Aquatic, Waddle, and Plumage: Penguin Parlance

While these penguin-related words are perhaps not as adorable as the waddling aquatic creatures they describe, they're just as interesting, and you're much more likely to come across them in your daily life. Unless you live in Antarctica, of course.

Read more on our blog: Waddle if You Celebrate Penguin Awareness Day

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definitions & notes only words
  1. aquatic
    operating or living or growing in water
    However, because the specimens were found among other marine fossils in a shallow marine deposit near the shoreline, it’s also possible it was aquatic.Science Magazine (Jan 16, 2020)
    The Spanish word for water, aqua, is a clue to the meaning of this word, which refers to all things water-related — including aquatic birds like the penguin. Though unkind commenters may make fun of the penguin for its dorky waddling, it's another story altogether when penguins swim: they absolutely fly through the water, thanks to their slick bodies and powerful flippers. Penguins are doofuses on land and Olympians in water. They are about as aquatic as a bird can get.
  2. avian
    pertaining to or characteristic of birds
    Bird bone surgery is tricky because avian wing bones are lightweight and hollow.Science Magazine (Nov 21, 2019)
    Because penguins are birds, they can be described as avian. This term has popped up in English since the 1800s and comes from the Latin word avis, meaning "bird". That root influenced some bird-ish terms, such as aviation and aviator. Sadly, though penguins are avian, they are not aviators. You would not want a penguin piloting the plane on your next vacation.
  3. beak
    horny projecting mouth of a bird
    They would clean each other’s feathers with their beaks, which is called preening and requires a high level of comfort and trust.Washington Post (Jan 3, 2020)
  4. crest
    a showy growth of feathers or skin on the head of an animal
    A reason to believe evolution is involved is that one of the primary feathers of the wings of crested pigeons is an unusual shape.Economist (Nov 8, 2017)
  5. emperor
    the male ruler of an empire
    Still, the population in Halley Bay represents only about 8 percent of the world’s population of emperor penguins, Dr. Trathan said, so the loss does not pose a threat to the future of the species.New York Times (Apr 25, 2019)
    An emperor is the ruler of an empire. If you've seen any of the bazillion Star Wars films, you're probably familiar with Emperor Palpatine, the evil space wizard who ruled the galaxy with an iron fist and blue lightning. But the term emperor has been applied to many animals as well — usually big or bright ones. There are emperor angelfish, emperor butterflies, emperor geese, emperor moths, and, yep, emperor penguins.
  6. fowl
    a domesticated bird
    However, the bird’s presence reportedly delayed the departure by more than 20 minutes while flight staff worked to capture the frightened fowl.Fox News (Nov 13, 2019)
  7. macaroni
    a British dandy in the 18th century who affected Continental mannerisms
    He was a dandy—fop— macaroni—toff—whatever you choose, too; in a tarnished and down-at-heel way.Terhune, Albert Payson
    There are many meanings of macaroni other than the noodles you eat with cheese. One meaning turned up in the 1700s, referring to a dandy or fop: someone excessively concerned with fashion and style. Macaronis wore extravagant hairdos, and apparently someone thought their coiffure resembled the golden crest on the head of a type of penguin — which became macaroni penguins.
  8. plumage
    the covering of feathers on a bird
    The bird, identifiable by its distinctive beak and black and white plumage, hatched in May 2019 and is the fourth chick to be born in the zoo.Reuters (Sep 3, 2019)
  9. posture
    the arrangement of the body and its limbs
    Considerations of size, diet, posture, habitat, and where the animals lived on the planet didn’t seem to show any pattern.Scientific American (Jan 6, 2019)
    Posture refers to how people and animals carry themselves. If you sit slumped over, that's poor posture that will eventually wreak havoc on your back. If you sit and walk with a straight back, that's much better posture. If you're in an extremely formal or disciplined situation, like the military, your posture should be even more rigid. This word applies to penguins at times because they have very straight posture — they almost look like little people having a very important meeting,
  10. tuxedo
    formal evening dress for men
    Scientists said it was not clear when or why penguins acquired their tuxedo appearance.New York Times (Sep 30, 2010)
    A tuxedo — or tux for short — is a type of formal men's suit including a short jacket. No one would wear a tux to the zoo or burger joint. A tuxedo is also too fancy for a job interview: tuxes are reserved for the most formal of formal events. This is why penguins are always welcome at all proms, galas, and royal weddings.
  11. waddle
    walk unsteadily
    To waddle means to walk with short clumsy steps that make you swing unsteadily from side to side. That sense first appeared in the late 1500s, and by the early 1600s it was being used to describe the waddling of birds, especially ducks and geese. But penguins may be the ultimate waddlers, with their squat bodies and goofy gait.
Created on January 19, 2020 (updated January 20, 2020)

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