Flickr: Maarit Lundbäck

The Difference Between Crayfish, Crawfish and Crawdads

Can't we all just agree on this one? Depending on where you live now or where you grew up, you might call crayfish that, or call them crawfish, or call them crawdads. But is there actually a difference between crayfish vs. crawfish vs. crawdads? Let's take a deep dive into this question and answer it once and for all.

What Are Crayfish?

Spicy Crawfish Boiling in a Stock Pot in Louisiana

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Crayfish, according to Wikipedia, are freshwater crustaceans that look rather like little lobsters. "They breathe through feather-like gills," the site notes. As for where they live before they're harvested, "some species are found in brooks and streams, where fresh water is running, while others thrive in swamps, ditches, and paddy fields." The name itself comes from the Old French word, escrevisse, and the study of crayfish is called astacology.

What's the Difference Between Crayfish, Crawfish and Crawdads?

Wanna know something kinda frustrating? There actually isn't a difference between those critters.

"Crawfish, crayfish, and crawdads are the same animal," Grammarly reports. "Which term you use may depend much on where you live."

That's right: it all comes down to which part of North America, and even what part of the world, you live in. "Crayfish" is more commonly heard up north, and "crawdad" is the term used more often in central and southwestern regions, particularly on the West Coast or in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Meanwhile, "crawfish" is the term that's favored in the south, in places like Louisiana.

There are even more terms for the same crustaceans, too. Craydids, crawdaddies, freshwater lobsters, mountain lobsters, mudbugs, and yabbies are all names for the same thing in different parts of the world.

Do People Cook Them?

Crawfish boil or feed outside a restaurant in a northwest city

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Yes! These "small lobsters," or Louisiana crawfish, or whatever you wanna call them, are used in soups and other dishes, particularly in Cajun cooking, and crawfish boils are a whole event unto themselves.

The Bayou delicacy is enjoyed in places like New Orleans and places nearby especially, which makes sense because Louisiana supplies most of the freshwater crayfish in the United States. In fact, over 300 species of crayfish are found in southeastern North America, Wikipedia notes.

This shellfish can be used in all sorts of dishes, from pasta to salads and so much more. We're guessing that during crawfish season, there are a lot of menus that are full of crawdad delicacies!

What do you call these little creatures?