aardvark, noun

Forms:
α. aardvaark, aardvarkShow more aardvaark, aardvark, aard-varké, aard-varken;
β. erdvark, erdverk.
Also with initial capital.
Plurals:
aardvarke, aardvarks, or unchanged; (obsolete) aardvarken.
Origin:
South African Dutch, Dutch, AfrikaansShow more South African Dutch, from Dutch aarde, erd earth + vark pig. (The modern Afrikaans form is erdvark.)
The ant-eater Orycteropus afer of the Orycteropodidae, an insectivorous burrowing mammal of nocturnal habits with a long, tapering muzzle and sparsely-haired body; antbear; ant-eater sense 1; earth-hog; earth-pig. Also attributive.
α.
1786 G. Forster tr. of A. Sparrman’s Voy. to Cape of G.H. I. 270The aard-varken, or earth-pig, which, probably, is a species of manis.
1827 G. Thompson Trav. 86The Aardvark is about four feet and a half in length, and occasionally is found to weigh upwards of 100 lbs. It..lives entirely upon ants.
1847 J. Barrow Autobiog. Memoir 146The aard-varké, or earth-hog (the Myrmecophaga Capensis), is also very common, undermines the ground, and seldom appears but in the night.
1878 T.J. Lucas Camp Life & Sport 86In the category of strange creatures to be found in this district, I must not omit the ant-bear, or ‘aard-vark’ (earth pig), which not only inhabits the frontier, but is spread over all parts of the interior.
1896 R. Wallace Farming Indust. of Cape Col. 68They (sc. termites) are greedily sought after and devoured..by a large ungainly looking quadruped with a long snout, called the ant-eater or ‘aard-vark.’
1901 W.L. Sclater Mammals of S. Afr. II. 220The aard-vark..use their tails to thump the ground near the ants’ nest and so cause a panic within..make an opening in the side of the ant-heap and then collect the ants by means of their sticky tongues.
c1936 S. & E. Afr. Yr Bk & Guide 1101Nearly every ant-heap in the karroo has a widely gaping mouth on its Southern side, this point of attack being selected by the aard vark, either because it is next to the habitation of the queen-ant or because the structure is not baked quite as hard as where it is exposed to the full rays of the sun.
1949 H.C. Bosman in L. Abrahams Unto Dust (1963) 149He was the kind of white man who, if he was your neighbour, would think it funny to lead the Government tax-collector to the aardvark-hole that you were hiding in.
1988 C. & T. Stuart Field Guide to Mammals 162The Aardvark resembles no other mammal occuring in southern Africa, with its long pig-like snout, elongated tubular ears, heavily muscled kangaroo-like tail and very powerful, stout legs which terminate in spade-like nails.
1990 J. Knappert Aquarian Guide to Afr. Mythology 19Aardvark, In African folklore the aardvark, or ant-bear, has a good name not only because it is unafraid of armies of soldier ants but also because it digs diligently searching for food all night, an example and model for lazy cultivators.
1991 M. Nel in Personality 11 Mar. 26Like the Aardvark’s sense of smell for ants, Nick’s knowledge of theatre is intuitive.
β.
1796 E. Helme tr. of F. Le Vaillant’s New Trav. III. 392This ant-bear is called in the colonies erd-verken (earth hog).
1959 L.G. Green These Wonders 207That creature of obscure origin, that champion tunneller of the veld, the erdvark or ant-eater. This pig-shaped freak is not rare, but is seldom captured.
The ant-eater Orycteropus afer of the Orycteropodidae, an insectivorous burrowing mammal of nocturnal habits with a long, tapering muzzle and sparsely-haired body; antbear; ant-eater1; earth-hog; earth-pig. Also attributive.

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