Dinosaur Name Meanings

If i said the words “fire thief”, “roof lizard” or “king tyrant lizard” would you know what i am talking about. Dinosaurs names can be tricky, both to pronounce and to work out what they actually mean. We have a list, a table and a printout of some of the most common dinosaur names and their meanings for you in this article. We also have some of the reasons why they are named this way and how a new dinosaur is named.

Dinosaurs are usually named by incorporating one of the following: The location of fossil discovery, distinguishing features of the fossil, or the name of the discoverer or expedition organizer. However, there are examples of dinosaurs named in competitions,(Dracorex Hogwartsia) or after figures of note (Obamadon)

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We have listed these Dinosaur name meanings from A to Z. Although we can’t do them all we have chosen the common, and most popular dinosaur name meanings here.

Below you can learn which is the longest shortest and how dinosaurs are named as well, don’t for get to check that out and the free printable at the bottom of the table as well!

What Do Dinosaur Names Mean?

There is simply no way we can list all the dinosaur name meanings here (over 1000 of them and growing at one a week!) so we have chosen 3-5 from each letter. We have tried to choose the more popular dinosaurs and…. ones we think have a funny or cool name.

Dinosaur NameDinosaur Name MeaningReason it was Named
A is for
AllosaurusDifferent LizardIts bones were different than other bones found at the time.
AnkylosaurusStiff LizardThe bones were fused, making it a very sturdy dinosaur.
ApatosaurusDeceptive LizardSome of the bones looked like mosasaurs, causing confusion.
ArchaeopteryxAncient wingWas one of the first winged dinosaur discoveries.
ArgentinosaurusArgentina lizardIt was found in Argentina.
B is for
BambiraptorBambi thiefNamed after Bambi the Deer!
BarosaurusHeavy Lizardit would have been heavy!
BaryonyxHeavy ClawIt had a heavy claw on the first finger.
BrachiosaurusArm LizardIt had very long ‘arms’ or front legs.
C is for
Carcharodontosaurusshark tooth lizardit had shark like teeth
CarnotaurusMeat-eating bullit had sharp teeth and two horns.
CentrosaurusSharp Pointed LizardIt had a horn and sharp points around its frill.
CompsognathusDainty JawBecause it had a little jaw!
D is for
DeinocheirusTerrible HandsIt had two hands full of long claws
DeinonychusTerrible ClawIt had two huge claws on each foot.
DiplodocusDouble-beam lizardIt had two rows of bones under its tail
Dilophosaurus‘two-ridged lizard’It had two boby crests on its head
Dracorex HogwartsiaDragon king of HogwartsNamed after a competition at a children’s museum.
E is for
EdmontosaurusEdmonton lizardIt was found near Edmonton, Canada
EuoplocephalusWell-armoured headit had a very well armoured head!
EustreptospondylusWell Curved BackIts back was curved.
F is for
Fukuiraptorthief of FukuiFound in this area of Japan
FukuisaurusFukui lizardFound in this area of Japan
G is for
GallimimusChicken-mimicBecause its neck was similar to a chicken or turkey
GiganotosaurusGiant Southern LizardIt was massive and found in the south!
GuanlongCrowded Dragonhad a large air filled crest on its head.
H is for
HomalocephaleLevel Headit had a flat skull.
HerrerasaurusHerreras lizardNamed after the rancher that discovered it.
HuayangosaurusHuayang lizardHuayang is another name for Sichuan where it was found.
I is for
IguanodonIguana toothIt was thought to have teeth like an iguana.
irritatorirritatorScientists were irritated by damage caused to the fossil by collectors.
IndosuchusIndian crocodileIt was found in India, and looked like a crocodile
J is for
JaxartosaurusJaxartes River lizardIt was found near this river.
JuravenatorJura Mountain HunterIt was found near the bavarian mountains.
K is for
KentrosaurusSpiked lizardThis dinosaur had spikes on its back.
KhaanRulerWAs found in mongolia, where Khaan means ruler, like Genghis Khaan
L is for
LeptoceratopsSlim Horned FaceIts face was thin with a horn.
LesothosaurusLizard from LesothoIt was found in Lesotho
Liliensternus[for] LiliensternWas named after  a scientist Dr. Hugo Rühle von Lilienstern
M is for
MaiasauraGood Mother lizardFossils have been found with the mother and young
MajungasaurusManjunga Lizardit was found is this part of Madagascar.
MapusaurusEarth LizardMapu means Earth in Mapuche
MegalosaurusGreat Lizardit was pretty big!
Micropachycephalosaurustiny thick headed lizardit was tiny and thick headed!
N is for
NeovenatorNew HunterIt was named relatively recently.
NigersaurusNiger LizardWas found in Niger.
Nodosaurusknobbed lizardHad lots of knobs and plates on its back.
O is for
OrnithomimusBird MimicIt had bird like feet
OviraptorEgg ThiefFirst found with broken eggs, however those were likely its own.
OuranosaurusBrave Monitor LizardNamed after a modern lizard
P is for
PachycephalosaurusThick headed lizardIt had a thick head
PantydracoPanty Dragon… .was found in wales near a quarry called Pant-y-ffynnon
Parasaurolophusnear crested lizardit was similar to another dinosaur.
Pentaceratopsfive horned faceIt had five horns on its face.
ProtoceratopsFirst horned faceSmall horns on its face
Q is for
QuaesitosaurusExtraordinary LizardNot sure! maybe it was extraordinary!
QuetzalcoatlusFeathered Serpent GodNamed after an Aztec god
R is for
RhabdodonRod toothDue to its teeth shape
RincheniaRinchenNamed after Rinchen Barsbold
RiojasaurusRioja LizardNamed after the area it was found.
S is for
SaurophaganaxLord of lizard eatersWas a very large type of Allosaurus.
SeismosaurusEarth shaking lizardSo big they imagined it shaking the earth. (was probably a large diplodocus though)
SpinosaurusSpine lizardNamed for the sail/spines on its back.
StegosaurusRoofed lizardNamed after the plates on its back which were first thought to be flat.
SuchomimusCrocodile mimicLooked like a crocodiles skull.
T is for
TherizinosaurusScythe LizardHUGE claws on its hands like Scythes
TorosaurusBull lizardIt had horns like a bull.
TriceratopsThree horned FaceHad three large horns on its face.
TroodonWounded toothHad different teeth to other theropods
Tyrannosaurus RexTyrant lizard KingSo big and scary and named for that!
U is for
UrbacodonURBAC toothNamed after the expedition that found it.
UtahraptorUtah ThiefIt was found in Utah
V is for
VelociraptorFast ThiefWhen discovered it was thought to be fast and carnivorous
VulcanodonVolcano Toothboth the shape of the teeth and it was found between two lava flows.
W is for
WalgettosuchusWalgett CrocodileNamed after a town and an Egyptian Crocodile god.
WannanosaurusWannan lizardNamed after the location it was found
X is for
XiaosaurusDawn lizardNamed after the age of the fossil.
Y is for
YangchuanosaurusYangchuan lizardNamed after the Shangyou Reservoir Dam in China.
Yi QiStrange Wing It may have had bat like wings
YimenosaurusYimen LizardNamed after Yang Zhongjian,
Z is for
ZalmoxesDacian deityNamed after a Dacian god.
ZigongosaurusZingong lizardNamed after area it was found.

Dinosaur Name Meanings

Dinosaur Meaning Printable

you can download the above list over two pages below.

How Many New Dinosaurs are Discovered Each Year.

As more and more people discover fossil hunting and techniques get better and better the discovery there are more and more new dinosaur types being discovered named and classified each year. On average since 2003 the number of new dinosaurs being found and named is around 45 a year, that is almost one a week!

That is not including all the new prehistoric animals, insects birds, fish and reptiles that are also found! As each year goes on we learn more and more about animals that walked the Earth before us.


How do Dinosaurs Get Their Name?

The word “dinosaur” was created in 1842 by paleontologist Sir Richard Owen. He named them dinosauria, which means “terrible lizard”. It is a combination of two Greek words; “Deinos” which means terrible and “Sauros” which means lizard. So Dinosaur means terrible lizard and this naming system continues today.

However individual dinosaurs although more often following the rules set so long ago by being named due to their appearance can also be named for other reasons. We have listed a few of these below.

  • Dinosaurs can be named after the person who discovered them – for example The dinosaur Chassternbergia is called this as it was named after Charles Sternberg. Sternberg is the fossil hunter who found this dinosaur.
  • They can also be named for famous people like the Obamadon or the Attenborosaurus After President Obama and the famous natural historian from the BBC David Attenborough.
  • They can be named after the expedition funding ( hunting fossils can be an expensive business and keeping the money happy is a good idea!) for example Diplodocus carnegii is named after the sponsor (andrew Carnegie)
  • More common, though a little less original, Dinosaurs can be named after the location they were found. Examples include the Utahraptor, edmontosaurus etc. We are waiting for the mybackyardasaurus rex to be named!
  • For the vast majority of dinosaurs the name tells us something about them. names like velociraptor meaning fast thief, Triceratops meaning three horned head, carcharodontosaurus meaning sharktooth lizard, pachycephalosaurs meaning think head lizard etc.
  • Sometimes, though after the next example maybe less frequently, there are competitions to name a dinosaur. The children’s museum in Indianapolis had a fossil of a dinosaur donated to them and thought it would be a good idea to have a competition to let the children name the dinosaur…. so now there is a dinosaur called Dracorex Hogwartsia, which means, in greek, the Dragon King of Hogwarts!

All dinosaur named have to be checked and looked at by other scientists though and after that the ICZN ( international Commision on Zoological Nomenclature) have to agree before the name is recorded… Just in case you have any rude or crazy ideas!

Dinosaur Name Meanings

How Can I name a dinosaur?

As we mentioned above there are a few ways you could name a dinosaur, but none of them are easy! So if you really want to be the one who names the dinosaur these are your options!

  • Be the person who finds a new dinosaur
  • Pay for the expedition
  • Be famous and/or lucky!
  • Win a competition

That’s about it!

A stegosaurus dinosaur

Do Dinosaur Names Change?

As a rule once a dinosaur is named the name stays. However a couple of times it has happened or been close to happening, even the most popular of dinosaurs nearly had a name change! the mighty T-rex. We will mention a couple of examples below.

Tyrannosaurus Rex was almost called Dynamosaurus imperiosus after fossils that had been mistaken for two different species were actually found to be just one. In science it is the first name that counts, and the name Tyrannosaurus appeared first (on page 262) of the report and the name Dynamosaurus Imperiosus on page 263! So luckily T-Rex kept its name!

Syntarsus was a predator dinosaur named in 1969 by Mike Raath, however a beetle had been given that name over 100 years before. When the mistake was discovered it fell to an Insect expert, Mike Ivie to rename the dinosaur. He, inadvisably chose Megapnosaurus, which means big dead lizard. Mike raath was not amused. perhaps as they both had the same name they could have let the beetle and this dinosaur share a name as well?

When was the First Dinosaur Named?

This, like the name changes of dinosaurs above has a little drama to it as well. The first dinosaur named by a scientist was the megalosaurus (meaning great lizard) in 1824 but actually the first dinosaur fossil discovered was iguanodon. (iguana teeth) by Mary Ann Mantell on a walk in England in 1822.

However people at the time thought it couldn’t be a dinosaur, in fact there wasn’t a word for dinosaur then! that didn’t come until 1842. So even though iguanodon was the first fossil found, or recorded to be found, it was the second dinosaur to be named.

What is the Longest Dinosaur Name?

I often used the larger cousin of this dinosaur to test my students English and see if they could say it, and count the syllables. In fact i used the how to say dinosaur names worksheets you can download for free below.

That dinosaur was pachycephalosaurus, however there was a smaller version of this dinosaur which got given the Longest name for a dinosaur which is Micropachycephalosaurus. Which means tiny thick headed lizard. the longest name for a tiny dinosaur.

What is the Shortest Dinosaur Name?

The shortest dinosaur name is “Yi Qi” it means stange wing in Mandarin. It was a small bat like dinosaur discovered in China in 2007 that lived around 158 million years ago. Although short in name it is tall in stature as it is one of the few dinosaurs with evidence of bat like membranes that may have helped it fly or at least glide from tree to tree.


Hopefully these dinosaur names meanings have given you some help. There are over 1000 dinosaurs and the number rises each week, so we can’t do them all!! however this link has a quite a few more if you need even more dinosaur name meanings!

Also don’t forget to check out our other dinosaur facts and information and the recommended dinosaur products below.

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Some of My Dinosaur Resource Recommendations for Home and School.

Thanks for taking the time to read our facts and questions articles, as a teacher myself i have struggled to find resources in one place and that is why this website was born. I simply love teaching students about dinosaurs both in my role as a language and General Studies teacher. However there is sometimes a need for something more concrete than a printout (as useful as we think ours are! )

There is something awesome about the feeling of awe that these amazing creatures instil in our children and students. To further help you, and potentially me, i have included a few resources below that i have found to be incredibly successful when explaining dinosaurs to children, these range form books and resources, to toys fossils and dinosaur figures.

Sometimes having something tactile to touch in those tiny hands help to focus and cement learning and develop those big brains! Hope they are helpful too.

Dinosaur Books and Readers

There are of course hundreds of excellent, and not so excellent books on Dinosaurs for Children out there. So rather than, yet, go into huge detail. I will highlight the ones I love to use with my students from ages 6 to 10. We have include AR in these as well. ( nothing quite like a moving dinosaur in front of you!

Fossil Sets

I cant say how great these are to use in a classroom while reading with a group. the chance to read about a dinosaur and then touch a real piece is simply great. I have a selection ( self confessed dinosaur geek) but a cheap set of 10 or so will do the trick just as well. Dinosaur poop is great as well!!! i pass it round and ask them to guess what it is first!

Dinosaur Figures

I actually use realia in a lot of classes especially with animals and dinosaurs, and figures help to show the kind of animal we are reading about. It is possible to spend hundreds of dollars on dinosaur figures but ther eis no need, either as a teacher or a parent. The set below and similar we have used to help students picture dinosaurs to great effect.

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