Barn Owl names – cherub or demon?

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The Barn Owl was given it’s scientific name –Tyto alba – in 1769, by G.A. Scopoli an Italian doctor and naturalist (1723 – 1788). Tyto alba literally means “white owl”, from the Latin word for white: alba and the Ancient Greek onomatopoeic name for an owl: tyto or τυτο.
“Onomatopoeic” means a word that sounds like the thing it describes, for instance in English we might call a Tawny Owl’s call a “hoot” and a Barn Owl’s call a “screech”.

The Barn Owl has lived in farms and villages for hundreds, probably thousands of years and has been known by a huge variety of names over the centuries.
Some Barn Owls live in old church towers and occasionally when people see one flying, white and silent, over a graveyard, they think of ghosts and death – or – an angel or cherubim. What would you think if you saw one?

Jumbled Name Puzzle!

Unscramble the letters to find some old English names for a Barn Owl:
– see the list of Old English names below for clues – and the bottom of the page for the answers.

  1. AOTYBLAT :  Scientific Latin name for a Ghost Owl: _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ 
  2. OCWLECSRHE :  This owl doesn’t hoot! _ _ _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _
  3. HURIBCME :  Church Owls are little angels! _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
  4. YLFMKOEEOCWNAD :  An owl with a cheeky face! _ _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _
  5. YOGMG :  It catches mice but it’s not a cat! _ _ _ _ _

Old English names for Barn Owls:BOT Logo Owl

Can you guess why people called the Barn Owl these names?

  • Banshee
  • Barn Owl
  • Barnyard Owl
  • Berthuan
  • Billy Whit
  • Billy Wise
  • Billy Wix
  • Cave Owl
  • Cherubim
  • Church Owl
  • Common Owl
  • Death Owl
  • Delicate Owl
  • Demon Owl
  • Dobby Owl
  • Farmer’s Friend
  • Gilli-Howlett
  • Gil-Hooter
  • Ghost Owl
  • Golden Owl
  • Hissing Owl
  • Hobby Owl
  • Hobgoblin Owl
  • Hoolet
  • Jenny Howlet
  • Madge Howlett
  • Moggy
  • Monkey-faced Owl
  • Night Owl
  • Oolert
  • Rat Owl
  • Roarer
  • Screaming Owl
  • Screech* Owl
  • Scritch Owl
  • Silver Owl
  • Stone Owl
  • Straw Owl
  • Ullet
  • White Breasted Owl
  • White Hootlet
  • White Owl
  • Woolert
  • Yellow Owl

*Screech Owl used to be an old English name for Barn Owl – but only in Britain. It’s no longer used, because it’d be confused with the genus (or group of species) ‘Megascops‘ which are now known as Screech Owls – these are only found in the Americas – and are not related to Barn Owls!

Answers to the Jumbled Name Puzzle: Click to open

  1. TYTO ALBA
  2. SCREECH* OWL
  3. CHERUBIM
  4. MONKEY FACED OWL
  5. MOGGY

* Printable puzzle pages available free for personal and educational use only.
To Print: Click the green Print button above the picture.