A reader of this blog recently requested a post on animal sounds. When I looked into the subject, I was struck by the huge range of very specific words in the English language for the various noises that animals and birds make. Accordingly, this is a post in two parts, A and B. Here, in Part A, we start by considering words for the different noises that dogs make.
Bark, of course, is the word we usually use for a dog’s loud, rough noise. Smaller dogs may be said to yap when they make high-pitched sounds. (This word is usually used negatively.) When a dog makes a sudden, short, high sound because it is in pain, it yelps.
The dogs always bark when someone comes to the house.
Can someone stop that dog from yapping!
I accidentally stepped on her foot and she yelped.
If a dog makes a continuous, low sound that is rather threatening, it is said to growl. (Other animals growl too, for example bears and large cats.) Meanwhile, a sudden deep, rough sound from a dog, with the teeth exposed, is a snarl:
Never approach a dog when it’s growling.
It rushed at me, barking and snarling.
When a dog (or a wolf) makes a long, loud, high-pitched sound, it is said to howl: At night, we could hear wolves howling. We also talk about dogs whining when they make a long, high-pitched sound because they are unhappy or they want something: I can hear the neighbours’ dog whining when they go out.
That other very popular pet – the cat – has a more limited repertoire of noises. When it makes a quiet, continuous, soft sound it is said to purr and when it makes a high crying sound it (UK) miaows (US) meows, or mews:
She purred softly as I stroked her fur.
I could hear the cat miaowing in the kitchen.
The cat was peering through the window, mewing to be let in.
Another frequently domesticated animal – the horse – make a range of sounds though only two or three words describing them are commonly used. When a horse makes a long, loud, high call, we say it neighs or whinnies:
I could hear the horse in the field next to the house neighing
The grey horse whinnied to greet her.
When a horse makes the rather explosive sound of suddenly breathing out forcefully through its nose, it snorts:
The horse snorted and tossed its head.
That concludes Part A of this post. In Part B, we’ll consider the sounds made by a range of wild and farm animals.