This question and this this answer to show that Ukrainian has different verbs for different animals giving birth.

Why did this develop/persist in Ukrainian and not other languages?

  • I think other languages also have specialised verbs even for this case - in Russian there certainly are several: телиться - give birth to a calf, щениться - give birth to puppies.
    – Sassa NF
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


Your premise is not true.

To start with, English also has special verbs describing giving birth to different animals:

  • farrowing (of a sow giving birth to piglets)
  • foaling (of a horse giving birth to foals)
  • calving (of a cow giving birth to calves)
  • lambing (of a sheep giving birth to lambs)

In Ukrainian it is equally easy (if not easier, but I am biased!) to form verbs from nouns. ощетинитись means obtain a bristle [щетина], which in English means to bristle (also a noun acting as a verb). Other forms: заколоситись from noun колос, or оголосити from noun голос (to voice).

So, having different verbs for giving birth to different animals is both common with other languages, and natural.

  • опороситись (from порося = piglet)
  • ожеребитись (from жереб'я = foal)
  • отелитись (from теля = calf)
  • ягнитись (from ягня = lamb)
  • окотитись (from кошеня = kitten) - although this one is confusingly used for lambs and goats as well (for example, in a traditional Christmas song вийди, вийди, господарю, подивися на кошару: там овечки покотились, а ягнята народились)
  • ощенитись (from щеня = puppy)
  • The variant окотитись (from кошеня = kitten) usually is used for wild animals like fox or wolf. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 18:50
  • @VasylKolomiets do you have a reference to confirm that? Hrinchenko explains this as applicable to cats, sheep and goats.
    – Sassa NF
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 18:58

Those verbs are formed from the names of baby animals, for example:

  • Опороситися 'to piglet oneself'
  • Отелитися 'to calf oneself'
  • Ягнитися 'to lamb oneself'
  • Щенитися 'to puppy oneself'

Agriculture has always played an important role in the life of Ukrainians, that is why such verbs are important. Still, all of them can be substituted with a generic verb народити 'to give birth'.


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