Whelps are Puppies

By Maeve Maddox

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A lot of people use the word whelp informally in the sense of “a raised place on the skin.”

On the left side [of my face] … I had over 20 whelps (not bumps), and they were red and hot.

Recently my 12 year old daughter has been breaking out in large whelps.

I have red whelps on my arm my side and down my legs

Both the OED and Merriam-Webster acknowledge the dialect use of “whelp” to mean “welt,” but seeing the nonstandard use in a formal context is jarring, as in this example from a news item written by a reporter for a state daily:

[the husband] grabbed a broom and hit her on the back, leaving a large red whelp…

whelp: 1. The young of the dog. Now little used, superseded by puppy.

welt: a raised area, ridge, or seam on the body surface (as from scarring or a blow)

The word welt originated as a shoemaking term for a rolled over strip of leather. The meaning “ridge on the skin from a wound” is first recorded 1800.

Whelp can also be used as a verb, either transitively or intransitively:
Red Girl whelped a litter of seven puppies.
Three of the fox hounds whelped on the same day

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4 Responses to “Whelps are Puppies”

  • BigWords88

    Whelp has, unsurprisingly, been adopted into slang. In the UK (esp. Scotland) it is used to refer to other people’s children, though not in a particularly flattering manner.

  • Karla

    Wow. I can understand kids using “whelp” in place of “welt” but a reporter?? Good grief.

  • G.S.

    I always thought that a whelp was more of a rash, and a welt was an injury. I love learning stuff like this!

  • CM

    It makes me nuts to see the word “whelps” as a description of an allergic reaction – on a MEDICAL RECORD for pup’s sake! do you mean the patient has puppies on his/her skin, or is he/she birthing puppies?

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