Animal idioms

Here are some animal idioms. Each expression is followed by its meaning or definition. Example sentences are also given.

To be a chicken / to be chicken livered

If you are a chicken you are a coward.

  • I can’t believe that she tried parasailing last week. She is such a chicken.

To be like a dog with two tails

When you are like a dog with two tails, you are very happy.

  • When he found out that he’d won the first prize, he was like a dog with two tails.

Gone to the dogs

When a business or a country goes to the dogs it becomes less successful or prosperous than it was.

  • The country has gone to the dogs since they won the election.

Like a fish out of water

When you are like a fish out of water, you are uncomfortable.

  • When she started talking about her ex-flames, her new boyfriend looked like a fish out of water.

Something is fishy

When something is fishy, it is suspicious.

  • There was something fishy in the way he answered my questions.

To be a fly on the wall

When you want to be a fly on the wall, you want to be somewhere secretly, so that you can overhear what is said.

  • I would love to have been a fly on the wall when they discussed their secret plans.

To be as sly as a fox / a sly old fox

To be very clever or cunning

  • He exited the company before it went to the dogs. He is a sly old fox.

Get someone’s goat

When something gets your goat, it really upsets you.

  • The whole time I was singing she kept herself busy playing games on her phone. She really got my goat.

Wouldn’t say boo to a goose

Used to describe a person who is very timid or nervous

  • He won’t make a good leader; he wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

Not give a hoot

To not give a hoot is to not care at all

  • She isn’t very popular with her friends because she doesn’t give a hoot about what they say.

A dark horse

This expression is used to describe a person who has skills not known to others.

  • I was surprised when he sat down to play the tabla. I didn’t know that he could. He is a real dark horse.

To eat like a horse

To eat like a horse is to eat a lot.

  • Why do you eat like a horse? Haven’t you eaten anything since morning?

Straight from the horse’s mouth

When you hear something straight from the horse’s mouth, you hear it from the person actually involved.

  • What you have heard is true. John is marrying his longtime girlfriend. I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. (=I heard it from John himself.)

Mutton dressed (up) as lamb

This expression is used to describe an older woman who wears the kind of clothes that are more suitable for a much younger woman.

  • You must stop wearing those miniskirts if you don’t want to look like mutton dressed up as lamb. Don’t forget that you are fifty-five.

To pull a rabbit out of the hat

To pull a rabbit out of the hat is to surprise everyone by doing something clever.

  • He really pulled a rabbit out of the hat by winning that business contract.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Someone who is dangerous but pretends to be harmless

  • If I were you I wouldn’t trust him. He’s a real wolf in sheep’s clothing.
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