why is cow meat called beef

Etymology. The word beef is from the Latin word bōs, in contrast to cow which is from Middle English cou (both words have the same Indo-European root *gʷou-). After the Norman Conquest, the French-speaking nobles who ruled England naturally used French words to refer to the meats they were served.

Many meat products have a different name when theyre on the shelves of a grocery store or a butcher than the name we use to refer to the animal itself. For example, we refer to the meat as pork and venison, rather than pig and deer. And of course, another such instance is the fact that we call cow meat “beef.”

Some believe that this is a tactic to distance us mentally from the fact that were eating an animal. However, chicken, lamb, and rabbit tend to be called the same thing whether theyre in a petting zoo or on a grill, so it seems strange to apply this way of thinking to a handful of animals, and not others — especially the cute ones. So why do we refer to cow meat as beef?

The answer for this requires quite a deep dive into history, and as with many things in the culinary world, we owe the name to the French.

Many meat products have a different name when theyre on the shelves of a grocery store or a butcher than the name we use to refer to the animal itself. For example, we refer to the meat as pork and venison, rather than pig and deer. And of course, another such instance is the fact that we call cow meat “beef.”

The answer for this requires quite a deep dive into history, and as with many things in the culinary world, we owe the name to the French.

The French conquerors were of a higher class than the Anglo-Saxons who lived in Britain at the time. The Anglo-Saxon folks were hunting, gathering, and farming these animals, whereas the French would sit at the dining table and enjoy them after the fact (via Alpine Butcher). As a result, the terms that the French used for these meats stuck when it comes to talking about them in the culinary sense, which meant that the English word “beef” cames from the French for cow — boeuf. The same can be said for the meat called “pork” — it comes from the French word, porc, which means pig.

Some believe that this is a tactic to distance us mentally from the fact that were eating an animal. However, chicken, lamb, and rabbit tend to be called the same thing whether theyre in a petting zoo or on a grill, so it seems strange to apply this way of thinking to a handful of animals, and not others — especially the cute ones. So why do we refer to cow meat as beef?

The reason behind calling deer meat “venison” is slightly more complicated, but still has to do with the Norman Invasion (deer in French is cerf, which doesn’t sound much like “venison”). According to Yahoo, the word venison derives from the Latin word venor, meaning “to hunt or pursue.” Following the invasion and the establishment of the Royal Forests, any hunted animal was called “venison” after it was killed; because more deer were hunted than any other animal, the name stuck.

The Norman invasion’s effect on the English language really can’t be understated. Other words that now have two ways of saying them thanks to French influence include the Anglo-Saxon want to the Norman desire, ask to inquire, and hide to obscure. You’re also probably pronouncing these 30 food words incorrectly.

The answer actually involves a rather complicated lesson in etymology, but we’ll try to put it as simply as possible. Advertisement

When you stop and think about it, it’s actually quite strange that pig meat is called “pork,” cow meat is called “beef,” sheep meat is called “mutton,” and deer meat is called “venison.” What’s even stranger is that chicken meat is still called “chicken,” and fish is “fish.” So what gives?

So the Anglo-Saxon pig became the French porc, which was Anglicized to pork; the Anglo-Saxon cow became the French boeuf, which became beef; and sheep became mouton, (later mutton). Even chicken got a new culinary name: pullet, which is the Anglicized version of the French poulet, and is now only used to refer to a young hen. All of those French terms are still the French words for those animals (as well as their meat) today. As for fish, we most likely still call it fish because the French term for it, poisson, is too close to the English word poison.

Etymology. The word beef is from the Latin word bōs, in contrast to cow which is from Middle English cou (both words have the same Indo-European root *gʷou-). After the Norman Conquest, the French-speaking nobles who ruled England naturally used French words to refer to the meats they were served.

FAQ

Why do we call cow beef but chicken chicken?

The upperclass French, now in control, saw these animals only at mealtimes so they used their French words to describe the dishes and eventually the English used a version of the French for those meats: pork, beef, mutton and veal. Chicken and turkey, quail and pheasant went unchanged.

Why do pig meat called pork?

So the Anglo-Saxon pig became the French porc, which was Anglicized to pork; the Anglo-Saxon cow became the French boeuf, which became beef; and sheep became mouton, (later mutton).

Why is it called a beef?

The term “beef” as a slang term for a feud or argument has its origins in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and hip-hop culture. It is believed to have originated in the 19th or early 20th century, and it may have been influenced by earlier uses of “beef” to mean a complaint or a grudge.

Is cow meat the same as beef?

Beef is the meat of a cow. In English, we use the word “beef”, from the Old French word “boeff”, instead of saying “cow meat”. English uses a lot of French-derived words because the French Normans conquered and ruled England about 1000 years ago.

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