Definition of animal in English:



  • 1A living organism that 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’
    • ‘The examples discussed, which are myriad, cover a wide set of invertebrate and vertebrate animals.’
    • ‘Most animals, birds and fish especially, don't have much worth saying.’
    • ‘These animals are herbivores, specializing on the flowers of creosote bushes.’
    • ‘For example, some species may be attracted to human blood while others may feed only on the blood of wild or domestic animals.’
    • ‘It was probably a bipedal animal, probably predatory, and probably the size of a large dog.’
    • ‘Although it is well known that many small animals can feed on large ones, such predator-prey interaction is rare.’
    • ‘Predators use scent to locate their prey, and prey animals often alter their behavior in response to predation risk.’
    • ‘Pets will also be able to chase away wild animals such as rabbits, gophers, and mice.’
    • ‘There are all sorts of ways in which an animal can organise a response when faced with a particular situation.’
    • ‘They're also conduits of life, breeding grounds for small marine animals and feed areas for larger ones.’
    • ‘The artist also tried his luck with another subject, natural life prints, showing animals like birds, fish and cats.’
    • ‘When the carrier insect feeds on a warm-blooded animal, the eggs hatch and the larva penetrates the skin.’
    • ‘This is somewhat like trying to regularly feed wild animals; one can never be sure when or how much interaction will result.’
    • ‘Rabies affects the central nervous system of animals and causes behavioral changes.’
    • ‘A critical specialization in the locomotor spectrum for aquatic animals is buoyancy.’
    • ‘Anhydrobiosis is a state of suspended animation certain invertebrate animals enter in response to severe drought.’
    • ‘The female mosquitoes become the bloodsuckers, and they use their long proboscis to bite other animals and feed on their blood.’
    • ‘Evolution had the same idea when it came up with a nervous system that allowed animals to learn.’
    • ‘The phenomenon of helping in cooperative breeding animals has stimulated a great deal of research.’
    • ‘This would seem to be the optimal size of giant predatory marine animals.’
    beast, brute
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    1. 1.1 An animal as opposed to a human being.
      ‘are humans superior to animals, or just different?’
      • ‘Gamekeepers are legally able to kill animals such as foxes that feed on grouse, but they cannot disturb or kill protected species such as goshawks.’
      • ‘The subjects of all the photographs he chose were animals: birds, dogs, horses and more unusual species.’
      • ‘In fact, we are told that God originally created animals and human beings to be herbivorous.’
      • ‘Thousands of wild and domestic animals have been killed in an attempt to control the disease.’
      • ‘Let's remind ourselves how BSE came about: because farmers fed animals to animals.’
      • ‘Mosquitoes transmit a number of diseases to human beings and domestic animals.’
      • ‘Generally, more hypsodont animals tend to feed on grasses and live in open habitats.’
      • ‘The animals must also be fed an organic diet and be allowed to roam freely.’
      • ‘Many other animals have sense organs that can detect stimuli beyond the confines of the human senses.’
      • ‘They want to interact - to touch, pat and feed these wild animals almost as if they were pets.’
      • ‘No one believes that animals are in an equal position with human beings and animals are regarded as a source of food for humans.’
      • ‘We rest the herd near camp on a large area of tundra where the animals can feed.’
      • ‘Rangers believe the attacks were not carried out by wild animals but by dogs specially trained to bring a deer down and savage its throat.’
      • ‘My instinctive response is that animals are not able either to reason or to explain how they feel about being owned.’
      • ‘His earliest memories are those of thick forests, wild animals and of the riveting images of virgin Nature.’
      • ‘Often laboratories use the same room for both surgery and post-mortems which causes infection to both living animals and humans.’
      • ‘The veterinarian responds to wild animals in trouble, often because of contact with humans.’
      • ‘This disease can be passed from animals to human beings.’
      • ‘Mines around agricultural areas have forced people into the forests to kill wild animals for food.’
      • ‘I know the trees and the landscape and the habits of the wild animals I feed.’
      creature, beast, living thing, being, brute
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    2. 1.2 A mammal, as opposed to a bird, reptile, fish, or insect.
      ‘the snowfall seemed to have chased all birds, animals, and men indoors’
      • ‘The effects of water pollution are not only devastating to people but also to animals, fish and birds.’
      • ‘In the late afternoon there will be time for a nature walk to spot desert animals, birds and insects.’
      • ‘When driving a vehicle and an animal, bird or reptile is seen on the road ahead, it is easy to slow down.’
      • ‘The lack of snow means marine mammals such as seals and polar bears struggle to build dens, while many species of birds, fish and animals have disappeared.’
      • ‘It's always a great pleasure to have him with us and his bevy of birds and reptiles and animals and things.’
      • ‘The listeria germ has been found in many different species of animals, birds, fish and crustaceans.’
      • ‘Their artwork was believed to be very symbolic often being based on nature using images of birds and animals and fish.’
      • ‘Just because the animal, fish, bird or insect doesn't die in front of you, that doesn't mean you are not killing it.’
      • ‘This makes redwood lumber companies the guardians of the birds, animals and fish that live on their property.’
      • ‘But how do the birds, insects and animals that inhabit our countryside perceive their world?’
      • ‘First, they take human form, but from there they descend to birds, then to animals and finally to reptiles.’
      • ‘The birds and other animals, including deer, have moved back, like their human counterparts, to bring up their families.’
      • ‘Unlike dogs and birds and other advanced animals, fish don't feel pain.’
      • ‘Spread over 460 acres, the estate is known to be home to an amazing variety of birds, insects and animals, apart from flora.’
      • ‘Are the culprits birds, animals or insects, and how do I prevent it?’
      • ‘I pay close attention to the animals, birds and insects who seem to require my attention, and I try to refocus/centre myself every day at least once a day.’
      • ‘The new wood will link two other copses to create a two-hectare area and an ideal habitat for birds and animals including badgers and foxes that are rare to the Dales.’
      • ‘She is joined by Tuson and they engage in a routine which calls to mind a variety of animals, fish and birds moving about on the stage.’
      • ‘In addition to campfire cooking, Dad taught us the names of all the trees, animals, reptiles and birds as well as their habits.’
      • ‘Risley Moss in Warrington is the last remnant of a vast swathe of peat bog, providing an ideal habitat for hundreds of birds, animals, insects and plants.’
    3. 1.3 A 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’
      • ‘If Moniz, Jack's best friend and confidant, was begging and pleading with his best friend to slow down and stop driving like a mindless animal.’
      • ‘"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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It still doesn't change the fact that vicious, remorseless murderers are disgusting animals that deserve to rot behind bars.’
      • ‘An AKC representative registered shock when she saw him - said she'd never seen such a repulsive animal.’
      brute, beast, monster, savage, devil, demon, fiend, villain, sadist, barbarian, ogre
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    4. 1.4with adjective or noun modifier A particular type of person or thing.
      ‘I am a political animal’
      ‘property development was a different animal altogether’
      • ‘The licensed trade has evolved into a very different animal.’
      • ‘He is a class animal and the question is whether Rangers have a cage big enough to hold him.’
      • ‘Lemmy is the original rock and roll animal.’
      • ‘I suppose marketing is a stranger animal than art sometimes.’
      • ‘Recorded in Los Angeles last year, this is an intimate, entertaining, and important statement by the now grizzly rock 'n' roll animal.’
      • ‘I realise I may not be a typical radio animal, but I suspect I'm not unique either, so how is it that all of these stations continue to claim me as theirs?’
      • ‘I could also mention her gradual realisation that a mother is a group animal and motherhood erodes independence.’
      • ‘The first examples of an entirely new species of business animal are beginning to appear, after a gestation period that can be measured in years rather than months.’
      • ‘A stage animal by nature, he has also mastered the role's physical challenges, moving with that self-conscious grace large people often cultivate, while adding many fine comic touches to round out Falstaff's mercurial character.’
      • ‘Federal tax rates are an entirely different animal from local taxes.’
      • ‘The orchestra is, of course, a very different animal to the part-time Scottish Orchestra formed over 100 years ago.’
      • ‘And such is the nature of the media animal they only report on the negative side of ShowBiz and not on the numerous good deeds done by celebrities.’
      • ‘The definitive upscale society animal: a baggily handsome, cigar-wielding martini aficionado who only seems to exist in the half-light of wittily conceived, beautifully styled cocktail lounges.’
      • ‘First of all, it's cable - which is a whole different animal from the networks where any little thing will get them going.’
      • ‘The second, more familiar apology excuses him for being only a relativist animal of his times.’
      • ‘Even in recital, Daniels is a stage animal whose singing crackles with drama.’
      • ‘But I have to say, you know, I'm a press animal.’
      • ‘Man is by nature a trading animal.’
      • ‘Maybe I'm not a prose animal; but I do read a fair number of novels and histories.’

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’
    • ‘The marine Cycliophora is the most recently described phylum in the animal kingdom.’
    • ‘Teams of police and wildlife agents are training to shut down markets and curbside animal vendors.’
    • ‘In many animal species males advertise their quality with secondary sexual characteristics.’
    • ‘In doing the Test Your Pet home tests, you're dabbling in the study of animal behaviour.’
    • ‘Arthropods, chordates and annelids are the three segmented phyla in the animal kingdom.’
    • ‘A central question of animal behavior is, how big will a group be?’
    • ‘But no studies have proven that a change in diet works for animal behavioral problems, he said.’
    • ‘Since Aesop mined the animal kingdom for characters, it was only natural that he incorporated plenty of birds in his fables.’
    • ‘Some were from breeders or animal shelters; others were pets that showed an alerting ability.’
    • ‘Except for two small species of bats, there are no native mammals here to prey on or compete with introduced animal pests.’
    • ‘The specific process of apoptosis first appeared with the evolution of metazoan animals and has been well conserved in all animal phyla.’
    • ‘All eusocial animal groups exhibit some form of division of labor.’
    • ‘The initial lining is made of fine grasses and bark, and then a second lining of feathers, wool, or other animal hair is added.’
    • ‘These masks combine avian and marine animal characteristics with the tusks and horns of land animals.’
    • ‘It may provide an alternative methodology aimed at replacing and reducing laboratory animal use and promote animal welfare.’
    • ‘Jellyfish belong to one of the oldest extant animal phyla, the Cnidaria.’
    • ‘More recently, studies have begun to include mating decisions into an integrative optimality approach to animal behavior.’
    • ‘Nematodes make up the second most diverse animal phylum, second only to the arthropods.’
    • ‘Other eusocial animal groups defend themselves with stingers, mandibles, and sharp teeth.’
    • ‘There are three separable conceptions of the extent of the period of the diversification of the animal phyla.’
    1. 1.1 Of animals as distinct from plants.
      ‘tissues of animal and vegetable protein’
      • ‘People have always fashioned their medicines from plant and animal products.’
      • ‘Protein is consumed in what he considers the ideal proportions - half from plant and half from animal sources.’
      • ‘Since most pesticides are not biodegradable, once they enter the food chain they persist in plant or animal bodies.’
      • ‘You can jump in the water right away with an instructor and witness the most astounding underwater plant and animal life in the Caribbean.’
      • ‘Costa Rica boasts six per cent of the world's plant and animal species.’
      • ‘Informative site gives lots of information about plant and animal cells along with colourful pictures of these photogenic little creatures.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This theme is reflected in the Torah, which forbids the mixing of distinct plant and animal species.’
      • ‘Deforestation, injury to and loss of agricultural land, the loss of terrestrial and marine plant and animal species must be halted.’
      • ‘Desert is life-sustaining, supporting diverse plant and animal life through vast underground water sources.’
      • ‘In this context the issue of alien plant and animal species becomes problematic.’
      • ‘Studies show that replacing animal protein with plant protein lowers blood cholesterol levels - even if the amount and type of fat in the diet stays the same.’
      • ‘The sale of local plant and animal products should be strictly banned and conscientious ecotourists will not buy them.’
      • ‘Our insatiable appetite for food and land this century has exterminated the earth's plant and animal species 40 times faster than average.’
      • ‘Doreen's work is renowned for its use of large canvasses and the intricate detail inspired by plant and animal life.’
      • ‘Tibet, a source region for major rivers in China, South and Southeast Asia, is rich in plant and animal resources, which are well preserved.’
      • ‘The study also identified uncontrolled use of pesticides in cities as a definite danger to plant and animal life.’
      • ‘Still, approximately 300 plant and animal species disappear each year as a result of reckless industrialization.’
      • ‘We added copper, cobalt, selenium, molybdenum, etc to the deficient soils and transformed the plant and animal health.’
      • ‘The outback landscape is varied, and plant and animal life totally unique, and the eco-systems fragile and fascinating.’
      zoological, animalistic
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    2. 1.2 Characteristic of the physical and instinctive needs of animals; of the flesh rather than the spirit or intellect.
      ‘a crude surrender to animal lust’
      • ‘Unfortunately, it seems to fly in the face of our animal instincts.’
      • ‘As metaphysical mirror images, Yalis remind us we have various animal instincts rolled into this human form.’
      • ‘Christopher crumples to the ground, groans, expressing emotions in a physical, almost animal way, that most of us are incapable of.’
      • ‘The sinuous, almost animal physicality which Lewis brings to her acting roles surfaces in a much more volcanic way when she picks up a mic.’
      • ‘I was brought up to believe my body is disgusting, bodily functions should not be spoken about, and sex is an animal instinct.’
      • ‘He is also unable to deny his animal instincts: ‘a wolf can change his skin but never his nature’.’
      • ‘The meaning of human life would be reduced to the physical, base animal instincts, trapped within the contours of the body.’
      • ‘Brian felt it the moment he entered the city limits - a sudden primeval chill, an instinctive animal watchfulness.’
      • ‘In its best sense it expresses an animal instinct of self-preservation.’
      • ‘Perhaps it was the heat, the lack of dinner in my belly, or some deep animal instinct, but I suddenly felt the urge to tip my head back and howl like a mournful dog.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Perhaps it comes from an instinctual animal urge to have a throne or a perch.’
      • ‘Within the work, both dancers embody the raw passion of animal instinct and the mental anguish of knowing you are not being fulfilled.’
      • ‘To emphasize the general untrustworthiness of boys she tries to shock me by pointing out their base animal instincts.’
      • ‘Deep down inside they remain students with needs, wants and animal instincts.’
      • ‘Without rest and reflection animal instincts belie our spiritual growth.’
      • ‘Trading is the animal instincts part of the game, and almost a separate game in its own right.’
      • ‘Always a fast walker, he had an animal energy, was physically strong and, although short, always filled a room.’
      • ‘He made his millions with his animal instinct in the ring.’
      • ‘England under Eriksson are too composed for that, conscious of the need to control animal instincts.’
      carnal, fleshly, bodily, physical, sensual
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  • 2Biology
    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
    • ‘In animal cells mitochondrion movement is mainly associated with microtubules (MTs).’
    • ‘The major factor in Fattom's proving that a vaccine would work was his development of an animal model of staph in mice.’
    • ‘Ivis uses a specially sealed chamber to hold the animal stage and a cryogenically cooled 1-in.’
    • ‘The implantation into a human being of an animal gamete or embryo is banned.’
    • ‘Phthalates, industrial plasticizers that disrupt animal development, were also detected in resident crayfish.’
    • ‘Since that time there have been numerous studies, particularly on animal cells, investigating mitochondrial polymorphism and behaviour.’
    • ‘A great deal of the book is devoted to the role that Hox genes play in the diversification of animal form during animal development and evolution.’
    • ‘In animal cells, mitochondria are the principal source of AOS.’
    • ‘They believe patients may have been injected with an embryo's tissue extracts, skin cells or even animal stem cells instead.’
    • ‘Cholesterol is biologically important as a constituent of the plasma membranes of many animal cells.’
    • ‘It urged a ban on any use of human cells in chimps and other primates, however, as well as the introduction of animal cells into human embryos.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Trounson was working on ways of preserving animal embryos.’
    • ‘One stunning example of where the movement of a small group of cells is crucial occurs during the formation of an animal embryo.’
    • ‘Manipulated to seek and destroy hardy cancer cells, viruses have been shown to shrink tumours in animal models and in early human studies.’


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