‘Crayfish' vs 'Crawfish': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on January 24, 2023

Is there a difference between 'crayfish' vs 'crawfish,' or are they the same word? And what do they mean? That's what we'll cover in this article.

In short, these two words refer to the same animal. Which one you use will depend on where you live.

Difference Between 'Crayfish' vs 'Crawfish'

Yes, 'crayfish' vs 'crawfish' are the same thing. If you look up the definition of a crawfish, most dictionaries will redirect you to the 'crayfish' entry.

Not only that but there are many other terms to refer to this same animal: 'crawdad,' 'mudbug,' and 'mountain lobster,' to name a few.

The term used varies depending on the speaker's location. Different parts of the USA prefer different words. The Brits mostly use 'crawfish' or 'Spiny European Lobster.'

What is a 'Crawfish?'

A crayfish or a crawfish is a marine animal that looks like a small lobster. It's a crustacean.

The words' crayfish' and 'crawfish' are both nouns when they refer to the animal.

But there is one instance in which the two terms aren't interchangeable, and that's when 'crawfish' is used as a verb. In this sense, it means "to back out of a position, physical or situational." There is a good explanation for this. The reason is that crawfish walk or swims backward when they feel that they are threatened. That makes sense, right?

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Crayfish'

If you'd like to know how to pronounce the word 'crayfish,' it can be helpful to know how it is spelled in the International Phonetics Alphabet. It looks like this:


And it sounds like this when you say it:


Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Crawfish'

Now let's do the same for 'crawfish.' The IPA spells it like this:


And it is pronounced like this:


When to Use 'Crayfish' vs 'Crawfish'

Now it's time to look at some examples of the two words used in a sentence. Let's begin with 'crayfish.'

The White-clawed crayfish is an endangered species that lives in European freshwater.

Crayfish tails are considered a delicacy and are popular the world over.

If you want to catch crayfish, I recommend you acquire a cast net; they make fishing much easier.

Peter's been sending photos of his fishing trip with the kids; looks like we'll be eating crayfish for a week!

You'll find trout, salmon, and crayfish in the cold waters of northwest Germany.

Now let's look at some examples of sentences that contain the word 'crawfish:.'

You quickly crawfished your way out of that one, didn't you?

I had to crawfish out of the deal at the last moment.

The best way to prepare crawfish is to boil it.

A crawfish is a spiny crustacean and a cousin of the lobster.

Crawfish are a popular food in cuisines from many different countries.

The Bottom Lime with 'Crayfish' vs 'Crawfish'

So there you have it: 'crayfish' and 'crawfish' can be used interchangeably unless you're using it as a verb, in which case you should only use 'crawfish.'

To learn about more confusing words, head over to our blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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