Think you know your quirky English expressions? The English language has one of the largest vocabularies of any language, meaning that there is more than plenty of room for things to get interesting. From metaphors and similes to puns, English lends itself to a lot of creative phrases. Quite simply, English leaves a lot of room to play.
The language is full of sayings, phrases, and axioms that complete all sorts of functions. Some teach a lesson and others provide colorful ways for us to express emotions and opinions. There are many phrases that have been in use for decades or centuries and have been knocking around for so long that no one quite knows how they started. Some of these things have even changed meaning over time, and the average English speaker has no idea what they used to mean.
Many of English's expressions use animals to get their points across. These can be as common as household pets and as exotic as the creatures that dwell in faraway jungles. English has a place for them all, big and small! If you are a savvy English speaker with a love of animals, see if you can bark your way through this whimsical quiz!
This idiom references the fact that snails move incredibly slowly. It dates back to at least the 16th century when it was used in Shakespeare's "Richard III."
This phrase is used when someone told you something, but you don't want to say who it was. This allows them to remain anonymous.
Cat naps refer to short naps during the day. This is because cats sleep so much.
This phrase means that competition is brutal and people will do anything to come out on top. No one is sure of the exact origin of this phrase.
Sheep generally follow a shepherd without causing too much fuss. When someone calls other people sheep, they mean that they are followers who don't think too hard about things.
This phrase means to take an action that will create a whole new set of problems. No one is quite sure how it started.
This popular phrase goes back. It's used to express that the speaker thinks that whatever was suggested is impossible.
This phrase means to not get overexcited and overconfident about what you have before you are sure that you have it. After all, deciding all of your chickens will hatch when they are only eggs is risky.
This means to be patient. You will often hear mothers saying it to children.
This is an insult usually leveled at men. It is often applied to men who are unfaithful to the women they are involved with.
This idiom is used to mean that somebody can't sit still. Usually, this is out of nerves or excitement.
This is a common English expression. It comes from Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," which were written in the 14th century.
This phrase means that you have many opportunities in front of you. After all, oysters may be hard to open, but occasionally they contain a beautiful pearl.
To clam up means to suddenly get quiet. You don't want to clam up at a job interview.
The dog days of summer refer to the hottest part of the summer. This can often be heatwave that lasts days or more.
This phrase can refer to dying, quitting or giving up quickly. It is usually only used to refer to multiple people or objects.
If something is fishy it is odd, suspicious or not quite right. Use it when things seem off.
This means to not get upset. It usually refers to overreacting to minor issues.
To horse around means to play rough. Kids often do this.
This phrase is not literally about killing birds with stones. It means to solve two problems or get two things done at once.
This does not refer to a literal cat in a bag. It means to not reveal secrets.
To pig out means to eat a lot. This refers to the appetites of pigs.
To chicken out means to back out on something due to fear. Cowardly people are also often called chickens.
This is not literal. It means that it's raining incredibly hard outside.
To smell a rat means to begin to think that something bad is going on behind your back. If you suspect trickery, you have smelled a rat.
To rat someone out means to tell on them in order to get them in trouble. Rat is used in a few phrases related to double-crossing others.
If you hear something straight from the horse's mouth, it does not mean that a horse literally told you. It means that you got your information straight from the source.
This is used as an exclamation. It usually expresses surprise or incredulity.
A wild goose chase describes a specific kind of chase. It means that someone is chasing after or trying to achieve something difficult or downright impossible.
Copy cats are people who copy others. You will often hear this phrase used by children.
This idiom means that someone or something is being watched incredibly closely. Hawks can see 2-8 times better than people.
This phrase means to straighten up and get everything together. It refers to the fact that baby ducks often walk behind their mother in a row.
If someone is being used as a guinea pig, it means they are being used as a test subject. This probably refers to the longstanding practice of animal testing in experiments, which often make use of rodents.
This phrase means to leave things alone. Dogs are common in English idioms.
While this phrase is used to describe someone who is blind, it is not correct. All species of bats can actually see to some extent.