- noun a ruminant animal, the males of which have distinctive antlers
- A family of herbivores, Cervidae, found throughout the world. Most of the males have bony antlers which are shed and regrown annually throughout life. They range in size from 55 cm high at the shoulder to 2.4 m. The important meat varieties are red, fallow and roe deer in Europe, the white-tailed mule deer and moose in North America and the caribou and reindeer of Arctic regions. The meat is known as venison.
- noun a large brown four-legged wild animal (often with horns on its head)
Origin & History of “deer”
In Old English, dēor meant ‘animal’ in general, as opposed to ‘human being’ (as its modern Germanic relatives, German tier, Dutch dier, and Swedish djur, still do). Apparently connected forms in some other Indo-European languages, such as Lithuanian dusti ‘gasp’ and church Slavonic dychati ‘breathe’, suggest that it comes via a prehistoric Germanic *deuzom from Indo-European *dheusóm, which meant ‘creature that breathes’ (English animal and Sanskrit prānin- ‘living creature’ have similar semantic origins). Traces of specialization in meaning to ‘deer’ occur as early as the 9th century (although the main Old English word for ‘deer’ was heorot, source of modern English hart), and during the middle English period it became firmly established, driving out ‘animal’ by the 15th century.