How different fishes got their names

Have you ever wondered why is there a catfish and a dogfish? We did too and came back with some interesting answers. Here are a few origin stories of how fishes got their names.


Everyone knows these freshwater fish that lives in South American rivers, lakes and floodplains for their ferocity in stripping their prey into bones within minutes. The name fittingly, means biting fish or devil fish in its language of origin Tupi.


This larger version of sword fish is called Marlin instead of Giant Swordfish or broadsword fish because their elongated upper jaw looks like more like a pointed iron tool called marlinspike. The name marlin is a shortened version of the name of that tool.

Angler Fish

As a fish with a fishing pole, the name Angler fish is easy to explain. Angler fish has a fishing pole like dorsal protrusion that hangs over their mouth which acts as a bait to lure in preys near its mouth – just like in fishing.


These small ornamental fishes are very popular among aquarium enthusiast. The fishes got their name from clergyman Robert Guppy, who happens to be the first person to provide a living specimen of the species to the British Museum.


Catfish are named such because of their whisker like barbels. However, catfishing (the act of pretending to be a member of opposite sex online) was named after a 2010 documentary.


Unlike the catfish, a dogfish was named based on its behaviour than its appearance. These fish hunts in packs much like the dogs do on the ground and hence were given that name.


We have all seen videos of Salmon leaping upstream in a bid travel to mouth of rivers to reproduce. Their name has been derived from the Latin word salmonem, which is again a derivation of the verb salire which means “to leap”.


Origin of the name Shark is disputed. Some believe that the word originally comes from a Mayan word xoc which was used to describe this fish. While others believe that Sharks got their name for the German word schorckwhich means scoundrel.


This popular sea fish got its name derived from the Latin word macula which means stain. The stain is a reference to the dark patches that marks its skin.


Sardines are named after the island of Sardinia in Italy. It was here that these fish were caught and exported earlier and hence got a name that resembles the area is it farmed/caught.


Probably the most in-demand sea fish in the world. The name Tuna is often thought to be Arabic or Latin but it most likely traces further back to the ancient Greek word thyneinwhich means ‘to dart along’.

Back to top button