Where does the word ‘caracal’ come from?

‘Caracal’ is an English word. The black-backed ears of this medium-sized athletic wild cat is the source of its English name although there is a lack of clarity on its derivation from the Turkish origin. It is believed that the word was derived from the Turkish ‘garah gulak’ meaning ‘black ears’ in reference to the cat’s black-backed ears. The reference for that information does not explain how ‘caracal’ derived from ‘garah gulak’. The information comes from Mel and Fiona Sunquist’s book Wild Cats of the World.

Black-backed ears of the caracal are the origin of its English name
Black-backed ears of the caracal are the origin of its English name. Image by Gitti Lohr from Pixabay.
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Some websites state that the Turkish name for this cat is ‘karakulak’. Google Translate, translates ‘black ear’ as ‘siyah kulak’ in Turkish. Confused? Well, it is not uncommon for the origin of English words to be unclear.

It is also said that the word ‘caracal’ was created by Georges Buffon in 1761 when referring to the Turkish name ‘Karrah-kulak’ or ‘Kara-coulac’ meaning cat with black ears.

Sometimes derivative English words evolve in common usage by English people abroad mispronouncing foreign words in an English accent. The created hybrid word then evolves with further usage becoming more and distanced from the original until they become fixed as a newly created word. That may have happened in this case.

Or Buffon, who was French, simply created the word as a French version of the Turkish because it sounded similar and it was later adopted by the English?

There is a similarity in that the Turkish phrase has two sections and the word ‘caracal’ has two identical parts joined by the letter ‘a’.

‘Karakulak’ translates to ‘black ears’ using Google translate. This is probably the more accurate Turkish origin. Also ‘kara’ is very similar to ‘cara’ the first part of ‘caracal’.

The scientic name is ‘caracal caracal‘. The doubled barrel version seems to reflect the two black-backed ears! Is there a connection?

The caracal is still found in Turkey on my reckoning.

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