Red in Tooth and Claw: What Is the Meaning of this Interesting Phrase?

You might have heard the term red in tooth and claw being used in an English conversation, and you may have wondered what the saying means. We are going to look at the meaning of this phrase and see how it can be used in a day to day conversation. We are also going to see some examples of the saying being used in both sentences and conversations in order to better understand how it works.

Red in Tooth and Claw

Red in Tooth and Claw Meaning

The saying red in tooth and claw refers to a situation which is brutal, violent or ruthless. It is often used to refer to the naturally violent state of animals in the wild.

Origin of this idiom

The term red in tooth and claw refers to the blood found on the teeth and claws of animals when they have caught their prey and was first coined by the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson in one of his famous works In Memoriam A.H.H.

“Red in Tooth and Claw” Examples

Examples in Statements

You may see or hear the helpful idiomatic term red in tooth and claw in various situations. Here are some examples of sentences in which we see the term being used.

The first is a statement in a new report about a prison.

  • The inmates are violent and the prison is renowned for its brutal environment, past inmates say the whole place is red in tooth and claw.

The second example statement is being made by a nature lover.

  • The African plains may be red in tooth and claw but the lionesses really know how to hunt.

Conversation Examples

If you are curious to see how the term red in tooth and claw would work in a conversation, here are some examples to show this.

The first is a conversation between two friends.

  • Person 1: “Have you ever been to Matthew’s house?”
  • Person 2: “No, I never go to that side of town.”
  • Person 1: “What’s wrong with it?”
  • Person 2: “The whole area is red in tooth and claw, it’s far too dangerous.”

This next conversation is happening between a teacher and a student.

  • Person 1: “I was so sad to watch the hyenas die on that TV show we saw in class.”
  • Person 2: “Yes, it wasn’t nice but sadly it is all red in tooth and claw for the animals.”

Other Ways to Say the Idiom

There are other ways in which you can say the term red in tooth and claw by using different wording. Here are some examples of other things that you might say in its place.

  • Merciless
  • Savage
  • Brutal

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