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English Expressions with Animals

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List of common English expressions containing animals

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English Expressions with Animals

  1. 1. Animals in English Expressions José A. Alcalde How conscious are we when using animal names in English expressions? Here is a curious document listing some examples. (*) is added to those expressions which may be pejorative, informal or even rude. First, they are presented and later a brief explanation in English is included in another table. CREDIT: Most of the idioms were taken from and checked at idioms.thefreedictionary.com and http://www.learn-english- today.com/idioms/idiom-categories/animals.html P E T A N I M A L S - A cat nap - To copycat - When the cat is away the mice will play - To rain cats and dogs - To let the cat out of the bag - A fat cat* - Like a cat on hot bricks / a tin roof - Like cat and dog - To put a cat among the pigeons - Cat's whiskers - Dog eat dog - A dog's life - Dog days - Dog's breakfast / dinner - Every dog has it day - To go to the dogs - Let sleeping dogs lie - Like a dog with two tails - You can't teach an old dog new tricks - Top dog - Love me, love my dog - Sick like a dog - A dog and ponny show - A shaggy dog story - To be in the dog's house - A doggie bag - Puppie love F A R M - Hold your horses - To horse around - Straight from the horse's mouth - Horse sense - To put the cart before the horse - Dark horse = Cold fish - Someone could eat a horse - Don't chicken out! - Chicken run - Chicken feed - Chicken scratch - Chic lit* - Chic pic* - A hen party - A nest egg
  2. 2. A N I M A L S - To have a cow - Until the cows come home - Holy cow!* - Make an ass of one's self* - Jackass* - Donkey work - For donkey's years - Like a bull in a china shop - The bull's eye - Bullshit* - Dead duck - Lame duck - Sitting duck - Like water off the duck's back - To have goose pimples / skin - A wild goose chase - Cold turkey - To talk turkey - The black sheep - To pig out - Strong like an ox W I L D - A white elephant - To see pink elephants - Elephant in the room - Monkey see, monkey do - Monkey business - Not to give a monkey's - Grease monkey - Bird brain* - Early bird - The birds and the bees* - To kill to birds with a stone - For the birds - Night owl* - To eat crow - Eagle eyes - There is plenty of fish in the sea - This is fishy - To fish in troubled waters - Fish out of water - To drink like a fish - Neither fish nor fowl - Other fish to fry - Shark teeth* - To make a beeline - Busy bee - To have a bee in your bonnet
  3. 3. A N I M A L S - To drop like flies - Fly on the wall - A bar fly* - Leapfrog - Eat the frog! - To juggle frogs - Blind as a bat - Bat out of hell - Bats in the belfry = Rats in the attic - Rat race - To smell a rat - Snake in the grass - Snake oil - A camel's nose - The last straw that broke the camel's back - Bitten by the bug - A bookworm* - Ants in one's pants - A social butterfly - To clam up - Mouse potato* - A leopard cannot change its spot - Cunning as a fox - A lone wolf - A zebra crossing - Kangaroo court - Eager beaver - Like a bear with a soar head - The lion's share - A paper tiger - A stag party
  4. 4. KEY P E T A N I M A L S - A cat nap (a short nap) - To copycat (to imitate) - When the cat is away the mice will play (situation where there is no surveillance) - To rain cats and dogs (heavy rain) - To let the cat out of the bag (to reveal something) - A fat cat* (disapproving description of a rich and powerful person) - Like a cat on hot bricks / a tin roof (really nervous) - Like cat and dog (a very bad relationship) - To put a cat among the pigeons (to cause trouble for sure) - Cat's whiskers (something excellent) - Dog eat dog (destructive, ruthless competition) - A dog's life (a hard life) - Dog days (very hot days) - Dog's breakfast / dinner (something really messy) - Every dog has it day (everybody can be good at something) - To go to the dogs (to become worse and less efficient) - Let sleeping dogs lie (not to interfere so as not to make things worse) - Like a dog with two tails (extremely happy) - You can't teach an old dog new tricks (old habits die hard) - Top dog (better or more powerful) - Love me, love my dog (others have to accept all about one's self) - Sick like a dog (to vomit violently) - A dog and ponny show (very flashy event to get attention but with little content) - A shaggy dog story (long story with a silly end) - To be in the dog's house (in trouble) - A doggie bag (bag provided by restaurants to take home leftovers) - Puppie love (relationship between very young people) F A R M A N I M A - Hold your horses (be patient) - To horse around (to play roughly and carelessly) - Straight from the horse's mouth (from a direct and reliable source) - Horse sense (practical and smart intelligence) - To put the cart before the horse (in the wrong way) - Dark horse = Cold fish (secretive person) - Someone could eat a horse (really hungry) - Don't chicken out! (to be brave) - Chicken run (doing something late and with no order) - Chicken feed (small amount, especially money) - Chicken scratch (very bad handwriting) - Chic lit* (books for women) - Chic pic* (movie for women) - A hen party (party for the bride before she gets married) - A nest egg (savings for the future) - To have a cow (to get mad) - Until the cows come home (for a very long time) - Holy cow!* (expression for surprise, excitement, anger...) - Make an ass of one's self* (to behave stupidly) - Jackass* (insult for silly) - Donkey work (boring, unpleasant job) - For donkey's years (for a long time) - Like a bull in a china shop (very clumsily) - The bull's eye (the center of a target) - Bullshit* (stupid things)
  5. 5. L S - Dead duck (most probably unsuccessful or with no future) - Lame duck (something or someone in real need for something) - Sitting duck (easy target) - Like water off the duck's back (without any effect) - To have goose pimples / skin (when our skin raises because of cold, fear...) - A wild goose chase (unsuccessful try) - Cold turkey (not gradually but suddenly) - To talk turkey (openly and frankly) - The black sheep (someone different in a group, family...) - To pig out (to eat a lot) - Strong like an ox (very strong) W I L D - A white elephant (something expensive and useless) - To see pink elephants (to hallucinate) - Elephant in the room (very noticeable problem nobody wants to deal with) - Monkey see, monkey do (to imitate) - Monkey business (dishonest business) - Not to give a monkey's (not to care too much) - Grease monkey (mechanic) - Bird brain* (not very intelligent) - Early bird (someone who arises early in the morning) - The birds and the bees* (the first lessons for kids about sex) - To kill to birds with a stone (doing more for less) - For the birds (not interesting) - Night owl* (person who is more active late at night) - To eat crow (to admit and apologise for something wrong) - Eagle eyes (extremely good sight) - There is plenty of fish in the sea (there are more possible partners for a relationship) - This is fishy (suspicious) - To fish in troubled waters (to gain advantage from a difficult situation) - Fish out of water (in unfamiliar or unknown surrounding) - To drink like a fish (heavy drinker) - Neither fish nor fowl (hard to classify) - Other fish to fry (more important things to do) - Shark teeth* (someone with very bad teeth appearance) - To make a beeline (to go directly) - Busy bee (really active person) - To have a bee in your bonnet (to become obsessed about something) - To drop like flies (in great numbers) - Fly on the wall (to eavesdrop conversations) - A bar fly* (someone who spends a lot of time in bars) - Leapfrog (a substantial improvement with regards to other competitors) - Eat the frog! (to do the most unpleasant thing first) - To juggle frogs (to deal with a difficult situation) - Blind as a bat (someone who can't see very well) - Bat out of hell (very quickly) - Bats in the belfry = Rats in the attic (someone a bit mad or whose behaviour is a bit excentric)
  6. 6. A N I M A L S - Rat race (competitive, hard lifestyle) - To smell a rat (to become suspicious) - Snake in the grass (someone who pretends to be your friend but is no good for you) - Snake oil (of no use) - A camel's nose (a small decission that will lead to big problems) - The last straw that broke the camel's back (the last thing that made the situation unbearable) - Bitten by the bug (to become suddenly interested) - A bookworm* (a person who loves books and reading) - Ants in one's pants (when someone is really nervous) - A social butterfly (a really sociable person involved in a lot of social events) - To clam up (to become silent) - Mouse potato* (person who spends a lot of time on the computer) - A leopard cannot change its spot (some things are the way they are and can't be otherwise) - Cunning as a fox (really smart) - A lone wolf (an anti-social person) - A zebra crossing (pedestrian crosswalk) - Kangaroo court (illegal tribunal with very little justice going on) - Eager beaver (excited about something when at task) - Like a bear with a soar head (to be in a bad mood) - The lion's share (the biggest share) - A paper tiger (less powerful or strong than it looks) - A stag party (party for the bridegroom before he gets married)

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