The Etymology of the word Hamster

Everyone knows hamsters make great pets., it’s common knowledge. That being said, far less people know the etymology of the word hamster, where it comes from, and what its meaning is. In this article, we will go over the etymology of the word and how hamsters came to be known as hamsters.


The word hamster likely originated from the German word “hamstern,” which means “to hoard” or “to stash away.” This German word became closely associated with hamsters as they are well known for hoarding food in their cheek pouches and storing it in their burrows. Though the animal was known to exist in Europe centuries before, The English word hamster was first recorded in the mid 18th century.


The hamster belongs to the rodent family, there are several species that are kept as pets. These include: The Syrian Hamster, The Chinese Dwarf Hamster, the Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster, The Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster, and The Roborovski Dwarf Hamster. Syrian hamsters were discovered in the 1930s and like the name implies, were discovered in Syria. Meanwhile, Dwarf Hamsters are native to Asia.


The origin of the word “hamstern” can be traced back to the Old High German word “hamustro” which means “hoard” or “store.” Hamustro is derived from the Proto-Germanic word “haima,” which means home and the Proto-Indo-European word “tkei,” which means “to settle” or “to dwell.” The idea behind the word “hamstern” is that hamsters are constantly gathering and storing food in their burrow.


It is interesting to note, the word “hamster” is also similar to the word “hamsteren” in Dutch, which also means “to hoard. This suggests that word “hamstern” might have been borrowed from German into Dutch. It is also possible that both words share a common Germanic root.


In some other languages, the word for hamster can be quite different. The French word for hamster is “hamster,” but the Spanish word for hamster is “hámster,” which is closer to the German word “hamstern.” The Russian word for hamster is “homvak” which has a different origin in its entirety.

In conclusion, the English word hamster has its roots from the German word hamstern. Hamstern means to hoard or stash away. This word became the name for the species because they are known for their tendency to gather and store food.

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