From “Miaou” to “Cocorico : ” 21 must-know French animal sounds

What sound does a snake make in French? What does a French rooster sound like? How do you say “oink” or “moo” in French?

These may seem like silly questions, but if you’re anything like me, at some point in your French learning journey you’ll probably be wondering about them. (By the way, the answers are: kss or sss for a snake, and Cocorico ! for a rooster. “Oink” in French is groin and “moo” in French is meuh.)

Of course, animals sound the same in France and whatever country you live in, but the tricky thing is that these sounds aren’t pronounced or written the same way in different human languages. Whether or not you’re an animal fan, you’re likely to come across these onomatopoeias (and many others!) at some point when you read, watch, or listen to things in French.

So here is the list of the most common – and interesting – French animal sounds.

The three types of French animal sounds

Three little piglets in a farmyard.

As in English, you can divide French animal sounds into three types:

  1. The onomatopoeia form (the actual sound you hear an animal make)
  2. The verb form (the word used to show the animal is making its sound)
  3. The noun form (the general way to refer to the sound an animal makes).

21 French animal sounds

A wolf faces the camera and howls. He is in the snow and around his mouth may be traces of blood from prey.

And so, with that in mind, here are 21 French animal sounds, in their three different forms.

Un chat (a cat)miaou

miaou – “meow”

miaouler – to meow

un miaulement – a meow

ronron – “purr”

ronronner – to purr

un ronronnement – a purr/purring

For more cat-related vocabulary, check out our article about cats.

Un chien (a dog)ouaf

ouaf ouaf/ouah ouah/wouf – “woof” 

aboyer – to bark

un aboiement – a bark

Un oiseau (a bird)cui-cui

cui-cui – “tweet”/”chirp” (Note that this is just an animal sound: if you’re posting on Twitter, the word is “tweet”)

chanter/gazouiller – to sing/tweet or chirp

un chant/un gazouillis – a (bird)song/a tweet or chirp/tweeting or chirping

Note that gazouiller can also be used for the sound human babies make when they gurgle/babble.

Un pigeon (a pigeon)roucoul/rou-cou/rou-rou

roucoul/rou-cou/rou-rou – “coo”

roucouler – to coo (This is one of my favorite French words!)

un roucoulement – a coo/cooing

Un corbeau/une corneille (a raven/crow)croâ

croâ – “caw”

croasser – to caw

croassement – a caw/cawing

Un coq (a rooster)Cocorico

Cocorico – “Cock-a-doodle-doo”

chanter – to crow

un cocorico/le chant du coq – a cock-a-doodle-do/crowing

Une poule (a hen/chicken)cot cot

cot cot – “cluck”/”buck buck” (Another one of my favorite French words!)

glousser/caqueter – to cluck

un gloussement/un caquètement – a cluck/clucking

Une chouette/un hibou (an owl)hou-hou

hou-hou – “hoo-hoo”

hululer – to hoot

un hululement – a hoot/hooting

Un canard (a duck)coin/coin-coin

coin/coin-coin – “quack”/”quack-quack”

cancaner – to quack

un cancanement – a quack/quacking. (Note that this word can also be used mean people talking loudly about useless things.)

Un cochon/un sanglier (a pig/boar)groin/grouin

groin/grouin – “oink”

grogner – to grunt

un grognement – an oink/oinking/grunting

Note that for humans, grogner can mean to grunt or grumble. Grogner can also sometimes be used to express a dog’s low growling.

Un cheval (a horse)hiii

hiii – “neigh”

hennir – to neigh

un hennissement – a neigh/neighing

Une vache (a cow)meuh

meuh – “moo”

meugler/beugler/mugir – to moo

un meuglement/un beuglement/un mugissement – a moo/mooing

Un âne (a donkey)Hi-han

Hi-han – “hee-haw”

braire – to bray

un braiment – a bray/braying

Un mouton/un agneau/une chèvre (a sheep/a lamb/a goat)Bê/Beee

Bê/Beee ! – “Baah!” (for sheep or goats. Sometimes you’ll also see  for goats)

bêler – to baa/to bleat

un bêlement – a baa/baaing/bleating

Une souris/un rat (a mouse/a rat)couic

couic – “squeak”

couiner – to squeak

un couinement – a squeak/squeaking

Une abeille/un bourdon (a bee/a bumble bee)buzz/bzzz

buzz/bzzz – “buzz”

bourdonner – to buzz

un bourdonnement – a buzz/buzzing

Note that in other contexts, the French word for “buzz” could be different.

Une grenouille (a frog)coââ-coââ/coa/ croa croa

coââ-coââ/coa/ croa croa – “ribbet ribbet”/”ribbet”

croasser – to croak

un croassement – a croak/croaking

Un serpent (a snake)kss/sss/sssh

kss/sss/sssh – “ssss”

siffler – to hiss (Note that this refers to the sound a snake makes in French. When talking about humans, siffler means “to whistle”. When talking about a cat hissing, you’d say cracher.)

un sifflement – a hiss/hissing (of a snake)

Un loup (a wolf)Ouuuh/Aouuuh

Ouuuh/Aouuuh – “Owooo”

hurler – to howl

un hurlement – a howl/howling

Note that the French word used to describe other sorts of howling – for instance, the wind howling – can be different.

Un lion, un tigre,  un ours, un dinosaure, etc. (a lion, a tiger, a bear, a dinosaur, etc.)roah/roooar/raaah

roah/roooar/raaah ! – “raaah!”

rugir – to roar

un rugissement – a roar/roaring

Note that a different word may not be used for other types of roaring (traffic, etc.).

Are there other French animal sounds?

A long-haired brown tabby cat stands outdoors maybe at the base of a deck and gives the viewer a somewhat outraged look.

Not only are there other words for sounds that other animals make in French; there might also be variants of the sounds on our list. After all, onomatopoeias are words that try to capture a sound, so anyone could write them slightly differently, depending on what they hear.

The animal sounds in this article, though, are the most common you’ll encounter and the ones most often used ones in French songs, nursery rhymes, quiz shows, etc.

How can I practice French animal sounds?

If you’d like to hear more French animal sounds or practice saying them, one easy and fun way is to sing Dans la ferme de Mathurin – the French version of “Old MacDonald had a Farm”!

You can do an internet search to find lots of different versions of the song. Here’s my favorite to get you started!

If you’re the one singing, you can plug in any animal and sound you like!

Where can I find more French animal sounds?

To find more French animal sounds, you can search for “Comment écrire le bruit de” plus the animal you’re looking for, online.

You may also find the animal sound you’re looking for on this helpful French animal sounds list.

And this list is an excellent source for the verb and noun forms of French animal sounds, as well as a few onomatopoeia forms.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about French animal sounds. Do you have a favorite one? Feel free to share it in the comments!

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Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.