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I'm wondering if there is a word that, essentially, means the opposite of anthropomorphize- roughly, assigning animal-like attributes or mentality to a human. Beastialize doesn't seem to fit the bill as it: a) doesn't seem to be a'real word' and b) is heavily associated with bestialism.

I came across a good example of this in Bill Sapphire's 1993 ON LANGUAGE: Sic 'Em in which they were discussing the connotations of the phrase after Bob Dole used it in reference to other politicians:

When American Speech magazine queried readers about sic 'em in 1961, one observed that his mother heard it from Arkansas friends who owned hound dogs. Another reader, the great San Francisco dialexicographer Peter Tamony, replied: "The remark describes an unresponsive, indolent, shiftless person. He is like a dog that shows no courageous and instant reaction to the command 'sic 'em.' " Mr. Tamony gave an etymological insight by adding that sic 'em is "merely a pronunciation modification of seek 'em or seek 'im."

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Referring to other animal groups in context will work: "The lawyer's reptilian reaction to the lawsuit hurt any chance of reconciliation", "With respect to the impending layoffs, the employees were bovine in their complacency". I'm trying to work ou a sentence with "simian" and "poop"...just wait for it. – Mitch Jun 2 '13 at 13:56
@Mitch How about "The children took a simian delight in the flight of their excrement"? – terdon Jun 2 '13 at 13:58
FWIW, In an anthropocentric world-view, we (as a collective) incorrectly place animals (who are sentient beings) in the same category as rocks and sticks, and the standing dictionary definition of "anthropomorphism" is evidence of this. – JD. Oct 22 '15 at 19:27
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I think OP makes too much of the connotations of bestiality (sexual relations between a human being and a lower animal). There's nothing wrong with...

bestialise/-ize - to make bestial or beastlike: War bestializes its participants.

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Now that I realize my spelling error and have read bestialize in context I very-much agree. Turns out my logographic shortcomings had me lost in the land of zoophilia. – batpigandme Jun 2 '13 at 14:33


Zoomorphism is the shaping of something in animal form or terms. Examples include:

  • Art that imagines humans as non-human animals
  • Art that portrays one species of animal like another species of animal
  • Art that creates patterns using animal imagery, or animal style
  • Deities depicted in animal form, such as exist in ancient Egyptian religion
  • Therianthropy: the ability to shapeshift into animal form[3]
  • Attributing animal form or other animal characteristics to anything other than an animal; similar to but broader than anthropomorphism
  • The tendency of viewing human behaviour in terms of the behaviour of animals, contrary to anthropomorphism, which views animal or non-animal behaviour in human terms

The word derives from the Greek ζωον (zōon), meaning animal, and μορφη (morphē), meaning shape or form.

Source: Wikipedia

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It isn't perfect but how about dehumanize?

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If you are looking for a word that describes animal-like attributes, how about feral?

That may be too dark in the context, of course.

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Hi Amber and welcome to ELU! Could you please provide a definition for "feral"? – Dog Lover Oct 22 '15 at 21:15

Personification noun

  1. the attribution of human nature or character to animals, inanimate objects, or abstract notions, especially as a rhetorical figure.

  2. the representation of a thing or abstraction in the form of a person, as in art.

  3. the person or thing embodying a quality or the like; an embodiment or incarnation: He is the personification of tact.

  4. an imaginary person or creature conceived or figured to represent a thing or abstraction.

  5. the act of attributing human qualities to an animal, object, or abstraction; the act of personifying: The author's personification of the farm animals made for an enchanting children's book.

Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/personification (accessed: July 24, 2014).

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Welcome to EL&U. It's not very clear to me which part of the original question you are answering; what is clear is that you have copied the definition from Dictionary.com (which is based on the Random House Dictionary) but forgot to attribute your source. I encourage you to visit the help center for guidance on how to write good answers on this site. – choster Jul 25 '14 at 0:32
I've reformatted this and added the attribution (click edit to see how to format like this), but this site does expect a bit of your own commentary on your answers, indicating how a simple dictionary quote is relevant. – Andrew Leach Jul 25 '14 at 5:26

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