As per the Wiktionary article the origin of the world is Russian:

From obsolete Russian ма́мант (mámant), modern ма́монт (mámont), probably from a Uralic language, such as Proto-Mansi *mē̮ŋ-ońt (“earth-horn”). Possibly influenced by behemoth

But if we check the Wikipedia article the first sentence would be:

A mammoth is any species of the extinct elephantid genus Mammuthus

I have not found translation for the word Mammuthus (Google translate is not the best academic source), but I assume this is a Latin word since it is a name for genus.

The thing which confuses me is that Latin has its own word for "mammoth", while Wiktionary claims its Russian origin. Does it mean that Latin inherited it from Russian? Or did they both have its own words, but English somehow inherited this word from Russian instead of Latin?

It looks like I miss something.

  • 1
    Just a note that isn't exactly clear from the answers: Mammuthus is "scientific Latin", an artificial taxonomic system that is completely divorced from actual (once) spoken Latin. In fact, calling it "Latin" is really misleading. Instead, they're mildly Latinized names taken from whatever language, and names alone.
    – cmw
    Sep 27 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


The modern convention in biology is that taxa get Latin names. But many of these animals weren't known in ancient Rome, and thus there isn't a Classical Latin word for them.

The usual solution is to borrow the name from another language (usually English) into Latin and use that. That's what's happened here.


There is an analogous Latinized word heidelbergensis as in Homo heidelbergensis, referring to a hominid fossil first found in Heidelberg, Germany in 1907. It became a Latin word the next year when the species was assigned a name, conventionally Latinized.

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