Animal Idioms

Hold your horses!

Here are some common idioms based on animals. Each entry includes the meaning of the idiom and shows the idiom in context in an example sentence. At the end is an animal idioms quiz to check your understanding.

idiom meaning example sentence
ants in one's pants unable to sit still or remain calm out of nervousness or excitement Lisa had ants in her pants the day before her interview.
(the) birds and the bees sex education I learned about the birds and the bees when my baby brother was born.
cat nap a short sleep I'm going to have a cat nap while you're cooking dinner.
cat's got one's tongue said about someone who doesn't speak (usually due to shyness) It looks like the cat's got your tongue, Lucy. Are you always this quiet?
chicken out to decide not to do something out of fear (usually just before) I was going to take a ride on Geoff's motorcyle, but I chickened out when he gave me a helmet to wear.
clam up become quiet suddenly Arthur clammed up when I asked him about his family.
copy cat a person who does the same thing as someone else My sister is such a copy cat. First she bought the same car as me, and now she's applying to my school.
dog days very hot days I sleep in the basement during the dog days of August.
dropping like flies dying/giving up quickly My roses are dropping like flies in this early frost.
eager beaver a person who is excited about doing certain work Ever since he got his new drill set my husband has been an eager beaver around the house.
fishy odd, suspicious I knew something fishy was going on when I saw all of my friends' cars in my mom's driveway.
have a cow get extremely upset (often over something minor) My teacher had a cow when she realized nobody had done the homework.
hold your horses wait and be patient Hold your horses! I'll be done in the washroom in a minute.
holy cow! Wow, I'm surprised! Holy cow! I can't believe you ate everything on your plate.
horse around play roughly If you're going to horse around, please go outside.
get the lion's share get the greatest percentage My aunt got the lion's share of the inheritance.
in the dog house in trouble with another person I don't think Marsha is coming out tonight. She's still in the dog house for forgetting Aaron's birthday.
kill two birds with one stone get two things done at once If you pick the groceries up when you drop George off for his shift, you will kill two birds with one stone.
kitty corner diagonal direction The gas station is kitty corner to the library.
let the cat out of the bag reveal a secret Who let the cat out of the bag about the surprise party?
(a) little bird told me I heard something (usually secretive or unknown) from someone (not named) A little bird told me that you are thinking of quitting your job.
make a beeline go straight for something My grandma made a beeline for the smoking room as soon as she got off the airplane.
monkey see, monkey do silly/unintelligent people tend to copy each other's actions Our one-year-old is saying bad words now. I told my husband, "Monkey see, monkey do!"
nest egg money saved for the future We have a nest egg that we might have to use if Jim goes on sick leave.
pig out eat a lot of something I pigged out on pancakes so I don't have room for lunch.
raining cats and dogs raining heavily I forgot my umbrella, and it was raining cats and dogs.
rat race fierce, competitive struggle for power, position etc I'm ready to leave this rat race and retire in Mexico.
smell a rat begin to suspect trickery etc I asked my brothers not to tell my parents that I went out, but I could smell a rat as soon as I opened the door.
straight from the horse's mouth directly from the original source I know Jenny is pregnant, because I heard it straight from the horse's mouth.
take the bull by the horns face a challenge or danger boldly If you really think you deserve a promotion, you'll have to take the bull by the horns.
until the cows come home for a very long time I could eat pizza and ice-cream until the cows come home.