Wildlife encounters are often more common in the summertime. Whether you’re on a trip to the local zoo, visiting an aquarium in a new city, or heading outside for a hike or day at the beach, you’re likely to encounter insects and animals who are enjoying the great outdoors as much as you do. For word lovers and parents of school-aged kids alike, these chance encounters can be a great opportunity to learn and practice some cool new animal vocabulary!
You’re probably already familiar with some of the more “fancy” names for our animal friends. We’re talking about words like canine, feline, equine, or bovine—Latinate terms for dogs, cats, horses, and cows. In these words, the name for each animal is paired with the Latin suffix -ine, meaning “of or pertaining to; of the nature of; made of; like.”
There are many more cool examples of this type of word formation that may surprise and delight you, including some with an interesting metaphorical meaning as well. Let’s learn what they are and check out a Dictionary.com word list you can use to keep track of your new terms, quiz yourself, test your spelling, and more.
20 surprising animal adjectives to learn
To give you an example of the kinds of animal words we’re talking about, here are three sneak peeks from our word list with some unexpected hidden meanings.
Vulpine means “resembling a fox,” and it comes from Latin word for fox, vulpes. However, this isn’t the only accepted usage of the term. Foxes are known for their craftiness, so this word can also be used to describe a person who is cunning and crafty.
Let’s use both forms in a sentence:
- The mouse ran away from the vulpine predator.
- Her vulpine wit kept her a step ahead of everyone else in class.
Asinine is commonly used to mean “foolish, unintelligent, or silly,” but its literal meaning may surprise you. It’s based on the Latin asinus, meaning “donkey” or, you know, that other word for donkey. Yes, someone who’s behaving in an asinine way is literally acting like that beast of burden, which has a reputation for being stubborn. Sorry, Eeyore!
Here are some practice sentences for each sense:
- We were frustrated by her asinine stubbornness.
- The brilliant scientist made a surprisingly asinine remark.
Anserine is our last term to check out before you head off on your own word safari. It literally means “resembling a goose or gooselike,” but you can also use it to describe the silly goose in your life. Another definition of anserine is “stupid; foolish; silly.” Anserine comes from the Latin anser, meaning “goose.”
Here’s to use each sense in a sentence:
- The anserine behavior of the kids at the next table ruined our otherwise quiet dinner.
- We saw a great number of anserine species at the lake.
Can you guess what animals these adjectives refer to?
Now, it’s time for our big adventure. Here, you’ll find 20 unique and surprising wildlife words to take with you next time you head outside.
Read through each word and try to guess what animal it refers to. You can click on the word itself to be taken to the definition, learn how it’s pronounced, get example sentences, and see where the word originated. Ready? Here we go!
- They travel in packs: lupine
- When you spot someone tricky in the forest: vulpine
- Bald is one variety: aquiline
- For the king of the jungle: leonine
- When something slithers past: serpentine
- Smokey or Winnie the Pooh: ursine
- It may be a farm animal or a fool: asinine
- When there’s something squeaking in the wall: murine
- A group of them is called a murder: corvine
- You can find them on mountains, meadows, and farms: caprine
- A winged creature, or a silly one: anserine
- You find them at the beach or in astrology: cancrine
- They’re at home in the oceans, lakes, and rivers: piscine
- No, it’s not a porcupine: porcine
- They’re known for their feathers: pavonine
- The hunt from the sky: accipitrine
- They look good in stripes: zebroid
- You can find them near the watering hole: bubaline
- Be careful because they sting: vespine
- They prefer to hop: ranine
How well do you know these words? Take the quiz!
Now that you know the words, are you ready to see what you’ve learned? Take our free quiz to test your wildlife word knowledge and see how many of these terms you’ve already committed to memory.
Other ways to use these animal terms
The fun doesn’t have to stop here. There are a bunch of ways to use these words to inspire your creativity, create more opportunities to learn, and build fun educational activities for any young learners you know.
- Turn them into a scavenger hunt! Take our word list to the zoo, and see how many you can find.
- Review our digital flashcards, then see if you can ace this spelling test.
- Study an Animal Of The Week. Pick a word, and use that as a launching point for an in-depth investigation into each animal’s habitat, lifestyle, and unique characteristics.
- Practice spelling the words with sidewalk chalk or Scrabble tiles.
- Use our Grammar Coach™ writing tool to draft a short story about an animal adventure. How many of the words can you include?