Carnotaurus: a quick rant.

Skye McDavid, April 5, 2023

Cast of the Carnotaurus sastrei holotype in the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.Photo by Skye McDavid

Everyone says the etymology of Carnotaurus is "meat-eating bull". Wikipedia currently lists it as literally "meat-eating bull". Except that's not what it literally means. 

A literal translation would be "flesh bull" or "meat bull", but let's go a bit more in depth.

Carnotaurus sastrei was first named in a very short (two and a half pages including figure) note by José Bonaparte in the very first issue of the short-lived journal National Geographic Research. Bonaparte does not provide an etymology for the name, but it can nonetheless be inferred. The specific epithet sastrei honors Angel Sastre, owner of the Pocho Sastre Ranch ('Estancia Pocho Sastre') where the holotype was discovered. 

The genus name Carnotaurus has two parts. "Carnis", modified to "Carno" means "flesh" or "meat" in Latin. It gave rise to the Spanish "carne", also meaning meat. "Taurus" means bull, also in Latin. Obviously, Carnotaurus was named for its presumed carnivory and horns recalling those of a bull. But there is nothing in the name that means "eating". 

Yes, you could translate Carnotaurus to "meat-eating bull" but that's a loose translation that adds context, not a literal translation.


Bonaparte JF (1985) A Horned Cretaceous Carnosaur from Patagonia. National Geographic Research 1(1):149-151.

Gaffiot F (1934) Dictionnaire Latin Français. Hachette.

Wikipedia contributors (2023) Carnotaurus. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from