The puma (Puma concolor) is known by a wide variety of names -- in fact, one nickname for this cat is "the cat of many names." This is partially because pumas are found in countries where different languages are spoken. Named and renamed by European explorers to North and South America, as well as natives of those regions, the puma has collected more than 80 names in his history.
While the puma goes by a wide range of names, the ones most commonly used by English speakers are puma, cougar, mountain lion and panther. But "black panther" is a misnomer used to describe other black cats, like leopards and jaguars. There is no such thing as a black puma. In fact, the puma's scientific name translates to "lion of one color," because each specimen sports the same distinct, tan coat.
Roots and Alternatives
Even the most common English-language names for the puma have non-English roots. Mountain lion takes its roots from "gato monte," the name given by Spanish explorers, which translates to "cat of the mountain." Cougar is derived from a South American Indian word, "cuguacuarana." Even "puma" was the name bestowed on this cat by the Incas. According to the Mountain Lion Foundation, other terminology still used today outside the United States include the names painter, catamount and "el leon."
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.