In this guide, I’ll teach you the names of the most common animals in French.
The animals are categorized by type and have a short description with some additional, relevant French vocab.
Let’s jump in.
Animals in French: what are the main categories?
You might be aware of the main categories of animals in English and their English names. How about in French? Not so much?
These are the main categories of animals in French that you should know:
For ease of navigation, I have split the animals in this article into categories, including poisson, amphibiens, reptiles, des oiseaux, and mammifères. Go to the section that you need to find a list of animals in that category.
Paying attention to masculine and feminine nouns: Why this is important for animals in French
If you’re studying a French course, you may already know that every noun in French is either masculine or feminine. They have masculine and feminine articles too, including:
- Le - masculine, definite article
- La - feminine, definite article
- Un - masculine, indefinite article
- Une - feminine, indefinite article
These French articles are essential, helping us understand whether a noun is masculine or feminine.
This rule applies to all animals, meaning that some nouns for animals are masculine, like le chien, and some nouns for animals are feminine, like la giraffe.
One pro tip to remember when you’re learning the names of animals in French is to take note of the article that goes with the noun. You shouldn’t just say chien. Instead, try to learn le chien and un chien. Don’t learn girafe, learn la girafe and une giraffe.
Names of animals in French you should know
If you’re ready to start, it’s time to look at the 40 names of animals in French that will help you widen your vocabulary.
Fish and sea animals 🐟 (poissons et animaux marins)
I’ve started with six fish and animals of the sea. Do you understand any of these? Which ones do you need to add to your vocabulary list?
1. Le crabe - crab
This sea crustacean, or crustacé marin, has five pattes (legs) on one side and five on the other.
There are many different types of crabe, such as the araignée de mer (or spider crab).
2. Le homard - lobster
Un homard is a lobster.
This is another big crustacean that has pinces, or claws. It also has pattes antérieures, or front legs, and is a delicacy in many European countries, including France, Spain and Italy.
3. Le requin - shark
Un requin is a shark.
It is classed as a type of poisson (fish). Not only is it puissant or powerful, but it is also a carnivore or carnassier (a cognate that means “carnivorous” in English).
4. Le calmar - squid
Un calmar is a squid.
The name of this sea animal is similar to the Spanish name un calamar.
This céphalopode has nageoires (or fins). It is also an edible seafood popular in France and Spain.
5. Le pingouin - penguin
You’ll find this oiseau marin or sea bird in arctic locations (regions arctiques).
Its plumage (cognate meaning plumage) is blanc and noir (black and white).
6. La pieuvre - octopus
There’s another name for this animal in French, which is poulpe.
These nouns mean octopus, but la pieuvre is the most commonly used one. It has tentacules, also referred to longs brags, with suckers, or ventouses.
Amphibians 🐸 (amphibiens)
Here are four types of amphibien animals in French that you can add to your vocabulary.
Do you recognize any of these nouns?
1. La grenouille - frog
Une grenouille is a frog.
These amphibiens have peau lisse that is also humide, meaning smooth, moist skin.
Grenouilles also have long legs, or longues pattes.
2. Le salamandre - salamander
Be wary of this amphibien and the substance corrosive that it secretes through its skin (a cognate phrase that means corrosive substance). Le salamandre is a salamander.
3. Les tritons - newt
Coming from a similar family to le salamandre, tritons have queues aplaties, or flattened tails.
4. Le crapaud - toad
Un crapaud is the name for one of the amphibien animals in French known as a toad.
It doesn’t have une queue (a tail), but it does have un corps gras (a fat body).
Reptiles 🐊 (reptiles)
In this section, I’ve described five reptile animals and provided the animal names in French.
Have you heard of any of these before?
1. Le lézard - lizard
Le lézard is a cognate name for the lizard animal in French.
This petit reptile has a queue (a tail). It has un corps écailleux, (a scaly body), and there are many different types such as lézards gris and lézards verts.
2. Le serpent - snake
Remembering this animal in French shouldn’t give you too much trouble.
Its name is a cognate.
Le serpant means snake or serpent in English. Like un lézard, serpents have corps écailleux.
3. La tortue - turtle
This reptile has une carapace (a shell) and walks slowly (marche lentement) on its quatre pattes, or four legs.
4. Le crocodile - crocodile
Un crocodile is the name of an animal in French.
It’s a cognate that means you’ll easily be able to remember it. It is a carnivore with fortes, mâchoires, or strong jaws.
5. L’iguane - iguana
L’iguane is an iguana. It’s a reptile that looks similar to a big lézard.
They normally have coloration verdâtre (or green coloration) and éspines on their backs.
Birds 🐦 (oiseaux)
Let’s now look at six different birds, their characteristics and the names of these bird animals in French.
1. L’aigle - eagle
This partial cognate is not too challenging to remember.
L’aigle is an eagle. It lives in the montagnes, (mountains).
Some of the main features of the aigle are its griffes fortes et bec pointu, or strong claws and sharp beak.
2. La chouette - owl
La chouette is an owl. Like l’aigle, chouettes have griffes fortes.
They have grands yeux and becs pointus (big eyes and pointed beaks) to help them hunt their food.
3. Le pigeon - pigeon
This bird species has ailes courtes (short wings).
It also has a bec (beak) like the other oiseaux listed here.
There are many different names of the pigeon species in French, such as the ramier and colombe (wood pigeon and dove).
4. La mouette - seagull
You’ll find this bird species near beaches and les bords de mer (the seashores).
La mouette means seagull in English, which is a type of goéland, or gull.
5. Le flamant rose - flamingo
Un flamant rose is the name of a flamingo species in French.
Its plumage is pink and it has webbed feet (pieds palmés),
6. L’autruche - ostrich
L’autruche is an ostrich. This species cannot fly (ne peut pas voler).
Some of its features include un long cou (long neck), and longues pattes (long legs)
Mammals 🦘 (mammifères)
Here are 19 different mammal species in French that you can add to your vocabulary.
Which ones do you need to practice?
1. Le rat - rat
The name of this animal in French is a cognate.
Un rat is a rat in English. It’s a petit mammifère (small mammal) that has une longue queue (long tail).
2. La souris - mouse
Une souris is a mouse.
It has quite large oreilles (large ears) and, like le rat, une longue queue.
3. La girafe - giraffe
With a cou très long (very long neck), and une pelage orange, la girafe is a mammifère that lives in Africa.
4. Le kangourou - kangaroo
This herbivore (a cognate that means herbivore in English) has pattes grands that help it sauter or jump easily.
Les kangourous are native to Austra
5. Le loup - wolf
Le loup is a carnivore that resembles a large chien (or dog).
Un loup is a wolf.
6. Le tigre - tiger
Un tigre is a tiger in English.
It has griffes and dents pointues to help it find and chase its prey.
It should be slightly easier to remember this species in French because it’s a cognate.
7. Le zèbre - zebra
Le zèbre is another species in French that shouldn’t be too difficult to remember.
It’s another cognate. This herbivore has rayures noire ou marron, (black or brown stripes) and une queue longue.
8. Le renard - fox
This carnivore has une queue courte and un nez pointu (a short tail and pointed nose).
Les renards are foxes; they are très inteligents.
9. L’éléphant - elephant
Remembering this animal species in French should be no problem; it’s another cognate!
L’éléphant is an elephant.
It is a herbivore that has un trompe and défenses (a trunk and tusks).
10. Le gorille - gorilla
Un gorille is a gorilla.
This species has une grosse tête (a large head) and a robust build or corps muscle.
11. Le singe - monkey
Un singe is a monkey in English.
This species lives in des arbres (the trees), and is recognized for its long tail (longue queue).
12. L’ours - bear
This carnivorous mammal, or mammifère carnivore has sharp claws, or griffes, and fourrure épaisse (thick fur).
13. La vache - cow
La vache is the name of the cow species in French.
They are herbivores that eat l’herbe (the grass).
14. Le lion - lion
Here’s another species in French that counts as a cognate.
Le lion is a lion in English.
It’s a carnivore that has griffes, can run quickly (courent vite) and vivent en Afrique (live in Africa).
15. Le cheval - horse
This big mammal (grand mammifère) eats plants, is a herbivore, and has sabots on its feet (or hooves).
16. Le rhinocéros - rhinoceros
Le rhinocérous is another species in French that is a cognate.
It means rhinoceros in English.
This animal has peau épaisse (thick skin) and un corne (a horn) near its nose.
17. Le dauphin - dolphin
Un dauphin is a dolphin.
This is another animal species that is très inteligent.
It is a carnivore with palmes (fins), and un nez en forme de bec (a beaklike nose).
18. La baleine - whale
La baleine is the name of the whale species in French.
They have palmes (fins) to swim through the océan where they dwell.
19. Le phoque - seal
You may mistake this marine mammifère for a type of fish, but it is a mammal.
They are also carnivores that live in the sea and have pelage ras or short fur.
Practice and memorise the names of animals in French to broaden your vocabulary
Getting to grips with a whole new set of vocabulary and being able to identify animals in French takes time as there are a lot to remember.
It takes a bit of memorization and practice, but thankfully many names closely resemble their English counterparts which helps.