Compared to other wild cats, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but generally has a smaller, lighter physique. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard's rosettes are generally smaller, more densely packed and without central spots. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic are known as black panthers. The leopard is distinguished by its well-camouflaged fur, opportunistic hunting behaviour, broad diet, and strength (which it uses to move heavy carcasses into trees), as well as its ability to adapt to various habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe, including arid and montane areas, and its ability to run at speeds of up to 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph).
The common name "leopard" (d/) is a Greekcompound of λέωνleōn ("lion") and πάρδοςpardos ("male panther"). The name reflects the fact that in antiquity, a leopard was believed to be a hybrid of a lion and a panther. The Greek word is related to Sanskritपृदाकुpṛdāku ("snake", "tiger" or "panther"), and probably derives from a Mediterranean language, such as Egyptian. The name was first used in the 13th century. Other vernacular names for the leopard include graupanther, panther and several regional names such as tendwa in India. The term "black panther" refers to leopards with melanisticgenes. A term for the leopard used in Old English and later, but now very uncommon, is "pard".
The scientific name of the leopard is Panthera pardus. The generic namePanthera derives from Latin via Greek πάνθηρ (pánthēr). The term "panther", whose first recorded use dates back to the 13th century AD, generally refers to the leopard, and less often to the cougar and the jaguar. Alternative origins suggested for Panthera include an Indo-Iranian word meaning "white-yellow" or "pale". In Sanskrit, this could have been derived from पाण्डर pāṇḍara ("tiger"), which in turn comes from पुण्डरीक puṇḍárīka (with the same meaning). The specific namepardus is derived from the Greek πάρδος (pardos) ("male panther").