Groundhog vs. Woodchuck – what’s the difference? Every early February, with Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil in the news, this question is a common head-scratcher.
Groundhog Vs. Woodchuck | What’s the Difference?
So what IS the difference between a groundhog and a woodchuck? Taxonomically, there is none; both names refer to a burrowing rodent of the marmot family, Marmota monax
. In New England, however — where residents can count on at least six more weeks of winter after February 2, no matter what some groundhog in Punxsutawney, thinks — the term woodchuck
has always held sway. First recorded in 1674, the word is simply an English pronunciation of the animal’s Algonquin name, wejack
“Woodchuck” also serves as a nickname for any native-born resident of a backwoods area, although caution is advised in applying it to people whom one does not know well.
What do you call it?
Excerpt from “The New England Sampler,”
Yankee Magazine, February 1996.This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.