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The Word "Doggo" Increasingly Popular

Its origins are different from its current usage
By Karen B. London PhD, February 2018, Updated June 2021

In the last couple of years, the use of the term “doggo” to describe our canine buddies has increased dramatically, but the word has been around for centuries. The previous meaning of the term was different, meaning “to remain motionless and quiet to escape detection”. It was commonly used in the phrase “to lie doggo”, which was popularized by Rudyard Kipling and used as slang in the late 1800s. The word is related to the word “dog” and simply had the suffix “o” added to mean “has the qualities of, or is associated with”.

In the early 1900s, “doggo” was sometimes used to refer to a specific dog in much the same way many people use “buddy” today. After many decades of only occasional use, it is back with us again, this time as an affectionate term for dogs. Since 2016, its popularity has skyrocketed, possibly because the term is so common on the twitter account WeRateDogs. There are other possible sources of the word’s new prominence. Some people have speculated that Australian followers of Dogspotting followed their linguistic habit of adding “o” to words, and that “doggo” caught on.

Though I don’t often use it, the word “doggo” appeals to me because of its similarity to the word “kiddo”. The origins of these words are unrelated, but they both sound friendly and familiar in the same way. Perhaps I am biased because as Labradoodles and Goldendoodles became common and “doodle” was added to so many crosses, I did the same with my kids. Since my dog training knowledge and perspectives have been so helpful to me in parenting, I’ve been very comfortable referring to my children as “kiddoodles”.

Merriam-Webster recently put “doggo” on its list of words that they are watching. That means that the word is on the rise but does not yet qualify for inclusion in the dictionary. If the upward trend continues, it might soon be an official word in the Merriam-Webster world. It is already a word—though I don’t know if that makes it official—in the dog world.

Do you use the word “doggo” for your canine friends and family members?

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life