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
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 13:56
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    @Mitch How about "The children took a simian delight in the flight of their excrement"?
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 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.
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 19:27

8 Answers 8


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. Commented Jun 2, 2013 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


It isn't perfect but how about dehumanize?


Consider theriomorphic. From Oxford Dictionaries:

the·ri·o·mor·phic /ˌθɪərɪə(ʊ)ˈmɔːfɪk/

(especially of a deity) having an animal form.
‘gods depicted in theriomorphic form’
‘a theriomorphic vehicle’


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.

  • Hi Amber and welcome to ELU! Could you please provide a definition for "feral"?
    – Dog Lover
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 21:15

One cannot simply give a single English word for "ascribing animal-like mentality to humans" But these are a few words that can help you describe what you want, I do realize that I am 6 years & 5 months late with this answer.



Human beings are animals. A person might have an atavistic reaction to a situation, implying a regression to a more primitive state.

  • This is actually a question and answer page, not a discussion page. Each answer that you post in an answer box is expected to stand alone as an expert answer to the question at the top. (Word for ascribing animal-like mentality to humans (opposite of anthropomorphize)). An answer should answer the question as an expert would, with explanation, context, and any supporting facts that are necessary to show that it is right.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 22:06

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
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 0:32
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 5:26

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