Definition of animal in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈanɪm(ə)l/


1A living organism which feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli: wild animals adapt badly to a caged life humans are the only animals who weep
More example sentences
  • There are all sorts of ways in which an animal can organise a response when faced with a particular situation.
  • These animals are herbivores, specializing on the flowers of creosote bushes.
  • Rabies affects the central nervous system of animals and causes behavioral changes.
1.1Any such living organism other than a human being: are humans superior to animals, or just different?
More example sentences
  • The animals must also be fed an organic diet and be allowed to roam freely.
  • Let's remind ourselves how BSE came about: because farmers fed animals to animals.
  • We rest the herd near camp on a large area of tundra where the animals can feed.
creature, beast, living thing, being, brute
informal critter
(animals) wildlife, fauna
1.2A mammal, as opposed to a bird, reptile, fish, or insect: the snowfall seemed to have chased all birds, animals, and men indoors
More example sentences
  • Just because the animal, fish, bird or insect doesn't die in front of you, that doesn't mean you are not killing it.
  • Unlike dogs and birds and other advanced animals, fish don't feel pain.
  • This makes redwood lumber companies the guardians of the birds, animals and fish that live on their property.
1.3A person without human attributes or civilizing influences, especially someone who is very cruel, violent, or repulsive: those men have to be animals—what they did to that boy was savage
More example sentences
  • He's just brute strength. You get him into the weight room and he's just an animal. You just walk by and you can sense how powerful he is.
  • "He's just an animal," Schimeck, a defensive end, said. "He's one of the hardest kids I've ever had to tackle. He puts his shoulder down and he'll just run you over."
  • Your unthinking hatred of all things public and your disconnect with history and reality, doom you to the status of a mindless animal.
brute, beast, monster, savage, devil, demon, fiend, villain, sadist, barbarian, ogre
informal swine, bastard, pig
1.4 [with adjective or noun modifier] A particular type of person or thing: I am a political animal property development was a different animal altogether
More example sentences
  • First of all, it's cable - which is a whole different animal from the networks where any little thing will get them going.
  • The licensed trade has evolved into a very different animal.
  • The orchestra is, of course, a very different animal to the part-time Scottish Orchestra formed over 100 years ago.

Animals are generally distinguished from plants by being unable to synthesize organic molecules from inorganic ones, so that they have to feed on plants or on other animals. They are typically able to move about, though this ability is sometimes restricted to a particular stage in the life cycle. The great majority of animals are invertebrates, of which there are some thirty phyla; the vertebrates constitute but a single subphylum. See also higher animals, lower animals.


1Relating to or characteristic of animals: the evolution of animal life animal welfare
More example sentences
  • These masks combine avian and marine animal characteristics with the tusks and horns of land animals.
  • Teams of police and wildlife agents are training to shut down markets and curbside animal vendors.
  • Jellyfish belong to one of the oldest extant animal phyla, the Cnidaria.
1.1Of animals as distinct from plants: tissues of animal and vegetable protein
More example sentences
  • The rubble scattered over much of the area makes it an ideal home for plant and animal species that would more normally be found in broken coastal areas.
  • Since most pesticides are not biodegradable, once they enter the food chain they persist in plant or animal bodies.
  • We added copper, cobalt, selenium, molybdenum, etc to the deficient soils and transformed the plant and animal health.
zoological, animalistic
rare zoic, theriomorphic
1.2Characteristic of the physical and instinctive needs of animals; of the flesh rather than the spirit or intellect: a crude surrender to animal lust
More example sentences
  • The meaning of human life would be reduced to the physical, base animal instincts, trapped within the contours of the body.
  • Can the legend be explained by animal instinct and natural intelligence alone, or did a true friendship develop between these two hunters of the sea?
  • Christopher crumples to the ground, groans, expressing emotions in a physical, almost animal way, that most of us are incapable of.
carnal, fleshly, bodily, physical, sensual;
instinctive, instinctual;
brutish, unrefined, uncultured, coarse, gross, inhuman, subhuman
rare appetitive
2 Biology Relating to or denoting the pole or extremity of an embryo that contains the more active cytoplasm in the early stages of development. The opposite of vegetal.
Example sentences
  • In a similar fashion, the final stage of animal cytokinesis is based on de novo formation of the plasma membrane via the interdigitating microtubules known as the midbody.
  • Morphogenesis in animal embryos can also involve extensive cell migration.
  • The implantation into a human being of an animal gamete or embryo is banned.


Middle English: the noun from Latin animal, based on Latin animalis 'having breath' from anima 'breath'; the adjective via Old French from Latin animalis.

  • Animals are so called simply because they breathe. The word, used as an adjective in English before the noun became established, originally described any living being, as opposed to something inanimate. Its source is the Latin word animalis, ‘having the breath of life’, from anima ‘air, breath, life’. As a noun, the word was hardly used in England before the end of the 16th century—the older beast (Middle English) from Latin besta was the usual term—and does not appear in the King James Bible of 1611. Animate (Late Middle English) is also from anima. See also mesmerize

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ani¦mal

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