Animal-omorphizing? (word for attributing animal characteristics to inanimate object)

A friend just sent me this query:

“I refer to my car as Silver, and treat her like a horse. Someone told me I was anthropomorphizing the car, but I’m not: I’m attributing equine characteristics, not human characteristics, to the Audi. Right? So what would one call that habit? I eagerly await your answer.”

Is there a word for this phenomenon, either with respect to horses in particular or non-human animals in general?


I don’t know… The whole idea seems a bit fishy to me…

Well it sounds a lot like personification. In that case, it would be zooinification (or something).

What your friend is doing is akin to the “pathetic fallacy,” or animism. From there, I’d suggesting that he’s “animizing” his car.

So says my Webster’s Third New International Dictionary:

Thanks, Q.E.D.!

I don’t think that’s a very good use of zoomorphize; although the misuse is parallel to that of anthopomorphize in the OP, both are dramatic terms in which the god or hero actually looks like a person or animal. Thus, Zeus appears as a swan or an old man, or a poet represents Hermes as a fox.

What’s actually going on here is a sort of animism – the attribution of animate feelings and motivations to inanimate objects. While I don’t think that “animization” is a word at this time, it’s more apt than “animation,” which already means something else.

Scratch that, I found a better word – again, I’m not sure it exists, but it parallels one that does.

Anthropopathy is the attribution of human feelings or motivations to nonhumans: gods, animals, what have you. I submit zoopathy for a similar fallacy with respect to animal attributes.

Ok, I’m done. Really.

Nametag, I responded to Q.E.D. before I had seen your post, although it seems to me (just from the dictionary definitions, not from actual expertise with the literary devices) that either animism or zoomorphism can describe what my friend is doing with her car. But when I looked up animism, I see that there is also a word animatism, which may also be apt:

My Macquarie Dictionary (the paper kind) doesn’t limit zoomorphism to deities: