Formerly included in the subfamily Acinonychinae which is a monophyletic group, molecular evidence now clusters the cheetah with the Puma concolor and Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) in the tribe Acinonychini, diverging some 6.9 million years ago. The English name is derived from the Hindi chita, meaning spotted one, while the generic Acinonyx is a reference to its semi-retractile claws.

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