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Idioms And Sayings About Animals

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Idiom/Saying Explanation
To have ants in your pants.For example:-

There’s a test tomorrow, and he can’t concentrate or keep still. He looks like he’s got ants in his pants.

To be unable to keep still because you are very excited or worried about something.
To badger someone.For example:-

Don’t let people badger you into having a drink.

To pester someone into doing something.
Bark worse than bite.For example:-

Oh don’t worry, he’s always shouting at people, but his bark is worse than his bite.

Used to describe someone who makes threats but never carries them out.
Barking up the wrong tree.For example:-

The government was barking up the wrong tree with their proposal to sell off the UK’s forests.

To make the wrong choice, or ask the wrong person. (Imagine Laika barking up a tree thinking there’s a squirrel up there, but the squirrel has already run along the branches to another tree.)
To be like a bear with a sore head.For example:-

My husband is like a bear with a sore head before he gets his cup of tea in the morning.

To be in a bad mood.
To have a bee in your bonnet.For example:-

She’s got a real bee in her bonnet about that new advertising campaign, she’s even phoned the ACA!

To be obsessed about something.
The birds and the bees.For example:-

In the UK many parents dread having to tell their children about the birds and the bees.

A euphamism for courtship and intercourse between people.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.For example:-

I would stay with your current firm, rather than look for something better. After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Having something for certain is better than the possibility of getting something better.
The early bird catches the worm.For example:-

I’ll go to work early tomorrow. After all, the early bird catches the worm.

If you do something in a timely manner you will succeed.
A bird’s eye view.For example:-

If you look at Google Maps you can get a bird’s eye view of your street.

The appearance of something seen from above.
Birds of a feather flock together.For example:-

At the party, all the teenagers gathered in the kitchen. Birds of a feather flock together.

People who have similar characters or similar interests will often choose to spend time together.
To kill two birds with one stone.For example:-

I went to the dentist, and asked him to fill the molar, and remove the wisdom tooth at the same time. Might as well kill two birds with one stone.

To solve two problems with a single action.
To be like a bull in a china shop.For example:-

Don’t let him touch those glass baubles, he’s like a bull in a china shop.

To be clumsy.
A cat nap.For example:-

I always have a cat nap after lunch.

A short sleep, during the day.
To be like a cat on a hot tin roof.For example:-

She’s waiting for her boyfriend to call, and she’s been like a cat on a hot tin roof all day.

To be nervous and unable to keep still.
A fat cat.For example:-

Too many fat cats have made money out of the recession.

Someone who is very rich and powerful.
A scaredy-cat.For example:-

It’s only a little spider, don’t be such a scaredy-cat.

Someone who is frightened for no reason.
The cat’s whiskers.For example:-

She thought she was the cat’s whiskers when she got the part in the play.

When someone thinks they’re better than everyone else.
Has the cat got your tongue?For example:-

Why are you being so quiet? Cat got your tongue?

Said when someone isn’t saying anything.
To let the cat out of the bag.For example:-

Everybody knows about the redundancies, someone let the cat out of the bag.

To reveal a secret.
To look like the cat that got the cream.For example:-

I guess you passed your exam. You look like the cat that got the cream.

To look very pleased and a bit smug about something.
To put a cat among the pigeons.For example:-

When the photos showed him kissing a young woman, it really put the cat among the pigeons.

To cause trouble.
Not enough room to swing a cat.For example:-

In our old flat there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat.

Used to describe a place that is very small.
It’s raining cats and dogs!For example:-

We had to run for shelter when it started raining cats and dogs.

It’s raining very heavily.
Look what the cat’s dragged in!For example:-

Look what the cat’s dragged in! You look terrible!

An insulting way of saying that someone has just arrived and they don’t look good.
To be a chicken or To be chicken or to be chicken livered.For example:-

She wouldn’t get on the waltzers, because she said they’re dangerous. She’s such a chicken.

Someone who is cowardly.
A cuckoo in the nest.For example:-

The new manager is a real cuckoo in the nest. He’s causing more problems than he’s solving.

Someone who is part of a group but is different and often disliked, or a problem that grows quickly and crowds out everything else.
Living in cloud cuckoo land.For example:-

He thinks the recession won’t affect his business. He’s living in cloud cuckoo land.

Used to describe someone who has ideas or plans that are completely unrealistic.
A dog and pony show.For example:-

His campaign was a real dog and pony show, but he still didn’t win the election.

A show or other event that has been organized in order to get people’s support or to persuade them to buy something.
A shaggy dog story.For example:-

The way he kept going on led me to suspect it was a shaggy dog story.

A joke or story that’s obviously not true or has a silly ending.
To be like a dog with two tails.For example:-

When we found out we had won the contract, our manager was like a dog with two tails.

To be very happy.
To be dog-eared.For example:-

I won’t lend her any more books, the last one she gave back to me was dog-eared.

If something is dog-eared, it is in bad condition.
To be dog tired.For example:-

The party went on till 4am. I was dog tired the next day.

To be exhausted.
Gone to the dogs.For example.-

This country has gone to the dogs since they won the election.

Used when someone or somewhere becomes less successful than it was.
Let sleeping dogs lie.For example:-

I knew my boss was wrong, but I didn’t say anything. He wouldn’t thank me, so I say, let sleeping dogs lie.

Leave something alone if it might cause trouble.
It’s raining cats and dogs!For example:-

We had to run for shelter when it started raining cats and dogs.

It’s raining very heavily.
Talk the hind leg off a donkey.For example:-

I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. That guy could talk the hind leff off a donkey.

To talk a lot.
A dead duck.For example:-

The police admitted that they were giving up, the case was a dead duck.

A failure.
Water off a duck’s back.For example:-

He kept shouting at me, but it was like water off a duck’s back.

Said when someone doesn’t let things upset them.
The elephant in the room.For example:-

Her blindness was the elephant in the room.

A problem or situation that everyone knows about but no one mentions.
A white elephant.For example:-

Spain lavished money on many white elephant building projects, such as the airport at Ciudad Real, south of Madrid.

Used to describe something you own that is useless.
A cold fish.For example:-

Her husband’s a real cold fish, it’s impossible to tell whether he’s happy or not.

Someone who doesn’t show how they feel.
“A different kettle of fish”For example:-

Oh! They want to place an order? That’s a different kettle of fish. Of course I’ll talk to them.

A different matter or issue.
To have bigger fish to fry.For example:-

He couldn’t stay long, with this merger he has bigger fish to fry.

To have more important things to do.
Like a fish out of water.For example:-

When she started talking about her personal problems, he looked like a fish out of water.

To be uncomfortable in a particular situation
Something is fishy.For example:-

There was something fishy in the way he paused before answering the question.

Used when something is suspicious.
To be a fly on the wall.For example:-

I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the boss was telling him off.

To want to be somewhere secretly, so you can overhear what is said.
To be as sly as a fox.For example:-

He managed to get all his money out before the bank collapsed. He’s a sly old fox.

To be sneakily clever.
To get someone’s goat.For example:-

The whole time I was singing she didn’t stop talking. She really got my goat.

To upset someone.
What’s sauce for the goose, (is sauce for the gander.)For example:-

If your husband can go out to work, then surely you can too. After all, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

If you think something is acceptable for one person, it should also be acceptable for another person.
Wouldn’t say boo to a goose.For example:-

He’s not assertive enough to be a supervisor, he wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

Describes someone who is very nervous.
To not give a hoot.For example:-

Estate agents don’t give a hoot about their customers.

To not care.
A dark horse.For example:-

I was surprised when he sat down to play the piano, I didn’t know he could! He’s a real dark horse.

A person who is secretive and often does something surprising.
To close (shut) the stable door after the horse has bolted.For example:-

Giving the banks billions of dollars, is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

To try to fix something after the problem has occurred.
To say you could eat a horse.For example:-

I haven’t had any breakfast, so I could eat a horse.

To be very hungry.
To eat like a horse.For example:-

He had two helpings of everything. He eats like a horse!

To eat a lot.
To look a gift horse in the mouth.For example:-

She complained that the software was slow, but hadn’t paid for it, so I told her not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

To mistrust or complain about something you are offered or given for free.
To eat like a horse.For example:-

He had two helpings of everything. He eats like a horse!

To eat a lot.
To put the cart before the horse.For example:-

Learning to write a language before you are comfortable speaking it is putting the cart before the horse.

To get things confused and mixed up, or to do things in the wrong order.
Sraight from the horse’s mouth.For example:-

The rumour is true, the company will announce a large contract today, I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth; the managing director told me.

To hear something interesting from someone actually involved.
Mutton dressed (up) as lamb.For example:-

She’s over fifty and should really stop wearing mini skirts if she doesn’t want to look like mutton dressed as lamb.

Used to describe a woman who is dressed in a style that is more suitable for a much younger woman.
To not give a monkey’s.For example:-

I don’t give a monkey’s about being made redundant. I’m leaving. I’ve got another, better job.

Used to express lack of concern or interest.
To put a cat among the pigeons.For example:-

When the photos showed him kissing a young woman, it really put the cat among the pigeons.

To cause trouble.
A dog and pony show.For example:-

His campaign was a real dog and pony show, but he still didn’t win the election.

A show or other event that has been organized in order to get people’s support or to persuade them to buy something.
To be like a rabbit in the headlights.For example:-

As I walked into the exam room, I was like a rabbit in the headlights.

To be so frightened or surprised that you cannot move or think.
To pull a rabbit out of the hat.For example:-

He really pulled a rabbit out of the hat by getting those orders.

To surprise everyone by suddenly doing something clever.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing.For example:-

I wouldn’t borrow any money off him if I were you. He’s a real wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Someone who is dangerous, but pretends to be harmless.
Even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while.For example:-

I was surprised when he came up with the solution, I didn’t think he was that clever. I guess that even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while.

Sometimes people can be correct just by being lucky.
To have a tiger by the tail.For example:-

Trying to deal with the problem of drugs on the streets is like grabbing a tiger by the tail.

To have become associated with something powerful and potentially dangerous.
To talk turkey.For example:-

We need to solve this problem, and the only way we’ll do it is to talk turkey.

To speak frankly and openly.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing.For example:-

I wouldn’t borrow any money off him if I were you. He’s a real wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Someone who is dangerous, but pretends to be harmless.
To cry wolf.For example:-

Don’t take any notice of him, he’s always crying wolf.

To raise a false alarm about something.
The early bird catches the worm.For example:-

I’ll go to work early tomorrow. After all, the early bird catches the worm.

If you do something in a timely manner you will succeed.
The worm has turned..For example:-

Investors have become skeptical of the ability of CEOs to pull higher stock prices out of their hats. The worm has turned.

When a usually meek person or group of people becomes angry.
To open a can of worms.For example:-

When the government invited online petitions through its website, it found it had opened a can of worms.

To do something that exposes a very difficult issue or set of problems.

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