English Animal Idioms

Here are some common English idioms about animals.

cat’s whiskers = to think you are the best: “He thinks he’s the cat’s whiskers!”

like the cat that’s got the cream = look very pleased with yourself: “He looks like the cat that’s got the cream!”

cat got your tongue? = a question we ask when we think someone is guilty of something: “Why don’t you say something? Cat got your tongue?”

let the cat out of the bag = tell a secret: “He shouldn’t have told her about the party – he’s let the cat out of the bag now.”

put the cat among the pigeons = cause trouble: “Don’t tell her about your promotion – that will really put the cat among the pigeons.”

have kittens = panic: “The way he was driving, I was having kittens.”

the bee’s knees = think you’re the best: “He thinks he’s the bee’s knees.”

have a bee in your bonnet = be obsessed by something: “He’s got a real bee in his bonnet about buying a new car. ”

from the horse’s mouth = get information from the original source: “I know they’re getting married – I got it from the horse’s mouth.”

a white elephant = something that is expensive, but has no use: “People say the stadium is a white elephant and a waste of money.”

a memory like an elephant = have an excellent memory: “She won’t forget, you know. She has a memory like an elephant.”

play piggy in the middle = be caught between two sides of an argument: “Because they aren’t talking, I’ve been playing piggy in the middle.”

make a pig’s ear of something = make a complete mess of something: “You’ve made a right pig’s ear of this. Let me do it!”

in hog heaven = be very happy: “We gave him flying lessons for his birthday – he was in hog heaven!”

pigs might fly! = something is as unlikely as pigs being able to fly: “Do you think the government will cut taxes?” “Pigs might fly!”

have butterflies in your stomach = be very nervous about something: “She’s got butterflies in her stomach – it’s her driving test today.”

til the cows come home = do something for ever: “I can tell him til the cows come home not to be late, but he never listens.”

take the bull by the horns = face a problem and take action: “I’m going to take the bull by the horns and tell him I’ve changed my mind.”

get someone’s goat = annoy someone: “It really gets my goat when she criticises him – it’s not as if she’s perfect herself.”

a loan-shark = someone who lends money at high interest rates: “Don’t borrow money from him – he’s a complete loan-shark.”

have a whale of a time = really enjoy yourself: “They went out and had a whale of a time.”

like a fish out of water = feel very uncomfortable in a particular situation: “He feels like a fish out of water in a suit – he much prefers wearing jeans.”

with your tail between your legs = feel guilty or ashamed: “He told us all that he was leaving, then he came back ten minutes later with his tail between his legs.”

in the dog-house = when you know that someone is angry with you: “I’m in the dog-house – I forgot to do the shopping.”

the lion’s share = most of something: “She did the lion’s share of the housework.”

in the lion’s den = in a dangerous place: “The interview was like going into the lion’s den – they asked some very difficult questions.”

a snake in the grass = someone who can’t be trusted: “Don’t tell him any secrets – he’s a snake in the grass.”

bug someone = irritate someone: “He’s really bugging me about the holiday! I wish he’d just go away and leave me alone.”

worm your way in = be nice to people so that gradually you get yourself into a good position with them: “He wormed his way into the finance department to get a job.”

monkey about = play and not work: “Stop monkeying about, will you? We’ve got loads of work to do!”

make a mountain out of a molehill = make a big issue out of something small: “Don’t worry about it – it’s not important at all. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”