG, the Russian fighter aircraft whose name comes merely from the company’s founders’ initials.

    I’ll just mention again the night my wife said she couldn’t sleep because of musky toes, which turned out to be her pronunciation of mosquitoes and not some chronic illness of blood circulation.

  39. Graham Asher says

    “My guess is that England is so built up that mosquitoes are rare there.”

    Comments from foreigners about England get funnier and funnier. England is about 9% built up; the UK as a whole is about 6% built up. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41901294 . Yes, it’s a crowded country, but not yet completely concreted over.

    I’ve lived in southern England, London and (now) the Midlands all my life, and over those past six decades I’ve been stung by large and aggressive mosquitoes every late summer. Surprisingly to me, the worst ones were in north London, in places like Highgate Wood.

    My joint worst mosquito experiences were in northern Greece and central Sweden.

    About our terminology here in England: there are about 30 species of mosquito native to the country. We tend to call the large ones mosquitoes and the small ones gnats. When we go to Scotland we call the tiny swarming black flies midges.

  40. AJP Crown says

    [from Graham Asher’s BBC’s map] Green Urban. The local authority with the greatest proportion of green urban is Richmond upon Thames (58%).

    I hadn’t come across that term before. It’s a bit deceptive as a name; the largest parts in Richmond must be along the river and Richmond Park, areas that are as ‘natural’ as Hampstead Heath or any other, having previously previously been hunting ground. They just ‘appen to be close to ‘ousing

  41. John Cowan says

    As a child I always wondered why I was tortured by mosquito bites all summer at home in New Jersey, in upstate New York, and at summer camp in Vermont, but never in NYC, and indeed I don’t think I’ve ever been bitten in forty years of living here. Back then I assumed that it was a matter of NYC being mostly on islands and windy islands at that.

    But the explanation is simpler: the NYC Department of Health systematically drains standing water (you can report it), coats undrainable puddles in wetlands with oil (which kills larvae), and has trucks that drive around the city spraying insecticide. Mosquito-vectored diseases still kill about a million people a year worldwide, and it’s been estimated that about half the people who ever lived have died because of one of these diseases, whether caused by the malaria protozoan, fly larvae, parasitic worms, or viruses.

    Mosquitoes are almost everywhere. Iceland is the only large inhabited island with no mosquitoes. Apparently it warms up in winter often enough that the eggs laid in the fall hatch out and the larvae are destroyed by the next freeze, so they cannot get a foothold there.

  42. Iceland is the only large inhabited island with no mosquitoes.

    Still, it has its own Mývatn:

    The name of the lake (Icelandic mý (“midge”) and vatn (“lake”); the lake of midges) comes from the huge numbers of midges to be found there in the summer.

  43. Lars Mathiesen says

    The WP page on mosquito-borne diseases even blames them for the spread of CoViD-19. Versatile little buggers.

  44. And now I wonder how many geographical names are there featuring a mosquito motif:


    The Chirkey Dam?
    Bashkir: серәкәй (seräkäy)
    Crimean Tatar: çırqıy
    Kyrgyz: чиркей (ky) (çirkey)
    Tatar: черки (tt) (çerki), озынборын (ozınborın)


  45. i Iceland is the only large inhabited island with no mosquitoes.

    Adding The Mosquitoes of Iceland to The Snakes of Ireland and The Religion of Frederick the Great.

  46. Brett, are you saying you’ve slept in the woods in the pouring rain without a tent?

  47. Ryan: I have also. Well, depending on your definition of “pouring”. On the way to our caving club expedition’s site just below a glacier; we couldn’t make it above the treeline before it got too dark. And we were only an hour away. The next day what we were afraid might be wolves turned out to be red deer. And we had sleeping bags and a bottle of mint liqueur.

    juha: also Komárno https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kom%C3%A1rno

  48. @Graham Asher: It’s fascinating that you report being stung by mosquitoes in England. I can remember being bitten by various kinds of bitey flies, but I honestly don’t remember anyone using the word ‘mosquito’ to describe native insects.

    I’ve never lived in North London, though. We were simple country folk with homespun vocabularies.

  49. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    the NYC Department of Health systematically drains standing water (you can report it),

    When I spent a week in Santa Marta (Colombia) I was impressed at the seriousness with which the local health authorities did their work. I didn’t see (or, worse, hear) a single mosquito in the whole period.

  50. @Graham Asher
    I don’t think that England is covered in concrete, just that there is a difference between how much of England is covered by uninhabited/uncultivated areas compared to Sweden or Finland and how close people are likely to live to such areas. And if the pictures of Pen-y-ghent AJP Crown posted are typical, then the wilder areas of Britain would seem to be relatively barren (also the impression I have received from reading George Monbiot). (e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2013/may/22/britain-uplands-farming-subsidies )

  51. Here in Tashkent a single leak in a basement is enough to keep you well supplied in mosquitoes. Before, the most mosquitoes I came across were in Arnasai or other wetland areas (Father liked fishing a lot).

  52. wiki suggests that both syllables in мошка́ / мо́шка can be stressed when it refers in aggregate to clouds f biting insects
    Final syllable is reported to be stressed in Siberia and in lower Volga & Don areas, but I don’t have a complete regional layout

  53. John Cowan says

    The WP page on mosquito-borne diseases even blames them for the spread of CoViD-19.

    I have removed that (unsupported) claim from the page and added a contrary claim as a matter of public health, with a citation to the WHO page.

  54. Regarding Latin American Spanish use of “mosquito”, a familiar tidbit is the Oaxacan folk classic, “La zandunga” (said to have been originally a Zapotec folk air, which acquired Spanish lyrics eons ago, and popularized across the Spanish cultural universe by the 1938 Mexican movie of the same title). Here’s one of its stanzas, as recorded in Argentina:
    Mosquito no mortifiques,
    Con sus cantos mal sonantes,
    Si me cantas no me piques
    Si me picas no me cantes.

    It seems that it was easily understood across the region…

  55. Roberto Batisti says

    It has always amused me that the word for ‘mosquito’ in the dialect of Parma is sensòs lit. ‘boneless’.

    Though anatomically correct, I assume it’s a folk-etymological deformation of the word that appears in other Emilian dialects as sinsèla, zinzèla, which like Italian zanzara and Romanian țânțar comes from the very onomatopoetic Late Latin zinzala (Du Cange glosses it “parva musca”, i.e. mosquito!).

    Nothing to do, alas, with Hesiod’s ἀνόστεος who ὃν πόδα τένδει, variously interpreted as an octopus, a cuttlefish, a snail, a penis, the North wind, but not yet – to the best of my knowledge – a mosquito.

  56. Roberto Batisti: the surname found in Greece, Tzintzaris, it’s probably Vlach then? It’s not as obviously Vlach as Vlachou but close.

    BTW, one of those supposedly uniquely [language] words that gets thrown about, is Bulgarian църцори. It just means a liquid dribbling from a tap or a bottle.

  57. John Cowan: very thoughtful of you, thanks. It had not occurred to me to do that; I see editing Wikipedia as a mostly hopeless cause these days.

    Roberto Batisti: That’s probably also the source of Bulgarian цаца (Sprattus sprattus) AKA копърка (little dill).

  58. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I’ve been bitten by things which we called mosquitos in the Basque country and in Serbia, so they do exist in Europe.

    I’m not aware of ever having seen or been bitten by any in the UK, though – instead we have small midges and big clegs (which might be horseflies if they live in England). Oh, and great big deer keds, but I don’t think I’ve had a close encounter with one of those yet either (I suspect I would know).

  59. Interestingly, the words for fly and midge/mosquito are often the same in various Turkic languages:

    cheben ‘fly’ in Tatar (the only meaning I know)
    Turkmen: çyybyn (=mosquito)
    Udmurt: нымы (nymy), чибинь (ćibinʹ)(=mosquito, clearly from Tatar)
    Uzbek: chivin (uz), iskabtopar (uz)(=mosquito)

  60. John Cowan says

    Mosquitoes of various species (there are about 3500 known) are nowadays to be found on all continents except Antarctica and all substantial islands except Iceland. Only about 200 are noxious to humans (other than in the way of noise), either by biting humans directly or by vectoring diseases that humans can then catch from mammals or birds.

    Quoth WP: “Among humans, the feeding preferences of mosquitoes typically include those with type O blood, heavy breathers, an abundance of skin bacteria, high body heat, and pregnant women. Individuals’ attractiveness to mosquitoes also has a heritable, genetically-controlled component.”

  61. Stu Clayton says

    Individuals’ attractiveness to mosquitoes also has a heritable, genetically-controlled component

    Mosquito genetics or human genetics ? It’s the mosquitoes that are being attracted, so which individuals they are attracted to should be a function of mosquito genes. It doesn’t make much difference, on this view, what the human genes are – blood is in the offing in any case. It’s a theoretically satisfactory survival tactic – whatever mosquitoes are attracted to, they win.

    The other intepretation, that human genes determine whether they are attractive to mosquitoes, assumes that mosquito genes have a constant agenda, or possibly a menu of fixed attractiveness types into which humans fall by human-genetic accident. Unless there is some correlation that transcends the vagaries of both human and mosquito variation, this sounds like a less satisfactory survival tactic.

    But it’s all same same in the end, since mosquitoes always win.

  62. January First-of-May says

    Adding The Mosquitoes of Iceland to The Snakes of Ireland and The Religion of Frederick the Great.

    “There are no owls of any kind in the whole island.”

    (In fact there are, by modern counts, at least three species of owls on Iceland, though at least there still aren’t any snakes. I have no idea whether there was a chapter on mosquitoes.)

    мошка (with the final syllable stressed).
    Really? I’ve only encountered this word stressed initially.

    My impression is – and Wiktionary agrees – that this word has initial stress when referring to an individual insect, and final stress when referring generically to a swarm of insects.

    the horse-fly, which is definitely not a mosquito but more like a regular house-fly on steroids

    Russian слепень – which I’ve only ever heard with initial stress, though Wikipedia claims final stress.

    Completely unlike a mosquito in shape (and indeed looks a lot like a large house-fly), but otherwise appears to behave very much as if it was a very large mosquito.

  63. mosquitoes always win

    I suspect they’ll go extinct at some point. The technology and means exist (and applied over large territories for many decades) and not even ecological activists are going to object to their extermination.

    Anyway, is there any useful function they perform?

  64. A food source for small fry?

  65. Jen in Edinburgh: or “wee midges”? That’s one I’ve head about in the context of islands in the west of Scotland.

  66. My impression is – and Wiktionary agrees – that this word has initial stress when referring to an individual insect, and final stress when referring generically to a swarm of insects.

    I think of the latter as мошкара (final stress).

  67. Apparently, according to this Stack Exchange thread, the English word “mosquito” was at first usually spelled with either “ch” or “k” rather than “qu” (e.g. “moskito”, “moschetto”), even though the word is not from Italian or Latin.

  68. Stu Clayton says

    I suspect they’ll go extinct at some point. The technology and means exist (and applied over large territories for many decades) …

    That’s what the machine translation activists have been claiming about their mistakes for over half a century. It’s true that people are bitten less frequently by misleading or unintelligible translations, but the basic problem is still alive and has yet to be finally swatted.

  69. John Cowan says

    “Ten things to love about mosquitoes”.. They are prey for bats and other mosquitoes; they are also pollinators.

    It is indeed human genetics that is relevant to mosquito choices (undoubtedly mosquito genetics too). There is an inheritable tendency among humans to be bitten more often, which strongly suggests that there is a selective advantage for mosquitoes to pick some people’s blood and not other people’s, whether it is more nutritious or less toxic or what have you.

  70. We will be perfectly fine without bats too, thank you very much.

    As for pollination, plants could use butterflies instead.

  71. When I was young I was immune to mosquitoes, which was especially advantageous in Thailand, and I lorded it over the rest of my itchy-scratchy family. Alas, I grew up and lost my immunity; now they bite me as readily as anyone else in the vicinity.

  72. David Eddyshaw says

    I got (falciparal) malaria four times in Africa, and my son got it twice: neither my wife nor my daughter ever got it at all. I blame sexist mosquitas (it’s the females that bite you.)

  73. Angus Macdonald says

    And please don’t talk about midges! I remember one night, many years ago, when we were returning from our holiday in Lewis our car started faltering and finally came to a stop in or just outside (can’t remember) Newtonmore. It turned out that there was oil dripping from the cylinderhead gasket onto the alternator (I think it was). We were stuck there inside the car. It was a hot and sultry night and we couldn’t open the windows to let some air in because the midges were out in their millions. So we were stuck between two hells! ????????????

  74. Trond Engen says

    Hat: Alas, I grew up and lost my immunity

    Puberty has a lot tot to answer for.

    Angus McDonald: In Scotland a horsefly is known as a cleg.

    That might be an ON borrowing rather than a cognate, I think. Not quite sure how Scots treats the stem-final *gg (ref wedge < OE weċġ),

    Jen in Edinburgh: Oh, and great big deer keds

    That’s a word I hadn’t seen before. Hjortelusflue in Norwegian. Keds are lusfluer, but that looks like a scientific coinage rather than a folk term. I can’t find a cognate to ked.

    Lars M.: myg/myg: cf Sw mjuk/mygg(a) — original simplex vs geminate stop (coordinate with vowel length, of course, and I can’t say which reduction came first). Also the adjective is not part of my active vocabulary, we say blød now. (Both words started out meaning ‘wet’).

    Originally both simplex vs. geminate and unvoiced vs. voiced, so different generations of lenition, Before lenition it was in principle possible with a four-way opposition, Spelled Norwegianly as

    **myg – mygg – myk – **mykk

    … which I think systematically should have turned out as

    **myv [my:w] – myg [mʏg] – myg [my:(j)] – **myk [mʏk]

    What I find noteworthy is that Danish represents the two middle forms the same way in writing.

  75. AJP Crown says

    Bats are our friends, you nitwit. My friends, anyway.

    Re George Monbiot, 2013. The moors of Yorkshire & the Highlands are grazed by deer, so that they (the moors) can be used for grouse shooting; George’s point is that without the deer the land will revert to forest. So last year he started shooting deer, and it doesn’t seem to me to be an ideal solution. (This has nothing to do with ‘barren’ land, btw, which if it exists at all as a problem is a marginal one in England. It’s not the Sinai.)

  76. @Ryan: Yeah, I have slept out in the rain, tent-less, twice. The rain was not part of the plan in either case; they were just instances where the parameters of my camping trips called for there to no tent. Both the times it rained, I was without a tent because of Boy Scout requirements, but there are times that I have camped in the open for other reasons. The first time it rained on me, I had a sleeping bag, and I positioned myself under a tree, so I spent the night damp but not too wet to sleep. The other time, I had no bag, just a plastic groundsheet, but I had time to build a shelter out of branches, against the trunk of a tree—which kept me almost completely dry, in spite of an ongoing thunderstorm.

    @Fancua: I have indeed seen the spelling “moschetto” a number of times, in English-language documents dating from the earlier twentieth century and earlier.

    @John Cowan: That certain people are genetically predisposed to attract more mosquito bites does not necessarily indicate that there is any adaptive advantage to mosquitos is biting those people. In most cases, it is more likely that genetic traits make certain people more noticeable to the mosquitos. Mosquitos are attracted by a number of things, such as you listed—most particularly, the smell of carbon dioxide (and other bodily smells, to a lesser extent) and the warmth of body heat. For example, the main reasons pregnant women are more susceptible are that they smell different (producing more carbon dioxide exhalations, in particular) and also have elevated temperatures.

  77. Bats are not very popular at the moment, I am afraid.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if the next Batman movie gets cancelled.

  78. AJP Crown says

    Trump probably never liked bats. He’s just the type, a bat-hater.

  79. PlasticPaddy says

    Maybe Norwegians don’t have keds, but Danes do????

  80. Well obviously, considering how the Mískitu language is natively spelled.

  81. мошка: Kuznetsov’s Большой толковый словарь русского языка (2002 edition) confirms the variant with final stress as a synonym of мошкара, with the usage label “нар.-разг.”. The smaller and much more prescriptive Ozhegov dictionary does not list this variant.
    слепень: Kuznetsov has final stress as the standard, and inital stress as a colloquial variant. Ozhegov has initial stress for the nominative singular, and final stress for all other forms.
    The editors of my edition of the Ozhegov dictionary (2010) are rather proud that they returned the dictionary to its prescriptive roots.

  82. Trond Engen says

    Danish ked = Norw. kjed “chain!”. Kede/kjede “chain” is from Low German but eventually a first generation borrowing of Latin catina, and ‘chain’ a medieval borrowing of the French reflex.

    Edit: Crossover with Chalcedon.

  83. Trond Engen says

    In Norway, the athropogenic heath or moorland of the Atlantic coast is considered a threatened landscape (and biotop) since the cycles of burning and grazing ended the modernization of farming. We see a similar situation with the highlands after the reduction in transhumance farming and widespread local harvesting of firewood. Environmentally these are difficult cases. On one side, these are ancient landscapes with their own special biological make-up., on the other side they are the results of human over-exploitation, and when humans withdraw, a more productive and diverse biological environment comes back.

  84. David Marjanović says

    Surprisingly to me, the worst ones were in north London, in places like Highgate Wood.

    The London Underground has been home to breeding mosquito populations for decades.

    As for pollination, plants could use butterflies instead.

    That’s not how it works.

    Latin catina

    catena, but evidently borrowed into West Germanic with /i/, which then triggered umlaut.

  85. Lars Mathiesen says

    The Danish form ked can be the imperative of a verb kede = ‘bore’ that was formed in old Danish to the adjective ked = ‘sorry/sad’ < ‘tired’. The -d may be in imitation of the one in led cognate to E loath. Wiktionary only lists the former.

    Anyway, nothing to do with kæde = ‘chain’ — and I can’t spot anything related to E ked either.

  86. Trond Engen says

    Oh, right, that word. Thanks! But aren’t they related anyway? I’ve always assumed kjedelig “boring” to be “chain-like” = “repetitive”.

  87. Lars Mathiesen says

    ODS thinks ked is related to LG keef and NFrisian kief — which two minutes of desultory googling finds nothing about. Whereas kæde is borrowed from MLG kede(ne) < VL catena. I think a deeper relation between the two is unlikely, but given that the first one has no further etymology it’s impossible to say for certain.

  88. Angus Macdonald says

    @Trond Engen

    Angus Macdonald: In Scotland a horsefly is known as a cleg.

    That might be an ON borrowing rather than a cognate, I think. Not quite sure how Scots treats the stem-final *gg (ref wedge < OE weċġ),

    Not contesting the idea, but that sent me to the (online version) of the Dictionary of the Scots Language, where it says (referencing the Dictionary of the Older Scots Tongue) that the word was first found in a document from 1420 (which is a bit late for the Norsemen's raids on Scotland, isn't it?). However, joking aside, the word must surely have been around and in common use long before that date.

  89. Newtonmore

    I couldn’t figure out the etymology, so I googled.

    Wiki article gave it’s name in Scots Gaelic – Baile Ùr an t-Sléibh.

    And the meaning of Newtonmore became perfectly clear.

    Funny experience.

  90. PlasticPaddy says

    Baile úr = new town. The whole thing means new town of the mountain. So the last element was changed; maybe there were two new towns in the area or there was a big (mor) and a small (beag) section of a now sprawling conurbation.

  91. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Baile Ùr an t-Sléibh (which I would translate as the new town of/on the slope) has the feel to me of one of the new ‘official’ Gaelic names created by Scotrail or the councils, although I have no evidence for that.

    The English name is already a bit confusing – Newton is common enough across Scotland and the very north of England* (Kirknewton near Edinburgh, Kirknewton and Westnewton in Northumberland, Newtongrange, Newton Mearns, Newton Stewart…)

    It’s not nearly so usual in Gaelic (there’s Baile Ur Tholastaidh, to be fair), so Newtonmore feels like an originally Scots name with a Gaelic ending to differentiate – the current village could easily be new enough to be named in English first, but I wonder if there are other case of -more being productive in English?

    *At some point going south you start hitting newbys instead.

  92. Jen in Edinburgh says

    The official Gaelic Placenames of Scotland site gives ‘new town of the moor’ for the translation, and the local website suggests that the village grew up around the railway from the 1860s, with the slightly earlier cluster of houses just to the south around the 1760s Spey bridge being ‘Moor of Strone’ (?Sleibh an t-sron, ?Moor of the ‘nose’ – probably the point of land which the river curves around).

    It has only now occurred to me that people could originally have talked about ‘the new town on the moor’, with ‘more’ a kind of hypercorrection since it turns up in so many other names.

    Relevantly or not, Muirkirk in Ayrshire, which almost certainly never had a Gaelic name until very recently, is ‘Eaglais an t-Slèibh’.

  93. or there was a big (mor)

    No, the “more” element obviously means hill land as Gaelic translation indicates.

    So it’s in English, not Scottish Gaelic.

    noun BRITISH
    a tract of open uncultivated upland, typically covered with heather.

  94. Anyway, it’s first time for me when meaning of an English placename became clearer after reading its Scottish Gaelic translation.

  95. Jen in Edinburgh says

    the “more” element obviously means hill land as Gaelic translation indicates

    It might well, but it doesn’t *have* to – there are places which have independent English and Gaelic names rather than one being a translation of the other*, and there are places (and I strongly suspect this is one) where the Gaelic name is a modern translation of the English.

    *My favourite is the semi-independent Bridgend/Beul an Atha (mouth of the ford) on Islay, which must come from different stages of development, but Fort Augustus/Cille Chuimein is really a better example!

  96. Trond Engen says

    Angus Macdonald: Not contesting the idea, but that sent me to the (online version) of the Dictionary of the Scots Language, where it says (referencing the Dictionary of the Older Scots Tongue) that the word was first found in a document from 1420 (which is a bit late for the Norsemen’s raids on Scotland, isn’t it?). However, joking aside, the word must surely have been around and in common use long before that date.

    Sadly, lexical border controls have been in an abhorrent state for most of human history. Hundreds or thousands of undocumented words may have just entered and stayed with no record of it, hiding among good native words until they turn up in some court protocol centuries later, seemingly out of nowhere.

  97. I fight mosquitoes, mosquitoes always win …

  98. Jonathan D says

    In my family, it is common knowledge that you don’t have to be particularly unattractive to mosquitoes. You just need to be close to someone who is more attractive.

  99. With regards to mosquitoes, my trajectory was the opposite one to LH’s. When I was young, I always was the one who got stung, but now it mostly happens to the people around me.
    In German, it’s Mücke (cognate to midge and myg), and Moskito is only used for the tropical varieties.

  100. David Eddyshaw says

    mosquitoes always win …

    This is because mosquitos have access to hyperspace, and teleport away at the last moment when you try to swat them.

  101. PlasticPaddy says

    There are also Schnaken, which bite Swabians, in contradiction to what the zoologists tell us ☺

  102. Alon Lischinsky says


    The Spanish word mosquito doesn’t mean “mosquito”, it is a diminutive of mosco (fly), and means “small flying insect” (in Chile, anyway). The word for “mosquito” is zancudo.

    I think you’re misleadingly generalising from a Pacific Coast regionalism, one that would be entirely opaque to speakers of any other dialect.

    Zancudo (lit. ‘longshanks’) is attested for ‘mosquito’ in CREA for the countries ranging from Chile to Mexico on that coast, plus Cuba and Venezuela, but it’s at least an order of magnitude less frequent than mosquito. The latter is attested throughout the Spanish-speaking world, Chile not excluded, meaning strictly Culicidae rather than small flies as a whole:

    Tendrán miedo de las agujas, pero en realidad duele menos que una picada de mosquito (Allende, I. 2002. La ciudad de las bestias. Barcelona: Montena, p. 269)

    If I were writing for a Spanish-speaking audience, I can’t think of a case in which the former term would be preferable — not least because it’s also used to designate long-legged wading birds such as herons. (Speech or its written equivalent, messaging, would be a different matter).

    Mosco, incidentally, is only attested in the same dialect area, and only for the past 150 years or so (bar the occasional and jokey nonce-formation). The standard Spanish word is mosca (f.), the expected reflex of Latin musca.

    Mosquito, on the other hand, goes all the way back to Old Spanish; I wish I had access to a copy of Coromines’ etymological dictionary to see exactly how that happened.

  103. I wonder what is the connection between pairs of

    Mosca and Mosquito


    Moscú and Moscovita

  104. Hay moscas y mosquitos en Moscú — moscas y mosquitos moscovitas.

  105. Alon Lischinsky says

    The cartoonist Max Cachimba used to have a strip entitled “El mosquito moscovita” running in the Argentinian alternative comic magazine Fierro in the early 90s, but unfortunately I can’t find any images online.

  106. Googling for that, I found the lyrics to a song by Clan of Xymox, “Muscoviet Mosquito”:

    I must write a letter to you
    I must make myself clear
    It is spot on time, right on cue
    I am a clam, somebody said to me
    It’s obscene, there must be a motive behind
    It’s obscure. there must be someone behind
    A muscovite mosquito, a muscovite mosquito
    A muscovite mosquito, a muscovite mosquito

  107. (And no, I’ve never heard of Clan of Xymox.)

  108. Alon Lischinsky says

    Funnily enough, I’m very much into Clan of Xymox, who are part of the traditional Goth canon (the one with Siouxsie and Ian Curtis, not Ulfilas and Busbecq)

  109. ?Pero en las mezquitas muscovitas hay moscas o mosquitos?

  110. Stu Clayton says

    Hay mascadas y mosquetes.

  111. John Cowan says

    Are they not the same canon when all is said and done? A bit interrupted perhaps, but there are centuries-long gaps in the Greek canon too, after all, and it’s a lot longer time from Wulfila to Busbecq than from Busbecq to Siouxsie. In any case, the latter gap is bridged by Tolkien’s “???????????????????? ???????????????????? / Bagme Bloma / Flower of the Trees” (see it in Gothic script, Latin transliteration, and English translation, and hear it recited!). See also the brief LH discussion from 2005.

    As the excellent commentary says, the text shows some interference from English (trhe otherwise unattested bogus [sic!] should mean ‘shoulder’, not ‘bough’, a sense specific to English), but all languages have some interference from English these days. There’s no link to the air, so here’s one for O lazy sheep, pray tell me why on the piano; now imagine it in a minor key with drums and guitars and lots of reverb and other goth-style effects. It’s all meant, as David E often tells us.

    ObFrye: “There has never to my knowledge been any period of Gothic English literature, but the list of Gothic revivalists stretches completely across its entire history, from the Beowulf poet to writers [and other artists, I would add] of our own day.”

  112. Stu Clayton says

    From there:

    # Old High German buog (Modern German Bug “prow, shoulder, chuck”) #

    <* germanotropic led moment *>

  113. David Marjanović says


    Well, yes, but that’s also the cover term for all dipterans that aren’t “flies”, including a lot of harmless ones.

    I don’t know if Stechmücke is in general use anywhere. Northern Germany seems to use Schnake, which I’m used to as the word for harmless tipulids* like the one pictured on Wiktionary. The Bavarian-Austrian dialects have a word that ends up spelled Gelse (as in Gelsenkirchen**), but in the dialects it has a long /sː/: in mine /gøsːn̩/ with L-vocalization.

    * They look exactly like mosquitos, though, and are much, much bigger.
    ** Not etymologically.

    <* germanotropic led moment *>

    Same here!

  114. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Zancudo (lit. ‘longshanks’) is attested for ‘mosquito’ in CREA for the countries ranging from Chile to Mexico on that coast, plus Cuba and Venezuela, but it’s at least an order of magnitude less frequent than mosquito. The latter is attested throughout the Spanish-speaking world, Chile not excluded, meaning strictly Culicidae rather than small flies as a whole:

    I believe you, though it’s not my experience. I should have written “in my wife’s usage” rather than “in Chile”.

  115. Yeah, as a quondam porteño I never heard of zancudo.

  116. Lars Mathiesen says

    Da bov = G Bug
    Da bug = G Bauch

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  117. I had until this thread been under the impression that gnat means the same as Finnish mäkärä, but apparently that is instead blackfly. No idea if I’ve ever run into what’s actually called gnats then.

    In my folksonomy, incidentally, a mäkärä is still a kärpänen ‘fly’, but these are wholly disjoint from sääski/hyttynen ‘mosquito’ which are distinguished by stinging rather than biting.

    A muscovite mosquito

    A friend of the famous balalaika-playing balaklava baklava?

  118. Entäs itikka/ötökkä?

  119. Hiljaa Hilja sanoi Hiljalle hiljaa niin hiljaa ettei Hilja kuullut miten hiljaa Hilja sanoi Hiljalle hiljaa.

  120. These are less standardized I think, but IMD itikka is another synonym for mosquito while ötökkä covers all small adult arthropods (fruit flies, ants, ladybugs, aphids, mites, waterfleas …)

  121. PlasticPaddy says

    DWDS has Proto-Germanic *tikkon/tikkan for modern Zecke “tick” and explains kk as intensification, as well as providing faraway cognates in Armenian etc. Has anyone proposed the PG as a borrowing from Uralic (or from PG to Finnish, but would the I/ö at the beginning of the Finnish word be normal for borrowing from PG?)?

  122. Itikka readily parses as a derivative from a nonexistent-in-standard but marginally dialectally attested onomatopoetic verb itise- and is probably too young to have been loaned into PG. There would be really no motivation at all for initial anaptyxis either.

    A better Uralic point of comparison for *tikka/ōn < *tikkā̆n that has been proposed is Samic *tikkē < *tīkkā ‘louse’. Directionality could still go either way though: *-kkē > *-kkA is a common nominal suffix and the general Uralic root for ‘louse’ is *täjə; contraction from pre-Samic *täjə-kkä would not be regular but is also not obviously impossible.

  123. John Cowan says

    I think the point about gnats folksonomically (it is not a technical term) is that they exist in large clouds (called ghosts, WP tells me) but are hard to see or hear as individuals. Swatting, therefore, is not practical, whereas (in modern times) spraying is. In any case, no flies (dipterans) actually sting as far as I know, though some species have bites that are as painful as hymenopteran stings.

    Apparently the reason mosquitoes are so hard to swat is that the wind made by a swatting hand pushes the mosquito away from it, so that the harder you swat, the less likely you are to hit. Marie-Lucie described a better approach involving holding up a wet rag which the mosquito will be attracted to and then stick to, enabling it to be crushed.

    There are also what Tolkien calls Neekerbreekers, which do not bite but make an incessant and maddening noise which he represents as neek-breek, breek-neek.

  124. Lars Mathiesen says

    You don’t want to be bitten by a horse cleg. It hurts, and the bite is often infected from the start. As in going to the ER and getting it lanced infected, with a side order of the _good_ antibiotics your GP isn’t supposed to deal in.

  125. @SFReader: Exterminating mosquitoes (on a large scale, if not necessarily completely) was a serious policy goal in the middle of the twentieth century. What made it genuinely practicable was the effective use of DDT, which was a remarkable insecticide in many ways. (Paul Hermann Müller, who first demonstrated its usefulness as an insecticide in 1939, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1948, after DDT was used extensively to combat mosquito-born diseases during the Second World War.) DDT is a contact poison that is toxic to insects in minuscule quantities; it persists for a very long time—months or years even on exposed surfaces; and it was seemingly harmless to non-arthropods. However, the chemical’s remarkable stability meant that it could build up in the tissues of higher animals (birds, most famously, but also amphibians, reptiles, and mammals) with eventual serious deleterious effects, such as thinning of eggshells.

    Since the recognition that DDT and other easily-deployed and extremely powerful insecticides are actually fairly dangerous to other organisms, the idea of achieving an overwhelming reduction in total mosquito populations in the tropics has been largely abandoned. With more modern methods, it might be possible to cut mosquito populations by 90% in many places, but not by the 99.9% that was once hoped.

    @John Cowan: I have never though of mosquitoes as being difficult to kill, although certainly air currents make it trickier to swat a smaller flying insect that a larger one. The right way to kill a mosquito (unless it has already landed on you, of course) is using both hands. I was never a great fan of fishing when I was a kid, and I don’t think I have ever been fishing as a adult. I considered it pretty dull (I can understand why some people drink a lot while they fish), and my general squeamishness means that I never liked gutting and cleaning the fish that I did catch. However, when we went to the lake and my friends were fishing while was doing something else, I was frequently in demand for help with baiting hooks. This was because of my skill with catching mosquitos. I would put two freshly killed mosquitoes on somebody’s hook, and the trout, smelling the mashed bugs, would inevitably swim over and bite.

    Regarding the “neekerbreekers,” I only just noticed the connection that the Black Dwarf (who eventually, in desperation, sides with the forces of evil) in Prince Caspian is named Nikabrik. The similarity seems unlikely to be a coincidence. Prince Caspian was published in 1951, so after most of The Fellowship of the Ring was written, but before it was published. Given this timeframe, and since Tolkien’s usage has an in-story onomatopoetic origin, while Lewis’s apparently does not, I would suspect that Tolkien coined the name first, but I wonder if there is any additional information either way. (As this blog post points out, the way Tolkien uses the name is also suggestive of nicker for a water spirit.)

  126. David Marjanović says

    and explains kk as intensification

    That’s because it dates from the Long Dark Ages when Kluge’s law wasn’t recognized. It’s not surprising to find *kk in a *n-stem, because *Kn followed by the accent gives *kk automatically – and therefore it’s not surprising either to find a foreign word with *kk borrowed as a *n-stem.

    no flies (dipterans) actually sting as far as I know

    If by “sting” you mean the defensive use of a modified ovipositor at the rear end of the animal, then no, only hymenopterans (bees, wasps incl. ants) have such a thing (and the ants outside of Australia have lost it). Mosquitos/midges/horseflies all use mouthparts to suck blood, as do fleas, but in German they all “sting” (stechen).

  127. @David Marjanović: I commented to someone recently that the carpenter bee is a rather unusual type of wasp. I was met the objection that they were not wasps but bees. I pointed out that, by just about any reasonable definition, bees are merely a subgroup of wasps, but I’m not sure if I convinced her.

  128. David Marjanović says

    …Oh yes, turns out bees are aphid-wasps and actually fairly closely related to ants. I had missed that.

  129. Stechmücke
    My personal taxonomy in that area is very simple – a Mücke is small, buzzes and bites, a Fliege is bigger and likes to sit on my food. So for me, Stechmücke is a pleonasm (and a word I consider literary). I don’t need names for any other insects of that kind, because they don’t bother me and I can ignore them 😉

  130. Stu Clayton says

    What about “midges”, those clouds of small flying creatures that emit a high-pitched whining sound when they go past your ear ? I don’t think I’ve encountered them in Germany, at least not in Cologne. I know of their existence only in hot Texas summers.

  131. David Marjanović says

    That sounds like the “midges” they have in Scotland.

    (I’ve walked the West Highland Way. Along part of it, if you keep moving, all is fine, but as soon as you stop, they land on any exposed skin and bite. If you see them right away, you can blow them away before they bite, but good luck. They’re tiny enough, though, that it took them 10 seconds to climb through the hair on my arms. A mosquito would just land on top and sting through.)

  132. David Marjanović says

    The only pollinators of the cacao tree? *faints*

  133. AJP Crown says

    No-see-ums are known as “knotts” in Norway,

    For a start, it’s singular knott and pl. knott, there’s no S. But knott is blackfly, family simuliidae the thing that causes River Blindness in Africa that David has mentioned. The no-see-um, between 1 and 5 mm long, (ceratopogonidae) is sviknott or smekke or smikke. But then it also says: “Sviknott are usually just called knott and must not be confused with knott (simuliidae).” So I give up. I just hope they never come here.


  134. AJP Crown says

    Knott (the K is pronounced, in Norwegian) is very close to gnat, I knotice.

  135. @David Marjanović: They are apparently not quite the only pollinators of cocoa trees. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, they used to have a large cocoa tree in one of the greenhouses.* One year, it started producing bean pods in great profusion, which really confused the gardeners, since the fly species that was supposedly necessary to pollinate its flowers did not live in Illinois. But apparently some other local insect had taken over the job.

    * Sadly, I believe the three killed itself the next year. It grew so tall that it shattered a glass ceiling pane above it one night, and the freezing Chicago temperature had wiped out many of the plants in that greenhouse by morning.

  136. That’s the plot of a famous Russian short story by Garshin, “Attalea Princeps.”

  137. Is the name/word “Mosquitoe” related to population in Moscow/Russia? Something like “Jerry” in cartoons?

  138. David L. Gold says

    1. “And now I wonder how many geographical names are there featuring a mosquito motif”

    The island of Mustique < Moustique (its French name) < French moustique ‘mosquito’.

    By contrast, the specific element in Mosquito Coast is a folk etymology of Miskito Coast, which commemorates the Miskitos, the local indigenous people, who call themselves Miskut kiampka ‘Miskut’s family’ ~ Miskut uplika nani ‘Miskut’s people’, Miskut being the name they believe was borne by their first leader.

    2. “also Komárno https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kom%C3%A1rno”

    < ‘mosquito’, as noted there, is one possibility. The other, also noted there, is that the name comes from Latin commercium [which, one should add, may be a deliberate folk etymology prompted by a desire to dissuade anyone from thinking that the name of the place derives from that of an unpleasant fly].

    Czech, Hungarian, Montenegrin, Polish, and Ukrainian have place names (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komarno) which at least in theory could refer to the fly.

  139. На недельку до второго… (the place is famous mostly not because of the song)

  140. Well,there is cafe Комарик, “little mosquito” in Chernogolovka.

    But that one simple. As you are eating your breakfast in the cafe, mosquitos are eating you.

  141. PlasticPaddy says

    Mosquitoes with black heads!

  142. the place is famous mostly not because of the song

    Should “not” be “now”?

  143. I don’t think so. People who know Komarovo only from the song (now thoroughly forgotten) probably think it’s a fictional place

  144. Oh! I had no idea the song was forgotten. Я устарелый человек…

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