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The lovely word cryptid came to my attention in reference to the ivory-billed woodpecker. One of these birds, long believed to be extinct, was sighted in eastern Arkansas in 2004. As no subsequent sightings have been reported, the survival of the species is still disputed.

Cryptid is of recent coinage, suggested in 1983 by J. E. Wall in a publication of the International Society of Cryptozoology, as a word “to replace sensational and often misleading terms like monster.”

Note: The Google Ngram Viewer shows use of cryptid as early as 1963, but the appearance in the ISC newsletter is most likely the cause of the word’s meteoric rise from 1990 to the present.

Cryptozoology may be a pseudoscience, but the word cryptid is a useful addition to the English vocabulary, joining other English words that derive from Greek kryptos, “hidden”:

crypt (1583)
An underground cell, chamber, or vault; especially, one used as a burial place and typically lying beneath a church.

cryptogram (1827)
A piece of cryptographic writing; anything written in code or cipher.

cryptology (1844)
The science, study, or practice of encrypting and decrypting information.

cryptonym (1862) 
A pseudonym or code name; esp. one given to a spy or to a clandestine operation.

crypsis (1956) Cryptic coloration or behavior that enables an animal to conceal its presence.

Cryptozoology (1968)
The study of unknown, legendary, or extinct animals whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated.

Cryptids more sensational than the ivory-billed woodpecker include the following:

Abominable Snowman
Big Foot
Fouke Monster
Kelpie Water horse
Loch Ness monster
Sea serpents
Sewer alligators

For a lengthy list of cryptids, see the Wikipedia article.

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1 thought on “Cryptid”

  1. I grew up in Arkansas and understand the problem for the ivory-billed woodpecker. Being confined to Arkansas is nearly identical to being extinct.

    Arkansas is the ‘land of opportunity’; if the woodpecker has internet access and reads you blog, he’s well advised to take Lou Brock’s advise and leave at the first opportunity. There are far more prosperous forested elsewhere.

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