According to the Wikiepedia article on Deinonychus,

Deinonychus were featured prominently in the 1990 and 1995 novels Jurassic Park and The Lost World by Michael Crichton and the film adaptations, directed by Steven Spielberg. However, Crichton and Spielberg ultimately chose to use the name Velociraptor for these dinosaurs, rather than Deinonychus. Crichton had met with John Ostrom several times during the writing process to discuss details of the possible range of behaviors and life appearance of Deinonychus. Crichton at one point apologetically told Ostrom that he had decided to use the name Velociraptor in place of Deinonychus for his book, because he felt the former name was "more dramatic".

The world of Jurassic Park is filled with prominent, respected and intelligent paleontologists, botanists, geneticists and historians. Yet despite all of this, they all call the tall scary dinosaurs Velociraptor, instead of Deinonychus, as they are known in the real world.

In Jurassic World, this is sort of addressed when Claire says of Indominous rex:

"We needed something scary and easy to pronounce. You should hear a four year old try to say 'Archaeornithomimus'."

Out-of-universe, Deinonychus was chosen because it looks scary, and the name "Velociraptor" was chosen because it sounds scary. But both of these creatures exist in the real world — the latter being much like an angry naked chicken.

In-universe however, has there ever been an explanation for the name swap?

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    This article mentions that part of the out-of-universe answer is that Crichton was a fan of the book Predatory Dinosaurs of the World, whose author, the well-respected dinosaur illustrator Gregory S. Paul, suggested that Deinonychus should be reclassified as a sub-species of Velociraptor. I guess we could imagine Paul's suggestion caught on with paleontologists in the universe of Jurassic Park.
    – Hypnosifl
    Oct 21, 2015 at 1:42
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    They were so competent they couldn't even correctly spell the name of the world's most famous dinosaur in their own laboratory. jurassicpark.wikia.com/wiki/Cold_Storage_Room Oct 21, 2015 at 1:42
  • You answered your own question. Suggested title edit: In-universe reason why the Deinonychus are called Velociraptors. Also, this question would make a good link for "angry naked chicken".
    – Mazura
    Oct 21, 2015 at 3:39
  • Deinonychus and Velociraptor are different species, though they fall under the same family of Dromaeosauridae. In reality they look slightly different from how they are portrayed in the movie. They both are feathered and have talon like claws with Deinonychus being larger of the two. I assume that the choice of name in the universe is because of ease of pronunciation and "scary-sounding"-ness.
    Oct 21, 2015 at 10:10
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    @Jon of All Trades - The reason I didn't post it as an answer is that Lego Stormtroopr seems to be looking for an in-universe answer, my comment was mainly about the out-of-universe reason, I did offer the idea that a reader could imagine that Gregory S. Paul's suggestion was accepted by paleontologists in the alternate universe of Jurassic Park, but I don't think Paul is actually mentioned anywhere in the books, so it's more of a fanfiction/personal headcanon thing.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jan 26, 2016 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


I think that you have already answered your own question. It is clear that, both, the film-makers and Crichton wanted a perfect mash-up of scary dinosaur AND scary-sounding name. So, they decided to go with Deinonychus as the 'model' and Velociraptor as the name.

As for any explanation of the name swap 'in-universe', there is none. But, there also does not have to BE one.

When you are asking for an explanation for the name swap 'in-universe', you are assuming that there WAS a name swap 'in-universe'. What you are overlooking is the 'in-universe' part.

In this particular 'universe', Deinonychus is called Velociraptor. Therefore, there IS no 'name swap'. The only explanation for the swap needs to occur out-of-universe... And you have already found that explanation.


Another possible explanation is that the Velociraptor in the Jurassic Park movies was actually portraying the Utahraptor, which more closely matches the size and dimensions of Jurassic Park's raptors.

In-universe, the park used reptile DNA to replace some portions of the missing dinosaur DNA. This caused the park dinosaurs to have more reptilian characteristics and was a noted concern for the staff. So, they might have started with "Velociraptor" DNA but the replacement DNA resulted in a hybrid animal which looked different than what we would expect a "pure" Velociprator to look like.

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    Do you have a source for this? Or is it headcanon?
    – amflare
    Dec 12, 2017 at 20:43
  • This doesn't fit with the size of the skeleton fossil found by Alan Grant & co at the start of Jurassic Park, referred to as a velociraptor.
    – Mwr247
    Dec 12, 2017 at 21:20
  • keep in mind utahraptor had not been discovered yet when the books and movie were made, so they were fictitious in size, both of the other animals are significantly smaller.
    – John
    Apr 8, 2018 at 14:18
  • @John Actually, the first specimens of Utahraptor were discovered back in 1975, and only received proper attention when someone dug up a large foot-claw in late 1991, just a year after the JP novel and 2 years before the movie was released. The genus was only described and named in June 1993, just around the time the movie's theatrical debut.
    – MarqFJA87
    Oct 8, 2018 at 1:02

I would suggest you to check out who skulls of Velociraptor and Deinonychus and compere them to skulls of Velociraptors in the movie. It is clear that Velociraptors in the movie look much more like Velociraptors in real world, just bit overgrown. Why did it came to name switching we can not be sure but as you said yourself Velociraptor sound more scary and since nether Velociraptor or Deinonychus are big as raptors in JP we can only come to conclusion that Spielberg decided to use Velociraptor and just make them bigger than they are. I will completely ignore the fact that both Velociraptor and Deinonychus had feathers but in time of making book and first movie science community was sure they looked like there are depicted in movie.

  • Spielberg has explicitly stated he made them bigger becasue they were not scary enough and becasue they kept getting confused with dilophosaurus (which are oddly too small). And scientists were not "sure" they were naked there was actually a lot of debate, the debate largely ended with further discoveries.
    – John
    Apr 8, 2018 at 14:23

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