early 14c., "any sentient living creature" (including humans), from Latin animale "living being, being which breathes," noun use of neuter of animalis (adj.) "animate, living; of the air," from anima "breath, soul; a current of air" (from PIE root *ane- "to breathe;" for sense development, compare deer).
A rare word in English before c. 1600, and not in KJV (1611). Commonly only of non-human creatures. It drove out the older beast in common usage. Used derisively of brutish humans (in which the "animal," or non-rational, non-spiritual nature is ascendant) from 1580s.
Quid est homo? A dedlych best and resonable, animal racionale. ["Battlefield Grammar," c. 1450]
late 14c., "pertaining to the animal spirit of man," that is, "pertaining to the merely sentient (as distinguished from the intellectual, rational, or spiritual) qualities of a human being," from Latin animalis, from animale "living being" (see animal (n.)).
From 1540s as "pertaining to sensation;" by 1630s as "pertaining to or derived from beasts;" 1640s as "pertaining to the animal kingdom" (as opposed to vegetable or mineral); 1650s as "having life, living."
Animal rights is attested from 1879; animal liberation from 1973. Animal magnetism originally (1784) referred to mesmerism.
Used in Middle English to translate Latin animal. Replaced Old English deor (see deer) as the generic word for "wild creature," only to be ousted 16c. by animal.