English is full of idioms, especially animal-related idioms. Because our first animal idioms blog was so popular, we’ve decided to write about a couple more animal idioms in English. These idioms have to do with (are related to) horses, birds, and dogs, and are very common phrases in English. These animal idioms in English are used in many different situations and are very handy (useful) to know both for students of English and fluent speakers alike (both)!

Take a walk on the wild side with these animal idioms in English:

One-trick pony

Do you know someone who only seems to be good at one task? Or someone that doesn’t seem to have very many talents (creative skills) and are only good at one thing? Then this person is called a one-trick pony. Ponies are very small or young horses and can be taught tricks (skills, special things) to be performed in shows. Ponies are able to learn many different tricks, so a one-trick pony can only perform one trick.

For example:

  • Fred is a one-trick pony. He’s great at accounting, but not so good at time management.
  • When you’re in college, you should learn as many different skills as you can. You don’t want to be a one-trick pony!

Hold your horses

Some people move very quickly all the time. They are always on the go and are always busy. People like this tend to walk very quickly, move from one task to the next very fast, and can sometimes be a little impatient (quickly annoyed). If you know someone like this, don’t be afraid to tell them to hold their horses. Telling someone to hold their horses is an idiomatic expression meaning that they should slow down and not move so fast. The next time you’re with someone who’s a fast walker, tell them, “hold your horses” and wait for you.

For example:

  • Mom, hold your horses! Don’t walk so fast! We have plenty of time before the movie starts.
  • Whoa, hold your horses! Slow down and tell me what you need, slowly.

Weasel out of something

I’m sure there are times that you don’t want to do something. Whether it’s helping a friend move or doing something for work, there are always things that aren’t very appealing (attractive) that we have to do. Even if there are things you don’t want to do, you shouldn’t weasel out of them. To weasel out of something is to get out of doing a task, usually through manipulation (to control someone or something) or trickery. Weasels, the animals, are known for being tricky or clever. Weaseling out of something generally doesn’t look good. It’s better to just come out and say that you don’t want to do a certain task!

For example:

  • You’re not going to weasel out of babysitting this weekend! I did it last week and this time, it’s your turn!
  • He didn’t want to help his best friend move, even though he said he would do so. He was pretty sure he could weasel out of it, though, and go to the movies instead.

Let sleeping dogs lie

Dogs always look so peaceful when they sleep, but sometimes when you wake them up, they can get aggressive (mean). This is where one of the most common animal idioms in English comes from: to let sleeping dogs lie. To let sleeping dogs lie means to not bring up an issue so that it doesn’t cause any problems. For example, don’t bring up the fact that your cousin owes you money at Christmas dinner. This is bound to (certain to) cause an argument! Instead, it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie and bring it up at a better time.

For example:

  • I wouldn’t text her. You two haven’t talked since the break up and it’s better to just let sleeping dogs lie.
  • She couldn’t just let sleeping dogs lie and brought up the fact that her brother owed her money from five years ago.

Quit cold turkey

Have you ever had to quit a bad habit? Did you come up with little tricks to help you quit, or did you quit cold turkeyQuitting cold turkey has nothing to do with not eating cold turkey meat, but rather is a method (way) of stopping something. If you quit cold turkey, it means that you give up a bad habit without finding a way to make quitting easier.

You’ll often hear the idiom quit cold turkey in relation to smoking. Someone who quits smoking cold turkey will stop smoking from one day to the next, and won’t have a “cheat” cigarette, use nicotine patches, or chew nicotine gum to make the transition (change) easier. They just stop smoking completely.

For example:

  • When he started having a hard time breathing going up the stairs, he decided to quit smoking cold turkey. He never smoked another cigarette again.
  • After watching the documentary on farming, she quit meat cold turkey and became a vegetarian.

Do these animal idioms in English relate to your life? How? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!


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Check out these other popular blogs: Taboo words in English7 Synonyms for Being Drunk7 American English Slang Words, or these Sports Idioms used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and will never weasel out of something. Her students always loved when she taught animal idioms in English!