animal sounds in english

Maybe you love your pet so much that you want to be able to speak to it in several languages. Or maybe the barking of your neighbour’s dog is keeping you awake and you’ve decided to take the opportunity to study some English? Whatever the reason, with this article you’ll expand your vocabulary and learn about curious animal sounds in English – and how to talk about them.

Knowing these onomatopoeias may at first seem superfluous but they are usually the first sounds we learn. They thus provide us with the sound base that will allow the formation of words in our mother tongue. Also, these sounds can have other meanings.

Above all, talking about these sounds is a great way to break the ice!

And that’s not all! The animal world is full of surprises and this article may well surprise you too: did you know that some animals have an accent ? Want to know which ones? You will discover it a little later as well as many other things!

Ducks do… what?

When I travel around the world, I have become accustomed to staying in hostels for two reasons: the price is affordable and it is easy to meet other travelers from all over the world. Each city is a new adventure, both for the incredible places it shelters and for the unexpected encounters that can be made there.

These new meetings are not always easy and it is very useful to know how to break the ice . Although there is no ready- made recipe for this, I must admit that one of the funniest and most effective ways I have experienced is to compare the different animal sounds in the mother tongues of each.

Before meeting people from all over the world, I would never have imagined the myriad variations of the dog’s familiar “wow wow” or the cat’s “meow”.

For example, when people told me that birds in Japan go “chun-chun” and not “cui cui”, I thought they were kidding me!

(Perhaps the birds need a phrasebook to communicate with local species on their winter migration? I look from the birds with a different eye, imagining them facing their fear of talking at every boundary!)

So let’s take a look at some of the most used animal sounds in English .


The most important animal sounds


The dog

How to say “waf waf” in English?

The dog’s cry in English is: woof-woof .

Reputed to be man’s best friend, the dog is above all our oldest companion. Our relationship goes back to the very origin of the canine species since it is the result of the selection by man of more docile wolves. It is therefore not surprising that it is the animal of which there are the most different interpretations of the cry .

In our country, dogs go “ouah ouah”, in Japanese “wan wan” and, in the English-speaking world, the interpretation even varies according to the country of origin and the type of dog:

  • woof-woof , arf-arf , ruff-ruff , and bow-wow for big dog calls.
  • yip-yip or yap-yap are used for small dogs and puppies.
  • Regardless of the size of the animal, the bite is described by gnash or snap .

Even American Sign Language (ASL) has a sign for the dog cry !

But the dog doesn’t just bark ( to bark )! When it feels threatened, it can also growl ( to growl ). When it is frightened, it emits a kind of whimper ( whimper ). And finally, like wolves, some of them howl ( to howl ).

Snowy, the clever Snowy by Hergé, had his name adapted for English readers but the translators chose not to change the original onomatopoeia.Animal cries in the English translation of Tintin

Beyond the interpretation of their cries, it would seem that the dogs have different accents depending on the region. That’s what Tracy Gudgeon of the Canine Behavior Center says she discovered . She describes the results of the comparison between dogs from different parts of the UK as follows:

What I did notice were differences in pitch and tone between the different dogs. (“What I’ve actually noticed are differences between the frequency and tone of different dogs.”)



How to say “meow” in English? So…

The cry of the cat in English is: meow .

Whether revered in ancient Egypt or forgotten by the Chinese zodiac, the cat has its fans and its enemies. But when it comes to cat noise in general, all languages have agreed on something resembling “meow.”

Cats also have another very distinctive sound: when they cry out for affection or show pleasure, they purr . This ron-ron has very different interpretations depending on the language, such as, for example, in German, schnurr, or 푸르르 (“puleuleu”), in Korean. In English it is referred to by the word purr . The verb, to purr , also describes the sound that engines purr.

When they are sad, cats cry loudly, this is expressed by the verbs to yowl or to cry out loudly. They can also make sounds similar to snakes: in English, the verb to hiss is used for both of these animals.


The Rooster’s Cry

How do you say “cocorico” in English?

The rooster’s cry in English is cock-a-doodle-doo .

Throughout the world, the rooster is a symbol of courage and virility, an image possibly derived from cockfights, which were even sacred rituals in some religions.

But the only country where the rooster is linked to national pride is France, where it is found on various coats of arms of cities and monuments. This pride is such that his cry, the cocorico, is used in the same way as an expression like “Vive la France”.

But, be careful , the cockcrow in English is certainly cock-a-doodle-doo but it does not have the same patriotic value as in India. So we need other expressions for the translation of cocorico in English . For instance :

France is the world champion! Way to go, France! (“France world champion. Cocorico!”)


the donkey

The donkey’s cry in English is: hee-haw .

Among the characters of popular culture, two donkeys stand out: Eeyore, the pragmatic and melancholy friend of Winnie the Pooh, and the Donkey, the cheerful and talkative companion of Shrek. Another difference between them is the sound they make because Donkey is an American-born character while Eeyore is English. In American English, the cry for donkeys is hee-haw and, in British English, Eeyore (with the silent R), which is also Eeyore’s original name.

Hee-haw in American English is also used as an adjective, to describe, rather pejoratively, unsophisticated rural humor and attitudes.



The horse’s cry in English is: neigh .

These animals produce many noises. Their “cataclop” is described in English as clip-clop or clippity-clop , which King Arthur’s servant tries to imitate with coconuts in the opening scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a classic film comedy.


A classic scene from English comedy group Monty Python.

But his whinny is translated as neigh or whinny (not to be confused with whiny ). These onomatopoeias are also used as verbs, as is to nicker , which expresses the same thing as to whinny , but less strongly.

Would you like to discover other English- speaking comedians ? Find the English comedian who will make you burst out laughing! 🤣


The lion and the tiger

The cry of the lion and the tiger in English is the same: roar (roar in English)

The big cats, the kings of the savannah and the jungle, are known for two characteristic sounds: grrr (growl) and roar (roar).

The roar of the tiger elicits a sense of strength and power and to roar can also be used in a metaphorical sense:

Katy Perry – Roar (Official)

Roar, Katy Perry: lyrics

Elephants and monkeys also roar. This verb can be used in many situations in English but always describes very loud sounds.

The growl, to growl , is a reflex common to many animals in the face of a threat and, in English, it is also the sound that your stomach makes to tell you that it is time to eat!


The birds

The cry of birds in English is most often: tweet .

The famous logo of the twitter company gives us a clue as to the origin of its name: it designates one of the cries of small birds (among which chirp and cheep ) but also the action of talking briefly about things without importance.

Larger birds (eagles, owls, etc.) produce higher-pitched, piercing calls, described as screech and squawk .



But what is the cry of the fox?

The fox’s cry in English is more like yow-wow-wow .

Recently, the Norwegian duo Ylvis made a song on the theme that interests us here, entitled What does the fox say? . With a childish theme and ultra commercial sounds, they make you want to dance but above all to know what the fox’s cry is  !

In the lyrics of this song , you will find many animal sounds that we have discovered together so far:

Ylvis – The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?) [Official music video HD]

The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?), Ylvis lyrics

If you are also wondering this question, the answer is that there is no consensus on the fox cry and some of the sounds mentioned in the song are not that far from the sounds it utters in reality. Other options are yow-wow-wow and ack-ack-ackawoo-ack .


To conclude and complete what we have just seen, you will find below a list of animal sounds in English with their respective verbs.


Full table

Here is a recap of what we saw above, with the bonus of additional animal sounds:

AnimalScream in English (with audio)Verb(s)
the dog (big)
dog (big)
woof-woof , arf-arf , bow-wow , bark-bark , werf-werf , ruff-ruff , bork-borkto bark
the dog (small)
dog (small)
yip-yip , yap-yapto bark
the cat
meow , miaow , mew ; purrto meow ; to purr
the mouse
eek , skreekto squeak , to squeak
the cow
mooto low (less common), to moo
the pig
wee-wee ; oink-oinkto squeal / to grunt
cluck , cheep , bock-bockto cackle , to cluck
the rooster
cock-a-doodle-dooto crow
the turkey
gobble-gobbleto gobble
the sheep
baa , maa , bleatto bleat
neigh , wehee , whinny ; clip-clop , clippity-clop (hoof sound)to neighbor , to snort , to nicker
the donkey
eeyore (BrE), hee-haw (AmE)to bray
quackto quack
the rabbit
cluck , purrto squeak , to purr
yow-wow-wow, ack-ack-ackawoo-ackto bark , to yelp , to simper
the elephant
toots ; roarsto trumpet ; to roar
the lion
roars ; grrrto roar ; to growl
the tiger
roars ; grrrto roar ; to growl
the wolf
ooooo , oooooto how
the snake
sssto hiss
the monkey
ooh-ooh-ooh , eek-eekto chatter , to gibber , to whoop , to screech
cheep , chirp , chirrup , peep , beep , tweet / squawkto chirp , to trill , to warble , to tweet ( and more )
the owl
twit-twoo , hoo-hoo , whit-woo , terwit-terwoo ; screech (piercing cry)to hoot ; to scream , to screech , to shriek
the raven
caw-cawto caw
the dove
cooto coo
bloop-bloop , glub-glub 
the frog
ribbit , croakto croak
the mosquito
bzzzto whine , to buzz
the bee
bzzz , buzzzto hum , to buzz
chirpsto chirp , to sing

All animal sounds in English and the verbs that describe them

(So you know how to say coin coin in English –  quack quack !)

These cries are part of songs, for children and adults, of formal and informal conversations, of everyday life and you will surely still encounter them in many places. Listening to animal cries in English is a good way to exercise your ear by detaching yourself from meaning and grammar.

The list is long but we can always add other cries that might be close to your heart. What animal would you like to know the cry of? Which surprised you the most?