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

an apocalyptic sci-fi classic in which a lone drifter fights to avoid the bestial existence lived by the mass of survivors
Recent Examples on the Web The bestial prelude to love comes in many (weird, wild, even mildly horrifying) forms. Cody Cottier, Discover Magazine, 13 Mar. 2024 The Beast taps into man’s bestial nature, inviting visitors through Jack the Ripper’s London, the Werewolf Forest and a maze in a medieval castle that defies visitors to find a way out. Robert Trussell, Kansas City Star, 25 Jan. 2024 Rodin’s Crouching Woman, paired in the exhibit with Claudel’s later work of the same name, is locked in an unlikely, bestial position. Farah Peterson, The Atlantic, 14 Dec. 2023 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

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 17 Jun. 2024.

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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