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See also: onagër



An onager (type of catapult) at Neurathen Castle in Saxony, Germany

From Middle English onager, onagir (wild ass; military catapult),[1] from Anglo-Norman onager, Middle French onager, onagre, Old French onager, onagre (wild ass; military catapult) (modern French onagre), from Late Latin onager (large siege engine), Latin onager (wild ass), from Hellenistic Ancient Greek ὄναγρος (ónagros, wild ass), Byzantine Ancient Greek ὄναγρος (ónagros, large siege engine), from ὄνος (ónos, ass) + ἄγριος (ágrios, wild) (from ᾰ̓γρός (agrós, countryside; field) (possibly ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂eǵ- (to drive)) + -ῐος (-ios, suffix forming adjectives)).[2]

The “military engine” sense alludes to the strong recoil of the engine, likened to an onager’s kick; see the 2007 quotation.



onager (plural onagers or onagri)

  1. The Asiatic wild ass or hemione (Equus hemionus), an animal of the horse family native to Asia; specifically, the Persian onager, Persian wild ass, or Persian zebra (Equus hemionus onager).
    Synonym: (obsolete) hemionus
  2. (military, historical) A military engine acting like a sling which threw stones from a bag or wooden bucket powered by the torsion from a bundle of ropes or sinews operated by machinery; a torsion catapult.
    • 2007, Jeff Kinard, “Ancient and Medieval Artillery”, in Artillery: An Illustrated History of Its Impact (Weapons and Warfare Series), Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, →ISBN, page 17:
      The onager, meaning "wild ass," derived its name from its powerful recoil, or kick, upon discharge; [...] In addition, although Josephus described an onager in action hurling a 100-pound stone over 400 yards, most onagri achieved a shorter range than the ballista, thus exposing their crews to enemy archers.
    Hypernym: catapult
    Coordinate term: mangonel, trebuchet


Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ onager, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 26 January 2019.
  2. ^ onager, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2004; “onager”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]



Dutch Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia nl


Borrowed from Latin onager, from Ancient Greek ὄναγρος (ónagros).



onager m (plural onagers)

  1. onager, Asiatic wild ass, Equus hemionus
    Synonyms: halfezel, woudezel
  2. (historical) onager (Roman torsion catapult)


Alternative forms[edit]


From Hellenistic Ancient Greek ὄναγρος (ónagros, wild ass), from ὄνος (ónos, ass) + ἄγριος (ágrios, wild).



onager m (genitive onagrī); second declension

  1. wild ass; onager
  2. onager (type of military engine)


Second-declension noun (nominative singular in -er).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative onager onagrī
Genitive onagrī onagrōrum
Dative onagrō onagrīs
Accusative onagrum onagrōs
Ablative onagrō onagrīs
Vocative onager onagrī

See also[edit]


  • French: onagre
  • Italian: onagro
  • Portuguese: onagro
  • Spanish: onagro
  • English: onager

Further reading[edit]

  • onager”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • onager”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • onager in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette
  • onager”, in Harry Thurston Peck, editor (1898) Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, New York: Harper & Brothers

Old French[edit]


From Latin onager.


onager m (oblique plural onagers, nominative singular onagers, nominative plural onager)

  1. (clarification of this definition is needed)onager