The call / name of the gecko

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This is a garrulous little creature who vainly and profoundly likes to enunciate its own name.

Lots more gecko gabbing here:

Note the wide range of vocalizations and verbalizations.

The Neo-Latin gekko and English 'gecko' stem from IndonesianMalaysian gēkoq, it is a Malay word borrowed from Javanese, from tokek, which imitates the sounds that some species like Tokay gecko make.


A splendid new paper by Olivia Anna Rovsing Milburn on the lore and literature of the gecko ("Noises Off: The Image of House Geckos and Tokay Geckos in Imperial Era Chinese Literature") will soon be published in Sino-Platonic Papers.


Selected readings


  1. KMH said,

    April 26, 2024 @ 3:48 pm

    Tokays are pretty big, among the largest geckos in the world.
    The Thai name uses a very similar onomatopoeia: "ตุ๊กแก" (/dtook/H /gaae/M;

  2. Victor Mair said,

    April 26, 2024 @ 7:25 pm

    What's the initial of its call?

  3. AG said,

    April 26, 2024 @ 8:25 pm

    I'm no expert but I remember from our time in Malaysia that the little ones are called chichak and the big ones are tokay, both obviously onomatopoetic. Similar distinction in Thai, too, I think.

    I've been amazed to see that geckoes here in Bangkok often perfectly match the color of the walls/ceiling they hang out on. Do they have chameleonic abilities, or does natural selection work that quickly?

  4. KMH said,

    April 27, 2024 @ 6:35 am

    Yes, little geckos are "จิ้งจก" (/jing/F /johk/L; The Royal Institute dictionary also gives the name in northwestern dialect as "จั๊กกิ้ม."
    There are many Thai superstitions around geckos and their sounds.
    Color change in these species is mostly limited to getting slightly darker or lighter.
    More Asian-language names given here (

    "In Asia/Southeast Asia, notably Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia, geckos have local names onomatopoetically derived from the sounds they make: Hemidactylus frenatus is called "chee chak" or "chi chak" (pr- chee chuck), said quickly, also commonly spelled as "cicak" in Malay dictionaries. In the Philippines, they are called "butiki" in Tagalog, "tiki" in Visayan, "alutiit" in Ilocano, and in Thailand, "jing-jok" (Thai: จิ้งจก). In Myanmar, they are called "အိမ်မြှောင် – ain-mjong" ( "အိမ် – ain" means "house" and "မြှောင် – mjong" means "stick to"). In some parts of India and in Pakistan, they are called "chhipkali" (Urdu:چھپکلی, Hindi: छिपकली), from chhipkana, to stick. In Nepal, they are called "vhitti" (Nepali: भित्ती) or "mausuli" (Nepali: माउसुली). In other parts of India, they are called "kirli" (Punjabi: ਕਿੜਲੀ), "jhiti piti" (Oriya: ଝିଟିପିଟି), "zethi" (Assamese: জেঠী), "thikthikiaa" (Maithili: ठिकठिकिया), "paal" (Marathi: पाल), "gawli" or "palli" (Malayalam: ഗവ്ളി (gawli), പല്ലി (palli), Tamil: பல்லி (palli)), Telugu: బల్లి (balli), Kannada: ಹಲ್ಲಿ (halli), "ali" (Sylheti: ꠀꠟꠤ), "garoli" (Gujarati: ગરોળી). In West Bengal and Bangladesh, they are called "tiktiki" (Bengali: টিকটিকি) as the sound is perceived as "tik tik tik". In Sri Lanka, they are called "huna" in singular form (Sinhalese: හුනා)."

  5. Kate Bunting said,

    April 27, 2024 @ 7:09 am

    The corncrake says his Latin name (Crex crex). (He starts at around 0.25.)

  6. Victor Mair said,

    April 27, 2024 @ 8:38 am

    @Kate Bunting

    That's both funny and amazing.

    The bird is so emphatic about repeating its name, whatever it means.

    Seems that Linnaeus gave it that designation in 1758.

  7. David Marjanović said,

    April 27, 2024 @ 3:20 pm

    The parentheses around the author & year mean that Linnaeus only named the species, not the genus; that's not surprising because Linnaeus never made genus and species names identical (the botanists still don't allow that). Linnaeus named it Rallus crex because he lumped all rails into Rallus.

  8. John Swindle said,

    April 27, 2024 @ 9:08 pm

    The Tokay Gecko has also been called the Fuck-you Lizard, again because of its call.

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