animals-in-french

100+ Animals in French: Pets, Farm Animals and More

If you’re learning French, les animaux  (animals) have to be part of that process, too.

Luckily, learning the names of some of the world’s creatures is one of the more fun activities in any language!

Plus, many animal names in French have a variety of meanings beyond the simple and literal.

In this post, we’ll learn a whole herd of French animal names and provide places you can practice using them.

Contents

Les animaux domestiques — Pets

animals-in-french-pets

un chien — a dog

un chat — a cat

The feminine versions of the nouns for dog and cat are chienne and chatte.

However, these both have meanings that are potentially offensive or naughty-sounding depending on context, which you can probably figure out based on similar versions that exist in English.

un cochon d’Inde — a guinea pig

un hamster — a hamster

un lapin — a rabbit

un poisson rouge — a goldfish

un poisson tropical — a tropical fish

un triton — a newt

une tortue — a turtle

un perroquet — a parrot

une perruche — a parakeet

un cacatoès — a cockatoo

une colombe — a dove

un canari — a canary

Les animaux de la ferme — Farm animals

animals-in-french-farm-animals

un cochon — a pig

A pig can also be called un porc, and a sow is une truie.

un cheval — a horse

Be careful not to mix up the plural for cheval, chevaux, with the word for hair, which is cheveux.

un étalon — a stallion

une jument — a mare

une vache — a cow

Vache and variations on it practically make up their own subcategory of French slang and colloquialisms. La vache! is an expression used to express surprise. It’s sort of equivalent to “wow” or “damn” in English.

un taureau — a bull

un poulet — a chicken

une poule — a hen

un coq — rooster

un mouton — a sheep

un agneau a lamb

une chèvre — a goat

Chèvre can also refer to goat’s cheese, but when this happens, it takes on the properties of a masculine noun.

un âne — a donkey

une mule — a mule

Les animaux sauvages — Wild animals

animals-in-french-wild-animals

un écureuil — a squirrel

un blaireau — a badger

un tamia — a chipmunk

French Canadians have their own special word for chipmunks, un suisse, which literally means “a Swiss” and may have to do with how chipmunks’ stripes resemble the uniforms of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard.

une souris — a mouse

As in English, this word can also refer to a computer mouse.

un rat — a rat

un furet — a ferret

un hérisson — a hedgehog

un renard — a fox

un cerf — a stag

une biche — a doe (deer)

un ours — a bear

un loup — a wolf

une girafe — a giraffe

un éléphant — an elephant

un lion — a lion

un tigre — a tiger

un guépard — a cheetah

un babouin — a baboon

un gorille — a gorilla

un singe — a monkey

un chimpanzé — a chimpanzee

un zèbre — a zebra

un serpent — a snake

un gecko — a gecko

un lézard — a lizard

une grenouille — a frog

un crapaud — a toad

une loutre — an otter

un alligator — an alligator

un crocodile — a crocodile

Les animaux marins — Sea animals

animals-in-french-sea-animals

un poisson — a fish

des fruits de mer — shellfish (as food)

Literally, “fruits of [the] sea.”

un mollusque — a mollusk

une moule — a mussel

une huître — an oyster

une palourde — a clam

un homard — a lobster

un escargot — a snail

un crabe — a crab

une coquille Saint-Jacques — a scallop

Une coquille by itself is just a shell. In English-language contexts, coquilles Saint-Jacques suggests a particular preparation of scallops involving a wine sauce and breadcrumbs. But in French, coquilles Saint-Jacques refers to scallops themselves.

une crevette — a shrimp

une carpe — a carp

un anchois — an anchovy

un thon — a tuna

un saumon — a salmon

un bar — a bass

un doré jaune — a walleye

un brochet — a pike

une truite — a trout

un maquereau — a mackerel

Be careful, because maquereau can also mean “pimp,” and groseille à maquereau is “gooseberry.”

un phoque — a seal

une baleine — a whale

un requin — a shark

un calamar — a squid

une pieuvre / un poulpe  — an octopus

un morse — a walrus

une anguille — an eel

un manchot — a penguin

Some French speakers use the masculine word pingouin to mean penguin, which is arguably incorrect as this word was originally meant to refer to a great auk, a bird resembling a penguin that’s now extinct.

Les oiseaux — Birds

animals-in-french-birds

un oiseau — a bird

un rouge-gorge — a robin

un moineau — a sparrow

une hirondelle — a swallow

un pic — a woodpecker

un étourneau — a starling

un merle — a blackbird

une corneille — a crow

un corbeau — a raven

It’s not always noted and people often get it wrong, but in French, the equivalent of “crow” is technically corneille, and the equivalent of “raven” is corbeau.

un aigle — an eagle

un faucon — a hawk

un faucon — a falcon

un canard — a duck

une cigogne — a stork

une oie — a goose

un cygne — a swan

Les insectes — Insects

animals-in-french-insects

une fourmi — an ant

une araignée — a spider

un scarabée — a beetle

un cafard — a cockroach

The French expression avoir le cafard (literally “to have the cockroach”) means to feel down or depressed, or to “have the blues,” as we might say in English.

une cigale — a cicada

une sauterelle — a grasshopper

une abeille — a bee

une guêpe — a wasp

un moustique — a mosquito

une mouche — a fly

une puce — a flea

une libellule — a dragonfly

A Quick Note on Gender

Gender in French with animals can get a little complicated, because:

  • Many animals in French have a masculine and feminine version that can be applied depending on the sex of the animal. Plus…
  • There are some French animal words that refer specifically to the female or male of the species (un cheval is “a horse,” but un étalon is “a stallion” and une jument is “a mare.”) However…
  • When talking about a type of animal in general, French tends to default to one gender or the other (usually masculine, but not always).

This post isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at all of the variations on the nouns and animals included. So unless it’s evident that they’re supposed to only refer to a female or male, the words listed above are the more neutral, default names you’re likely to find in a dictionary—the gender is indicated by the indefinite article (un for masculine, une for feminine). 

Resources for Practicing Your French Animal Vocabulary

  • Animaux TV. This French YouTube channel offers many educational and entertaining videos about animals, from pet advice and information about endangered species to celebrity encounters with scary and fascinating creatures.
  • La Fontaine’s “Fables”. Jean de la Fontaine was a famous 17th-century French poet who’s still well-known for his “Fables,” and many of them are about animals. Practice reading the titles or test yourself with a whole story.
  • Animals in French Quiz. This site lets you practice animal names through a fun, animated multiple-choice format. There are four quizzes to choose from, and you can listen to audio pronunciations beforehand for practice.

 

Well, that’s a lot, huh? The truth is, while animals are one of the first basic categories you often tackle while learning a language, the subject of animals is incredibly complex in any language.

So give it some time. Just learn some common French animal names if that’s the stage you’re at.

But no matter what your level is, you can probably afford to expand your knowledge of the animal kingdom in French.

And hey, it’s an excuse to watch cute animal videos!

And one more thing...

If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:

learn-french-with-videos

FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.

learn-french-with-movies

For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:

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Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."

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All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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