English idioms about animals

This picture of my cat is the cat’s meow, isn’t it? It’s outstanding to admire his expressive curiosity.

The English language carries different styles of expression, some of which are extremely ingenious. Idioms are one such example: they are meant to draw a creative conclusion about a life situation and can be hard to understand outside a specific context. Some idioms are very funny, as they match human traits with animal counterparts. Learning such idioms is an engaging way to expand our vocabulary and it gives our conversations a personal touch.

Here are a few commonly used idioms, along with their meaning. Have a good laugh and try to incorporate them into your daily practice conversations.

  • To be a dark horse: it refers to a person who isn’t clear on their intentions and goals, but they turn out to have a surprising skill or ability which makes them to stand out eventually;

Example: He had an average grade at the admission entrance exam, but he turned out to be a dark horse with his interview.

  • Straight from the horse’s mouth: to hear something straight from the source;

Example: I know Tom is planning to ask her hand in marriage, because I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.

  • Eager beaver: a person who is excited to work with a certain tool or to work at a certain project;

Example: Ever since my daughter has received her painting tools, she’s been an eager beaver every day after school.

  • To get the lion’s share: to get the greatest percentage;

Example: My boss got the lion’s share of the company’s profit.

  • A little bird told me: to hear a secret from someone whom you don’t want to name and to share it;

Example: A little bird told me that you are planning to purchase the house on the lake and rent it in the summers.

  • To make a beeline: to go straight to somewhere;

Example: My aunt made a beeline for the taxi station as soon as the show had ended.

  • Busy as a bee: to be extremely busy, but in a productive and pleasant manner, with a healthy purpose;

Fun fact: this idiom originated from Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” (specifically, “The Squire’s Tale”) which was written around 1386. The English is very old, but the phrase remains popular to this day.

Lo, suche sleightes and subtilitees

In wommen be, for ay as busy as bees.”

Example: My wife has been as busy as a bee ever since she has started a community clothes swap.

  • Raining cats and dogs: when it rains heavily;

Example: I am so sorry I’ve forgotten my umbrella, it’s been raining cats and dogs for hours now.

  • To see which way the cat jumps: when you should wait until you see how things develop or progress before committing yourself to a course of action;

Example: The new project seems interesting, but I will wait and see which way the cat jumps.

  • Until the cows come home: for a very long time;

Example: I could eat my grandma’s homemade meals until the cows come home.

  • To get your ducks in a row: to organize things thoroughly, like baby ducklings go behind their mother duck in an organized row;

Example: I will supervise your project with the accounting and marketing departments to make sure you get your ducks in a row.

  • The world is your oyster: to have good, yet hard-earned opportunities in life. Finding good opportunities is like opening an oyster, as sometimes you can find a pearl, but sometimes it’s empty. This idiom encourages a positive outlook on life about the opportunities which come to you;

Example: You’ve just got promoted at one of the best HR companies in London, so the world is your oyster.




Owlcation, „50 Cat Idioms and Phrases”, viewed on 26.06.2023, https://owlcation.com/humanities/50-Cat-Idioms-and-Phrases
The Phrase Finder, „The meaning and the origin of the expression As busy as a bee”, viewed on 25.06.2023, https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/37700.html
Wikipedia, „The Canterbury Tales”, viewed on 25.06.2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Canterbury_Tales