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Farmyard Animals and Fish in English Proverbs and Sayings

Updated on November 15, 2015
Gloriousconfusion profile image

I love the English language, it's so expressive and colorful, with its nuances of meaning, metaphors, puns, proverbs and regional slang

Meet Cows, Pigs, Sheep, Goats, Crabs and Fish in English Proverbs and Sayings!

There are many English Proverbs and Sayings featuring animals, and it must be very difficult for people learning English as a second language to remember enough of these figures of speech to be able to use them with the ease that English speaking people do.

This web page will be a fun reminder to native English speakers about some of the animals we refer to in figurative speech.

For those who are just learning English, or who speak English as a second language, I am sure that you will find some new English sayings here and you will improve your English.

Proverbs and Sayings About Pigs


(Note to students of English: "oink-oink" is an onomatopoeaic phrase to describe the sound emitted by a pig - but I expect that was pretty obvious!).

To Pig (or to Pig Out) - to gorge oneself with food

He's a pig he's rude, vulgar, dirty or uncultured

A Pigsty - A dirty or untidy place

Live like pigs - live in a dirty or untidy place , uncu ltured

Pig ignorant - - abysmally ignorant or unsocialized

Pig in a Poke - Something which is bought without being seen and turns out to be no good, useless

You Can't Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow's Ear - You can't make something excellent unless you start with the right basic material

Casting Pearls Before Swine - Giving good things to people who don't appreciate what they are receiving

A Swine - An unpleasant person

Pig Tails - Hair which has been plaited

To Hog To take or hoard selfishly

To Go the Whole Hog - To do something fully

Hogwash - nonsense

Here's a Silly Piggy Poem Which I Wrote

Oddly enough, the word "Piggy" is used by some people as a term of endearment

By way of explanation for those learning English as a second language, the word "piggy" is quite an affectionate diminutive form of pig, whereas the word "swine" has a pejorative meaning, and if you call someone a swine, this indicates someone horrible, or of bad character.

However, I would grade it as much less insulting than the way that Muslims use the word "pig" - English people might use the words "swine" or "pig" in a joking manner, or as a mild insult, whereas if a Muslim were to call someone a "pig", it would be deeply offensive.


Give me your love

I'll give you mine

And never be a little swine.

Be my Piggy,

Eyes that shine -

My Piggy, yes, but not my swine

© Diana Grant

An interesting Book about English Expressions

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

This book is brilliant - I've read it.

You'd never think the subject of punctuation and how it affects meaning, could be so entertaining from start to finish


Take this Poll About Rudeness - See how you measure up to other pollsters

How offensive do you think it is to call someone a Pig? And what about a Greedy Pig? Or Piggy - is that rude?. And what about calling them a Swine?

Does the tone of voice or the context affect how the words should be viewed? What if you are laughing when you say it? And what if you are angry or sneering?

Would you call someone a greedy pig if they ate the last piece of cake when they had already had their share?

See results

Proverbs and Sayings About Cattle

A Great Bull of a Man - A huge or strong man

Bullseye - The centre of a target in archery and darts

Like a Bull in a China Shop - Very clumsy and likely to break something

Bullish - someone who wants their own way, headstrong

A Cock and Bull Story An unbelievable story

A Cow - A woman (Derogatory expression)

As strong as an ox - very strong

Image: Jersey Cow -



Proverbs and Sayings about Sheep and Goats

An Old Goat - An old person

To Get his Goat - To irritate someone

Going Like a Lamb to the Slaughter - Going meekly

A Ram - A rampant male

Sheepish - Embarrassed

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - Someone who is not what he seems

You might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb - If two crimes or wrong-doings have the same penalty, you might as well commit the more serious one, as you will be punished anyway

To be like sheep - To follow or do what everyone else is doing (i.e. to be one of a crowd), and not stand out

Proverbs and Sayings About Fish

Not strictly farmyard animals, but they have to go somewhere!

A Piranha - Someone who preys on people

As Easy as Shooting Fish in a Barrel - Very easy

Sleeping with the Fishes - Assasinated and thrown in the sea

Set a Spratt to Catch a Mackerel - Use something small and insignificant to lure in the important thing

A Shrimp - Someone small or weak

Crabby - Crochetty or bad-tempered

A Shark - A devious crook (e.g. a loan shark)

A bit of an Octopus - a man who gropes women

Like a Fish out of water - someone who is out of place in his/her current situation

To cling like a Limpet - to hold on to something very tightly (either literally or figuratively)

Don't Put Your Fingers in a Piranha's Mouth

You might be sorry!

This is Where You Leave Your Comments - Guestbook - I love to hear from people

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    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      @burntchestnut: It never ceases to amaze me how many expressions and metaphors we have in the English language, which we use without even thinking about them - they just roll off our tongues!

    • profile image

      burntchestnut 3 years ago

      I've heard of all but one of these sayings. I think proverbs and sayings are fascinating. Here is the U.S. we have different sayings for different parts of the country. And Aesop's fables has a lot of interesting proverbs.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      @Ibidii: I'm lucky, I learnt Latin for five years at school, which helps a lot with understanding vocabulary, I must say

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      Ibidii 3 years ago

      There are so many sayings and references that I have never heard before! How very interesting! I love researching the etymology of words and sayings! I bet you cringe like I do when I see people use the wrong words and spell wrong online! I think that it came from how much it cost initially per word/letter when texting started. But they still use it when the amount of space/words are not restricted! LOL!!! Great lens!

    • Justillin profile image

      Jill Hart 4 years ago from Weston, Idaho

      a totally fun visit!

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      @Gypzeerose: Thanks for your lovely comment. A spratt is a small fish, bigger than an anchovy but smaller than a sardine I think.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      Always fun to visit your lenses. I pinned this to my board "colorful speech" - a board that I had started after visiting another of your lenses. "Sleeping with the Fishes - Assasinated and thrown in the sea and Set a Spratt to Catch a Mackerel - Use something small and insignificant to lure in the important thing" - now I know two cool new phrases, but I have to learn what a spratt is.

    • DeliaCrowe profile image

      DeliaCrowe 4 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      This is a very clever idea for a lens and I enjoyed my visit here. Thanks.