German Language Blog

Funny German Animal Names Posted by on Mar 14, 2018 in Language

Guten Tag! We have talked before on the blog about how ‘literal’ German words can be. Check out this blog post, and this one, for some examples. Today I’d like to continue on that theme with a post about animals. You are probably familiar with a few German animals, such as die Katze (cat), der Hund (dog) and der Hase (rabbit). But when you go beyond the common pets, you’ll find that a lot of animals have incredibly literal, often amusing names in the German language!

In German, a pig is das Schwein. But German has many different kinds of pigs:

das Stachelschwein
lit. ‘spike pig’

das Wasserschwein
lit. ‘water pig’

das Meerschweinchen
Guinea pig
lit. ‘little ocean pig’

das Seeschwein
lit. ‘sea pig’

der Schweinswal
lit. ‘pig whale’


A capybara or ‘water pig’ (Wasserschwein). Photo by tanyadurrant on under a CC license (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Moving away from pigs, here are some more, interesting German animal names:

der Seehund
lit. ‘sea dog’

der Truthahn
lit. ‘threatening chicken’ (‘trut’ from Middle Low German ‘droten’ meaning ‘to threaten’)

die Nacktschnecke
lit. ‘naked snail’

der Tintenfisch
lit. ‘ink fish’

die Fledermaus
lit. ‘flutter mouse’

die Schildkröte
lit. ‘shield toad’


A slug, or ‘naked snail’ (Nacktschnecke). Photo by Jan Kaláb on under a CC license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Right now, you might be thinking that German is a very lazy language when it comes to naming its animals! With some animals, it goes one step further by simply naming a feature or characteristic of the animal and following this up with the word ‘Tier’ – the German word for ‘animal’:

das Faultier
lit. ‘lazy animal’

das Gürteltier
lit. ‘belt animal’

das Murmeltier
lit. ‘mumble animal’

das Schnabeltier
lit. ‘beak animal’

das Stinktier
lit. ‘stink animal’


A sloth, or ‘lazy animal’ (Faultier). Photo by thornet_ on under a CC license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Other German animal names to look out for include der Dachshund, the little German ‘sausage dog’ whose name actually translates to ‘badger dog’. You can read all about the Dachshund in this blog post by Larissa. The other is der Igel, which often catches people out because it is pronounced like the English word ‘eagle’. Don’t be fooled: an Igel is, in fact, a hedgehog! The German word for eagle is der Adler.

I hope you’ve found this interesting! Can you think of any other German animal names with incredibly literal and/or interesting translations? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Bis bald!


Tags: , , , ,
Keep learning German with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. Christine Friedrichsmeier:

    So funny and cute! When I was about four years old, I had picked up on this animal naming and was so proud when I thought I’d figured out by myserlf what a butterfly was called – “butter-fliege”. My mom practically killed herself laughing…. Schmetterling. Yup… never forgot that one! 😀