Animal Idioms | Idioms Derived From The Names Of Animals

Take the bull by the horns

When you take the bull by the horns you face a difficult situation boldly.

  • If I were you, I would take the bull by the horns and dismiss him from service.

Cat and dog life

If you and your partner are leading a cat and dog life, you are constantly quarrelling with each other.

Let the cat out of the bag

When you let the cat out of the bag you reveal a secret by mistake.

  • I didn’t want anyone to know about my winning the jackpot, but my sister let the cat out of the bag.

Rain cats and dogs

When it rains cats and dogs it rains very heavily.

Till the cows come home (for a very long time)

  • We can discuss the problem till the cows come home, but that isn’t going to solve it.

Cow someone into doing something (force someone to do something by threatening or frightening)

  • You can’t cow them into submission.
  • If the management thinks that they can cow the workers into submission they are wrong.

Dog in the manger (someone who doesn’t let another person do or have something which he himself cannot do or have)

  • He is a real dog in the manger. He will neither eat the cake nor let us eat it.

Lead a dog’s life

When you lead a dog’s life, you live in abject misery.

  • She has been leading a dog’s life since the untimely demise of her husband.

Go to the dogs (be ruined)

  • He was never the right person to be the manager. Under his management the company went to the dogs.

Not a dog’s chance (no chance at all)

  • You don’t have a dog’s chance to win the first prize.

Eat like a horse (eat a lot)

  • If you eat like a horse you will soon fall ill.

Put the cart before the horse (reverse the logical order of things)

The lion’s share (the biggest portion/share)

  • When the ancestral property was divided, he got the lion’s share.

Monkey about/around (behave in a foolish or silly way)

  • Stop monkeying about. You are a grown up boy.

Play a cat-and-mouse game with someone (keep someone in a state of suspense or uncertainty)

  • The management is playing a cat-and-mouse game with the workers on strike.

Rat race (the fierce, unending competition for success or wealth)

  • I am getting tired of this rat race. I just want to go and live a quiet life somewhere.

Smell a rat (have a feeling that something is wrong somewhere)

  • She smelled a rat when her husband suddenly started working late.

Separate the sheep from the goats (choose people or things of high quality from a group of mixed quality)

  • The success of an HR manager lies in his/her ability to separate the sheep from the goats.


Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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