What are some of your favorite idioms? Learning idioms is a great way to get to know a language, since idioms are usually distinct (special, unique) to that language. Idioms typically (usually, normally) have words in them that seem unrelated, which make them difficult to translate. Idioms can be really fun to learn and help to deepen your knowledge of a language and a culture. Additionally (also), idioms come from many different aspects (parts) of life, and some of the most fun idioms are animal idioms in English.
If you’re learning English, animal idioms can be a great introduction to English idioms. Animal idioms are very common in English, meaning that you’ll hear them all the time. Animal idioms are also easy to remember, especially if you are an animal lover! Check out some of these common English idioms that have to do with animals, if you’re learning English and want to learn more!
The elephant in the room
Have you ever been in an awkward (tricky/uncomfortable) situation? Has there been something people want to talk about, but it is too controversial (something that causes disagreement) or hard to bring up in conversation? This is then the elephant in the room. An elephant in the room is an issue that is too big to ignore, but that people try to avoid talking about because it is hard to talk about or could be embarrassing or controversial. If you’re trying to remember this idiom, think about if there was an actual elephant in the room! It would take up a lot of space and be very hard to ignore!
- All of the employees had been asking about getting raises, but nothing was said about it at the meeting. It was a real elephant in the room.
- Their divorce was a huge elephant in the room at the party. Everybody knew they were getting divorced, but no one felt they could talk about it.
That really gets my goat
Have you ever heard someone say, “That really gets my goat,” and been confused about what they meant? This is a great idiom to use, and it means that something annoys you. Saying that something gets your goat is a great way to say that something annoys you without saying it too strongly (harshly). The origin of this animal idiom actually comes from horse racing! If a horse was agitated (upset) and restless the night before a race, people used to put a goat in the stall with the horse overnight, as goats were thought to have a calming effect on horses.
- It really gets my goat when people don’t stop at stop signs. They should stop, and it’s dangerous if they don’t!
- It really gets my goat when parents let their children run all over the place. It’s not always appropriate.
The lion’s share
Have you ever gotten the largest portion (piece) of something? Have you gotten the largest part of a dessert, or the largest amount of credit on a project? Then you’ve gotten the lion’s share of something. If you get the lion’s share, it means you get the most of something or the largest part. This idiom comes from lions in the wild, where they can take the largest portion of the prey they hunt and leave the rest for other animals to eat.
- My partner did the most amount of work on the group project, so it’s only fair that they get the lion’s share of the credit.
- The birthday boy ate the lion’s share of the pie, but it’s only because no one else was eating it!
Pig-headed is an animal idiom in English that may not actually be fair to its origin (come from the name). If someone is pig-headed, it means that they are stubborn and not very smart. Someone who is pig-headed can be very set in their ways and they may not like things to change. The phrase may not actually be fair to pigs, since pigs are thought to be very smart!
- He thought the politician was extremely pig-headed and didn’t understand the policy he was sponsoring.
- My colleagues are really pig-headed. They are not very smart and think they are always right!
Wild goose chase
If, for some reason, you have ever had to capture a goose, then you probably understand the idiom wild goose chase very well! Geese are very hard to catch and may send you on a wild goose chase, if you ever have to catch one. A wild goose chase is something that is a waste of time, since it’s not very likely to succeed. For example, if someone asks you to find them a golden egg, for example, they’re sending you on a wild goose chase! Eggs made of gold don’t exist, so finding one is a waste of time. Has someone ever sent you on a wild goose chase?
- The photographer wanted to photograph a very rare frog, but his wife thought it was a wild goose chase, since there are only 200 of those frogs left in the wild. It was very unlikely that her husband would find one of those frogs.
- Her colleagues said that she went on a wild goose chase to find evidence to support her theory. The evidence (proof) likely didn’t exist.
Are there any animal idioms in your native language? Are any of them similar to these idioms? Share your favorite animal idioms with us in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and drinks the lion’s share of the coffee in her house. She also thinks animal idioms are some of the most fun idioms in English!