List of Animal Idioms in English with meanings and sentences

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  1. RedRose64

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    act like an ape

    MEANING: behave badly, wildly, foolishly

    EXAMPLE:

    He has been acting like an ape ever since his girlfriend left him.

    bark up the wrong tree

    MEANING: choose the wrong course of action

    EXAMPLE:

    He is barking up the wrong tree. He accuses me of causing the computer problem but I was away at the time.

    Her bark is worse than her bite

    MEANING: someone’s words are worse than their action

    EXAMPLE:

    You shouldn’t worry about her. Her bark is worse than her bite and she is really a very nice person.




    bet on the wrong horse

    MEANING: misread the future

    EXAMPLE:

    He is betting on the wrong horse if he keeps supporting the other city in their bid for the games.

    bull in a china shop

    MEANING: a person with no tact who upsets others or upsets plans

    EXAMPLE:

    He is like a bull in a china shop so you should be careful if you invite him to your house for the weekend.

    cash cow

    MEANING: a good way to make money

    EXAMPLE:

    The new business is a great cash cow. We are making a lot of money now.

    cat get one’s tongue

    MEANING: can’t speak because of shyness

    EXAMPLE:

    The cat must have got her tongue. She did not saying anything at all.

    cat nap

    MEANING: a short sleep taken during the day

    EXAMPLE:

    I had a cat nap during the afternoon so I would feel refreshed in the evening.




    change horses in midstream

    MEANING: make new plans or choose a new leader in the middle of an important activity

    EXAMPLE:

    They have decided to change lawyers but I told them that they shouldn’t change horses in midstream.

    copycat

    MEANING: someone who copies another person’s work etc.

    EXAMPLE:

    He is a copycat according to the other students in the class.

    cry wolf

    MEANING: give a false alarm; warn of a danger that is not there.

    EXAMPLE:

    He is crying wolf. There is no real danger or worry about the electrical system causing a fire.

    curiosity killed the cat

    MEANING: being too nosy may lead a person into trouble

    EXAMPLE:

    You shouldn’t worry about what he is doing. Remember curiosity killed the cat.

    dark horse

    MEANING: a candidate little known to the general public

    EXAMPLE:

    He was a dark horse in the race to be President until he gave some good speeches on TV.

    dog-eat-dog

    MEANING: ready or willing to fight and hurt others to get what one wants

    EXAMPLE:

    It is a dog-eat-dog world outside the father said to his young son.

    donkey's years

    MEANING: a very long time

    EXAMPLE:

    I talked to my friend for a long time because I hadn't seen her in donkey's years.




    dumb bunny

    MEANING: stupid or gullible person

    EXAMPLE:

    He really is a dumb bunny. I can’t believe that he can do such stupid things.

    eager beaver

    MEANING: a person who is always eager to work or do something extra

    EXAMPLE:

    She is a real eager beaver and I am sure she will do very well in this company.

    eat like a horse

    MEANING: eat a lot

    EXAMPLE:

    Her brother who is 18 years old eats like a horse.

    every dog has his day

    MEANING: everyone will have his chance or turn; everyone will get what he deserves

    EXAMPLE:

    Don’t worry about him. Every dog has his day and he will eventually suffer for all the bad things that he is doing.

    fraidy-cat

    MEANING: someone who is easily frightened (used by children)

    EXAMPLE:

    The little boy called his friend a fraidy-cat because he wouldn’t climb the tree.




    get on one’s high horse

    MEANING: behave with arrogance

    EXAMPLE:

    She is always getting on her high horse and telling people what to do.

    get off one’s high horse

    MEANING: begin to be humble and agreeable

    EXAMPLE:

    I wish that she would get off her high horse and begin to think about how other people feel about things.

    go ape

    MEANING: become highly excited or angry

    EXAMPLE:

    He will go ape if he sees that you have not finished the work that was due today.

    go whole hog

    MEANING: do something completely or thoroughly

    EXAMPLE:

    They went whole hog in their effort to make sure that the convention was a success.

    hit the bulls-eye

    MEANING: reach the main point

    EXAMPLE:

    I think that he really hit the bulls-eye when he talked about the problems with the regular staff.

    hold one’s horses

    MEANING: wait, be patient

    EXAMPLE:

    Hold your horses for a moment while I make a phone call.

    holy cow

    MEANING: used to express strong feelings like astonishment, pleasure or anger

    EXAMPLE:

    Holy cow he said as he saw the car that had hit the street lamp.

    horse around

    MEANING: rough or noisy play

    EXAMPLE:

    The teacher told the children to stop horsing around and get ready for class.

    horse of a different colour

    MEANING: something totally separate and different

    EXAMPLE:

    Moving to a new location is a horse of a different colour. It was never mentioned in any of our meetings.

    horse trade

    MEANING: hard and skilful bargaining

    EXAMPLE:

    We had to do a little horse trading but finally we reached a deal to buy the new house.




    in the doghouse

    MEANING: in disgrace or disfavour

    EXAMPLE:

    He is in the doghouse with his wife because he went out drinking three times last week.

    kangaroo court

    MEANING: a self-appointed group that decides what to do to someone who is supposed to have done wrong.

    EXAMPLE:

    It was decided in a kangaroo court that he would have to pay for the damage that he had caused to the school building.

    lead a dog’s life

    MEANING: work hard and be treated unkindly

    EXAMPLE:

    He is leading a dog’s life since he married the woman who everyone told him not to.

    let sleeping dogs lie

    MEANING: don’t make trouble if you don’t have to

    EXAMPLE:

    You should let sleeping dogs lie and not ask him any questions about the argument.




    let the cat out of the bag

    MEANING: tell something that is supposed to be a secret

    EXAMPLE:

    She let the cat out of the bag when she began talking about the plans for the new department.

    live high on the hog

    MEANING: have the best of everything

    EXAMPLE:

    He has been living high on the hog since he changed jobs and moved to Texas.

    lock the barn door after the horse is gone

    MEANING: be careful or try to make something certain after it is too late

    EXAMPLE:

    Now he wants to try and fix his house but it is like locking the barn door after the horse is gone. There was already a flood and the damage is done.

    look like the cat that swallowed the canary

    MEANING: look very self-satisfied, look as if one just had a great success

    EXAMPLE:

    You look like the cat that swallowed the canary. What happened?

    make a mountain out of a molehill

    MEANING: make something that is unimportant seem important

    EXAMPLE:

    You are making a mountain out of a molehill with your going on and on about his mistake.

    monkey business

    MEANING: unethical or bad activity, mischief

    EXAMPLE:

    He should stop that monkey business and try to do the job the correct way.

    piggyback

    MEANING: sitting or being carried on someone’s back and shoulders

    EXAMPLE:

    The boy was riding piggyback on his father’s shoulders.




    piggy bank

    MEANING: a small bank (sometimes in the shape of a pig) for saving money

    EXAMPLE:

    He has been putting money into his piggy bank to save for a bicycle.

    play cat and mouse with someone

    MEANING: tease or fool someone

    EXAMPLE:

    He is playing a cat and mouse game with his company about his plans to quit or not.

    put the cart before the horse

    MEANING: do things in the wrong order

    EXAMPLE:

    I think that buying a ticket before we make any plans is putting the cart before the horse.

    rain cats and dogs

    MEANING: rain very hard

    EXAMPLE:

    It has been raining cats and dogs all day.

    rat out on

    MEANING: desert or betray someone

    EXAMPLE:

    He ratted out on his friends and now they won’t talk to him.

    rat race

    MEANING: rushing around, confusing way of living that does not seem to have a purpose

    EXAMPLE:

    He is tired of living in the rat race every day and plans to quit his job soon and do something else.




    road hog

    MEANING: car driver who takes more than his share of the road

    EXAMPLE:

    The person in front of me on the highway was a road hog but I tried not to get angry.

    sacred cow

    MEANING: a person or thing that is never criticized or changed even if it should be

    EXAMPLE:

    The school lunch program is a sacred cow which they will never change.

    scaredy-cat

    MEANING: someone who is easily frightened (used by children)

    EXAMPLE:

    The children were calling their friend a scaredy-cat because she wouldn’t go into the empty house.

    smell a rat

    MEANING: be suspicious, feel that something is wrong

    EXAMPLE:

    I smell a rat. There is something wrong with his relationship to the bankers.

    straight from the horse’s mouth

    MEANING: directly from the person or place where something began

    EXAMPLE:

    I heard straight from the horse’s mouth that she will be leaving the company next week.

    straw that breaks the camel’s back

    MEANING: a small trouble which follows other troubles and makes one become angry or do something

    EXAMPLE:

    Her accusing me of not working hard enough was the straw that broke the camel’s back so I finally asked for a transfer to another section of the company.

    tail between one’s legs

    MEANING: feel beaten, ashamed (after a scolding etc.)

    EXAMPLE:

    He left the meeting with his tail between his legs after he was criticized by the president.

    take the bull by the horns

    MEANING: take decisive action and not worry about the results

    EXAMPLE:

    My aunt decided to take the bull by the horns and begin preparations for the family reunion.



    talk until the cows come home

    MEANING: talk for a long time

    EXAMPLE:

    We can talk until the cows come home this weekend at the lake.

    throw someone to the wolves

    MEANING: send someone into danger without protection

    EXAMPLE:

    He decided to throw his co-worker to the wolves when he asked him to go and see the other company.

    turn tail

    MEANING: run away from trouble or danger

    EXAMPLE:

    We decided to turn tail and leave the pub before there was a fight.

    wildcat strike

    MEANING: a strike spontaneously arranged by a group of workers

    EXAMPLE:

    There was a wildcat strike at the factory and over 100 people walked off the job.

    wolf in sheep’s clothing

    MEANING: a person who pretends to be good but really is bad

    EXAMPLE:

    Be careful of that man. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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