The Etymology of “Bandicoot”

Bandicoot (yes, that’s a real animal) is from 1789, and was originally an English corruption of the Telugu (a language native to India) word pandi-kokku, meaning “pig-rat.” It first referred to a few different varieties of Indian and Asian rat known for their destructiveness and (often) large size.

Two kinds of bandicoots.

It wasn’t until 1827 that several species of insectivorous Australian marsupial from the order peramelemorphia came to be known as bandicoots due to their resemblance to the Indian rats. Since then, “bandicoot” as a standalone word can refer to either a bandicoot or (informally) a bilby, while several rat species native to Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam are identified by the whole phrase “bandicoot rats.” The video game character Crash Bandicoot is specifically an eastern barred bandicoot.

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