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.