Are the hebrew names of the praying mantis (גְמָל שְׁלֹמֹה) and ladybug (פָּרַת מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ) found in Tanach (or later, in chazal)? If so, what is the justification for these names?

  • 2
    They are not found in Tanach.
    – Scimonster
    Nov 23 '14 at 22:13
  • 2
    Is this on topic?
    – Double AA
    Nov 23 '14 at 22:21
  • 2
    @DoubleAA I think so.
    – Ypnypn
    Nov 23 '14 at 22:42
  • 1
    @DoubleAA Do you think it's possible for an animal to be named after a biblical character and there isn't a religious story behind it? Nov 24 '14 at 5:14
  • 1
    @Bachrach44 Absolutely.
    – Double AA
    Nov 24 '14 at 5:22

I don't know about the mantis, but I the ladybug was explained by Philologos, The Forward's language columnist. The British call it the ladybird, originally "our Lady's bird", with the "lady" referring to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Most other European languages used similarly religious themed names for the insect:

  • French: la bête á bon dieu (“the dear Lord’s bug”), la vache de la Vierge (“the cow of the Virgin”).
  • Russian: bozha kapovka (“God’s little cow”).
  • Danish: Mariehone ( [the Virgin] Mary’s hen).
  • Spanish: mariquita (“little Mary”).
  • Turkish: Ugurbocegi (“good luck beetle”).
  • Dutch: Lieveheerbeestje (“the dear Lord’s little animal”).
  • German: Marienkaefer (“Mary’s beetle”), Himmelskindchen (“heaven’s little child”), Sonnenkindchen (“the sun’s little child”), Herrgottspferdchen (“the Lord God’s little horse”).
  • American English's “ladybug” or “ladybird,” too, was originally “Our Lady’s bird,” the reference being to the Virgin Mary again.

Yiddish speakers took those names and just switched religious allegiences. In Yiddish it is called mashiakhl (“little Messiah”), Moyshe rabbeynus beheymele, Moyshe rabbeynus kiyele (“Moshe’s little cow”), and moyshe rabbeynus ferdele (“Moshe’s little horse”).

Modern Hebrew adopted the name "Moshe's little cow" and converted to modern Hebrew, thus פרת משה רבנו was born. I'm not entirely sure when the popular kids song was written.

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