General English


  • A group of fish ranging from 70 g to 20 tonnes characterized by their lack of mineralized bones, the skeleton being of very flexible cartilage-like material. Many of the smaller varieties are edible and traded. Because of their unusual physiology they tend to smell of ammonia but this can be counteracted by cooking at high temperatures e.g. deep fat frying. Varieties include tope, guitar fish, angel fish, dogfish, skate, porbeagle, hammerhead and mako.

Origin & History of “shark”

The origins of the word shark are obscure. It appears to have been introduced to English in the late 1560s by members of Sir John Hawkins’ expedition (a ballad of 1569 recorded ‘There is no proper name for (the fish) that I know, but that certain men of captain Hawkins’s doth call it a shark’), but it is not known where they got it from. A resemblance to Austrian dialect schirk ‘sturgeon’ has been noted. also not clear is whether shark ‘swindler’ (first recorded in the 18th century) is the same word; an alternative possibility is that it came from German schurke ‘scoundrel’.