When discovered in 1821, the red panda was the first species to be named “panda,” yet the origin of the name is unknown.
The common name “panda” was applied to the red panda when it was first presented to the western scientific community in 1821. Ailuropoda was designated the “giant” panda after its discovery in 1869 because of some affinities to Ailurus; subsequently the latter was relegated to “lesser” panda. The designation “red” panda is preferred in view of the chronological seniority of Ailurus in the scientific literature and the more accurate description given by this term.
Native names applied to the red panda include lesser panda, fire fox, bear cat, wah, ye, nigalya ponya, thokya, woker, sankam, and wokdonka. The origin of the name “panda” is unknown.