[ an-uh-muhl ]
/ ˈæn ə məl /
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See synonyms for: animal / animals on Thesaurus.com

of, relating to, or derived from animals: animal instincts; animal fats.
pertaining to the physical, sensual, or carnal nature of humans, rather than their spiritual or intellectual nature: animal needs.
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Origin of animal

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English (from Old French ), from Latin, noun derivative (with loss of final vowel and shortening of ā) of animāle, neuter of animālis “living, animate,” equivalent to anim(a) “air, breath” + -ālis; English adjective also directly from Latin animālis; see -al1;

synonym study for animal

2. Animal, beast, brute refer to sentient creatures as distinct from minerals and plants; figuratively, they usually connote qualities and characteristics below the human level. Animal is the general word; figuratively, it applies merely to the body or to animal-like characteristics: An athlete is a magnificent animal. Beast refers to four-footed animals; figuratively, it suggests a base, sensual nature: A glutton is a beast. Brute implies absence of ability to reason; figuratively, it connotes savagery as well: a drunken brute. 8. See carnal.


an·i·mal·ic [an-uh-mal-ik], /ˌæn əˈmæl ɪk/, an·i·ma·li·an [an-uh-mey-lee-uhn, -meyl-yuhn], /ˌæn əˈmeɪ li ən, -ˈmeɪl yən/, adjectivenon·an·i·mal, noun, adjectivesem·i·an·i·mal, noun, adjectivesu·per·an·i·mal, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does animal mean?

In the field of science, an animal is a living thing that meets specific requirements:

  • It is made up of more than one cell.
  • It has a well-defined shape and limited growth.
  • It can move voluntarily.
  • It can get its own food and digest it within itself.
  • It has sensory and nervous systems that allow it to react to its environment.

This definition includes human beings. Outside of scientific usage, animal is used in several ways.

Most commonly, an animal is a living being that meets the above requirements but is not a human being.

An animal can be just a mammal, that is, an animal that has fur, gives birth, and produces milk. A dog is a mammal, for example, while a fish is not.

Animal is also used to describe something that is related to or comes from an animal, such as animal fats (fats that come from an animal) or animal behavior, which is often separate from human behavior.

Example: Scientists have discovered a new group of animals that live in the extreme depths of the Great Barrier Reef.

Where does animal come from?

The first records of the term animal come from the 1300s. It ultimately comes from the Latin animālis, meaning “living,” or “animate.” All animals are living things.

While scientists use animal to mean something very specific, in everyday speech, animal is used much more broadly. When someone acts rude, brutish, or even cruel, they might be described as acting like an animal, even though animals don’t do things with the intention to be mean to another animal. People also use the term animal to refer to anything that is very different from something else, as in I like cooking dinner, but cleaning up is a completely different animal.

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What are some other forms related to animal?

What are some synonyms for animal?

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What are some words that often get used in discussing animal?

How is animal used in real life?

Animal is used in many different contexts, especially in the scientific fields. When used casually, it is primarily used to describe creatures, such as pets, or to describe human’s nature in a negative context.



Try using animal!

Which of the following is NOT a synonym for animal?

A. boulder
B. beast
C. creature
D. pet

How to use animal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for animal

/ (ˈænɪməl) /

of, relating to, or derived from animalsanimal products; an animal characteristic
of or relating to the physical needs or desires; carnal; sensual

Word Origin for animal

C14: from Latin animal (n), from animālis (adj) living, breathing; see anima
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Scientific definitions for animal

[ ănə-məl ]

Any of the multicellular organisms belonging to the kingdom Animalia. All animals are eukaryotes, with each of their cells having a nucleus containing DNA. Most animals develop from a blastula and have a digestive tract, nervous system, the ability to move voluntarily, and specialized sensory organs for recognizing and responding to stimuli in the environment. Animals are heterotrophs, feeding on plants, other animals, or organic matter. The first animals probably evolved from protists and appeared during the Precambrian Era.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.