What Does Dinosaur Mean? Must Know Facts For Kids!

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Dec 30, 2022 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Dec 03, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Sudeshna Nag
If you are eager to learn what does dinosaurs mean, then do not skip this article.

The world that we live in is completely different from the world that existed millions of years ago during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods that had various species of dinosaurs.

Now, we are left with fossils that have been discovered and from these, we have deduced a lot about the dinosaur lineage. Dinosaurs became extinct under major climate shifts and the impact of asteroids.

The word dinosaur is taken from Greek. However, the credit goes to Richard Owen for coining this word. We have to look into the etymology of the word. Etymology refers to the origin of words. The word dinosaur comes from two Greek words, 'deinos' meaning 'terrible' and 'saurus' meaning 'lizard'. Each word combines to form the word Dinosaur.

These were massive gigantic creatures of group Dinosauria that existed millions of years ago. The fossils that have been excavated point towards a greater diversity of animals. Currently, birds are contemplated as the closest living descendant of dinosaurs. The simplistic division of dinosaurs is into three main types: herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.

These animals did evolve from other reptiles and were a part of the evolution from the Triassic period till the Cretaceous period. Dinosaurs were both avian and non-avian and some of the largest species belong to the Sauropod group; it was a new dinosaur group that evolved during the Jurassic period.

There are over 10,806 species that have been found as of now. However, researchers are continuing to make other groundbreaking discoveries.

Thus we can comprehend that dinosaurs are fascinating creatures that roamed the Earth. Though they are extinct today yet they are being projected as an incredible species. Many birds evolved from dinosaurs. Scientists are still baffled by dinosaurs and learn new things about them even today.

For example, the old fashioned view about dinosaurs having reptilian leathery skin is now being partially challenged as they seem to have had feathers too. To learn more about the word dinosaur scroll through this piece and learn more interesting facts.

If you like this read then you can check our other palaeontology articles on dinosaurs with spikes on the back and what species of dinosaur is barney?

What does seeing a dinosaur in a dream mean?

Dreams can be hard to interpret and most of the time we prefer to discard them because they are the reflection of our subconscious mind. There are dreams that we hardly retain while other dreams are hard to forget.

However, if you are having a dream that may be bizarre but you cannot stop thinking about it maybe it wants to indicate something. Yes, dreams do have hidden meaning sometimes and if your dreams are related to dinosaurs then we have got you covered.

As dreams are the reflection of our unconsciousness, they absorb more than what our consciousness does. Also, the interpretation depends on what the dream was about? For example, is it you or someone being chased by a dinosaur? Or you may have eradicated a dinosaur or just have felt its presence.

However, most of the time it is associated with our past. Sometimes we are haunted by the past and we fail to put everything behind us and move on.

We fail to make certain choices because of our past although we need to. A dinosaur is believed to be a sign to move forward, to leave everything in the past and move on.

How do you say dinosaurs in different languages?

Dinosaurs are a universal thing yet not everywhere they are called dinosaurs, as the pronunciation varies. The term ‘dinosaur’ has different pronunciations some of which are discussed below.

Although dinosaurs existed millions of years ago yet it was not till 1842 that these prehistoric dinosaurs got their name. It was Sir Richard Owen who happened to be a scientist of the Victorian period who invented the term ‘dinosaur’.

The civilization that existed before may have found fossilized bones but they did not put any effort to uncover the entire actuality. The British fossil reptiles were housed in the Natural History Museum in 1881.

It was in England when William Buckland, the geology professor of Oxford University identified this creature but it was referred to as ‘Iguanodon’ or ‘Megalosaurus’. However, later Richard Owen did extensive research on the fossilized bones and concluded that these were ‘terrible lizards’ from where the term was coined.

The term dinosaur is a Greek word for terrible lizard. However in the accounts of Richard Owen instead of ‘terrible lizard’ he has referred to them as fearfully great.

In French, Dinosaur is called Dinosaure and the first half is pronounced as ‘Dee-no’ instead of ‘Di-nuh’. Similarly, in Portuguese it is called ‘Dinossauro’, in Polish, it's called ‘Dinozaur’ and in Romania too, it is called ‘Dinozaur’.

The 'age of dinosaurs' is also known as the Mesozoic era.

What defines a dinosaur?

Dinosaurs belong to the group of extinct reptiles but how are they different from existing reptiles? What defines them? Well, whenever we think of dinosaurs we think about gigantic reptiles although not all of them are as big as the others.

However, they have always been defined as humongous reptiles as per their fossil record. They have a definite physical feature that propelled scientists and palaeontologists to put them under the clade Dinosauria as suggested by Owen.

If you think all dinosaurs are the same then you may be wrong as there are different kinds of dinosaurs including the avian and non-avian. Some dinosaurs were herbivores while others were carnivores and some evolved into omnivores. When we read about these gigantic beings it is very hard for us to comprehend how they evolved.

Dinosaurs existed and became extinct millions of years ago but they were certainly not the first beings on Earth as they have evolved from some other type of reptile, exactly which reptile is not specified. However, those reptiles were not as massive as dinosaurs.

The definition of the dinosaur depends on the types the three main groups comprise: the sauropods, ornithischians, and theropod dinosaurs.

The term sauropod is taken from Greek that refers to ‘lizard foot’, they are also defined as herbivorous dinosaurs. They were quadrupedal in other words and walked on four limbs, unlike Theropods.

Their hind limbs remained on the ground and some of the sauropod species had long front limbs. Their head was not massive but they had indeed long neck. Some of the most popular sauropod species include the Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Zigongosaurus.

Theropod dinosaurs walked primarily on their hind legs. This group can be defined as meat-eating carnivorous dinosaurs that walked on their two hind legs. These dinosaurs are also distinguished for their clawed feet and hand, sharp teeth, and fingers with the ability to grasp. The most famous of them are the Tyrannosaurus rex or T-rex, Carnotaurus, and Spinosaurus.

The third type, the ornithischians, are defined based on their hip bones like birds. This variety primarily had leaf-shaped teeth and evolved from the theropod saurischian.

When did dinosaurs exist?

Earth went through different geological periods and with every period it witnessed something new. However, there is evidence that this group of reptiles may have existed 252 million years ago.

The period since these creatures existed and until they became extinct is divided into distinct phases such as the Triassic period, the Jurrasic period, and the Cretaceous period. The Triassic period was the initial period hence this is the period when these reptiles came into existence.

The Triassic period was from 201-252 million years ago and at that time the geographical pattern was entirely different because continents did not exist. The land was not fragmented as it was a bigger mass of land called the ‘Pangea’.

The dinosaur first evolved during this period as it gave them sufficient ground to thrive. Some dinosaurs that existed during this period may include the Chindesaurus, Eoraptor, Herrerasaurus, Melanorosaurus, and more. This era ended with the mass extinction of animals but the dinosaurs survived.

Nevertheless, they evolved. The second period was the Jurassic period that was from 145-200 million years ago. During this time many dinosaurs including such as the plant-eating Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, and Stegosaurus evolved.

The giant land lass mass Pangea was split into two halves and the temperature was not as hot as the Triassic period. The vegetation was thicker which provided herbivorous dinosaurs to flourish. From the giant fossils and scientific discoveries, it can be estimated that some of the humungous dinosaurs roamed the earth during the Jurrasic period.

The third period was the Cretaceous period which was from 66-145 million years ago. The major change was the formation of different continents that enable diversity.

Many mammals, birds, and other reptiles originated during this period. However, this was the last period before dinosaurs became extinct. Some of the dinosaur species that existed during the Cretaceous period are Albertaceratops, Ampelosaurus, Anchiceratops, and others.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what do dinosaurs mean then why not take a look at the fastest dinosaur, or strongest dinosaur.

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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Fact-checked by Sudeshna Nag

Master of Arts specializing in History

Sudeshna Nag picture

Sudeshna NagMaster of Arts specializing in History

Having earned a Master's degree in History from the Presidency University in Kolkata, Sudeshna was able to refine these skills and broaden her knowledge base. Not only is she an accomplished fact-checker, but she is also deeply invested in gender research, societal interactions, and mental health. Her professional repertoire also includes experience in translation between Bengali and English content

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