Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun an·i·mal \ˈa-nə-məl\

Simple Definition of animal

  • : a living thing that is not a human being or plant

  • : any living thing that is not a plant

  • : a person who behaves in a wild, aggressive, or unpleasant way

Full Definition of animal

  1. 1 :  any of a kingdom (Animalia) of living things including many-celled organisms and often many of the single-celled ones (as protozoans) that typically differ from plants in having cells without cellulose walls, in lacking chlorophyll and the capacity for photosynthesis, in requiring more complex food materials (as proteins), in being organized to a greater degree of complexity, and in having the capacity for spontaneous movement and rapid motor responses to stimulation

  2. 2 a :  one of the lower animals as distinguished from human beings b :  mammal; broadly :  vertebrate

  3. 3 :  a human being considered chiefly as physical or nonrational; also :  this nature

  4. 4 :  a person with a particular interest or aptitude <a political animal>

  5. 5 :  matter, thing <the theater … is an entirely different animal — Arthur Miller>; also :  creature 1c

an·i·mal·likeplay \-mə(l)-ˌlīk\ adjective

Examples of animal

  1. the animals in the zoo

  2. the plants and animals of the forest

  3. She loves all kinds of animals.

  4. Fish, birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, and human beings are all animals.

  5. You're all behaving like a bunch of animals.

Origin of animal

Latin, from animale, neuter of animalis animate, from anima soul — more at animate

First Known Use: 14th century

Other Zoology Terms



adjective an·i·mal

Simple Definition of animal

  • : of or relating to animals

  • : coming from the bodies of animals

  • : of or relating to the body and not to the mind

Full Definition of animal

  1. 1 :  of, relating to, resembling, or derived from animals

  2. 2 a :  of or relating to the physical or sentient as contrasted with the intellectual or rational b :  sensual, fleshly

  3. 3 :  of or relating to the animal pole of an egg or to the part from which ectoderm normally develops

an·i·mal·lyplay \-mə-lē\ adverb

Examples of animal

  1. several different plant and animal species

  2. milk, meat, and other animal products

  3. People were shocked by the animal brutality of the attack.


First Known Use of animal


Synonym Discussion of animal

carnal, fleshly, sensual, animal mean having a relation to the body. carnal may mean only this but more often connotes derogatorily an action or manifestation of a person's lower nature <a slave to carnal desires>. fleshly is less derogatory than carnal <a saint who had experienced fleshly temptations>. sensual may apply to any gratification of a bodily desire or pleasure but commonly implies sexual appetite with absence of the spiritual or intellectual <fleshpots providing sensual delights>. animal stresses the physical as distinguished from the rational nature of a person <led a mindless animal existence>.

Other Zoology Terms

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up animal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 12, 2016

of, relating to, or suggestive of marble

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

2.2 pounds 16.96 pounds 196.5 pounds 100 pounds
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.