6 Idioms About Animals

Time to talk about idioms!!

If you don’t know already, I love idioms. As I wrote about in my post “10 Common Idioms,” they are the gold nuggets of English!

There are sooo many idioms to learn in English. But for today, let’s look at six idioms that talk about animals.

As poor as a church mouse

Let’s break it down.

A mouse is a small animal like this.



This is a church.


Long long time ago, church buildings were made out of stone usually and did not store food inside the church. A mouse that lived in a church would not have any food.

True meaning: <someone who is really poor>


  • My mother is as poor as a church mouse and does not have enough money for anything.
  • The homeless person is as poor as a church mouse.

Black sheep

This is a sheep.


This is a black sheep.

StockSnap_black sheep

True meaning: <someone who doesn’t fit in or who isn’t like everyone else>


  • My brother is the black sheep of the family. He is the only one with red hair.
  • In the group at school, everyone likes to play soccer, except for Bob. He is the black sheep of the class.

Cat nap

This is a cat.


This is a cat napping.

StockSnap_napping cat

(Nap means to sleep for a short amount of time. It is different than sleeping.)

True meaning: to sleep for a very short amount of time.


  • I need a cat nap to get some energy today.
  • I only have time to take a cat nap since today is busy.

Hold your horses

This is a horse.


This is someone holding a horse.

StockSnap_holding horse

True meaning: hold on or do not go as fast


  • Hold your horses! Let’s start this project slowly.
  • She told me to hold my horses because I was so excited.

In the dog house

This is a dog.


This is a dog in a house. (A <dog house> is a small house just for the dog.)

StockSnap_dog in a house

True meaning: to be in trouble or have someone upset or mad at you


  • When I get home, I know that I’ll be in the dog house.
  • I broke the glass window so I feel like I’m in the dog house.

Pig out

This is a pig.


This is a pig eating.

StockSnap_pig eating

See how the pig is eating?

True meaning: to eat junk food or lots of food really fast


  • I want to pig out when I get home.
  • When I go to the restaurant, I will pig out.


What other idioms talk about animals that you know? Let me know in the comments!

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A Guide to Food Idioms

Yay! It’s time for idioms. Even more cool – time to talk about idioms that talk about food ūüôā

Idiom: a phrase (several words) that means something different than it’s literal meaning

If you need more idioms in your life or want to learn more, check out ten other common idioms. 

Not my cup of tea StockSnap_tea

  • Example: Dancing is not my cup of tea.
  • Literal definition: a cup of tea is a smaller container (cup or glass or mug) that you put tea in (a hot drink made of herbs)
  • Possible confusion: Why are you talking about tea when you’re dancing?
  • Proper definition: “Cup of tea” means something that you’re good at or like to do.
  • Explanation: Dancing is not my specialty.

Bun in the oven StockSnap_oven

  • Example:¬†I can tell that she’s got a bun in the oven because her belly is big.
  • Literal definition: a bun is a type of bread that you would normally cook in the oven
  • Possible confusion: Why should a big belly mean that she’s making bread?
  • Proper definition: to be pregnant
  • Explanation: I can tell that she’s pregnant because her belly is big.

In a nutshell StockSnap_nuts

  • Example: In a nutshell, she’s crazy.
  • Literal definition: a nutshell is a the outer part of a nut, a type of food
  • Possible confusion: Does this mean that she’s inside a nutshell?
  • Proper definition: to summarize everything that you’ve said
  • Explanation: In summary, she’s crazy.

Peach fuzz StockSnap_peach

  • Example: Your face has some peach fuzz.
  • Literal definition: the little hairs on the outside of the fruit called peach
  • Possible confusion: Did you take the skin of the peach and put it on your face?
  • Proper definition: the start of a beard or facial hair, usually for teenagers that are just starting to grow facial hair
  • Explanation: Your face has some facial hair starting to grow.

One smart cookie StockSnap_cookie1

  • Example: Your teacher says that you are one smart cookie.
  • Literal definition: A cookie is a sweet round food that is baked.
  • Possible confusion: How can a cookie (a food) be smart?
  • Proper definition: to be intelligent or smart
  • Explanation: Your teacher says that you are really smart.


What other idioms do you know that include food words? Let me know in the comments!

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10 Common Idioms

Idiom: a word or set of words that mean something different than the literal meaning of each word

I love idioms. Idioms are like the gold nuggets of a language. You won’t always find them in the dictionary (because often they’re more than one word) and it’s hard to find a complete list of all idioms of a language because there are so many.

They’re like a secret language that every fluent speaker knows but someone learning the language has to search for.

And once you find the idioms and add them to your vocabulary, bam! You’re automatically a better speaker!

These are some of my favorite idioms.

Piece of cake

  • Example: The math test today was a piece of cake.
  • Clarification: The math test was not made of cake.
  • Actual meaning: Something easy that doesn’t require any effort

piece of cake idiom for ESL learner

Raining cats and dogs

  • Example: I’m so wet because it’s raining cats and dogs outside.
  • Clarification: There were not literally cats and dogs coming down from the sky.
  • Actual meaning: It is raining a lot and really hard.

Time flies

  • Example: Time flies when you’re having a good time.
  • Clarification: Time doesn’t fly with a cape behind it.
  • Actual meaning: It seems like the time is passing by a lot faster than it normally does.

time flies idiom for ESL learners

In black and white

  • Example: The instructions are black and white.
  • Clarification: It does not mean literally black and white. There could be color on the page.
  • Actual meaning: Very clear or obvious. The instructions are very clear and easy to understand.

Couch potato

  • Example: I just want to be a couch potato today and watch Netflix all day.
  • Clarification: I didn’t turn into a potato sitting on the couch.
  • Actual meaning: Someone that is being super lazy for the moment and sits on the couch for long amounts of time.

Cost an arm and a leg

  • Example: My computer cost me an arm and a leg.
  • Clarification: I did not sell my arm nor my leg.
  • Actual meaning: The computer was incredibly expensive.

cost an arm and a leg idiom for ESL learners

Have a blast

  • Example: Have a blast at the dance tonight!
  • Clarification: The dance did not have an explosion that blasted.
  • Actual meaning: Have a really great time at the dance or have lots of fun!


  • Example: Don’t be a copycat! That dance move is mine.
  • Clarification: I am not telling you to be a cat.
  • Actual meaning: Don’t copy everything that I do.

Out of the blue

  • Example: My mom called me out of the blue yesterday.
  • Clarification: It wasn’t a blue day yesterday.
  • Actual meaning: It was random that my mom called yesterday, or happened for no reason.

Better late than never

  • Example: Better late than never that you showed up tonight.
  • Clarification: I wasn’t happy that you showed up late tonight.
  • Actual meaning: It didn’t matter that you were late. It’s better that you showed up at all.

What’s your favorite idiom?

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