Say we have an animal name, for example, "pufferfish", what steps could be taken to obtain its Esperanto translation?

The steps I've taken so far are:

  1. Google "pufferfish esperanto"
  2. Look up Wikipedia
  3. Look up a dictionary

At what point we'd better conclude "Okay, there isn't a good translation yet, let's make something up"?

  • It doesn't answer the question but I found a list of translations of minecraft terms into Esperanto and pufferfish (pintfiŝo) was in it. I copied the list into my anki deck and I can't for the life of me find the original anywhere. I think perhaps it was on the homepage of a (now-defucnt?) Esperanto-language minecraft server. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 2:19
  • 2
    Check also the Vortaro angla-Esperanta of Vikivortaro: pufferfish = balonfiŝo
    – Vidamuzo
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 8:59
  • @ShaynePower that's exactly the question i'm trying to answer haha, i am translating minecraft to esperanto. And I was like, hmm, is this a real word?
    – Zuoanqh
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 4:02

2 Answers 2


When you are 100% sure there is no existing translation, do a bit of research and see how that animal is named in different language families. For example, the kingfisher is Eisvogel in German, IJsvogel in Dutch, Kungsfiskare in Swedish, Martin-pêcheur in French, Martin pescatore in Italian, and Αλκυόνη in Greek. So there are three distinct patterns:

  • "ice" + "bird" in the Germanic and North Germanic languages (except Swedish)
  • "king" + fisher" in English and Swedish
  • "martin/swallow" + "fisher" in the Romance languages
  • The genus is alcedo (from the Greek halcyon)

Possible options then could be glacibirdo, reĝofiŝisto, hirundfiŝisto.

The problem is that this is very much dependent on the hearer's original language. As a German I would easily understand glacibirdo, but a Spanish person might not have a clue what that was.

So in this case the actual Esperanto translation, alciono, is related to the Greek, which is equally removed from the common names in the Western European languages, but related to the genus of the bird, and thus can pretty easily derived/understood.

I apologise for the limited selection of languages I am discussing here. I have little to no knowledge of Central and Eastern European languages, and thus no clue what eg the Polish zimorodek means (in case it can be decomposed like the above examples). Maybe competent speakers can add other languages in the comments.

  • Thank you for the very good duscission on the down sides of translating based on how the words are formed in one language
    – Zuoanqh
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 4:03

More unobtrusive animals and vegetation can be named by their latin nomenclature. This is an established practice in Esperanto.

For the pufferfish which comes by many English names (blowfish, balloonfish) the family is tetraodontidae, Esperanto tetraodontedoj. So tetraodonto would be fine.

For this remarkable fish however balonfiŝo seems quite selfexplaining without ambiguity, and also recognizable in other languages.

  • 1
    Thank you for the straight up answer and how you could generally just use latin.
    – Zuoanqh
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 4:04
  • @Zuoanqh example: sciuro = squirrel
    – Joop Eggen
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 7:16

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