Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In English we have a lot of very specific words for many animals. Male foxes are known as reynards or tods, female foxes are known as vixens, and baby foxes are known as kits.

It's not an isolated instance either. Bucks, does, and fawns. Bulls, cows or heifers, and calfs.

It's not even isolated by class. Roosters, hens, and chicks.

Does Japanese have this sort of word specificity, is there an affix of some sort, or are you forced to spell it out, so to speak, as when saying "young fox" or "baby fox".

I am specifically looking for what to call a "kit" or baby fox, since the closest translation I can find is キット which is obviously a loan word and doesn't even necessarily mean a fox kit but it would be good to know what to do in the future.

share|improve this question
up vote 20 down vote accepted

There's the prefix 子{こ}- 'child', sometimes spelled 仔:

猫(ねこ)  →  子猫(こねこ)  'kitten'  
牛(うし)  →  子牛(こうし)  'calf'  
狐(きつね) →  子狐(こぎつね) 'kit'  
羊(ひつじ) →  子羊(こひつじ) 'lamb'  
豚(ぶた)  →  子豚(こぶた)  'piglet'  
犬(いぬ)  →  子犬(こいぬ)  'pup'  
鹿(しか)  →  子鹿(こじか)  'fawn'  
馬(うま)  →  子馬(こうま)  'foal'

It doesn't work for every word, though. 小鳥{こ・とり} is 'small bird', and for 'chick' you need to use something like ひよこ.

But it does work for your word, 子狐{こ・ぎつね} 'kit'.

share|improve this answer
Slightly more thorough answer. Thanks :-) – Wesley Obenshain Jun 21 '14 at 7:10
The 子 prefix rarely works for katakana animal names, which are numerous and would in fact easily outnumber the kana/kanji animal names. – l'électeur Jun 24 '14 at 1:33
@非回答者 *こぱんだ。*こらいおん。*こらっこ。*こまんとひひ。*こにんげん。 – user1016 Jun 28 '14 at 16:32
@非回答者 こぎつね、こだぬき、こじか、こぐま、こざる・・・濁点がつくよ?でも、こどら、こびつじ、じゃないのねぇ。 – user1016 Jun 28 '14 at 16:35
@Choko 連濁は後に来る単語の語頭子音がK,S,T,Hであることが原則ですねん。(従って「子ひつじ」は例外的。)カタカナ動物名に関しては、子コアラとか子フラミンゴって言わ‌​ないっていう意味やってん。 – l'électeur Jun 29 '14 at 9:45

You can get a lot of mileage out of prefixing the names of animals with 子【こ】-, which functions as a diminutive. For example, "kitten" is 子猫【こねこ】; "puppy" is 子犬【こいぬ】; "piglet" is 子豚【こぶた】.

This also works for foxes - the best way to say "kit" is 子狐【こぎつね】.

share|improve this answer
This is exactly the sort of answer I was looking for. Thanks so much! – Wesley Obenshain Jun 21 '14 at 7:09

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.