AskDefine | Define aardvark

Dictionary Definition

aardvark n : nocturnal burrowing mammal of the grasslands of Africa that feeds on termites; sole extant representative of the order Tubulidentata [syn: ant bear, anteater, Orycteropus afer]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


from aarde, earth, and vark, pig; hence "earth-pig". Early European colonists in South Africa noticed that the animal was similar to a pig, while "aarde" hints at the animal's habit of burrowing. The word was loaned from in the late 18th century.


  • i RP /ɑːdvɑːk/


  1. A mammal, Orycteropus afer, of the order Tubulidentata, somewhat resembling a pig, common in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It burrows in the ground, and feeds mostly on termites, which it catches with its long, slimy tongue.
  2. A silly or credulous person who is prone to mistakes or blunders.
    I walked into the wrong bathroom like a total aardvark.







Usage notes

This word is obsolete; the extant form is erdvark.

Extensive Definition

The Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) ("Digging foot") is a medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa. It is sometimes called "antbear", "anteater", "Cape anteater" (after the Cape of Good Hope), "earth hog" or "earth pig". The name comes from the Afrikaans/Dutch for "earth pig" (aarde earth, varken pig), because early settlers from Europe thought it resembled a domesticated pig. However, the aardvark is not closely related to the pig; rather, it is the sole recent representative of the obscure mammalian order Tubulidentata, in which it is usually considered to form a single variable species of the genus Orycteropus, coextensive with the family Orycteropodidae. Nor is the aardvark closely related to the South American anteater, despite sharing some characteristics and a superficial resemblance.
The aardvark is vaguely pig-like. Its body is stout with an arched back and is sparsely covered with coarse hairs. The limbs are of moderate length. The front feet have lost the pollex (or 'thumb') — resulting in four toes — but the rear feet have all five toes. Each toe bears a large, robust nail which is somewhat flattened and shovel-like, and appears to be intermediate between a claw and a hoof. The ears are disproportionately long, and the tail is very thick at the base and gradually tapers. The greatly elongated head is set on a short, thick neck, and the end of the snout bears a disc, which houses the nostrils. The mouth is small and tubular, typical of species that feed on termites. The aardvark has a long, thin, snakelike, protruding tongue and elaborate structures supporting a keen sense of smell.
An aardvark's weight is typically between 40 and 65 kg. An aardvark's length is usually between 1 and 1.3 meters, and can reach lengths of 2.2 meters when its tail (which can be up to 70 centimeters) The aardvark changes the layout of its home burrow regularly, and from time to time moves on and makes a new one; the old burrows are then inhabited by smaller animals like the African Wild Dog.


In African folklore the aardvark is much admired because of its diligent quest for food and its fearless response to soldier ants. Hausa magicians make a charm from the heart, skin, forehead, and nails of the aardvark, which they then proceed to pound together with the root of a certain tree. Wrapped in a piece of skin and worn on the chest the charm is said to give the owner the ability to pass through walls or roofs at night. The charm is said to be used by burglars and those seeking to visit young girls without their parents' permission.

External links

Notes and references

aardvark in Afrikaans: Erdvark
aardvark in Arabic: خنزير الأرض
aardvark in Bengali: আর্ডভার্ক
aardvark in Bavarian: Erdfàggi
aardvark in Catalan: Porc formiguer
aardvark in Czech: Hrabáč
aardvark in Danish: Jordsvin
aardvark in German: Erdferkel
aardvark in Estonian: Tuhnik
aardvark in Spanish: Orycteropus afer
aardvark in Esperanto: Orikteropo
aardvark in French: Oryctérope du Cap
aardvark in Irish: Arcán talún
aardvark in Scottish Gaelic: Aardvark
aardvark in Ido: Orikteropo
aardvark in Icelandic: Jarðsvín
aardvark in Italian: Orycteropus afer
aardvark in Hebrew: שנבוב
aardvark in Swahili (macrolanguage): Mhanga
aardvark in Lithuanian: Vamzdžiadančiai
aardvark in Ligurian: Tubulidentata
aardvark in Limburgan: Eerdverke
aardvark in Lojban: rikteropu
aardvark in Hungarian: Földimalac
aardvark in Maltese: Orikteropu
aardvark in Dutch: Aardvarken
aardvark in Japanese: ツチブタ
aardvark in Norwegian: Jordsvin
aardvark in Narom: Couochon d'tèrre
aardvark in Polish: Mrównik
aardvark in Portuguese: Aardvark
aardvark in Russian: Трубкозуб
aardvark in Sicilian: Orycteropus afer
aardvark in Simple English: Aardvark
aardvark in Finnish: Maasika
aardvark in Swedish: Jordsvin
aardvark in Turkish: Aardvark
aardvark in Chinese: 土豚
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1