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Beast vs. Animal: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 6, 2023
"Beast" often implies a large or wild creature, sometimes with a negative connotation, while "animal" is a neutral term for all living creatures not a plant or human.

Key Differences

"Beast" historically conjures images of large, ferocious animals or mythical creatures. It is a term loaded with nuances, sometimes suggesting something untamed or fearsome. In literature, "beast" can symbolize primal instincts or embody a character with less than noble traits. The term often carries a sense of otherness or animosity, evoking emotions of awe or fear. In contrast, "animal" is a scientific and neutral descriptor for a multicellular organism in the kingdom Animalia, characterized by voluntary movement, heterotrophy, and specialized sensory organs.
In everyday language, "beast" may refer to an animal that is perceived as dangerous or formidable. The term can be used to emphasize the wildness or the imposing nature of an animal. On the other hand, "animal" is used to refer to any member of the animal kingdom without any inherent emphasis on size, demeanor, or wildness. This word can describe creatures ranging from the smallest insect to the largest whale.
The use of "beast" in colloquial speech often carries metaphorical weight. Calling a person a "beast" can either be an insult or a compliment, implying that they are brutish or, conversely, that they possess great strength or skill. "Animal," when referring to a human, usually is an insult, suggesting that the person is behaving in a way that lacks civility or humanity. Both terms, when used about humans, highlight the thin line between human societal norms and our more primal nature.
In the realm of fiction and mythology, "beasts" are frequently central to the plot as adversaries or symbols. They are characters in their own right, with "beast" signifying something to be overcome or understood. "Animal" in these contexts, however, often serves as background, part of the world-building that supports the main narrative. They are rarely ascribed the same depth of character or symbolic significance.
The term "beast" has found a place in popular culture as a descriptor for high-performance machines or even sports teams, attributing qualities of strength and dominance to the inanimate. In contrast, "animal" does not commonly extend to objects or groups in this metaphorical manner. The word remains firmly attached to its biological roots, describing living creatures across a vast spectrum of species.

Comparison Chart


Often negative or awe-inspiring, implies ferocity.
Neutral, scientific classification of living beings.


Can describe mythical creatures, or used metaphorically for people or machines.
Generally used for real, currently living beings.


Typically refers to larger or more imposing animals.
Encompasses all members of the animal kingdom, regardless of size.


Used more in literature, mythology, and metaphor.
Used in scientific, educational, and general contexts.

Human Reference

Can be a compliment or insult, often related to strength or savagery.
Usually an insult, implying lack of civility or humanity.

Beast and Animal Definitions


A beast is a large or dangerous four-legged animal.
The bear, a hulking beast, rummaged through the campsite.


An animal is a living organism that feeds on organic matter.
The rabbit, a timid animal, hopped across the field.


In mythology, a beast is often a creature with mixed features.
The dragon, a fearsome beast, guarded the castle gates.


In biology, an animal is a multicellular organism of the kingdom Animalia.
The study of how animals evolved is a key part of biology.


A beast can be a person who is brutish or uncivilized.
He was considered a beast for his rough behavior.


An animal is distinct from humans and usually has sensory and voluntary motion.
Observing animals in their natural habitat can be fascinating.


"Beast" is used to describe something very powerful or formidable.
The new supercomputer is a true beast in processing power.


Colloquially, "animal" can describe a person behaving wildly or without restraint.
He partied like an animal after the finals.


In colloquial terms, a beast is someone exceptionally good at something.
She's a beast on the basketball court.


An animal can also refer to a person's nature or physical sensation.
He followed his animal instincts to find shelter.


An animal other than a human, especially a large four-footed mammal.


Any of numerous multicellular eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Metazoa (or Animalia) that ingest food rather than manufacturing it themselves and are usually able to move about during at least part of their life cycle. Sponges, jellyfishes, flatworms, mollusks, arthropods, and vertebrates are animals.


Animal nature as opposed to intellect or spirit
An insult that brought out the beast in him.


An animal organism other than a human, especially a mammal.


Can "beast" be a compliment?

Yes, in some contexts, being called a beast is a compliment to one's abilities or strength.

What defines a beast?

A beast is typically a large or formidable animal, and the term can carry negative connotations or suggest wildness.

Can the term beast refer to a person?

Yes, calling someone a beast can imply they are either brutish or exceptionally strong or skilled.

Can "beast" refer to a mythical creature?

Yes, "beast" often refers to mythical or fantastic creatures in literature and folklore.

Is "beast" a scientific term?

No, "beast" is not typically used in scientific classification; it's more literary or colloquial.

What is an animal?

An animal is a living, breathing organism that is part of the kingdom Animalia, capable of voluntary movement.

Are humans classified as animals?

Yes, scientifically, humans are classified as animals, specifically mammals.

Are insects considered animals?

Yes, insects are classified scientifically as animals within the Animalia kingdom.

Are all animals considered beasts?

Not all animals are considered beasts; "beast" usually refers to larger or more imposing animals.

Does the term animal include sea creatures?

Yes, all sea creatures, from fish to marine mammals, are considered animals.

Is the word "animal" used in science?

Yes, "animal" is a basic term in biology and zoology for classifying a broad range of living organisms.

Does the term "beast" have a historical use?

Historically, "beast" has been used to describe creatures thought to be wild, dangerous, or mythical.

Can "beast" be a term of endearment?

In some cases, yes, it can be used affectionately to refer to someone's strength or tenacity.

Can the term animal have a negative connotation?

When used to describe a person's behavior, it can imply that someone is acting without civility or restraint.

Are pets considered beasts?

Pets are not typically referred to as beasts, as the term implies a certain wildness or ferocity.

Are all beasts predators?

Not all beasts are predators; some may be herbivores, but they are typically imposing in some way.

Why might someone be called an animal?

It's usually an insult suggesting they are behaving in a wild, uncontrolled, or uncivilized manner.

Is "beast" used in any specific industries or contexts?

"Beast" is often used metaphorically in sports and entertainment to describe dominant performance or capability.

Is there a plural form for "beast"?

Yes, the plural form is "beasts."

Do children's stories often feature animals or beasts?

Both animals and beasts are common in children's stories, but beasts often play more fantastical or symbolic roles.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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