• Daniel Bullock

Top 25 Beginner Animal Idioms To Use Right Now

Funny animal phrases, elt, esl, English
Who let the cat out of the bag?

What are animal idioms and why do I need to use them?

Animal idioms are phrases that help us sound more natural, closer to a native speaker of English. Phrases such as in the dog house and elephant in the room are examples of animal idioms. Use these and more to sound more fluent in your English. In this post, we will look at 25 common animal idioms and what they mean. We will also uncover examples on how to use all of them. Also, read to the end to find a secret bonus idiom!


1. When do we use animal expressions?

2. Why you need this table of 25 animal idioms

3. 25 beginner animal idioms with examples for great English

4. A word on leveling up your English ability

When do we use animal idioms?

Common animal expressions for business English

Whether you are at the office, making a business deal, or talking to coworkers, you may hear animal idioms. If your colleague says "they clammed up", what does she mean? You might come across this idiom at work, and if you do not know the meaning of it, there could be a miscommunication! To clam up means that someone suddenly stops talking, probably because they feel uncomfortable about the topic being discussed.

What are 5 examples of phrases?
My colleage clammed up. Read on to find out the meaning of this English Idiom!

Idioms for general English conversation

In general social situations also, you will come across common animal idioms. How would you respond if your acquaintance said: “I want to go cold turkey”? If you don’t know the meaning of this phrase then you wouldn’t be able to respond in an encouraging manner. When someone goes cold turkey, they are trying to quit something all at once, not slowly. Very difficult things to do for many people!

Idioms to know about for school

Just as in normal social situations, learners will encounter idiomatic animal phrases during their daily school life. What do you say if your classmate said: “The teacher told me off for monkeying around”? Do you respond with sympathy, by laughing or offering advice? The expression “to monkey around” means to play around boisterously. For example, the boys were throwing a ball across the classroom or playfighting.

Why you need this table of 25 top animal idioms with definitions

Use these idioms to sound smooth and natural in your English

Busy as a bee - you are really busy.

To open a can of worms - planning to talk about something complicated or difficult.

Cat and mouse - constant chasing and catching, kind of silly behavior.

Clam up - to suddenly stop talking. Maybe a sensitive topic.

Cold turkey - abruptly stopping drinking, to quit a bad habit.

Elephant in the room - a big, serious topic that people are avoiding!

Plenty of fish in the sea - used as encouragement when someone wants to find a romantic partner.

Lion's share - To get the biggest part of something.

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth - If you are offered something nice, don't refuse this good chance.

Monkey around- playing energetically.

The black sheep - In a family or group, the person perceived as bad or worse than the others.

To bug someone - to irritate somebody.

To bug out- to escape quickly.

Top dog - The most dominant person in a group.

To be in the dog house - experiencing the anger or wrath of a romantic partner or spouse. Often used jokingly.

Look what the cat dragged in - said to call attention to someone who has entered the room (usually negatively or comically).

The straw that broke the camel's back -the last in a series of things that finally made someone angry or lose control.

Cash cow - A product or service that provides income over the long term.

Raining cats and dogs- very heavy rainfall.

Gone to the dogs -a place that has become rundown.

To go belly up - a business goes bankrupt, something fails badly.

Let the cat out of the bag- means to reveal a secret.

Like moths to a flame - people are highly attracted to something.

A wild goose chase - chaotically pursuing something.

Like a duck to water- to be naturally good at something from the beginning.

Some beginner's advice on how to study idioms well

To remember these phrases it is a good idea to read them out aloud. After that, highlight the words you do not know, and look up the meanings in a dictionary. Either a dictionary you have around the house, or a good online dictionary such as this. Studying idiomatic expressions alone will not suddenly make your English ability excellent, but it will go a long way toward making you sound more natural. If you would like to find out more about phrasal verbs, or idioms why not check out some of our other posts here at Daniel's English Club?

25 beginner animal idioms with examples for great English

animal idioms list , bee, honey, comb
I've been as busy as a bee lately.

1. Busy bee meaning

Someone who is busy or has lots of things to do.

I am as busy as a bee. I have to finish my English grammar homework immidiately!

2. What does the phrase opened a can of worms mean?

You consider talking about a complex, difficult or sensitive issue.

Asking the manager for a raise is like opening a can of worms. He will make a long list of demands before he agrees to a pay rise.

3. What does the phrase cat and mouse mean?

Constant, almost comical chasing and catching. Have you ever watched Tom and Jerry?

The business competitors are playing a game of cat and mouse. Neither are winning yet.

4. What does clam up mean in slang?

This means to stop talking about something due to feeling nervous about the topic.

Why did Misaki clam up in English class today?

5. Cold turkey meaning

This English expression means we quit a habit abruptly.

Janet quit drinking coffee cold turkey. She is feeling a bit grumpy today!

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What does the elephant in the room mean? Read on to find out.

Image courtesy of Vecteezy

6. Elephant in the room example

Timmy's weight is the elepahant in the room. If he doesn't go on a diet soon, he may have health issues.

7. Fish in the sea saying

This phrase is usually combined with the word "plenty". Plenty means more than enough of something.

Jayne broke up with her boyfriend. I told her not to be sad as there are plenty more fish in the sea

8. Lion's share synonym

Another phrase like Lion's share is the biggest slice of the pie.

Mr. Bullock gives us the Lion's share of our English grammar and vocabulary homework. The other teachers don't give us so much!

9. How do we use "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" in an English sentence?

If you are offered a free meal, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Eat it up right away!

10. Monkey around meaning

Animal idioms quiz
Quit monkeying around, will you?

When people are playing around in a funny, animated, or chaotic way we say they are monkeying around. Just like monkeys in the zoo!

I told the kids to stop monkeying around and concentrate on their homework.

11. What does it mean when someone says they are the black sheep?

When someone is called the black sheep of the family, they are a kind of outcast, or they are thought poorly of.

Tony has been the black sheep of our family ever since he stole mum's purse.

12. Bug someone meaning.

This idiomatic expression means to irritate someone, just like a mosquito buzzing around your ear for a while.

Martin was bugging the English teacher with his excessive questions about grammar.

13. What does bug out mean in slang?

Among other meanings, if you bug out, you escape from somewhere or leave, to abandon someone without warning.

The guys bugged out after some suspicious people arrived at the park!

14. Why do we say top dog?

This English phrase is used probably because of the hierarchy in dog society. One dog is the alpha who is the boss of the other dogs in the group.

Johnny is top dog on his footbal team. He has been the captain for almost a year now.

What are 10 idioms about animals?
He is the top dog!

15. What does it mean to be in the dog house?

This slang phrase involves experiencing the anger or wrath of a romantic partner or spouse. Often used jokingly!

You will be in the dog house with the wife if you stay out drinking.

16. Look what the cat dragged in a sentence:

Oh, look what the cat dragged in, it is Taka back in class again!

17. The straw that broke the camel's back idiom meaning

What do people mean when they say "the straw that broke the camel's back"? Simply put, it means a culmination of problems that finally leads to a bad conclusion. The small problems kept on snowballing until it was one huge problem.

Tracey being rude to her mother for the fifth time was the straw that broke the camel's back. She is now grounded for a month!

18. Cash cow meaning and example in a sentence.

What is a cash cow, you might ask? It is a product that sells well over a long period of time. It is not necessarily an innovative or ever-changing product, but a reliable one that many people want or need. We could say the BMW 3 Series is a cash cow for BMW. By the way, it is also a great car!

The company is so successful because it has several important cash cows.

19. What does it mean if someone goes cold turkey?

When people say that they are going cold turkey, what they mean is they are abruptly stopping something. Usually a bad habit like alcohol or cigarettes.

Tanya decided to go cold turkey in order to quit smoking. Good on her!

20. How do you use raining cats and dogs in a sentence?

It rained cats and dogs all night. Now my lawn is flooded!

What are some well known phrases?
It rained cats and dogs (not literally!)

21. What does gone to the dogs mean?

When people use the slang expression gone to the dogs, they are usually describing an area that has gotten worse and worse.

This housing estate has gone to the dogs. It needs some rejuvenation.

22. What does the phrase belly up mean??

The English expression to go belly up means to go bad, to fail.

Their plans to visit the beach this weekend have gone completely belly up due to the approaching hurricane.

23. What is the meaning of the phrase the cat is out of the bag?

What people mean when they say "the cat is out of the bag" is a certain secret has been released.

The cat is out of the bag now regarding the business deal. Everybody knows it is going to happen, even though it is officially a secret.

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Please do not let the cat out of the bag!

Image courtesy of freepik

24. How do you use like a moth to a flame in a sentence?

Use this idiomatic phrase when you would like to say someone or something is really attracted to something else. Notice how you can also use this idiom in its plural form: moth/moths, a flame/flames.

The children were like moths to flames when the new candy store opened!

25. Wild goose chase example sentence

We went on such a wild goose chase to find Max a new pair of jeans. Every store we went into had the wrong type!

A word on leveling up your English ability

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Use idioms to improve your English ability

We have talked about animal idiomatic phrases and how they can improve your English ability. If you can use these expressions, (in moderation, of course) you will sound more fluent in your English conversation. Try to fit them into various conversational situations whenyou can. Good luck English learners!

Also, as promised, here is our bonus idiom: Like a bull in a China shop. This phrase means you are acting wildly and dangerously. Just like if you put a big animal like a bull into a very delicate and small cup and plate shop.

Here is an example of like a bull in a China shop in a sentence:

Jack behaved like a bull in a China shop. My TV is scratched, clothes are all over the floor and my pen is snapped. I am not inviting him over to my house ever again!

Keep studying idioms every day, use them frequently but only in the right situation, and you will be an idiom master before you know it!