Learn Amazing Idioms about Animals in English with Meaning and Examples (F-Y).
Useful list of Idioms about Animals in English.
You can jump to any section of this lesson:
- 1 Fat Cat
- 2 Feather One’s Nest
- 3 Fight like cat and dog
- 4 Fish for Compliments
- 5 Fish Out of Water
- 6 Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking
- 7 Flew the Coop
- 8 Fox in the Henhouse (Chickenhouse)
- 9 Get One’s Ducks in a Row
- 10 Get Someone’s Goat
- 11 Go Belly Up
- 12 Go See a Man About a Dog
- 13 Go to the Dogs
- 14 Grab (Take) the Bull by the Horns
- 15 Guinea Pig
- 16 Has the cat got your tongue?
- 17 Have a Dog in the Hunt (Fight, Race)
- 18 He Would Put Legs Under A Chicken
- 19 Hive Mind
- 20 Hold Your Horses (generally excl.)
- 21 Jump the Shark
- 22 Kangaroo Court
- 23 Kill a Fly With an Elephant Gun
- 24 Kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg
- 25 Kill Two Birds with One Stone
- 26 Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
- 27 Let the Cat Out of the Bag
- 28 Lick One’s Wounds
- 29 Like a Moth to a Flame
- 30 Like the cat that got the cream
- 31 Lion’s Den
- 32 Lion’s Share
- 33 Loaded for Bear
- 34 Loan Shark
- 35 Lock Horns
- 36 Look What the Cat Dragged In
- 37 Mad As A Box Of (Soapy) Frogs
- 38 Make a Silk Purse out of a Sow’s Ear
- 39 My Dogs Are Barking
- 40 Never Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth
- 41 No room to swing a cat
- 42 Not have a cat in hell’s chance
- 43 On a Lark
- 44 One-Trick Pony
- 45 Pecking Order
- 46 Play cat and mouse
- 47 Puppies and Rainbows
- 48 Puppy Dog Eyes
- 49 Put Lipstick on a Pig
- 50 Put Out Feelers
- 51 Put the Cart Before the Horse
- 52 Put the cat among the pigeons
- 53 Rain cats and dogs
- 54 Raise (Someone’s) Hackles
- 55 Red Herring
- 56 Screw The Pooch
- 57 Seize (Take) the Bull By the Horns
- 58 Sick as a Parrot
- 59 Sitting Duck
- 60 Smell a Rat
- 61 Something to Crow About
- 62 Stalking Horse
- 63 Strain at a Gnat and Swallow a Camel
- 64 Swan Song
- 65 Swim with Sharks
- 66 Take a Gander
- 67 Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
- 68 The Cat Is Out of the Bag
- 69 The World Is Your Oyster
- 70 There’s more than one way to skin a cat
- 71 Til the Cows Come Home
- 72 To have butterflies in your stomach
- 73 Turn Turtle
- 74 Ugly Duckling
- 75 Until the Cows Come Home
- 76 What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander
- 77 When Pigs Fly
- 78 White Elephant
- 79 Who’s She, the Cat’s Mother?
- 80 Wild Goose Chase
- 81 You Can Lead a Horse to Water, but You Can’t Make It Drink
- 82 You Can’t Make Fish of One and Fowl of the Other
- Meaning: A highly placed, well-paid executive
- Example: These days it seems as though the fat cats do better and better, but the workers do worse and worse.
Feather One’s Nest
- Meaning: To take advantage of one’s position to benefit oneself
- Example: Most politicians in our country don’t have the public good in mind – they’re just interested in feathering their nests.
Fight like cat and dog
- Meaning: Continually arguing with each other
- Example: Those two fight like cat and dog, so please don’t put them together on the project.
Fish for Compliments
- Meaning: Try to manipulate people into praising you
- Example: When I said I was bad at giving speeches, I wasn’t just fishing for compliments-I was really asking for ways I can improve.
Fish Out of Water
- Meaning: A person who is in unfamiliar, confusing surroundings
- Example: I’m usually very friendly, but when I traveled to India I was a fish out of water.
Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking
- Meaning: Very busy
- Example: I’ll be flat out like a lizard drinking for my first few weeks on the job.
Flew the Coop
- Meaning: Left, escaped
- Example: You’d better pay him more, or one day you’ll come to the office and find that he flew the coop.
Fox in the Henhouse (Chickenhouse)
- Meaning: Someone who causes trouble
- Example: The boss’s son is a fox in the henhouse. He does no actual work, and all he does is stir up problems.
Get One’s Ducks in a Row
- Meaning: Have everything organized; get oneself organized
- Example: Sorry about all the emails. I’m just trying to get my ducks in a row before I go on vacation.
Get Someone’s Goat
- Meaning: To irritate someone deeply
- Example: The way George takes credit for others’ work really gets my goat.
Go Belly Up
- Meaning: To go bankrupt
- Example: I’m afraid that if we don’t reduce staff, we’ll go belly up within a year.
Go See a Man About a Dog
- Meaning: Go to the bathroom (said as a euphemism)
- Example: I’ll be right back-I’ve got to go see a man about a dog.
Go to the Dogs
- Meaning: To become disordered, to decay
- Example: This has always been a nice hotel, but it’s going to the dogs.
Useful Idioms about Animals in English | Image 1
…Idioms about Animals in English…
Grab (Take) the Bull by the Horns
- Meaning: To begin forthrightly to deal with a problem
- Example: We’re worried about the production problems, but our vice-president is taking the bull by the horns and is going to visit the factory tomorrow.
- Meaning: A test subject, a person who is used as a test to see if something will work
- Example: I’m going to be the guinea pig for the new payroll system at work. I hope my check comes through all right!
Has the cat got your tongue?
- Meaning: Why are you not saying anything?
- Example: Has the cat got your tongue? Can’t you even say hello?
Have a Dog in the Hunt (Fight, Race)
- Meaning: To support a certain person in a competition
- Example: I’ll be happy working under either Carl or Sheila – I don’t have a dog in that hunt.
He Would Put Legs Under A Chicken
- Meaning: He will talk your head off; he is very talkative
- Example: Get ready to do a lot of listening if you go out to lunch with Karl – he would put legs under a chicken.
- Meaning: The knowledge of humans as a group
- Example: OK, hive mind. I have to replace the serpentine belt on my Toyota. What is the quickest way to finish the job?
Hold Your Horses (generally excl.)
- Meaning: Stop; restrain yourself; don’t be so excited
- Example: Hold your horses. We can’t even be sure we’re getting a raise. You shouldn’t start planning an expensive vacation.
Jump the Shark
- Meaning: To pass peak quality and begin to decline. Often used to describe television programs or movie series.
- Example: Many people believe that the”Seinfeld” television series jumped the shark after its fifth season, but it hung on for several more.
- Meaning: A court of law where proper procedures are not followed at all; a sham judicial proceeding
- Example: After a trial in a kangaroo court, where he was not even allowed access to a lawyer, the journalist was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Kill a Fly With an Elephant Gun
- Meaning: Approach a problem with excessive measures
- Example: Doctors often prescribe antibiotics even for minor ailments. They’re trying to kill a fly with an elephant gun.
Kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg
- Meaning: To destroy a source of ongoing profits or benefits
- Example: When the automaker redesigned its top-selling model, buyers were angry and turned to other brands. They killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
Kill Two Birds with One Stone
- Meaning: Act in such a way as to produce two desirable effects
- Example: If we change suppliers, we’ll kill two birds with one stone: we’ll increase profits, and we’ll squeeze our rivals’ supply chain.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
- Meaning: To avoid stirring up a problem; to leave things alone
- Example: Alice and Maria have argued over office space in the past. It’s best to let sleeping dogs lie and leave them where they are.
Let the Cat Out of the Bag
- Meaning: Reveal a secret, usually a secret you or others are trying to keep
- Example: We had planned a surprise party for you, but Courtney let the cat out of the bag and told you about it.
Lick One’s Wounds
- Meaning: Rest after a bad defeat
- Example: Federer will take three weeks off to lick his wounds after losing to Nadal.
Like a Moth to a Flame
- Meaning: Drawn to something or someone despite the dangers
- Example: Sharon is drawn to bad boys like a moth to a flame.
Like the cat that got the cream
- Meaning: Looking particularly self-satisfied, often to the annoyance of others
Example: After her promotion, Janet spent the rest of the day looking like the cat that got the cream.
- Meaning: Any dangerous or frightening place.
- Example: Oh, so you’re going to the Old City? That’s a lion’s den down there-be careful.
- Meaning: The largest part of something
- Example: If this project does well, I’ll get the lion’s share of the credit. But if it doesn’t, I’ll get the lion’s share of the blame.
Loaded for Bear
- Meaning: Prepared for problems, well prepared for a challenge
- Example: I know the professor is going to argue with my position. But don’t worry – I’m loaded for bear.
- Meaning: A predatory lender; one who makes high-interest loans to desperate people
- Example: Avoid loan sharks. It’s better to save up money and deal with a reputable bank. They’ll charge you a lower interest rate.
- Meaning: To lock horns is to argue, to come into conflict.
- Example: Two members of Parliament locked horns over funding for their respective districts.
Look What the Cat Dragged In
- Meaning: Someone unwelcome has arrived.
- Example: Well, look what the cat dragged in. I suppose you want to borrow money again.
Mad As A Box Of (Soapy) Frogs
- Meaning: Extremely mentally unstable; psychotic; detached from reality.
- Example: Joe thinks the company could fail, but I’d say he’s mad as a box of frogs.
Make a Silk Purse out of a Sow’s Ear
- Meaning: Turn something ordinary or inferior into something refined and beautiful
- Example: Yes, John is an excellent editor. But you wrote the article, and you deserve the credit. He can’t turn a silk purse into a sow’s ear.
My Dogs Are Barking
- Meaning: My feet hurt.
- Example: My car broke down, and I had to walk all the way home from the mall. I’m OK, but my dogs are barking!
Never Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth
- Meaning: It’s rude to examine a gift closely; accept gifts politely.
- Example: Your dad gave you the car, so don’t criticize it. Never look a gift horse in the mouth!
No room to swing a cat
- Meaning: Very small, not big enough
- Example: Inside, there is no room to swing a cat, and everything you see is the most basic junk.
Not have a cat in hell’s chance
- Meaning: Have no possibility of succeeding, coming to pass, or achieving something
- Example: They don’t have a cat’s chance in hell of getting into the playoffs this year.
On a Lark
- Meaning: Spontaneously, on a whim, for fun
- Example: On a lark, we decided to go to the seacoast for the weekend.
- Meaning: Someone who has only a single talent
- Example: Carl is talented at estimating costs, but he’s a one-trick pony – give him a marketing project, and he doesn’t know what to do.
- Meaning: Hierarchy, rank of importance
- Example: Courtney is below Suzanne in the pecking order, so if you need something done it’s better to ask Suzanne.
Play cat and mouse
- Meaning: Trying to trick someone into making a mistake so you can defeat them.
- Example: The 32-year-old singer spent a large proportion of the week playing cat and mouse with the press.
Puppies and Rainbows
- Meaning: Perfect, ideal (usually used slightly sarcastically, in contrast with a less ideal situation)
- Example: At first my marriage was all puppies and rainbows, but then reality set in.
Puppy Dog Eyes
- Meaning: A begging look
- Example: I try to be strict with my daughter, but when she looks at me with those puppy dog eyes, I buy her candy.
Put Lipstick on a Pig
- Meaning: Make cosmetic changes to something bad
- Example: Yes, the tax cut will help a few people, but the economic program is still very harmful. They’re just putting lipstick on a pig.
Put Out Feelers
- Meaning: Make discreet, informal suggestions, ask around
- Example: I’ve put out feelers among the graduating class to find a new programmer, but I haven’t had any luck. I think we need to place an ad.
Put the Cart Before the Horse
- Meaning: To do things in the wrong order
- Example: You haven’t even been accepted to the university, and you’re already picking out classes? That’s putting the cart before the horse.
Put the cat among the pigeons
- Meaning: Say or do something that causes trouble or controversy
- Example: We didn’t want to put the cat among the pigeons, so we decided not to mention the bomb threat until we knew for certain that it was legitimate.
Rain cats and dogs
- Meaning: Rain very heavily
- Example: It’s raining cats and dogs. Look at it pour!
Raise (Someone’s) Hackles
- Meaning: Make someone angry and defensive
- Example: It really raises my hackles when David talks about the university like that. I went there, and I got a good education there.
Useful Idioms about Animals in English | Image 2
…Idioms about Animals in English…
- Meaning: A misleading clue; something intended to mislead
- Example: In the mystery story, the emphasis on the red van parked outside the house turned out to be a red herring.
Screw The Pooch
- Meaning: To make a serious error
- Example: I’m reluctant to assign JosÃ© another sales presentation after he screwed the pooch the last time.
Seize (Take) the Bull By the Horns
- Meaning: Attack a problem directly
- Example: There’s no sense in waiting for another report – we need to seize the bull by the horns and deal with the product recall.
Sick as a Parrot
- Meaning: Very disappointed
- Example: I was sick as a parrot after Man United lost last night.
- Meaning: Something or someone easily attacked or criticized
- Example: Considering the weakness of our offensive line this year, our quarterback is often a sitting duck.
Smell a Rat
- Meaning: Suspect deception
- Example: My cousin wants to sell me an almost new car for $6,000. It looks great, but I smell a rat-he was in the flood zone last month.
Something to Crow About
- Meaning: Something to be proud of, an accomplishment about which one is justified in bragging
- Example: You took first place in the writing contest. That’s something to crow about!
- Meaning: Someone who tests a concept in advance of its application; a candidate who enters a political race in order to test the strength of the incumbent
- Example: Maybe we can use Jones as a stalking horse to see whether the mayor is vulnerable.
Strain at a Gnat and Swallow a Camel
- Meaning: To make a fuss over something unimportant while ignoring larger issues
- Example: Amber wastes time in meetings over the most insignificant things-she has no sense of priorities. She’ll strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.
- Meaning: A final appearance
- Example: This game will be the quarterback’s swan song-he’s retiring after this season.
Swim with Sharks
- Meaning: To take a major risk
- Example: If you want to reach the island with the treasure, you’ve got to swim with sharks for a while.
Take a Gander
- Meaning: Go to take a look at something
- Example: It may be very crowded in there. I’ll go and take a gander, and then I’ll send you a text message.
Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
- Meaning: To change someone’s long-established habits. Usually used in the negative: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
- Example: We tried to explain social media to our grandfather, but it’s no use-you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
The Cat Is Out of the Bag
- Meaning: The secret has been revealed.
- Example: Maria told her friends about seeing us together at the movie. The cat is out of the bag.
The World Is Your Oyster
- Meaning: You have many opportunities and choices.
- Example: You’re only 22-the world is your oyster. Don’t feel you have to get married now.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat
- Meaning: There’s more than one way of achieving a certain goal.
- Example: Our talks with the investment group may have fallen through, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat!
Til the Cows Come Home
- Meaning: For a very long time
- Example: I only see Vicki once a year, so when we get together we can talk ‘til the cows come home.
To have butterflies in your stomach
- Meaning: To be nervous
- Example: I almost didn’t go on stage and perform tonight because I had butterflies in my stomach.
- Meaning: Capsize, turn over
- Example: The boat turned turtle in the waves, but it was designed to right itself again, and it did.
- Meaning: An awkward child or young person who grows into a beautiful person
- Example: Sarah was such an ugly duckling at the start. Now she’s a beautiful dancer.
Until the Cows Come Home
- Meaning: For a long time
- Example: If you wait for Jeb to finish his part of the project, you’ll be waiting till the cows come home.
What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander
- Meaning: What’s OK for a man is OK for a woman, too
- Example: My boyfriend complains when I go out, but then I found out he went out with his friends every night this week. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
When Pigs Fly
- Meaning: Never
- Example: Sure, I’ll go out with Cynthia again. When pigs fly.
- Meaning: An unwanted item that is difficult to sell or dispose of
- Example: We wanted to sell our old office building after we moved out, but it’s turned into a white elephant.
Who’s She, the Cat’s Mother?
- Meaning: Why does she have such a high opinion of herself?
- Example: Samantha has been ordering everyone around lately. Who’s she, the cat’s mother?
Wild Goose Chase
- Meaning: An impossible or futile search or task
- Example: I think this is a wild goose chase. This library doesn’t have the books we need.
You Can Lead a Horse to Water, but You Can’t Make It Drink
- Meaning: It’s very hard to force someone to do something against his or her will.
- Example: I know it would be good for my son to go to the state university, but he doesn’t want to go. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
You Can’t Make Fish of One and Fowl of the Other
- Meaning: People must be treated equally.
- Example: The contract calls for new hires to be paid less permanently. But why make fish of one and fowl of the other?
Idioms about Animals in English.