What Is the Difference Between Crawdads & Crawfish?

Crayfish are a common element of cajun cuisine.
Crayfish are a common element of cajun cuisine. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Crawdads, crawfish, crayfish, yuppies and mudbugs are all names for the same creature, which scientists agreed should be officially called "crayfish." These animals are technically shellfish, although they may be found far into landlocked areas. They burrow underground in muddy holes and resemble small lobsters. Many locales in the United States feature crayfish, with their sweet taste and soft texture.

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Crayfish are part of the Arthropoda phylum, which they share with other crustaceans, centipedes, insects, millipedes, scorpions and spiders. They are part of the Decapoda order, and their sub-order is Pleocyemata. These are the scientific classifications for the crustacean. Both "crawdad" and "crawfish" are among the many common names for the animal, and it is important to note there is no official common name. "Crayfish" is the most widely used term, but only the scientific classifications are official.


Some believe the terms "crawdad" and "crawfish" originate from the French word, "escrevisse," which refers to the verb "to crawl." Others believe the terms originate from the Anglo Saxon word "crevik," which has a similar meaning. While historians and scientists are unclear as to where the suffix "dad" originated, many believe the suffix "fish" came from those who first believed crayfish to be from the water, as is the case with lobsters and other crustaceans.

Regional Differences

Ordercrawfishalive.com recently conducted a study in which it examined the terminology used to refer to crayfish in various areas of the country. The study concluded the official term, "crayfish," is used primarily on the East Coast and Northeast regions. The word "crawfish" is predominate in the South, and "crawdad" is used by those in landlocked areas in the eastern United States and Midwest. Overall, "crawfish" is the most common term used to describe crayfish (38 percent).

Locations and Appearance

Crayfish can be found all over the world, and there are more than 500 species in North America alone. Crayfish may also be found in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Most crayfish need freshwater locations to survive, although some may be found in saltwater areas. They are typically brown and green, with two small claws and a long thorax. Crayfish are typically about 7.5 centimeters long.


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