11 Animal Idioms In English

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  • Post last modified:09/07/2021
  • Post category:English Idioms
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Learn animal idioms in English. There are many idioms connected with animals in the English language. 

In this post, I’ve chosen less common idioms for you. Enjoy the podcast episode with detailed explanations and examples. 

Table of Contents

Animal idioms in English

Learn unusual animal idioms in English. Improve English speaking. Advanced English learning. Online English lessons at www.englishlessonviaskype.com #learnenglish

Hi, there this is Harry and welcome to my English learning podcast Speak Better English where I try to help you to get a better understanding of the English language so that you can enjoy it, you can use it and you can practice it.

We talk about English idioms and phrasal verbs, show you the best way to use the correct grammar, improve vocabulary and also pronunciation.

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Today, we’re going to look at animal idioms in English. I’ve got 10 or 11 English idioms connected with animals. I’ll give them to you, and then I’ll give you an example. You’ll be able to understand how and where to use animal idioms in English.

you can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Meaning: when somebody is set in their ways and when somebody has been doing the same thing year in year out, it’s very hard to get them to change, to do something different


Mum and I tried to teach grandad to use technology, but he’s seriously hopeless! You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

a big fish in a small pond

Meaning:Meaning: somebody who is in control and can do as they please and perhaps they’ve grown a little too big, so it’s time to move on


I’m tired of being a big fish in a small pond. It’s difficult to do anything else in this company. I’m looking around for another position, it’s time to move on.

We can also use

a small fish in a big pond

with an opposite meaning. 

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a fly on the wall

Meaning: we often use this expression when we want to listen in on certain conversations, and we know we won’t get to hear them


I have to say, I would love to be a fly on that wall and hear the stories those two will tell.

there are (plenty) more fish in the sea

Meaning: we use it when we’re trying to comfort someone who has fallen out with their boyfriend or girlfriend


Don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea. You’ll be able to find love soon. 

Animal idioms in English

Learn unusual animal idioms in English. Improve English speaking. Advanced English learning. Online English lessons at www.englishlessonviaskype.com #learnenglish

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Animal idioms in English

barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: to make a mistake; to chase the wrong lead; to get the wrong idea, accuse the wrong person, etc


She thought that Sam stole the money, but she was barking up the wrong tree.

the cat that got the cream

Meaning: used to say when someone is looking very satisfied and happy


You’re sitting there with a big smile on your face. Go on, tell me what happened. You look like the cat that got the cream.

empty nest

Meaning: a situation when your children have left home for the first time to go to college or live on their own


In the empty nest, many mothers feel like no one needs them anymore and they’ve lost their purpose in life.

loan shark

Meaning: somebody other than a bank or some financial institution that lends money to desperate people at extortionist rates of interest


Avoid loan sharks at all costs. They will lend you the money but they will charge you ridiculous rates of interest and huge penalties if you don’t pay on time.

top dog

Meaning: is the person who is usually the most important; somebody in the highest position


A long time ago, back in 1980, IBM was the top dog in computing.

to ruffle feathers

Meaning: to upset or offend people, either deliberately or accidentally; to step on somebody’s toes


The minister ruffled a few feathers when he suggested cutting the teachers’ salaries.

And then finally, the one that I threw in at the end

the elephant in the room

Meaning: something really big and important (topic, question, problem, etc) that people try to ignore


In many workplaces, mental health is the elephant in the room.

So there are animal idioms in English. Let’s go through them again:

  • you can’t teach an old dog new tricks
  • a big fish in a small pond
  • a fly on the wall
  • there are (plenty) more fish in the sea
  • barking up the wrong tree
  • the cat that got the cream
  • empty nest
  • loan shark
  • top dog
  • to ruffle feathers
  • elephant in the room

That’s the end of my podcast episode. I hope you enjoyed it and if there’s anybody out there that you think will enjoy it, just give them the details.  

If you want to contact me, then you can do so on www.englishlessonviaskype.com

Always happy to hear from you. Thanks for listening, and join me again soon.

More information

For more information on English grammar rules, English collocations and English idioms, check out the links below:

Difference between Look, See and Watch

Phrasal verbs about Crime and Scam

Don’t forget to check out intermediate and advanced English lessons at Learning English with the BBC

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