We share our planet with a huge number of other creatures – living beings that we categorize as animals, birds, fish or insects. This week, we’re taking a look at the language that we use to talk about these creatures.
Let’s start with the phrase in the title. Four-legged friend is a humorous expression used in British English to refer to an animal, especially a dog or a horse: This week, we publish poems on the subject of our four-legged friends. Birds, meanwhile, are sometimes referred to as ‘our feathered friends’: So how can we help our feathered friends survive the cold weather?
Many other animal terms reflect their relationship with humans. For example, a pet is an animal that lives in a person’s home as a companion: Isabel wanted a pet so we bought her a cat. Pets are sometimes referred to more formally as companion animals: Over sixty percent of all UK households have one or more companion animal.
Domesticated animals have been brought under human control in order to live or work with us: domesticated animals, such as dogs and horses
Meanwhile, wild animals live independently of people, in their own natural conditions: wild horses
A stray is a pet that no longer has a home or cannot find its home. ‘Stray’ is often used adjectivally: a stray dog / I think that cat’s a stray. The adjective feral describes an animal that exists in a wild state. It is used especially for animals that were previously kept by people: feral dogs/cats
Creepy-crawly is a child’s word meaning ‘insect’. It is sometimes used negatively, suggesting a fear of insects: I’m not really a fan of creepy-crawlies. / a child’s book on creepy-crawlies
Prey refers to an animal that is hunted and killed for food by another animal: A hawk hovered in the air before swooping on its prey. A predator is an animal that hunts, kills, and eats other animals: lions, wolves, and other predators
A pest is an insect or small animal that is harmful or damages crops: common pests such as mice
The plural noun vermin is used for small animals and insects that are harmful and difficult to control in large numbers: flies, rats, cockroaches and other vermin
Sadly, a word that is heard more and more is endangered. Endangered animals may soon not exist because there are very few now alive: Mountain gorillas are an endangered species.
Whether you’re an animal lover or not, we hope you find some useful words and expressions in this post!