The Most Bizarre German Animal Names

There are some hilariously funny German animal names that often end up sounding quite bizarre. Do you know, for example, what Germans mean when they talk about a naked snail? Or what animal the lazy animal is? Let's find out!

illustration of a platypus
Turtle in German is shield-toad 🛡 + 🐸
16.01.2023

Funny German animal names aren't far and few between.

While we already have a post on German animal vocabulary more generally in our section on German vocabulary ,we thought that it would be fun to also give you a list of the funniest German animal names.

Have a look at this short list of funny German animal names:

  • der Nasenbär (nose bear)
  • das Stinktier (stink animal)
  • das Faultier (lazy animal)
  • die Nacktschnecke (naked snail)
  • die Fledermaus (flutter mouse)
  • die Schildkröte (shield toad)

Can you guess which animals they refer to? 😅

In this blog post, we'll introduce you to quite a few of these quirky animal names & explain what components those names are made up for. Enjoy!

Funny German Animal Names

1. Anteater (Nose Bear)

Name in German Der Nasenbär
Literal Translation nose bear
Related word(s)

die Nase

+

der Bär

Let's start with the German word for bear, which is der Bär.

While it's debatable whether anteaters should be classified as a bears, what's definitely not up for discussion is that they have big noses. Really big noses 👃.

In this sense then, the name is as accurate as it's weird. Which makes it easy to remember. It also makes us wonder whether we shouldn't also consider renaming elephants to 'nose-rhinos' - or something like that?

2. Raccoon (Wash Bear)

Name in German Der Waschbär
Literal Translation wash bear
Related word(s)

waschen

+

der Bär

Next is another Bär. Here, again, it's questionable raccoons can really be called bears. But one fact is true: They love to wash.

What do they love to wash? Hint: it's not themselves! If so, then the word for "cat" in German would be Waschtiger 🐱.

The correct answer is that they wash their food before they eat it. That's where the German word for raccoon describes!

3. Bat (Flutter Mouse)

Name in German die Fledermaus
Literal Translation flutter mouse
Related word(s)Fleder +

die Maus

4. Turkey (Threatening Rooster)

Name in German der Truthahn
Literal Translation threatening rooster
Related word(s)

drohen

+

der Hahn

The word for turkey in German is "Truthahn".

Where this name comes from is not entirely clear, but one theory is that it comes from the middle high German word "droten", which means "to threaten", and is the root for the modern German word drohen.

If this is true, Truthahn literally means "threatening rooster" or "threatening chicken".

Most Germans would probably not know this, however, since most of them do not understand middle high German. We also didn't know before researching for this article!

6. Sloth (Lazy Animal)

Name in German das Faultier
Literal Translation lazy animal
Related word(s)faul + das Tier

7. Armadillo (Belt Animal)

Name in German das Gürteltier
Literal Translation belt animal
Related word(s)

der Gürtel

+

das Tier

8. Platypus (Beak Animal)

Name in German das Schnabeltier
Literal Translation beak animal
Related word(s)

der Schnabel

+

das Tier

The German word for platypus is Schnabeltier, which literally translates as beak animal. It consists of the words der Schnabel and das Tier.

9. Skunk (Stink Animal)

Name in German das Stinktier
Literal Translation stink animal
Related word(s)stinken +

das Tier

10. Meerkat (Little Earth Man)

Name in German das Erdmännchen
Literal Translation little soil man
Related word(s)

Die Erde

+

das Männchen

Literal translation: little earth man
Meaning: meerkat

11. Hippo (Nile Horse / River Horse)

Name in German das Nilpferd
Literal Translation Nile- / river-horse
Related word(s)der Nil +

das Pferd

Pigs everywhere! Strange German animal names ending in "-schwein"

12. Porcupine (Spiky Pig)

Name in German das Stachelschwein
Literal Translation spiky pig
Related word(s)

der Stachel

+

das Schwein

Now let's have a look at all the different animals that Germans view as pigs. The German word for pig is das Schwein. It's combined with the word for spike, which is der Stachel.

So the German word for 'porcupine' literally translates as 'spiky pig'. Another translation that would work is "pig with spikes".

In German, bees & scorpions have "spikes" (that they can sting you with) and the thorns of a rose can also sometimes be described as Stachel.

13. Capybara (Water Pig)

Name in German das Wasserschwein
Literal Translation water pig
Related word(s)

das Wasser

+

das Schwein

Could you have guessed that capybaras are called 'water pigs' in German? We find this one rather difficult to make sense of. Does it look like a pig? Well, a little bit. Does it live in the ocean or in lakes? No. But does it love water and swimming? Yes!

So there you go: das Wasserschwein

14. Guinea Pig (Ocean Pig)

Name in German das Meerschweinchen
Literal Translation ocean pig
Related word(s)

das Meer

+

das Schwein

The literal translation of guinea pig in German is is "sea piggy" or "little sea pig" - "Meerschweinchen". Combining the words das Meer and das Schwein gives us "sea pig". But we have das Schweinchen here, and not just das Schwein.

What's the difference? What difference does the "-chen" make?

It's pretty easy: it's a diminutive. Adding "chen" to the end of a word cutifies it in German, hence ‘piggy’ instead of ‘pig’.

15. Dugong (Sea Pig)

Name in German das Seeschwein
Literal Translation sea pig
Related word(s)

die See

+

das Schwein

Literal translation: sea pig
Meaning: dugong

Ok this one is a seal animal & it's ending in "-schwein".

Funnily enough: Seeschweine 🐷 are technically Seekühe - which makes absolutely no sense (if you take these terms literally)!

☝️Remember

Remember that the German word for guinea pig is Meerschweinchen, while dugong is Seeschwein. While pretty similar in meaning, those are two totally different animals.

Hilarious German Names for Sea Animals

16. Squid (Ink Fish)

Name in German der Tintenfisch
Literal Translation ink fish
Related word(s)

die Tinte

+

der Fisch

Literal translation: ink fish
Meaning: squid

17. Sperm Whale (Pot Whale)

Name in German der Pottwal
Literal Translation pot whale
Related word(s)der Pott +

der Wal

last animal that lives in the sea in our list

18. Seal (Sea Dog)

Name in German der Seehund
Literal Translation sea dog
Related word(s)

die See

+

der Hund

As you probably know, the German word for dog is der Hund. The word See is a bit more tricky, as there are two different meanings, depending on the article. With the article der it means lake, with the article die it means sea.

In most animal names that include the word See (like Seehund, Seekuh, Seeschwein), it most likely refers back to die See.

So, the German word for seal, der Seehund literally translates as sea dog - not lake dog.

19. Turtle & Tortoise (Shield Toad)

Name in German die Schildkröte
Literal Translation shield toad
Related word(s)

das Schild

+

die Kröte

The literal translation for turtle in German is "shield toad". The word Schildkröte consists of the words Schild & Kröte.

So in a very literal sense, Germans think of turtles as toads with armour.

Very strange. It makes sense though. I guess 😅

Weird German Names for Insects, Snails & Butterflies

20. Butterfly (Smashing Thing)

Name in German der Schmetterling
Literal Translation smashing thing
Related word(s)schmettern

Literal translation: clashing thing
Meaning: butterfly

If you translate the German word for butterfly literally, you get something along the lines of "smashing thing". The ending -ling just turns it into a noun (Häuptling, Lehrling).

Andererseits Gibt es das nicht so ?

21. Slug (Naked Snail)

Name in German der Truthahn
Literal Translation threatening rooster
Related word(s)nackt +

die Schnecke

Literal translation: naked snail
Meaning: slug

22. Spider (Weaver)

Name in German die Spinne
Literal Translation weaver
Related word(s)etw. spinnen

23. Dung Beetle (Garbage Beetle)

Name in German der Mistkäfer
Literal Translation garbage beetle
Related word(s)der Mist +

der Käfer

Literal translation: garbage beetle
Meaning: dung beetle

That's it for now! Do you know any other German animals with funny names? Send us a message on Instagram or Twitter!

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