bes·​tial ˈbes-chəl How to pronounce bestial (audio)
ˈbēsh- How to pronounce bestial (audio)
: of or relating to beasts
grotesque combinations of human and bestial forms
: resembling a beast
a bestial shape
: lacking intelligence or reason
… the bestial man has no sense of right and wrong …J. E. Hankins
: marked by base (see base entry 3 sense 1a) or inhuman instincts or desires : brutal
bestial violence
… a scene of bestial intoxication …Herman Melville
ˈbes-chə-ˌlīz How to pronounce bestial (audio)
transitive verb
ˈbes-chə-lē How to pronounce bestial (audio)
Choose the Right Synonym for bestial

brutal, brutish, bestial, feral mean characteristic of an animal in nature, action, or instinct.

brutal applies to people, their acts, or their words and suggests a lack of intelligence, feeling, or humanity.

a senseless and brutal war

brutish stresses likeness to an animal in low intelligence, in base appetites, and in behavior based on instinct.

brutish stupidity

bestial suggests a state of degradation unworthy of humans and fit only for beasts.

bestial depravity

feral suggests the savagery or ferocity of wild animals.

the struggle to survive unleashed their feral impulses

Examples of bestial in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web It’s also built to meet Appendix K FIA regulations for competition, with a period-correct 5.3-liter V-8 that makes appropriately bestial noises. Basem Wasef, Robb Report, 8 Aug. 2022 Black Adam was never going to be the role in which Johnson reclaimed his bestial side. Lauren Michele Jackson, The New Yorker, 29 Oct. 2022 The sparseness of the fossil record has confounded attempts to understand the ways that prehistoric mammals gave birth and brought up their babies, leaving significant gaps in our understanding of our broader bestial family’s history. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Oct. 2022 Frank himself could easily be a habitué of an old Max Fleischer cartoon—a cousin to Bimbo the Dog, perhaps—with his rubbery black limbs, white gloves and shoes, and cute, bestial, species-nonspecific features. Sam Thielman, The New Yorker, 9 Aug. 2022 Some singers get up in front of audiences and attack sets with bestial ferocity before partying all night long, but that approach has an expiration date. Nathan Grayson, Washington Post, 9 Aug. 2022 Our reduced olfactory apparatus was the detritus of a bestial and benighted past, and an allegory of our enlightenment. Scott Sayare, Harper's Magazine, 23 Nov. 2021 On the Foo Fighters’ second album, The Colour and the Shape, Grohl ended up rerecording songs with his own bestial drumming in place of Goldsmith’s, and suddenly tracks that hadn’t been working sounded like instant modern-rock classics. Brian Hiatt, Rolling Stone, 14 Sep. 2021 The streaks provide proof of our mundane bestial reality—our hormones, our lunch, our particular whorls and spirals. Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker, 1 Sep. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bestial.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin bestialis, from bestia beast

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of bestial was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near bestial

Cite this Entry

“Bestial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


bes·​tial ˈbes-chəl How to pronounce bestial (audio) ˈbēs- How to pronounce bestial (audio)
: resembling a beast
: having or showing qualities like those of a beast : brutal, inhuman
bestially adverb
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