Animal Idioms | List of Animal Idioms With Meaning and Examples

Animal Idioms: English is a language that uses many idioms to describe a particular person or situation. Animal idioms in English are used quite often in our day-to-day interactions. Now everyone can’t remember every one of them. So here is a list of animal idioms that we have compiled for you. It will have animal idioms with meanings. For better understanding, we have provided the list with animal idioms with sentence examples. This article will help you to increase your vocabulary and knowledge of English.

Enrich your Vocabulary by practicing the English Idioms that are commonly used in everyday conversations and understand their actual meaning.

Names of Animal Idioms

List of Animal Idioms

Meaning And Examples Of Some Commonly Used Animal Idioms

800-pound gorilla

Meaning: A person or group with enough power to break the rules; a significant, domineering individual or group

Example: Microsoft is an 800-pound gorilla in the computer industry.

a busy bee

Meaning: A busy, energetic individual who rushes from one task to the next.

Example: Though the internship was very hectic, she enjoyed being a busy bee.

a cat has nine lives

Meaning: to continue escaping from challenging or risky situations without being killed or harmed

Example: The fact that he could survive the car crash proves that he is a cat with nine lives.

a cat in gloves catches no mice

Meaning: Being overly cautious or polite can sometimes cause a person to fail to achieve their aim.

Example: I believe you will receive the promotion if you pursue it more aggressively. After all, a cat wearing gloves isn’t going to catch any mice.

a cat nap

Meaning: A brief but peaceful sleep time.

Example: I’m going to try to get a cat nap in before my next shift starts, or else I’ll be tired for the rest of the evening.

a cold fish

Meaning: Someone who is emotionless and appears unfriendly or uninterested.

Example: Because Bill came across as a cold fish during the interview, the management opted not to hire him as the store greeter.

a guinea pig

Meaning: Someone or something that is utilized as a test subject.

Example: Julie used her husband as a guinea pig for her new baked chicken dish.

a home bird

Meaning: One who prefers the familiarity and comforts of home to new and unexpected places or things.

Example: She invited me to a party with some of her play’s cast members, but I am a home bird, especially when I don’t know who I’ll be hanging out with.

a lame duck

Meaning: Someone or something in need of assistance.

Example: The company began as a lame duck saved by an inventive entrepreneur who chose to take some risks and venture in a new route.

a little bird told me

Meaning: A statement used when one does not want to disclose the source of knowledge that they are about to or have already communicated.

Example: A little bird told me that Mark is going to propose to Sarah soon.

a lone wolf

Meaning: Someone who does not seek or enjoy other people’s company.

Example: Shannon should’ve known Brad would break her heart—he’s a lone wolf who does not enjoy being close to anyone.

Animal Idiom 1

a scaredy-cat

Meaning: A person who is easily terrified or who is unnecessarily afraid.

Example: Greg called Joanne a scaredy-cat because she refused to go exploring in the woods after dark.

a sitting duck

Meaning: Something that is defenseless and susceptible to a simple attack.

Example: When my car stopped working in a dangerous neighborhood, I felt like a sitting duck waiting to be stolen.

all bark and no bite

Meaning: Full of threats or impressive talk that is scarier or impressive than what one can or will do.

Example: If I don’t keep off his yard, he constantly threatens to call the cops, but he’s all bark and no bite.

all hat and no cattle

Meaning: Full of boasting that is more amazing than what one possesses or is capable of doing.

Example: He speaks as though he knows more than everyone else, yet he’s all hat and no cattle.

ants in your pants

Meaning: Said of someone who can’t sit still because of anxiousness, extra energy, or impatience.

Example: I will take the kids to the playground today since they have ants in their pants.

back the wrong horse

Meaning: To assist someone or an attempt that has failed.

Example: I don’t want to bet on the wrong horse, but Jed appears to be the stronger candidate.

beat a dead horse

Meaning: To keep focusing on a subject or topic that is no longer important or relevant.

Example: We’ve all moved on from that issue, so there’s no use in beating a dead horse.

bee in one’s bonnet

Meaning: An fixation, usually with something unusual or causing uneasiness.

Example: Dad has had a bee in his bonnet to relocate to a warmer area ever since the blizzard last year.

Meaning: To live a life of luxury and money but to lack true freedom, happiness, or fulfillment.

Example: John abandoned his friends and family to pursue his fortune, but now that he has no friends or loved ones, he is like a bird in a gilded cage.

bird’s-eye view

Meaning: A complete examination of an issue or situation.

Example: To figure out why the company was on the verge of bankruptcy, the CFO needed to regress and gain a bird’s-eye view of the issue to pinpoint the source of the problem.

birds of a feather

Meaning: People who are similar or like-minded.

Example: I had a feeling you and John would get along great. After all, you’re like birds of a feather.

bite the hand that feeds you

Meaning: To despise or mistreat people on whom you rely or benefit.

Example: You may disagree with your parents’ regulations, but be cautious not to bite the hand that feeds you, for you owe them everything.

black sheep

Meaning: One who is distinct from the rest of a family, group, or organization.

Example: Because I’m so calm and submissive, everyone likes me. The same cannot be true about my crazy cousin Nathan, who has always been the black sheep in our family.

blow the cobwebs away

Meaning: To energize or revitalize oneself.

Example: An early-morning run always clears the cobwebs before the day begins.


Meaning: A physical fight or angry argument between people, especially women.

Example: Their argument on where to go ended up being a catfight.

Cat got your tongue?

Meaning: A witty query aimed at someone who isn’t saying much or at all.

Example: What’s the matter, Sonny? Did a cat get your tongue?

cat on a hot tin roof

Meaning: Someone who is tense and unwilling to sit still or relax.

Example: She’s been sitting like a cat on a hot tin roof all day, waiting for the doctor to ring with her test results.

cat’s paw

Meaning: A person who is exploited by another to attain a goal, especially dishonestly or cynically.

Example: You’re always trying to make a cat’s paw of me, but I’m not going to do any more of your work.

Animal Idiom 2


Meaning: cruelly or teasingly cruel, as in prolonging another’s misery or torment

Example: You cannot escape the cat-and-mouse technique of the interrogators

change horses in midstream

Meaning: To appoint a new leader during a time of turmoil or uncertainty.

Example: Throughout the crisis, the prime minister has been at the helm. I just don’t think we should switch horses in the middle of the race.

chickens come home to roost

Meaning: Previous actions will have consequences or generate problems for oneself in the future.

Example: I knew not turning in my schoolwork would be a problem at some point. My chickens have now come home to roost.

chomp at the bit

Meaning: To feel impatient for something to happen or to be frustrated by a delay.

Example: The crowd was chomped at the bit of seeing the new structure unveiled.

cool cat

Meaning: Someone who is considered hip and cool, usually a man.

Example: Their guitarist is a cool cat.

cry wolf

Meaning: To assert that something is happening when it is not, resulting in the rejection of the following genuine claims.

Example: I’m sure there isn’t a severe crisis—Janet is usually crying wolf for us to do her work for her.

curiosity killed the cat

Meaning: Curiosity can get you into danger.

Example: I believe you’ll offend her by asking such personal questions—after all, curiosity killed the cat.

dark horse

Meaning: Someone who wins a competition unexpectedly.

Example: Nobody expected Cheri to win the race after fracturing her leg last year, but she proved to be a dark horse and finished first.

dead as the dodo

Meaning: Old or unpopular.

Example: Despite its popularity in the 1970s, disco music is now as extinct as the dodo.

a dog in the manger

Meaning: Someone who insists on having what they do not want or need to keep someone else from obtaining it.

Example: Like a dog in the manger, the child refused to hand up the notebook her older sister needed to finish her school homework.

eager beaver

Meaning: one who is hardworking and passionate

Example: Give the new girl the large project; she’s a natural eager beaver.


Meaning: Having an exceptionally acute vision.

Example: The man had such eagle eyes that he could distinguish pennies on the ground from across the street.

early bird

Meaning: Someone who is more active and aware in the morning than later in the day.

Example: I suppose it’s more out of need than anything else, but I became an early bird as soon as I had children.

elephant in the room

Meaning: An obvious truth or fact, especially one seen as embarrassing or undesirable, deliberately neglected or ignored.

Example: We all sat silently sipping our tea, none of us wanting to bring up the elephant in the room, Joel’s expulsion from the college.

every dog has its day

Meaning: At some point in their lives, everyone will experience good fortune or success.

Example: I know you’re surprised that that guy earned a higher grade than you, but every dog has his day.

feather one’s nest

Meaning: to furnish and decorate one’s home

Example: I can’t wait to start feathering my nest now that the place is officially mine!

fish for compliments

Meaning: To attempt to win appreciation from someone by stating unpleasant things about oneself.

Example: Dan, we know you’re a wise man. You don’t need to solicit accolades by mentioning the one C you received.

fish out of water

Meaning: Someone who does not feel at ease in a new setting.

Example: Marie felt like a fish out of water when she was promoted to manager at the company where she worked as a clerk.

flew the coop

Meaning: to abandon or leave

Example: I couldn’t make the party any longer, so I flew the coop.

fox in the henhouse

Meaning: Someone having ill intent.

Example: If I were you, I’d keep an eye out for him like he’s a fox in the henhouse.

get one’s ducks in a row

Meaning: To take action to become more organized, prepared, and up-to-date.

Example: We need to have our ducks in a row so that there are no hassles at home while we’re away.

goose is cooked

Meaning: One is ultimately defeated, destroyed, or finished.

Example: The crew did their best, but their goose is already cooked.

have a dog in the hunt

Meaning: To have a vested interest in or something to gain from a particular situation.

Example: Many people believe that the tax proposal only affects major international firms, while many small business owners end up having a dog in the hunt.

hog wild

Meaning: Uncontrollably, often as a result of enthusiasm.

Example: The audience had been cheering, but they went hog wild as the lead singer took the stage.

hold your horses

Meaning: Be patient or wait a moment.

Example: I know you’re all eager to see the prototype, but please hold your horses while we get everything in order.

kangaroo loose in the top paddock

Meaning: An expression of craziness, eccentricity, or folly.

Example: If Tommy believes he can persuade our mother to have a tattoo for his birthday, he has a kangaroo loose in the top paddock.

kill a fly with an elephant gun

Meaning: Using excessive, overcomplicated, or expensive tactics or power to accomplish something little or easy.

Example: They are attempting to kill a fly with an elephant gun with this new scheme. When a single department could efficiently process applications from start to end, four separate departments now handle each stage of an application.

kill two birds with one stone

Meaning: To finish, accomplish, or take care of two tasks simultaneously or with a single series of actions; to solve two problems with a single step or solution.

Example: Bike-to-work programs are a terrific way to kill two birds with one stone: gain more fitness while saving money on your daily commute.

leopard can’t change its spots

Meaning: Even if one pretends or asserts otherwise, one will remain faithful to one’s nature.

Example: Even though he says that he has worked on his behavior, I will not hire him for the position. A leopard can’t change its spots.

lick one’s wounds

Meaning: To withdraw to recover from a blunder or defeat.

Example: They were severely trounced in the argument and were forced to return home to lick their wounds.

lion’s den

Meaning: A especially dangerous, unfriendly, or unpleasant location or circumstance

Example: When I walked in front of the board for my yearly evaluation, I felt like I was stepping into the lion’s den.

make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

Meaning: To create something beautiful or valuable out of inferior materials.

Example: If you’re serious about learning to paint, you should invest in high-quality brushes and canvas. After all, it’s pointless to try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

nature of the beast

Meaning: Something’s fundamental, intrinsic characteristic or character

Example: In the stock market, you can either get rich quickly or lose your shirt. That’s just the nature of the beast.

puppy dog eyes

Meaning: A pleading expression with wide, sad eyes and arched brows.

Example: Stop staring at me like that! I can’t get enough of your puppy dog eyes!

put the cart before the horse

Meaning: To perform things in the wrong order.

Example: Starting the fundraising before we know how much money we need is like putting the cart before the horse.

raise hackles

Meaning: To irritate, annoy, or agitate someone severely.

Example: When he pitched directly towards the batter’s head, that raised my hackles.

seize the bull by the horns

Meaning: Approaching, confronting, or dealing with a problem or challenging circumstance directly and confidently.

Example: I’ve been complaining about being unemployed for far too long—the time it’s to take the bull by the horns and find work!

smell a rat

Meaning: To be suspicious of betrayal, dishonesty, or corruption.

Example: When she observed John slinking away from the crime scene, she felt she smelt a rat.

swan song

Meaning: A final performance, product, or achievement before someone or something stops to create work or products.

Example: This is a spectacular swan song for the accomplished novelist, reaching and frequently exceeding the lofty heights of her first work.

tail that wags the dog

Meaning: The most minor or least important component of something that controls the more significant or more critical components

Example: Because their youngest son prefers to sleep in late, they changed their entire weekly plan. Talk about the dog’s tail wagging.

teach an old dog new tricks

Meaning: to teach someone, especially an older adult, a new skill or behavior

Example: It’s lovely that you want to teach your grandfather how to use a computer, but keep in mind that teaching an old dog new tricks might be complicated.

the world is your oyster

Meaning: In life, one can achieve whatever one desires.

Example: Do not think about what you can do in life. You are very talented, and the world is your oyster.

to have butterflies in your stomach

Meaning: A feeling of uneasiness.

Example: The butterflies in my stomach almost prevented me from stepping on stage and performing.


Meaning: a condition in which problems continue to emerge quicker than one can handle or deal with them

Example: Every time we believe we’ve finished debugging the software, new issues emerge. We’ve been playing whack-a-mole since the beginning!

wild goose chase

Meaning: A long or chaotic search for something challenging to locate

Example: I’ve been on a wild goose chase looking for Dan’s favorite potato chips.

you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink

Meaning: You can give someone an advantage or an opportunity, but you can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do.

Example: Considering the scenario, everyone in the team is trying their best to motivate him to practice. But here is the thing, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

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