Advanced Vocabulary: 10 Animal Expressions

We love to use animal expressions when we speak English. This is because we associate certain animals with certain characteristics.

Here are 10 advanced English animal expressions. If you’d like to see 30 more, check out my page on animal idioms.

When you’re dog-tired, you’re really tired.
“He’s been working long hours and he’s dog-tired!”

This is what you might do if you’re dog-tired! We all know that cats sleep for a long time. When you have a nap, you have a short sleep after lunch. So a catnap is when you nap.

“These days she spends a lot of her time catnapping in her chair.”

The lion’s share
This is the most part of something. If you take the lions’ share, you take the majority of something.

“His son got the lion’s share of the inheritance.”

Kangaroo court
This is when a group of people judge other people in a court of law, but it isn’t a real court with real lawyers. Instead, it’s a court created only at that time, often for political or military reasons. There’s no real defense for the prisoners.

“I felt that I was at a kangaroo court at that meeting. It seemed that everybody had already decided against me.”

Loan shark
A loan shark is someone who lends money at very high rates of interest.

“There are a lot of loan sharks working in this area.”

Crocodile tears
If you cry crocodile tears, you aren’t really sorry – you’re just pretending.

“Don’t believe her at all – they’re just crocodile tears.”

A hen is a mother chicken, and if a man is hen-pecked, it means that his wife is always nagging him and telling him what to do – and he always does it. It’s a bit of an old-fashioned word, but you still hear it.

“Do you think that David is hen-pecked? He always has to ask Sue for permission to do things.”

Birds have very small brains, so if someone is bird-brained, they aren’t very clever or sensible, or they do stupid things.

“He’s such a bird-brain at times.”

We also say “hare-brained” to mean thoughtless, stupid.
“He’s got some hare-brained idea to drive across Europe in an old camper van.”

Make a beeline for
If you make a beeline for someone or something, you go directly towards it – like a bee flies.

“When they got to the party, they made a beeline for the food.”

As the crow flies
We say this to mean “in a straight direction”.

“I live two km from her as the crow flies.” (If I went by the road, it would be further than two km.)

Idioms and expressions like these are very common in spoken English – and when you use them, you’ll sound more like a native speaker.

For more native English expressions, join my Real English Conversations program. You’ll speak more fluently in just 10 weeks!