20 Animal idioms in English
Cool & quirky idioms and expressions about animals
Do you know English animal idioms?
Animals have been a part of human life and culture for centuries, and it’s no surprise that they’ve also made their way into the English language. In this blog, we look at some cool and quirky animal idioms and expressions that are commonly used by native English speakers.
Whilst English idioms are natural to the native speaker, they are difficult or impossible to understand from the literal meaning. To help develop your English fluency, we uncover the meanings and give examples of 20 interesting English animal idioms.
20 Animal idioms in English
Join us on this exciting adventure through the world of animal idioms, and you might even discover that some are similar to expressions in your own language!
the elephant in the room
a sensitive issue or problem that everyone is aware of but no one wants to discuss openly.
“The company’s financial troubles were the elephant in the room at the board meeting.”
a dark horse
to be mysterious or unknown in terms of abilities or intentions.
“No one expected John to win the marathon, he was a dark horse in the race.”
a whale of a time
to have a very enjoyable or exciting time.
“My family had a whale of a time at the amusement park yesterday.”
butterflies in your stomach
to feel nervous or anxious, especially before a performance or event.
“Before her big speech, she had butterflies in her stomach.”
as free as a bird
to be carefree and unrestricted.
“After retiring, he felt as free as a bird and decided to travel the world.”
a bull in a china shop
to be clumsy or careless in delicate or sensitive situations.
“He was like a bull in a china shop during the delicate negotiation at the board meeting, causing tensions to rise unnecessarily.”
kill two birds with one stone
to accomplish two things at the same time with a single action.
“I can pick up the dry cleaning and groceries on the way home, killing two birds with one stone.”
let the cat out of the bag
to reveal a secret or information that was supposed to be kept hidden.
“I accidentally let the cat out of the bag and told Sarah about the surprise party.”
make a mountain out of a molehill
to exaggerate or make a big deal out of something that is trivial.
“I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, it’s just a minor setback.”
a bee in your bonnet
to be obsessed with an idea which you can’t stop thinking about.
“Ever since she read that book, she’s had a bee in her bonnet about starting her own business.”
a deer in the headlights
to be frozen with fear or shock in a difficult or unexpected situation.
“When the interviewer asked him a difficult question, he was like a deer in the headlights.”
to be a chicken
to be cowardly or afraid to take risks.
“I don’t want to try skydiving, I’m too much of a chicken.”
a frog in your throat
to have difficulty speaking because your throat is dry or hoarse.
“He couldn’t sing the solo at the concert because he had a frog in his throat.”
ants in your pants
to be restless or unable to sit still.
“The kids had ants in their pants on the long car ride and kept asking ‘are we there yet?'”
the lion's share
to have the largest or biggest portion of something.
“The CEO gets the lion’s share of the company’s annual bonuses.”
to smell a rat
to sense that something is wrong or dishonest.
“I smelled a rat when he offered me a deal that seemed too good to be true.”
a fish out of water
to feel uncomfortable or out of place in a particular situation or environment.
“As a vegetarian, I felt like a fish out of water at the barbecue.”
a sitting duck
to be vulnerable or defenseless against an attack or danger.
“The company’s outdated online security system made them a sitting duck for the cyber attack that cost them millions of dollars to fix.”
a wolf in sheep's clothing
to be deceptive or to appear harmless while having sinister intentions.
“He seemed nice, but turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, stealing from his colleagues.”
in the doghouse
to be in trouble or out of favour with someone.
“After forgetting our wedding anniversary, I was definitely in the doghouse with my wife.”