From French aye-aye, from Malagasy aiay (also ahay, haihay or hay-hay in dialect), supposedly imitative of the animal's cry. However, this is doubted by Simons and Myers (2001) who note that the animal does not emit such a sound. They suggest a derivation from Malagasy heh heh (“I don't know”), used by the Malagasy people to avoid naming the animal, which they fear.
aye-aye (plural aye-ayes)
- The lemur Daubentonia madagascariensis, a solitary nocturnal quadruped found in Madagascar and remarkable for its long fingers, sharp nails, and rodent-like incisor teeth.
1849, “Order II.—Quadrumana, [from the Latin, quatuor, four, and manus, hand; four-handed.]”, in D[avid] M[eredith] Reese, editor, Elements of Zoology; or, Natural History of Animals. From the Last Edinburgh Edition (Chambers' Educational Course; [no. 6]), 3rd American edition, New York, N.Y.: Published by A[lfred] S[mith] Barnes & Co. No. 51 John Street; Cincinnati, Oh.: H. W. Derby & Co., OCLC 8483763, page 57:
- The other of these aberrant forms is the cheiromys, or aye-aye, which, from the peculiar form of its two lower front teeth, has been ranged with the Rodentia. In the general character, however, it is essentially a lemur; […]
1858, D[avid] W[illiam] Mitchell, Guide to the Gardens of the Zoological Society of London, London: Bradbury and Evans, 11, Bouverie Street, and at the [Zoological] Society [of London]'s Gardens in the Regent's Park, OCLC 753013060, page 41:
- Of the other members of this group, the Aye Aye (Cheiromys), the Tarsier (Tarsius), the Propithecus, the Indri (Lichanotus), and the Cheirogaleus, are desiderata of which we can only hope to become possessed by the future exertions of zoologists who may obtain access to the countries in which they live.
1864, Edward P[ercival] Wright, “Moderatorships in Experimental and Natural Science[: Zoology]”, in Dublin Examination Papers: Being a Supplement to the University Calendar for the Year 1864, Dublin: Printed at the University Press, Hodges, Smith, & Co., Grafton-Street, booksellers to the University; London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, OCLC 223284649, page 228:
- Refer the following to their respective orders and families:—anteater, ayeaye, canary, cinchilla, dodo, flamingo, flying fox, giraffe, hornbill, lyre bird, mole, paradise bird, porpoise, swift, walrus.
1865, J[ohn] G[eorge] Wood, “Quadrumana; or, The Monkey Tribe”, in The Illustrated Natural History, volume I (Mammalia), London: George Routledge and Sons, Broadway, Ludgate Hill; New York, 129, Grand Street, OCLC 6541835, page 110:
- The true position of that very rare animal the Aye-aye, seems very doubtful, some naturalists placing it in the position which it occupies in this work, and others, such as [Jan] [v]an der Hoeven, considering it to form a link between the monkeys and the rodent animals. […] It is probable that the natural food of the Aye-aye, like that of the preceding animals, is of a mixed character, and that it eats fruit and insects indiscriminately. In captivity it usually fed on boiled rice, which it picked up in minute portions, like Amine in the "Arabian Nights," using, however, its slender fingers in lieu of the celebrated bodkin with which she made her mock meal.
1968 May 24, Michael Mok, “The Aye-Aye, Man’s Imperiled Cousin”, in George P. Hunt, editor, Life, volume 64, number 21, Chicago, Ill.: Time, Inc., ISSN 2169-1576, OCLC 768649145, page 102, column 1:
- He does look a bit odd, what with those parachute ears and the round, mad, yellow, staring pop-eyes and the oversize forepaws hung so awkwardly close to his chest. He's named the aye-aye, which probably does not improve the image. But he's a lemur, hence a primate and a cousin to man. A resident of Madagascar, he is threatened with extinction; there are no more than 50 aye-ayes in all the world.
- ^ “aye-aye, n.”, in OED Online , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1885.
- ^ Elwyn L[aVerne] Simons; David M. Myers (July 2001), “Folklore and Beliefs about the Aye Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)”, in Lemur News, volume 6, [Antananarivo, Madagascar]: Madagascar Section of the International Union for Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group, ISSN 1608-1439, OCLC 956116310, archived from the original on 13 March 2016, page 11, cited in Alexander R. Dunkel; Jelle S. Zijlstra; Colin P[eter] Groves (2011–2012), “Giant Rabbits, Marmosets, and British Comedies: Etymology of Lemur Names, Part I”, in Lemur News, volume 16, [Antananarivo, Madagascar]: Madagascar Section of the International Union for Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group, ISSN 1608-1439, OCLC 956116310, archived from the original on 6 November 2016, page 67.