Why Are Rabbits Called Bunnies? [Where It All Came From]

We often use the words rabbit and bunny interchangeably. But when you come to think about it, why do we do this? Are there any differences between the two? Curious, I spent some time researching to find out. I would like to share with you my findings here today.

So, why are rabbits called bunnies? It is believed that rabbits acquired their alternative name ‘bunny’ several centuries ago. It is thought to originate from the word ‘bun’, which meant “hare’s tail” at the time. It was adopted into a term of endearment to describe rabbits and has since been more commonly used by children, typically applied to baby and/or cute rabbits.

It’s actually quite amazing how this term came about.

It’s deep-rooted in British history.

And the term bunny actually dates back to the 16th Century.

Well at least according to Dr Max Wheeler – Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sussex.

So, there is a reason for it after all.

Keep reading; it gets even more interesting. I promise you!

What Is The Difference Between A Rabbit And A Bunny?

The difference between a rabbit and a bunny is a linguistic one. Rabbit is the scientific name for the animal, bunny is a term of endearment often used to describe this very animal.

In reality, these terms are often used synonymously. Even if one is more formal than the other.

And for the most part, if you were to use either word, people would know what you are referring to.

That is among native English speaking people, of course.

With this being said, the term bunny is undoubtedly more common among children.

Perhaps it has a lot to do with culture; whether this is through the celebrated Easter Bunny or cartoon favorites such as Bugs and Lola Bunny.

Nevertheless, the term bunny has undoubtedly acquired a connotation around small, young, or baby rabbits – and is often used more commonly among children as such.

Is A Bunny A Baby Rabbit?

The term bunny is often applied to baby rabbits; although this just how language has developed and evolved. Formally, baby rabbits are actually called kittens.

Like with most words, they are often picked up and applied to numerous things. The same could be said for the term bunny.

This term is now synonymous with baby rabbits, even if it is also used to describe the young of another popular animal – the cat.

Perhaps this is why bunny is used – to differentiate and help young children.

Nevertheless, what you need to know is that:

  • Female rabbits are called Does,
  • Male rabbits are called Bucks
  • Baby rabbits are called kittens (informally as bunnies)

Rabbit Or Bunny; Which Term To Use?

Whether you use the term rabbit or bunny has a lot to do with context.

For the most part, the term rabbit is best used. Particularly if you are discussing them with fellow adults or perhaps even a veterinarian.

While they would likely understand what you mean if you were to use the word bunny, rabbit is more formal and is the scientific name for the mammal after all.

That is not to say you cannot, nor should not use the word bunny altogether.

Besides, its great for young children. It’s easier for them to say, understand, and not to mention; its cute for them to use!


The origins of the word bunny are certainly an interesting one.

Just as is the case for Guinea Pigs and Lovebirds; these terms don’t just arise out of nowhere.

But for the case of rabbits, the term bunny has given us an appealing alternative to use.

Just remember that rabbit is, and will always be, the scientific name for the animal.

And if you do decide to use the word bunny with young children, when the time is right it’s always a good idea to explain to them the differences.

Besides, it will save them from having to Google the question later in life and having to discover it all here!

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