General English


  • noun a small animal with horns, kept for its milk and meat


  • A horned animal, slightly bigger than a sheep, which can metabolize almost any carbohydrate source. Bred mainly for their milk in the West, they are an important source of meat in Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Caribbean and parts of Asia. Young goats’ meat is eaten in France and Italy especially in the spring.

Origin & History of “goat”

Old English had no all-purpose word for ‘goat’; the male goat was a bucca (‘buck’) and the female goat was a gāt. In early middle English, goat began to encroach on the semantic territory of buck, and by the 14th century it had come to be the dominant form for both sexes, as is shown by the emergence around that time of the distinguishing terms she-goat and he-goat (nanny-goat and billy-goat are much later – 18th-century and 19th-century respectively). Goat itself comes via prehistoric Germanic *gaitaz (source of German geiss, Dutch geit, Swedish get, and Danish ged) from Indo-European *ghaidos. this may be related to Lithuanian zaidziu ‘play’, and if so, the goat could be etymologically the ‘animal that jumps about’ (semantic development in the opposite direction has given English caper from Latin caper ‘goat’).