Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
A Dictionary of Ethology

A Dictionary of Ethology

Klaus Immelmann, Colin Beer

ISBN 9780674205079

Publication date: 01/01/1992

What do such words as “information,” “displacement,” and “courtship” mean to the growing ranks of ethologists who study animal behavior? Like all sciences, ethology has accumulated its own set of concepts and terms, taken from everyday language, borrowed from neighboring disciplines, or coined especially to describe novel ideas and phenomena. Klaus Immelmann and Colin Beer have responded to the acute need for an authoritative dictionary of ethology with this valuable guide to the world of animal behavior.

The authors present a balance of historical, enduring, and current terminology, providing clear and concise definitions of the terms central to ethological writing. They give special treatment to terms from related disciplines, particularly evolutionary biology, physiology, ecology, and sociobiology, and to controversial concepts such as “instinct,” “motivation,” and “imprinting.” For words like these, the authors take pains to explain the nature of the problem, to distinguish differences of meaning, and to chart the range of application. A preponderance of terms relate to the behavior of higher vertebrates, especially mammals and birds, since these animals supply a high proportion of ethology’s basic ideas and technical concepts.

Representing the culmination of two decades of assiduous scholarship, this book will be immensely useful to neophyte and professional alike.


  • A helpful guide to the often confusing lexicon of ethology. Words such as ‘instinct,’ ‘territory,’ and ‘courtship’ have very specialized meanings in ethology, often very different from common usage… Immelmann’s dictionary is highly recommended for all college and university libraries and for large public libraries.



  • Klaus Immelmann was Professor of Biology, Universität Bielefeld, Germany.
  • Colin Beer is Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press