Prawn is a common name, used particularly in Britain and Commonwealth nations, for large swimming crustaceans or shrimp, especially those with commercial significance in the seafood industry. Shrimp that fall in this category often belong to the suborder Dendrobranchiata. In North America, the term is used less frequently, typically for freshwater shrimp.
In the United Kingdom prawn is more common on menus than shrimp, while the opposite is the case in the United States. The term prawn also loosely describes any large shrimp, especially those that come 15 (or fewer) to the pound (such as king prawns or jumbo shrimp).
Shrimp versus prawn
Shrimp and prawn are common names without the formal definition that scientific terms provide. They are terms of convenience with little circumscriptional significance, and don't represent actual taxa.
According to the crustacean taxonomist Tin-Yam Chan, "The terms shrimp and prawn have no definite reference to any known taxonomic groups. Although the term shrimp is sometimes applied to smaller species, while prawn is more often used for larger forms, there is no clear distinction between both terms and their usage is often confused or even reverse in different countries or regions."
A lot of confusion surrounds the scope of the term shrimp. Part of the confusion originates with the association of smallness. That creates problems with shrimp-like species that are not small. The expression "jumbo shrimp" can be viewed as an oxymoron, a problem that doesn't exist with the commercial designation "jumbo prawns".
The term shrimp originated around the 14th century with the Middle English shrimpe, akin to the Middle Low German schrempen, and meaning to contract or wrinkle; and the Old Norse skorpna, meaning to shrivel up. It is not clear where the term prawn originated, but early forms of the word surfaced in England in the early 15th century as prayne, praine and prane. According to the linguist Anatoly Liberman it is unclear how shrimp, in English, came to be associated with small. "No Germanic language associates the shrimp with its size... The same holds for Romance... it remains unclear in what circumstances the name was applied to the crustacean."
The terms shrimp and prawn originated in Great Britain. Shrimp is applied to smaller species, particularly species that are dorsoventrally depressed (wider than deep) with a shorter rostrum. It is the only term used for species in the family Crangonidae, such as the common shrimp or brown shrimp, Crangon crangon. Prawn is never applied to very small species. It is applied to most of the larger forms, particularly species that are laterally compressed (deeper than wide) and have a long rostrum. However, the terms are not used consistently. For example, some authors refer to Pandalus montagui as an Aesop shrimp while others refer to it as an Aesop prawn.
British Commonwealth countries tend to follow British usage. There are some exceptions in Australia where some authors refer to small species of Palaemonidae as prawns and call Alpheidae pistol shrimp. Other Australian authors have given the name banded coral shrimp to the prawn-like Stenopus hispidus and listed "the Processidae and Atyidae as shrimps, the Hippolytidae, Alpheidae, Pandalidae and Campylonotoidea as prawns". New Zealand broadly follows British usage. A rule of thumb given by some New Zealand authors states; "In common usage, shrimp are small, some three inches or less in length, taken for food by netting, usually from shallow water. Prawn are larger, up to twelve inches long, taken by trapping and trawling." South Africa and the former British colonies in Asia also seem to generally follow British usage.
In the United States the term shrimp is used for almost all species. Prawn is less commonly used. Shrimp is the more general term, both in Britain and in North America, but most particularly in the United States. In the United States, the term prawn applies especially to larger shrimps and those that live in freshwater.
- Mortenson, Philip B (2010) This is not a weasel: a close look at nature's most confusing terms Pages 106–109, John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780471273967.
- Chan, T. Y. (1998) Shrimps and prawns In K. E. Carpenter & V. H. Niem. The living marine resources of the western central Pacific. FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. Rome, FAO.
- Blumenfeld, Warren S. (1986) Jumbo shrimp & other almost perfect oxymorons Putnam. ISBN 9780399513060.
- "Shrimp". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- prawnOnline Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- Prawn Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- Liberman, Anatoly (2012) After ‘shrimp’ comes ‘prawn’ Oxford University Press's Blog, 16 May 2012.
- Liberman, Anatoly (2012) A scrumptious shrimp with a riddle Oxford University Press's Blog, 18 April 2012.
- Holthuis, L. B. (1980) Shrimps and prawns of the world Volume I of the FAO species catalogue, Fisheries Synopsis No.125, Rome. ISBN 92-5-100896-5.
- Richardson LR and Yaldwyn JC (1958) A Guide to the Natant Decapod Crustacea (Shrimps and Prawns) of New Zealand Tuatara, 7 (1).
- "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition". Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Bauer, Raymond T. (2004) "Remarkable Shrimps: Adaptations and Natural History of the Carideans" University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806135557.
- De Grave, S., Cai, Y. & Anker, A. (2008) "Global diversity of shrimps (Crustacea: Decapoda: Caridea) in freshwater" Hydrobiologia, 595 : 287–293. doi:10.1007/s10750-007-9024-2
- R. Gillett (2008). Global Study of Shrimp Fisheries. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization. ISBN 978-92-5-106053-7. Fisheries Technical Paper 475.
- Fransen, C. H. J. M. & De Grave, S. (2009) "Evolution and radiation of shrimp-like decapods: an overview" In: Martin J.W., Crandall K.A., Felder D.L. (eds.), Decapod Crustacean Phylogenetics. CRC Press, pp. 246–259.
- Holthuis, L. B. (1980) Shrimps and prawns of the world Volume I of the FAO species catalogue, Fisheries synopsis 125, Rome. ISBN 92-5-100896-5.
- Kaplan, Eugene H. (2010) Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691125602.
- Meyer, R., Lochner, S. & Melzer, R. R. (2009) Decapoda – Crabs, Shrimps & Lobsters pp. 623–670 In: Häussermann, V. and Förster, G. (eds) Marine Benthic Fauna of Chilean Patagonia: Illustrated Identification Guide, Nature in Focus. ISBN 9789563322446.
- Poore, Gary (2004) Marine Decapod Crustacea of Southern Australia: A Guide to Identification Csiro Publishing. ISBN 9780643099258.
- Fearnley-Whittingstall, H. & Fisher, N. (2007) The River Cottage Fish Book Page 541–543, Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9780747588696.
- Roberts, Callum (2009) The unnatural history of the sea Island Press. ISBN 9781597265775.
- Rudloe, Jack and Rudloe, Anne (2009) Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold FT Press. ISBN 9780137009725.
- Ruppert, E. E., Fox, R. S. & Barnes, R. D. (2004) Invertebrate zoology: A functional evolutionary approach 7th edition, Thomson-Brooks/Cole. ISBN 9780030259821.
- Frederick Schram (1986). The Crustacea. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-90-04-12918-4.
- Media related to Dendrobranchiata at Wikimedia Commons
- Media related to Caridea at Wikimedia Commons