How Did Cockroaches Get Their Name?

Cockroaches, those resilient and often unwelcome creatures, have a name that carries a certain intrigue. In this guide, we will delve into the etymology of the word “cockroach,” exploring its origins and shedding light on how these fascinating insects obtained their distinctive name. Join us on a journey through time to uncover the linguistic roots and historical influences that contributed to the naming of cockroaches.

Old English: “Cock” and “Roach”

The word “cockroach” is believed to have originated from the Old English language. In Old English, “cock” referred to a male bird, while “roach” was a term used for a type of fish. The combination of these two words in reference to the insect is thought to have emerged due to the roach-like appearance and swift movements exhibited by cockroaches.

Historical Usage

Throughout history, the name “cockroach” underwent various changes and adaptations. In the 17th century, the term “cockroaches” was used to describe a variety of insects, including beetles and woodlice, in addition to the modern-day cockroach. It wasn’t until later that the term became more specifically associated with the insects we commonly know as cockroaches today.

Global Naming Variations

While “cockroach” is the widely recognized English term, different regions and languages have their own unique names for these insects. For example, in Spanish-speaking countries, cockroaches are commonly referred to as “cucarachas.” Similarly, in French, they are called “cafards.” These regional variations in naming reflect the diverse linguistic and cultural influences on the perception of cockroaches worldwide.

Symbolic and Superstitious Associations

The name “cockroach” carries symbolic and superstitious connotations in various cultures. In some folklore and traditions, cockroaches are associated with filth, nocturnal activities, and even bad omens. The name itself has come to evoke images of uncleanliness and an ability to withstand adverse conditions.

Evolutionary Resilience

The tenacity and adaptability of cockroaches have contributed to their enduring presence throughout history and across various habitats. The name “cockroach” has become synonymous with their remarkable resilience and survival instincts, further solidifying their reputation as pests capable of withstanding adverse environments.


The name “cockroach” has a rich linguistic history rooted in Old English, where the combination of “cock” and “roach” represented their roach-like appearance and swift movements. Over time, the term became more specifically associated with the insects we recognize today as cockroaches. Different regions and languages have their own unique names for these insects, reflecting the cultural and linguistic diversity across the globe. The name “cockroach” carries symbolic and superstitious associations, often associated with uncleanliness and resilience. Understanding the etymology of cockroaches provides us with insights into the historical and cultural aspects surrounding these insects, as well as the significance of their name in our collective consciousness.

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