Is there a hypernym for animal noises like "bark", "meow", "roar", et cetera?

  • 7
    Cry: the utterance or call of an animal.
    – user66974
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 10:18
  • 5
    "Call", as in "bird call" or "cat call", refers to the sound each animal makes.
    – tylerharms
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 13:25
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    @tylerharms: Please don't use cat call in that sense ever.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 13:53
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    @TusharRaj: I'm not sure what sense you're implying. The word in question is "call".
    – tylerharms
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 13:58
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    @tylerharms "Cat call" has a specific and primary negative meaning and you are likely to be misunderstood if you use it to refer to the sound made by a cat. Saying that it's "call" as in "cat call" is confusing. (Also IMO a meow is not a call, neither is a bark -- though a howl might be.) Commented May 27, 2015 at 14:52

5 Answers 5


Wikipedia calls them animal sounds.

Or simply sounds, as in:

Lion sounds include snarling, hissing, coughing, miaowing, woofing, and roaring. (Wikipedia)

The wikipedia article states that "a majority of them are onomatopoeia" (= not all of them are).

Josh's suggestion cry has merit

  1. The loud characteristic call of a bird or other animal

Imagining their hoots to be the cry of some dangerous animal, she had spent nearly two terrified days on the run from her rescuers.

The example clearly uses the word as a hypernym.


The technical term I have heard is vocalize - making a noise with their mouth. This applies to an owl's hooting, a cow's moo, and so on. This wouldn't cover crickets, I suppose, but then nor does "cry".


Animal noises are onomatopoeic.


  1. the formation of a word such as "cuckoo", "meow", "honk" or "boom" by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent
  2. A word so formed

Source: Dictionary.com

  • 9
    I don't think onomatopoeia is the hypernym OP is looking for.
    – user66974
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 10:38
  • 5
    It's too broad. A steel worker is a human, but if you say "human", nobody will first and foremost think of a steel worker.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 10:39
  • 1
    @Josh61 What do you mean? At the time I answered this question it was actually "term" rather than "hypernym". RegDwight edited it.
    – Dog Lover
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 10:39
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    Anyway. It is quite obvious what the OP is looking for, and I wouldn't say you have misunderstood him, you did supply a "general word", or "common word", or a hypernym, or an "umbrella term". The only thing is that it's too general. It's a bit like saying that the common word for "bark, meow, roar" is noise, or verb, or word. It's perfectly correct. It's just not specific enough.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 10:44
  • 1
    @zencv in that case you want something short and to the point. "Cry" fits perfectly, and the class name gives the context I was imagining, just in code rather than user space.
    – Chris H
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 13:25

Another good word might be animal "calls", but those are often what animals use to communicate with each other, such as bird calls. It may not include all animal vocalizations you intend it to cover.


Some professionals refer to the sounds an animal makes as "vocalizations", perhaps to avoid the anthropomorphic terms pet owners and animal lovers tend to use. However, it's a bit stiff and fussy for most uses.

For scholarly examples, see http://www.unc.edu/~rhwiley/wildspectra/info/sounds.html http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3172488/

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