Clearly, crayfish aren’t fish but crustaceans. So why do they have fish in their name?

crayfish

Well, it turns out that crayfish comes from the French word écrevisse. Somehow English speakers heard fish instead of visse and the crustacean became a fish!

The best-known cousin of the crayfish is the shrimp, or prawn. There are many discussions on the Internet, particularly on food websites, about the difference between shrimps (or shrimp, as it has both plurals) and prawns. Many argue that they are different animals altogether, but this is incorrect, as neither shrimp nor prawn has a scientific definition, and they are pretty much synonymous. 

In the standard usage, however, prawn mostly refers to the larger crustaceans and shrimp to the smaller ones, but don’t sue your restaurant for misrepresentation if their shrimp are huge or their prawns small!

Shrimp in French are called crevettes. For a while, linguists thought that crevette came from crabe (crab), but it actually comes from chevrette (little chèvre or goat), as shrimp “make little jumps like young goats“. 

gambas

In some parts of the Francophonie, for example on Madagascar and Mauritius islands (where e2f has a strong presence), shrimps are still called chevrettes.

In these islands, large prawns are called camarons, from the Spanish word camáron, which means shrimp in Spanish, but only in Latin America. Meanwhile, in France, the same giant shrimp are called gambas, the word for shrimp in Spain.

As we can see, English, French and Spanish are interconnected and have borrowed from each other at different times of their history. Who said etymology was simple!

Meanwhile, whether your first language is Spanish, French or English, please enjoy this seafood paella!

paella