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Giant Panda's Name

Giant Pandas

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There is no conclusive source for the origin of the Anglicized name "panda." The closest candidate that has been accepted as the source originates in the Nepali word ponya, possibly referring to the adapted wrist bone. The Western world originally applied this name to the Red Panda. Until 1901, when it was erroneously stated that it was related to the Red Panda, the Giant Panda was known as "mottled bear" (Ailuropus melanoleucus) or "particolored bear."

In most encyclopedic sources, the name "panda" or "common panda" originally referred to the lesser-known Red Panda,thus necessitated the inclusion of "giant" and "lesser/red" prefixes in front of the names. Even now, Encyclopedia Britannica still uses "giant panda" or "panda bear" for the bear and simply "panda" for the Ailuridae,despite the popular usage of the word "panda" today.

Since the earliest collection of Chinese writings, the Chinese language has given the bear 20 different names, such as "spotted bear" and "bamboo bear."The most popular names in China today are Da Xiong Mao, literally "large bear cat," or just "bear cat." The name may have been inspired by the Giant Panda's eyes which have pupils that are cat-like vertical slits unlike other bear species with round pupils.

In Taiwan, the popular name for panda is the inverted "cat bear," even though many encyclopedia and dictionaries in Taiwan still use "bear cat" as the correct name. Some linguists argue that, in this construction, "bear" instead of "cat" is the base noun, making this name more grammatically and logically correct, which may have led to the popular choice despite official writings.