Zoology Word List

Zoology Word List - 50 words used in animal biology Zoology Word List - 50 words used in animal biology Zoology Word List - 50 words used in animal biology Zoology Word List - 50 words used in animal biology

Zoology is the branch of biology that concerns the animal kingdom. It includes all aspects of all animals, even those that are now extinct. In this context the word animals refers to all animals (i.e. living things that are not plants, fungi or certain other life forms). That is, in the subject area of zoology 'animals' are not just mammals but also birds, fish, shellfish, insects, parasites and many very tiny creatures including some that cannot be seen using the naked eye.
A microscope is needed to look at very small creatures e.g. certain forms of pond life.

Many people begin to learn about biology, including zoology, by noticing interesting things in nature such as in a garden or park or while walking in the countryside or at the coast. The following words describe or help to describe some animals that live in the British countryside and how they live e.g. their habitats, habits and characteristics.

50 Words used in Zoology (Simple / Introductory Level)

(used in zoology)

Meaning of the word - a short simple definition, in some cases with examples


antennae (plural)

Fine (slender) pair of sensory organs protruding from the head of an insect or other arthropod



Bony extensions that grow from the head of members of the deer family. The ancestors of deer had tusks (long upper canine teeth). Deer shed their antlers annually as a prelude to the regeneration, or re-growth, of new ones.



Invertebrate animal that has an exoskeleton (external skeleton), segmented body, and jointed appendages (limbs).


bill *

Another word for a bird's beak. It is interesting to bear in mind that other animals besides birds also have beaks, such as turtles, cephalopods e.g. octopi, some insects and even some dinosaurs. The word "bill" is more specific because it only applies to the 'beak' of a bird (or platypus) and especially when the bird's beak is slender, flattened or weak, or when belongs to a web-footed bird e.g. a duck.

In answer to the question: "Is the correct word 'beak' or 'bill'?" some people use "beak" for land birds and "bill" for water birds. As usual in science, where confusion is possible use extra description where appropriate and consider including a photograph or diagram. In this case both words are in widespread common use. Many books use the words 'beak' and 'bill' interchangeably.


bird of prey

A bird that hunts and feeds on other animals such as e.g. mice, voles and smaller birds.



A hole or tunnel dug into the ground by an animal (examples include rabbit and moles as well as some reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects), to form a safe place to live in, to stay temporarily, or sometimes just because the tunnel-like structure was created by the animal in order to move along.


coat *

A growth of fur, hair or wool that covers all or most of an animal's body, providing the animal with protection e.g. from cold or sun.



Active at dusk.



An animal that has teeth.



Active during daylight hours.



Plants or animals that have adapted to live with humans. Strictly, domesticated plants or animals have genetically adapted in a way or ways that accentuate traits beneficial to humans - as opposed to 'tame' animals that have merely got used to being around people and adapted their behaviour.



A young deer. There are special names for the young and often also adult males and females of many species. This is just one example.


filter feeder

An animal that feeds by straining suspended matter and food particles from water, often by passing the water over a specialized filtering structure. Examples of filter feeders include clams, krill, sponges, some whales, and many fish.


flock *

A word used to refer to a group of many animals - but only certain types of animals. There are special names for groups of specific types of animals. The word 'flock' tends to be used to refer to groups of sheep or birds - that is birds of the same time that have formed a group with each other.



An animal that eats fruit. A frugivore may also be able to eat other foods so could be a herbivore or an omnivore that favours eating fruit. Examples include orangutans, owl monkey and fruit bats.


game *

A type of animal, examples include deer, rabbits and some birds, that is hunted by people who kill the animal to use it as food and sometimes also as a 'sporting' activity.



A type of animal for whom it is normal for each individual to have both male and female reproductive organs, enabling a form of sexual reproduction in which both partners can act as either the "female" or "male". Examples of hermaphrodites include many snails and slugs including specises that live in water as well as other species that live on land. (Most plants are also hermaphrodites.)



Animal that feeds on plant material, not on animals (such as mammals, birds, fish, insects etc.)



A group of mammals that live together - could be wild animals that have formed their own group e.g. zebras or wild horses, or could be domesticated animals e.g. a herd of cattle on a farm.



State of winter dormacy during which the animal's activity level, body temperature and use of energy is reduced.


hoof (singular)
hooves (plural)

A hoof is the hard horny tissue encasing the toes or lower part of the foot of certain mammals, which are known collectively as ungulates. Examples of animals that have hooves include:

  • odd-toed ungulates - have an odd number of toes on each foot
    • equids i.e. members of the horse family, including donkeys, ponies, zebras etc., have one hoof on each foot
    • rhinoceroses, tapirs and some extinct animals have feet with three hooves (heavily nailed toes) each.
  • even-toed ungulates - have an even number of toes on each foot
    • many common farm animals such as pigs, sheep, goats and cattle as well as wild animals such as deer and giraffes.



Animal that feeds on insects e.g. shrews and some bats.



Animal that does not have a backbone.


larva (singular)
larvae (plural)

Soft-bodied, pre-adult stage of development of certain types of insects.



A class of animals that are warm-blooded and feed their infants with milk produced by the mammary glands of an adult female (usually their mother). Other defining characteristics of mammals include hair (or fur), three middle ear bones and a neocortex which is a region of the brain.



An animal, e.g. a bird, that spends different times of the year in different places.



Process in which some animals e.g. birds shed old coverings e.g. feathers, which are replaced by new ones. Another example is certain invertebrates that shed their old skin, which is relaced by a new covering that has grown beneath the old one.


muzzle *

A general (non-scientific) word commonly used to refer to the protruding and sometimes pointed part of the front of the head, i.e. in the 'face' area, of some mammals. Not all animals have a 'muzzle'. Where present it typically includes the nose, mouth and jaw.



Active after dark (during the night hours of darkness) e.g. badgers.



An animal that eats (or can eat and digest, e.g. actual diet might depend on availability) both plant material and animals. The word omnivore is derived from Latin words meaning "all-eater", which reflects the fact that many omnivores can and sometimes do also eat other foodstuffs such as fungi and even algae.


pad *

In the context of zoology, a pad is the fleshy cushion-like underside of an animal's toes. These are probably familiar to most people because they are present on cats and dogs. Many other animals also have pads, e.g. foxes, badgers, squirrels, mice and many others.



An organism that lives in or on another organism that it uses as its sole source of nutrition. Parasites can be plants, animals or even fungii. Examples of an animal parasites include fleas, intestinal worms and ticks.


pellet *
(bird pellet)

In the context of zoology (the biology of animals), a pellet is a small parcel of undigested food coughed-up by a bird. They are often called bird pellets to avoid confustion with other uses of the word pellet, e.g. animal feed pellets and air gun pellets and airsoft pellets all of which may be found in rural farming areas. The latter two examples are not associated with animals although air guns have been used to shoot air gun pellets at game, i.e. animals hunted by people.



An animal that hunts (and often kills*) other animals to eat them or feed them to its young.



An animal that is hunted by other, usually larger, animals (predators) for food or to feed the prey to their young.



A stage in the insect life-cycle that occurs between the larva stage and the adult stage. Another word for a pupa is a chrysalis. Examples of an animal that goes through this stage of development include moths and butterflies.



An animal of the type (specifically an order) of small mammals characterised by having two pairs of continuously growing incisor teeth, one pair in each of the upper and lower jaws. The animal keeps these teeth short by gnawing.



An animal that feeds on the dead bodies of other animals as well as other environmental waste e.g. rotting foodstuffs discarded by humans or other animals.



A classification that defines animals (or plants) that can breed with each other to produce fertile offspring. For example horses and donkeys are different species because although they can breed with each other, their offspring are infertile. A female horse bred with a male donkey produces a mule, which could be male or female but is infertile* - that is, it cannot reproduce.



Word used to refer the lifestyle of an animal that spends most of its time alone as opposed to in close proximity to other animals, especially those of its own species.



Whales or dolphins found stranded on beaches - either corpses of deceased whales or dolphins found on the seashore or live whales or dolphins that have drifted ashore.


territory *

An animal's territory is the geographical area, which might include land and area(s) of water, defended by the animal or by the animal together with its partner if part of of a breeding pair against other members of the same species. Not all animals defend areas, those that do are referred to as territorial animals.


track (or tracks)

Animal tracks are imprints of paws or hooves in the soil, snow, mud, or other ground surfaces that animals have traversed. An animal trail is a series of tracks made by an animal as it moved along.



A liquid waste-product excreted from the bodies of animals including mammals (such as people), birds, reptiles, etc.. In the cases of mammals urine is secreted by the kidneys and excreted through the urethra via a process called commonly urination (although correct medical term is micturation).
In chemical terms, urine is a mixture. For more information read about What is in urine?


vagrant *

An individual bird located in a geographical area outside the range known for its species.



Animal that has a backbone e.g. humans, dogs, cats, horses.



Birds that spend a lot of time on water e.g. ducks.


web *

A web (also referred to as a spider web, spiderweb, spider's web, or cobweb) is a net-like structure of sticky silk threads formed by a spider from proteinaceous spider silk extruded from its spinnerets. Spiders make webs is to catch insects for food for the spider.


webbing *

Sections of skin between the toes of some water birds and water mammals.


wingspan *

The distance from one extended wingtip to the other wingtip, a measurement to describe birds and insects.

The above list includes some words that have different meanings in other situations. The meanings mentioned here describe the way these words are used in the context of animal biology (zoology) only.

See also examples of fungi in the British Isles, biology prefixes and suffixes and Latin names of Bach flowers.

Zoology Books

Veterinary Science Textbook Integrated Principles of Zoology
Explaining Cats Sharks - Amazing Pictures and Facts
Zoology Exploring Creation with Zoology - Land Animals of the Sixth Day

In the News:

U.S. Regulator (FDA) helps enable veterinary care during COVID-19 pandemic - 25 Mar '20

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Effects of fragmented landscapes on forest vertebrates - 3 Nov '17

Fracking threat to most important wildlife locations in Britain, University study - 15 Oct '16

Yellow fever mosquito larvae found in New Zealand - 8 Mar '16

Horses respond to human facial expressions - 11 Feb '16

Recent assessment of British wildlife causes concern - 10 Dec '15

Vet charity warning about pet obesity - 25 Mar '15

The Angel Semanglaf is said to help and support expectant mothers through pregnancy.

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