General English


  • noun a common domestic animal in tropical countries, used for milk and also as a draught animal


  • The meat of the draught animal, the water buffalo, used in Southeast Asia in place of beef

Origin & History of “buffalo”

English probably acquired buffalo from Portuguese bufalo, originally naming the ‘water buffalo’, Bubalis bubalis, a large oxlike animal of Asia and Africa, and subsequently extended to the ‘Cape buffalo’ of south Africa, Syncerus caffer. The Portuguese word came from late Latin bufalus, an alteration of Latin bubalus, which was borrowed from Greek boúbalos. The Greek word, which seems to have named a type of African gazelle, may have been formed from bous ‘ox’.

The application of the word to the North American bison, which is still regarded as ‘incorrect’, dates from the late 18th century.