The term game arises in medieval hunting terminology by the late 13th century and is particular to English, from the generic meaning of Old English gamen (Germanic *gamanan) "joy, amusement, sport, merriment".
Quarry in the generic meaning is early modern (first recorded 1610), in the more specific sense "bird targeted in falconry" late 14th and 15th centuries as quirre "entrails of deer placed on the hide and given to the hunting-dogs as a reward", from Old French cuiriee "spoil, quarry" (ultimately Latin corium "hide"), but influenced by corée "viscera, entrails" (Late Latin *corata "entrails", from cor "heart").
Unlike many commercial meat products, the meat from wild animals (especially herbivores), when prepared correctly, is very healthy and nutrient-dense. This is primarily due to the animal's natural diet and healthy lifestyle. It can be virtually assured that the animal was never bred or raised in unsanitary conditions, fed a diet of grain, confined to a cage, or injected with any artificial hormones. On the other hand, the act of killing the animal for its meat is more apparent and can only be done within reasonable regulations to ensure continuity of the animal species and its meat resource.
Small game includes small animals, such as rabbits, pheasants, geese or ducks. Large game includes animals like deer, moose, and bear. Big game is a term sometimes used interchangeably with large game although in other contexts it refers to large, typically African, mammals (specifically "big five game" or "dangerous game") which are hunted mainly for trophies in safaris.
The type and range of animals hunted for food varies in different parts of the world. This is influenced by climate, animal diversity, local taste and locally accepted views about what can or cannot be legitimately hunted. Sometimes a distinction is also made between varieties and species of a particular animal, such as wild turkey and domestic turkey. Fish caught for sport are referred to as game fish. The flesh of the animal, when butchered for consumption is often described as having a "gamey" flavour. This difference in taste can be attributed to the wild diet of the animal, which usually results in a lower fat content compared to domestic farm raised animals.
In some countries, game is classified, including legal classification with respect to licences required, as either "small game" or "large game". A single small game licence may cover all small game species and be subject to yearly bag limits. Large game are often subject to individual licensing where a separate licence is required for each individual animal taken (tags).