Dinosaur Names and Their Meanings

dinosaur names and their meaningsAll About Dinosaur Names and their Meanings

Dinosaurs are usually named for either the archaeologist who found them, where they were found, or something special scientists discover about the dinosaur. Sometimes, though, as in the case of the Oviraptor, the “special” thing is wrong, but the dinosaur names stick anyway! Of course Spike over there, a character from the Land Before Times TV series, is named Spike: Stegosaurus dinosaurs have four deadly spikes on their tail!

On this page you’ll find a bunch of dinosaur names and their meanings. You’ve probably never even heard of some of these! But really, there’s lots more dinosaurs than this, and lots more dinosaur names!

I’ll be adding more when I can, but right now Mom says I have to do my homework!

The End of the Dinosaur Names: What are They All so “Saur” About, Anyway?

First: did you notice that a lot of dinosaur names have “saur” as the end part of their names? “Saur” means “lizard.” Dinosaurs are just big lizards, right? Well, they might be related to lizards, but a lot of scientists think they are more closely related to birds! And not just the flying dinosaurs, either. Check out the dinosaur facts page for more on that. In the meantime, here are some dinosaur names and the meaning of dinosaur names. Whenever dinosaur names are underlined, it means they have their own page on the Kids Dig Dinos site: click it to learn more about that dinosaur!

Dinosaur Names
Dinosaurs Meaning of Names
Albertosaurus“Lizard of Alberta” Why? It was discovered in/near Alberta Canada.
Allosaurus“Strange Lizard” because it had an unusual backbone
Apatosaurus“Deceptive Lizard” Scientists first thought it lived underwater, because its bones were similar to the mosasaurus, a sea creature, and because it was so heavy. They were wrong! This plant eater weighed as much as 4-5 big elephants!
Baryonyx“Heavy Claw,” named after the first fossil found with its 11″ claw
BrachiosaurusArm lizard (brachio = arm). Its front legs were longer than its back, mostly dinosaurs’ back legs are longer. Remember the T-rex?
BrontosaurusThis dinosaur, whose name means “Thunder Beast” was a mix up in a dig! The head of one was put with the body of another. Turns out what was found was really an apatosaurus!
Coelophysis“Hollow form” because its legs were hollow. Being hollow, they were lightweight so this meat eater could run fast.
Cynognathus“Dog jawed” because its jaw worked and looked (with canine teeth and smaller sharp incisors) like a dog’s. It probably also had fur but was still a reptile!
Deinonychus“Terrible hand” — This dinosaur had HUGE claws on each foot at the second “toe” area. No one knows whether it had feathers, so I’ve drawn it both ways.
Dilophosaurus“Two-crested lizard” – named for the two crests on its head
Dimetrodon“Two sizes of teeth” — it had both stabbing fangs and razor-sharp teeth.
Dimorphodon“Two TYPES of teeth” — long teeth in the front, small spiky teeth on the sides
Diplocaulus“Double stalk” for the two long bones that stuck out from its sides like a boomerang (not a dinosaur, it is a prehistoric killer amphibian)
Diplodocus“Double beamed lizard” — it was 90 feet long, 45 feet at the tail!
Dolichorhynchops“Long-nosed snout” — he was a reptile who swam in the oceans and ate squid
Dromaesaurus“Running lizard’ – named after this small but speedy (and deadly) dinosaur
Elasmosaurus“Thin plated lizard” — it had thin plates near its pelvis. The scientist who first discovered this put its head on the wrong end!
Gallimimus“Bird mimic” – it looked like an ostrich but it was a very fast lizard/bird/ dinosaur!
Giganotosaurus“Giant lizard of the south” – it was the largest meat eating dinosaur who lived on the land, even bigger than T-rex
Hesperonis“Regal western bird” – found all the way from Kansas to Canada
Ichthyosaurus“Fish lizard” – it ate fish, octopus and other swimming animals
Iguanodon“Iguana tooth” – This plant eater had a special set of grinding teeth.
Kronosaurus“Titan lizard” – “Titan” means “giant” and this thing was huge! It was a swimming reptile that weighed up to 22 tons.
“Smooth-sided teeth” – but they were big! Up to 12 inches long!
Maiasaurus“Good mother lizard” – They built nests and cared for their eggs just like most birds do today.
Megalodon“Big-toothed shark” Its huge teeth were jagged like saw blades. Some people claim that the megalodon is still alive today! I hope not!
Mosasaurus“Meuse lizard” – Meuse is the name of the river in the Netherlands where the first mosasaur fossils were found
Nothosaurus“False lizard” – Get it? “Not-a-lizard”! The Nothosaurus lived like our seals do today: sometimes on land, and sometimes in the water.
Ornitholestes“Bird robber” – When scientists first found a fossil with eggs, they thought it was stealing them! Turns out, it was nesting on them – it was the mom!
Ornithomimus“Bird mimic” – it had 3 toes, long hands and a bird-like skull
Oviraptor“Egg thief” – Just like ornitholestes, this dinosaur was misnamed! It too was just sitting on its eggs. The scientists first thought the fossils they found proved it was eating the eggs of other dinosaurs!
Plesiosaurs“Close to lizard” – they lived at the same time, but these water reptiles (who mostly lived in the ocean) were not dinosaurs! “Close to lizard” meant that they were more reptilian (reptile-like) than fish-like.
Pliosaurs“More lizards” – marine reptiles, they were part of the plesiosaur family
Protoceratops“First horn face” – it had a narrow horned beak like a bird or turtle. It is an ancestor of the more well-known triceratops
Pteradactyl“Winged lizard” – they were flying reptiles
Pteranodon“Winged, without teeth” – a flying reptile
Quetzacoatlus“Like Quetzalcoatl” – a snake-god of the Aztecs. Quetzalcoatl was a huge flying reptile with a 36-39-foot wingspan!
Saltopus“Jumping Foot” because it was small and quick, and scientists think it may have been a jumping dinosaur.
Spinosaurus“Thorn lizard” – It had a long “sail” of spines covered with skin on its back.
Stegosaurus“Roofed lizard” – named for the bony plates along its back
Suchomimus“Crocodile mimic” – It had a face and jaws like a crocodile but was more upright, and scientists think it hunted like a T-rex.
Triceratops“Three-horned face” for the three horns on its face, of course!
Trilobites“Three lobes” – these were early marine creatures with three distinct body parts
Troodon“Wounding tooth” – they had sharp, saw-like teeth
Tyrannosaurus Rex“Tyrant lizard” – Well, you saw it in Jurassic Park, didn’t you? I’d call that a tyrant!
Utahraptor“Robber from Utah”- found near Arches National Park in Utah
Velociraptor“Speedy robber” – they were fast! But not nearly as big as you saw them in Jurassic Park. They were actually about the size of a turkey!
Yangchuanosaurus“Yanchuan Lizard” – First fossils found in the Yang Chuan area of China

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