The cougar holds the Guinness record for the animal with the highest number of names, with over 40 in English alone.
“With its vast range across the length of the Americas, Puma concolor has dozens of names and various references in the mythology of the indigenous Americans and in contemporary culture. The cat has many names in English, of which cougar, puma and mountain lion are popular. “”Mountain lion”” was a term first used in writing in 1858 from the diary of George A. Jackson of Colorado. However, mountain lion is technically incorrect, as its range is not limited to mountain regions, nor can it roar like a true lion, the latter being of the genus Panthera. Other names include “”catamount”” (probably a contraction from “”cat of the mountain””), “”panther””, “”mountain screamer”” and “”painter””. Lexicographers regard painter as a primarily upper-Southern US regional variant on “”panther””. The word panther (while technically referring to all members of the genus Panthera), is commonly used to specifically designate the black panther, a melanistic jaguar or leopard, and the Florida panther, a subspecies of cougar (Puma concolor coryi).
Puma concolor holds the Guinness record for the animal with the highest number of names, presumably due to its wide distribution across North and South America. It has over 40 names in English alone.
“”Cougar”” may be borrowed from the archaic Portuguese çuçuarana; the term was originally derived from the Tupi language. A current form in Brazil is suçuarana. It may also be borrowed from the Guaraní language term guaçu ara or guazu ara. Less common Portuguese terms are onça-parda (lit. brown onça, in distinction of the black-spotted [yellow] one, onça-pintada, the jaguar) or leão-baio (lit. chestnut lion), or unusually non-native puma or leão-da-montanha, more common names for the animal when native to a region other than South America (especially for those who do not know that suçuaranas are found elsewhere but with a different name). People in rural regions often refer to both the cougar and to the jaguar as simply gata (lit. she-cat), and outside of the Amazon, both are colloquially referred to as simply onça by many people (that is also a name for the leopard in Angola).
In the 17th century, German naturalist Georg Marcgrave named the cat the cuguacu ara. Marcgrave’s rendering was reproduced by his associate, Dutch naturalist Willem Piso, in 1648. Cuguacu ara was then adopted by English naturalist John Ray in 1693. The French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon in 1774 (probably influenced by the word “”jaguar””) converted the cuguacu ara to cuguar, from when it was later modified to “”cougar”” in English.
The first English record of “”puma”” was in 1777, where it had come from the Spanish, who in turn borrowed it from the Peruvian Quechua language in the 16th century, where it means “”powerful””. Puma is also the most common name cross-linguistically.”