'Gecko' vs 'Lizard': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on October 19, 2023

‘Gecko’ vs Lizard’: What’s the difference? Learning new words doesn’t just have to be about absorbing vocabulary. It can also be a great way to expand your knowledge of other subjects, like science and the animal kingdom. Let’s dive into the difference between ‘Gecko’ vs ‘Lizard’.

Are you in a rush? Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll cover:

  • ‘Gecko’ is the word for a nocturnal type of lizard with sticky feet
  • ‘Lizard’ is the word for a long, four-legged reptile with movable eyelids 

What’s the Difference Between ‘Gecko’ vs ‘Lizard’?

While it may seem obvious, these words represent two different types of animals, but they have more in common than you may think. Before looking at the differences, let’s show what these creatures have in common. 

The main similarity between ‘Gecko’ vs ‘Lizard’ is that they both belong to the reptile family, which means:

  • They are cold-blooded, air-breathing vertebrates (like snakes, alligators, and turtles) that usually lay eggs and have skin covered with scales or bony plates.

A ‘Gecko’ is actually a type of ‘Lizard’ and belongs to the ‘Lizard’ family, but they have a few defining differences.

Here is a brief list:

  • ‘Geckos’ lay eggs in pairs, while ‘Lizards’ lay them in clutches
  • ‘Geckos’ can chirp and make vocalizations, while ‘Lizards’ can’t
  • ‘Geckos’ have sticky feet, while ‘Lizards’ have clawed feet 
  • Some ‘Lizards’ are poisonous, but ‘Geckos’ are not
  • ‘Lizards’ have eyelids, but ‘Geckos’ do not
  • ‘Geckos’ are smaller on average in size than ‘Lizards.’

Understanding these differences helps identify these creatures when we see them and also provides a good overview for those looking to keep one of these animals as a pet. However, comparing these two creatures doesn’t give us the full picture of what they are. So let’s take a closer look individually at ‘Gecko’ vs ‘Lizard.’

Definition of ‘Gecko’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Gecko’ is a noun that means:

  • A nocturnal and often highly vocal lizard that has adhesive pads on the feet to assist in climbing on smooth surfaces, it is widespread in warm regions
    • “The gecko crawled up the tree.” 
  • Any of numerous small, chiefly tropical and nocturnal insectivorous lizards of the family Gekkonidae 

The word ‘Gecko’ comes from the Malay origin ‘geko’ or ‘gekok’, which was imitative of its cry. 

‘Gecko’ Fun Facts

  • ‘Geckos’ can detach their tails to escape predators and then regrow them
  • Since they don’t have eyelids, ‘Geckos’ lick their eyes clean 
  • ‘Geckos’ can camouflage into their surroundings and change their color
  • Some ‘Geckos,’ like the parachute gecko, can glide through the air
  • ‘Geckos’ can continuously replace their teeth, like sharks
  • ‘Gecko’ vision is 350 times more sensitive to light than human vision

Definition of ‘Lizard’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Lizard’ is a noun that means:

  • A reptile that typically has a long body and tail, four legs, movable eyelids, and a rough, scaly, or spiny skin
    • “The lizard sunbathed on the rocks.”
  • A reptile is distinguished from snakes by a fused, inseparable lower jaw, a single temporal opening, two pairs of well-differentiated functional limbs that may be lacking in burrowing forms, external ears, and eyes with movable lids.
  • Leather made from lizard skin
    • “She owned a lizard purse.”

The word ‘Lizard’ came from the Latin origin ‘lacertus,’ which means “sea fish,” and although ‘Lizards’ are not sea creatures, their name likely came from their appearance as having crawled out of the ocean. 

‘Lizard’ Fun Facts

  • There are more than 6,000 species of ‘Lizard’ (which includes ‘Geckos’)
  • Some ‘Lizards’ never drink water but must have the sun to keep warm
  • The Komodo Dragon is the largest and most dangerous ‘Lizard’ growing up to 10 feet long with a bite powerful enough to kill a human
  • ‘Lizards’ can also detach their tails if they are in danger
  • The Chameleon is the only ‘Lizard’ that can move its eyes in two different directions at the same time
  • Some ‘Lizards’ can live up to 50 years 
  • ‘Lizards’ can be found on every continent on earth except for Antarctica

Pronunciations: How to Pronounce ‘Gecko’ vs ‘Lizard’

Since writing isn’t the only way we use vocabulary, let’s make sure you can talk about the animals as well — starting with learning proper pronunciation. Follow the guides below to get comfortable saying these words aloud

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Gecko’ as a guide:

  • ‘Geh-ko’ (remember that this word is named for the sound the animals make, so listen to them as the ultimate guide) 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Lizard’ as a guide:

  • ‘Lih-zerrd’ (the ‘i’ is short as in the word “fin,” and the ‘a’ is almost silent and acts more as a segue between the ‘z’ and ‘r’)

How to Use ‘Gecko’ vs ‘Lizard’ in a Sentence

Just like ‘Lizards’ in their many habitats, these words can appear in a variety of contexts. Use the sample sentences below as a reference to see how you can use these words on your own terms. After reading, try writing some practice sentences of your own. 

‘Gecko’ Example Sentences

  • My little brother has a leopard gecko named Sally who loves to eat worms and beetles. 
  • Geckos have long, sticky tongues that can shoot out and help them catch their prey.
  • In science class, we had a pet gecko, but we didn’t usually get to see it because it was nocturnal and would hide during the day. 
  • Most geckos have very thick tails that let them store fat and nutrients, but when their tail is dropped, they lose those stores. 

‘Lizard’ Example Sentences

  • While driving in the jungle in Costa Rica, we almost drove over an iguana — a lizard with large spines — that was crossing the road.
  • There were many small lizards that sunbathed on the sidewalk outside our house, and we would always try to catch them.
  • When traveling through the desert in Arizona, he was extra careful to watch out for Gila monsters, the most venomous type of lizard
  • Her green pet lizard was sometimes hard to spot in its enclosure because it blended in with the leaves.

‘Gecko’ vs ‘Lizard’ Example Sentences

  • The smallest lizard in the world is actually a species of gecko called the Jaragua dwarf gecko, and it’s less than a centimeter long.
  • While geckos use their sticky feet to climb, other lizards use their claws to grip trees and rocks so they don’t fall. 

Final Thoughts on ‘Gecko’ vs ‘Lizard’

We hope this article has taught you more than just vocabulary but some science as well. That’s the beauty of language: it can connect us to so many different things. Just remember that while all ‘Geckos’ are ‘Lizards,’ not all ‘Lizards’ are ‘Geckos.’

Need a recap? Here’s a quick review of what we learned:

  • ‘Gecko’ is a noun that describes a type of nocturnal lizard with sticky feet and no eyelids
  • ‘Lizard’ is a noun that describes the class of reptiles with long tails and four legs

Want to keep learning about other animal vocabulary? Be sure to investigate other confusing word articles that will help clarify new terms and introduce you to different creatures of the world — both real and mythical.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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