At dinner last night, there was a bit of a discussion about what exactly a “panther” was. Obviously, it’s a large cat. Some insisted that it was a large black cat in the leopard family (Panthera pardus), while I was pretty sure it was one of the many synonyms for mountain lion (Felis concolor, aka cougar, puma, painter, catamount). Turns out we were both right. According to the dictionary, a panther is either a “leopard, especially in its black unspotted form,” or a mountain lion. The latter definition is specific to American usage, as the mountain lion is a North American wildcat.
I even found several references to a third definition, which indicates panther can be used to describe the large spotted cat Panthera onca. A quick search shows that Panthera onca is more commonly known as the jaguar.
So, yes, this means that the past few Mac OS X releases can all be legitimately referred to as “panther.” But since I can find no reference to panther being used for Panthera tigris (tiger), I’m going to hope it’s a fluke.