What is a Female Sheep Called?

Female sheep standing in a field
A female sheep is called a ewe. The plural term for ewe is "ewes." The word "ewe" has roots in Old English, and can be traced back to Latin and Greek. The earliest known use of "ewe" was even before the 12th century.

What is a female sheep called?

A female sheep is called a ewe, while a male sheep is called a ram.

There’s some confusion over whether to write “a ewe” or “an ewe.” Normally, “an” is used before words that start with vowels. But in this case, the pronunciation of “ewe” starts with a consonant sound (“y” as in “you”).

Some places have local or slang terms for their ewes. You might hear an adult female sheep called yow or yaw. Yow or yaw means the same as ewe, but it is a local dialect you will likely hear in Scotland, Cumbria, and the English lowlands. Gimmer is another term that also means female sheep in Scotland and Northern England.

Where does the word “ewe” come from?

Female sheep with young ewe lamb

The Middle English word “ewe” comes from the Old English eowu. In Old English, eow is the term for “sheep.” Eowu is the Old English term for “female sheep.”

The Middle English word “ewe” has existed since before the 12th Century. But, its ancient origins have been around for far longer. The Old English word eowu comes from the Latin ovis and the Greek ois. Both ovis and ois mean “sheep.”

From there, the word has evolved into other languages and dialects. These include the following:

  • Ouwi – Old High German for “sheep”
  • Avis – Lithuanian for “sheep”
  • Oi – Old Irish for “sheep”
  • Ooge and Ooi – Middle Dutch and Dutch for “sheep”
  • Ewig – Welsh for “hind”
  • Ewi – Old Saxon for “sheep”
  • Ei – Old Frisian for “sheep”

The Latin ovis is pronounced with a soft “v,” which is much closer to owis. The Greek ois sounds the same. From “owis,” the word has evolved into “yowis,” and eventually into “ewe.”

See Also:  How to Show Sheep (5 Tips for Sheep Showing)

This is why the word “ewe” is pronounced differently in different countries or areas. In standard American English, “ewe” is pronounced “yoo.” But in some dialects in the United Kingdom, such as in Cumbria and Scotland, it is pronounced as “yow.”

What are the different names for a female sheep?

EweFemale sheep
Ewe lambYoung female sheep under 1 year old
Yearling eweFemale sheep between 1-2 years old
Brood eweFemale sheep raised specifically for birthing lambs
YowWord for “ewe” in parts of the United Kingdom
Shearling eweWord for “yearling ewe” in parts of the United Kingdom
Hogget eweWord for “yearling ewe” in parts of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa
TheaveWord for “yearling ewe” in parts of the English midlands
TegWord for “yearling ewe” in parts of the United Kingdom

You can call any female sheep a ewe. However, ewes are called by more specific terms depending on their age or their role in the flock or farm.

A ewe lamb is the term for a newborn or baby female sheep up to one year old. After a ewe lamb or young sheep turns a year old, she is now called a yearling ewe. 

A yearling ewe is called a hogget ewe in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. In Scotland, she may be called a gimmer. In the English Midlands, a yearling ewe is called a theave or a theaf. A yearling ewe may also be called a shearling ewe or a teg in some areas of the United Kingdom.

A ewe that is raised specifically for breeding season and birthing lambs is called a brood ewe.


Joanne is a nocturnal person who loves traveling and coffee. She’s also an animal lover (and rescuer) who makes it a point to befriend every animal she meets. Her passion for learning led her to writing about various topics. As someone who dreams of becoming an “animal whisperer,” she aims to continue learning about animals–particularly sheep, and at the same time, share her knowledge here at Sheep Caretaker.

Recent Posts