Setting Thesaurus Entry: Zoo


trees, bamboo, shrubbery, bees, mosquitoes, sidewalks, wooden walkways, buildings, fenced enclosures, glassed-in enclosures, well-worn animal paths from pacing, fences, concession stand, restrooms, picnic tables, gift shop, informative signs, vending machines…

Animals: Tigers, puma, Elephants, Lions, Hippos, beavers, turtles, gorillas, howler monkey, spider monkey, panda, red panda, lynx, boas, porcupines, giraffes, bears…


people talking, cell phones ringing, children laughing/whining/asking questions, babies crying, running feet, leaves crunching, stroller wheels, beep of golf carts, wind in the trees, insects buzzing, birds chirping/calling, flap of bird wings, various animal cries/growling…


animal smells (manure, wet fur, oily hair/fur/skin) fishy or algae smells in water enclosures or man made ponds, garbage, rain, food from concession stand (hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fries, popcorn), mosquito repellent, sunblock (coconut or…


Fresh air, rainwater, bottled water, soda, concession stand food, sweat, mosquito repellent, sunblock, ice cream, chewing tobacco, gum, mints


wooden walkways/cracked sidewalks/fallen leaves underfoot, hot sidewalk, burning sun, cool breeze, drizzling rain, sweaty clothes sticking to skin, noses pressed against plastic/glass, frigid air of penguin house, perspiring soda bottles, melting ice cream, fence…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: I stood at the glass, stretching up on my tip toes so I could find a spot not smudged by kids’ butter-stained fingers. To see a lion up close at last! I scanned the fallen logs, the grassy hill, under the bower of a poplar tree, searching for the king of the jungle. Finally I found him pacing along a well-packed path that spanned the fence line. As the great creature paraded back and forth over and over, my excitement faded and my heart began to hurt. It didn’t belong here, caged inside wire and fed rations of meat. It belong in a place without barriers or borders. It deserved a life free of man where it could hunt and provide for its pride. As people around me gasped in awe of it’s massive body and silky mane, I turned away and made for the exit…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Metaphor) Mary and Arlen ran pell-mell down the leaf-littered path between the flamingo enclosure and the Lion Den Cafe, shrieking at the top of their lungs how they had to see the elephants right now. I hurried after them, praying they didn’t knock anyone down. Funny how an ice cream cone, a bottle of pop and a bag of gummy bears could make two six year old seem less like zoo visitors and more like occupants…

Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-25-smallSetting is much more than just a backdrop, which is why choosing the right one and describing it well is so important. To help with this, we have expanded and integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry has been enhanced to include possible sources of conflict, people commonly found in these locales, and setting-specific notes and tips, and the collection itself has been augmented to include a whopping 230 entries—all of which have been cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. So if you’re interested in seeing a free sample of this powerful Setting Thesaurus, head on over and register at One Stop.

The Setting Thesaurus DuoOn the other hand, if you prefer your references in book form, we’ve got you covered, too, because both books are now available for purchase in digital and print copies. In addition to the entries, each book contains instructional front matter to help you maximize your settings. With advice on topics like making your setting do double duty and using figurative language to bring them to life, these books offer ample information to help you maximize your settings and write them effectively.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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10 Responses to Setting Thesaurus Entry: Zoo

  1. Pingback: Setting Thesaurus Entry Collection | Writers Helping Writers

  2. Flores Hayes says:

    a great find for panda fanatic!
    my roommate and i LOVE this bag

  3. Marian says:

    😀 at the comment about the kids being more like occupants than visitors!

    I don’t mind watching animals in zoos if they’re small (the animals, not the zoo). But the larger the animal is, the more out-of-place they seem to me. They always seem to belong in the open, the wild.

    I especially don’t want to see cheetahs in small enclosed spaces. Cheetahs are like the physical manifestation of the wind. I love watching them in their natural habitat.

  4. Kate says:

    This is so great and creative!!

  5. C.R. Evers says:

    another great list! I luv the zoo!

  6. Angela says:


    I agree, the sall enclosures are what makes going to the zoo heartbreaking. Here in Calgary we have a zoo and I remember when I first started taking the kiddos to it, the enclosures were terrible for the elephants, hippos and giraffes–tiny places with little room to move or roam. Thanks goodness the zoo has since then continually upgraded the grounds and now all these animals have decent living spaces.

    Ha, some irony–I just spoke to my cousin who is in town with his family and we’re meeting him at the zoo this week. 🙂

  7. spamwarrior says:

    I like visiting zoos, haven’t gone in a while. I hate it when they enclose bears and lions in tiny little cages. In the Taipei Zoo, if I remember correctly, they basically gave it a field-like place to roam. It was huge and I think the lion was happy.

  8. Angela says:

    Danyelle, I agree–the smells! Yikes!

    Mary, I feel the same way about zoos. It is hard for me to take my kids there because I feel so bad for the animals. I try to eep in mind that it’s educational, that if kids didn’t see endangered species, they wouldn’t care when they go extinct, but…nope, still don’t care for the zoo thing.

  9. Mary Witzl says:

    That’s me in Example 1 — that’s my story! One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen was a polar bear in Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo, mid-August. He had a palace-sized enclosure that was, of course, too small for him, and no matter how much ice they kept chucking into his pool, the poor bear was utterly hot and miserable. Just looking at him made me forget how hot and miserable I was.

    For me, zoo smells trump sight, sound, taste, and touch…

  10. Danyelle says:

    This brings back many fond memories, and many not-so-fond smells. :p

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