The Fascinating History Behind the Name ‘Cockroach’

Why Are They Called Cockroaches?

Cockroaches, the little critters that have been around for millions of years, have a notorious reputation. They can survive in extreme conditions, sneak up on you in the dead of night, and are generally considered a pest. But have you ever wondered why they are called cockroaches? In this article, we will explore the fascinating history behind the name, the different theories surrounding its origin, and the cultural significance of the insect’s name.

The Origin of the Term: Why Were These Insects Dubbed as Cockroaches?

The use of the term “cockroach” dates back to the early 17th century, the oldest written record indicating its use is found in a dictionary called “Nomenclator” published in 1604. In this dictionary, the insect is referred to as a “water-soldier”. The Oxford English Dictionary states that the word “cockroach” originates from the Spanish word “cucaracha”, which was introduced to England in the 17th century.

One theory that might explain why they were named cockroaches is based on the belief that these insects came from the cock’s droppings. Another theory was that their odor was similar to that of a rooster, which became the basis for the English label. Yet others suggest that the English connection comes from the name of an obsolete Irish word for a kind of beetle.

Why We Call Them Cockroaches: The Fascinating History Behind the Name

Different cultures have their own names for cockroaches. They are referred to as “mitong” in the Philippines, “chalushkari” in India, and “jukari” in Japan, to name a few. However, the most common name for the insect is “cockroach.”

According to historians, the name “cockroach” was derived from the Spanish word “cucaracha,” which means “pest.” The Spanish brought the name to England in the early 17th century, and from there, it spread worldwide. The word “cucaracha” was originally used for a small type of beetle, but it gradually came to refer to any creepy-crawly insect.

An In-Depth Explanation: The Reasons for Naming the Insects ‘Cockroaches’

Theories abound regarding the true origin of the word “cockroach.” One theory suggests that the insect was named after the “coxcomb” or “cock’s comb” because its antennae resemble the comb on a rooster’s head. Another theory proposes that since “roach” refers to a type of fish, the name “cockroach” may have initially been used to refer to a fish-sustaining bird.

There is also a theory that says the name may have originated from the Middle English word “cock,” which refers to something curved or crooked. Insects with segmented oval bodies and long, arching antennae fit this description. Furthermore, the second part of the name, “roach,” may have been derived from the French word “ruche,” which means “hive” or “nest.” This theory implies that the “cockroaches” may have been named after the nest-like appearance of their eggcases.

A Curious Case: Investigating the Etymology of the Word ‘Cockroach’

The word “cockroach” has gone through various phonetic and interpretational changes throughout history. Its earliest recorded form was “cokerelle,” which originated from the Old English word “cuccu,” meaning cuckoo, and “ræge,” meaning “to shake.” By the late 17th century, the word had evolved to “cock-roach,” and by the 18th century, the hyphen was dropped to make “cockroach.”

Since then, the word “cockroach” has become a household name, used to describe this persistent insect in every corner of the globe.

The Surprising Connection: What Do Roosters Have to Do with Cockroaches?

The word “cockroach” has nothing to do with the male chicken, even though it may indicate otherwise. The word “cock” in “cockroach” refers to a curved or crooked object, while the root word for rooster is “cockerel.”

However, some researchers suggest that there may be a connection between the two terms. The “cock’s comb” theory suggests a link between the insect’s antennae and the rooster’s head, while other theories suggest that “cockroach” may have been a term for a bird that ate insects, or a bird that lived in abandoned insect nests.


Knowing the origin of the term “cockroach” is fascinating. It offers a rare glimpse into the minds of those who coined the name and how different cultures have their own way of naming the same insect. The history of the name “cockroach” is yet another aspect of our relationship with these pests that can be appreciated for its cultural and linguistic richness.

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