From Erde (“earth, ground”) + Männchen (“little man”). The original sense is that of a gnome, though the word was also used metaphorically or jocularly for animals in some dialects, e.g. for the mole. The use for “meerkat” has only become established in scientific use since the 1960s, but is older in Namibian German, where it also referred to the similar-looking Cape ground squirrel. Plausibly from Afrikaans erdmannetjie, which is equally used (informally) for these two species.
- IPA(key): /ˈɛrtˌmɛn.çən/, [ˈʔɛʁtˌmɛn.çən], [ˈʔɛɐ̯t-], [-çn̩], /ˈeːrt-/, [ˈʔeːɐ̯t-], /-çɪn/
Erdmännchen n (genitive Erdmännchens, plural Erdmännchen)
- (zoology) meerkat
- (mythology, dated) a gnome or dwarf that lives under the earth
- Erdmännchen in Duden online