AskDefine | Define calf

Dictionary Definition



1 young of domestic cattle
2 the muscular back part of the shank [syn: sura]
3 fine leather from the skin of a calf [syn: calfskin]
4 young of various large placental mammals e.g. whale or giraffe or elephant or buffalo [also: calves (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /kɑːf/, /kA:f/
  • Rhymes with: -ɑːf

Etymology 1

From Western cealf.


  1. A young cow or bull.
  2. A young elephant, seal or whale italbrac also used of some other animals.
  3. A chunk of ice broken off of a larger glacier, ice shelf, or iceberg.
Related terms
young cow or bull
young elephant, seal or whale (also used of some other animals)
chunk of ice broken off of a larger glacier, ice shelf, or iceberg
  • Danish: kalv
  • Hungarian: jégtömb
See also

Etymology 2

From kálfi, possibly from calpa.


  1. The back of the leg below the knee.
  2. The muscle in the back of the leg below the knee.
anatomy: back of the leg below the knee
  • Chinese: 小腿, 小腿 (xiǎo tuǐ)
  • Czech: lýtko
  • Danish: læg
  • Dutch: kuit
  • Finnish: pohje
  • French: mollet
  • German: Wade
  • Italian: polpaccio
  • Latin: * Latin: sura
  • Maltese: pexxun
  • Polish: łydka
  • Russian: икра (íkra)
  • Scottish Gaelic: calpa
muscle in the back of the leg below the knee

Middle Dutch


  1. calf
Derived terms
Dutch: kalf

Extensive Definition

A calf (plural calves) is the young of various species of mammal. The term is most commonly used to refer to the young of cattle. The young of bison, camels, dolphins, elephants, giraffes, hippopotamuses, moose, rhinoceroses, whales, seals and yaks are also called calves.
A calf is the term used for the offspring of a cow and a bull or other bovine species until it is weaned. This terminology is also usually common to other species where the young is called a calf. A calf that has lost its mother is referred to as a dogie, poddy or poddy-calf.
The birth of a calf is calving. The term calving is also applied in geology to the breaking off of a mass of ice from its parent glacier, iceberg, or ice shelf.

Human uses

Calf meat offered for human consumption is called veal. Fine calf skin used for pages in early codices is called vellum. The fourth compartment of the stomach of slaughtered milk-fed calves is the source of rennet. Calves feed from their mother's udder for a few weeks before eating solid food.
Calf leather is particularly valuable because of its softness, and fine grain. It is commonly used for the construction of high-end/high-quality shoes.

Male Bos Taurus Calves

Castrated male calves are called steers. They are called steers also when full grown. A male calf that has not been castrated is called a bull or bull calf. Also in its adulthood the male Bos taurus is called a bull. The word calf is a general name used to describe any bovine until it is weaned, then it becomes known as a weaner. A steer or bull calf should put on about 70-80 pounds per month. A 9 month old steer or bull should weigh about 550-600 pounds.

Female Bos Taurus Calves

Female calves are called heifers. They should weigh at least 450 lb. at 8 months old. At about 12 months old a beef heifer reaches puberty if she is well grown. After she has given birth to a calf then she will be recognized as a cow.

External links

  • Calving on Ropin' the Web, Agriculture and Food, Government of Alberta, Canada
calf in Aragonese: Bimardo
calf in Guarani: Vakara'y
calf in Breton: Leue
calf in Catalan: Vedella
calf in Danish: Kalv (dyreunge)
calf in German: Kalb
calf in Erzya: Ваз
calf in Spanish: Novillo
calf in French: Veau
calf in Dutch: Kalf (rundvee)
calf in Dutch Low Saxon: Kuusjen
calf in Narom: Viâo
calf in Polish: Cielę
calf in Portuguese: Vitelo (animal)
calf in Quechua: Chiku
calf in Finnish: Vasikka

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Brahman, Dry Ice, Indian buffalo, ankle, aurochs, bayonet legs, beef, beef cattle, beeves, berg, birdling, bison, bossy, bovine, bovine animal, bowlegs, buffalo, bull, bullock, carabao, catling, cattle, chick, chickling, chicky, cnemis, colt, cow, critter, cryosphere, cub, dairy cattle, dairy cow, dogie, drumstick, duckling, fawn, firn, fledgling, floe, foal, foreleg, frazil, frozen water, fryer, gamb, gambrel, gigot, glaciation, glacier, glacieret, glaze, glazed frost, gosling, granular snow, ground ice, growler, ham, heifer, hind leg, hock, hornless cow, ice, ice banner, ice barrier, ice belt, ice cave, ice cubes, ice dike, ice field, ice floe, ice foot, ice front, ice island, ice needle, ice pack, ice pinnacle, ice raft, ice sheet, iceberg, icefall, icequake, icicle, jamb, jokul, kid, kine, kit, kitten, knee, lamb, lambkin, leg, leppy, limb, litter, lolly, maverick, milch cow, milcher, milk cow, milker, muley cow, muley head, musk-ox, neat, nest, nestling, neve, nieve penitente, ox, oxen, pack ice, piglet, pigling, podite, polliwog, popliteal space, pullet, pup, puppy, scissor-legs, serac, shank, shelf ice, shin, shoat, sleet, slob, sludge, snow ice, snowberg, steer, stems, stirk, stot, stumps, tadpole, tarsus, trotters, weaner, whelp, wisent, yak, yeanling, yearling, zebu
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