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5 Simple English Animal Idioms

Updated on November 6, 2011

Animals often provide inspiration for idioms and expressions. Idioms make your writing come alive and animal idioms are a special class of idioms that people might be able to relate to especially easily, because of the nature of animals. For example, dogs are man’s best friend, and we often think of dogs with characteristic qualities such as being friendly, donkeys as being stubborn, parrots as talkative, pigs as lazy.... even the physical qualities of animals can provide inspiration for language or idiomatic expressions - like the long neck of the giraffe, long legs of the ostrich, large size of the whale....

In this hub, I will share 5 common and simple idioms that drew reference to animals.


1. A dog with two tails

Dogs wag their tails when they are feeling happy, friendly, welcoming. What about a dog with two tails? It must so excited and happy. This idiom describes someone who displays exceeding excitement, happiness and pride because of some special occasion or achievement.

Examples of the idiom ‘a dog with two tails’:

  1. After James won a million dollars on the reality show, he was like a dog with two tails.
  2. Michelle was so delighted and proud, just like a dog with two tails when she found out that she has been chosen to represent her school in the sports competition.
  3. Since receiving a job promotion, Mark has been like a dog with two tails, telling everyone about the good news.

2. A bull in a china shop

A china shop refers to a shop selling ceramic ware, not a shop in China. China ware is fragile and easily broken. Bulls are associated with violence and anger. If a bull entered a china shop, it would spell disaster and create a huge mess. Thus this idiom describes a clumsy or tactless person.

Examples of the idiom ‘a bull in a china shop’:

  1. Matt is like a bull in a china shop during our project meetings, he is neither patient nor diplomatic when dealing with the opinions and ideas of the group members.
  2. My little cousin has just figured out how to run, seeing him exploring the toy shop reminds my of a bull in a china shop.
  3. Sometimes, when Linda is in a bad mood, she can get rather abrasive, and her behavior can be like a bull in a china shop.

3. A cat on hot bricks

A cat on hot bricks describes someone who is tense, restless, excited or nervous. It is a little hard to imagine, but hot bricks are really hard to walk on. If you imagine cats, they seem to have this air of confidence and unshakability all the time. A cat walking on hot bricks paints the opposite picture of a typical cat curled up on comfy silk cushions or striding across the living room.

Examples of the idiom ‘a cat on hot bricks’:

  1. Just before her senior recital, Jill was so nervous like a cat on hot bricks.
  2. It was my first trip to the dentist, and I felt like a cat on hot bricks.
  3. If you had to walk on a stony path without wearing any shoes, you’d feel nervous like a cat on hot bricks.

4. A flea market

It a little hard to draw the link to fleas, but a flea market market refers to a place that sells second hand items or antique items.

Examples of the idiom ‘a flea market’:

  1. I bought this retro dress from a flea market.
  2. I didn’t expect to find such an interesting antique vase at the flea market.
  3. At a flea market, you can expect to find good second hand goods at an affordable price.

5. A frog in one’s throat

This refers to the moments when we are unable to speak because of phlegm or mucus in the throat.

Examples of the idiom ‘a frog in one’s throat’:

  1. Tim had to clear his throat mid-sentence because there was a frog in his throat.
  2. While the teacher was giving her class, she interrupted her lesson and said ‘excuse me, I need to clear my throat as there is a frog in my throat.’
  3. Whenever there is a frog in my throat, my voice gets a little hoarse and I feel like drinking water.

Do you know more idioms? Leave a comment at the bottom!


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    • profile image


      3 months ago

      good pedagogy

    • theidioms profile image

      Lilly Rowling 

      4 years ago from Birmingham, United Kingdom

      Very nice collection, I loved it, my favorite idioms are: "raining cats and dogs" and "A dog with two tails".


      Lilly, UK,

    • profile image


      5 years ago


    • mebeth profile image


      5 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks! Idioms are a lot of fun!

    • imamkrate profile image


      6 years ago from Dubai

      thanx i like them

    • profile image

      Dawn O'Day 

      6 years ago

      A two-headed snake.

      A dog chasing its own tail.

      A silly-puppy.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Raining cats and dogs.

      A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

      An elephant never forgets.

    • Benoitsmidget profile image


      6 years ago from Boston

      We can't forget that it's a dog-eat-dog world out there :)

    • htodd profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      These Animal idioms are really great

    • profile image

      Pete Moss 

      6 years ago

      Common Animal Idioms: CATS: Meow! DOGS: Woof-Woof! HORSES: Naaaay! COWS: Mooooo! BIRDS: Tweet-Tweet! FROGS: Ribbit! RABBITS: ____! LIONS: You're-A-Deadman- Sucka!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      fornalina - That's interesting. In my family, whenever we go into a china shop, we almost always wind up saying, "A kid in a china shop." What we actually say is, "I thought you were watching the kid! I'm not paying for that!" And since a "kid" is also the term for some kind of animal, I guess that's pretty close to an animal idiom.

    • fornalina profile image

      Katarzyna Silny 

      6 years ago from Poznan, Poland

      This Hub is really useful and will definitely help to improve my English.

      What is interesting is that in Polish there is a similar idiom to "A bull in a china shop". We don't say "bull" but "elephant".

    • profile image

      Maria Escuela-Ortiz 

      6 years ago

      "The cat's meow." ...."You're barking up the wrong tree."

    • profile image

      Tony Veneer 

      6 years ago

      "What a dog!" Or, "Who let that bow-wow out of the pound!"

    • profile image

      Andrew Jackson Lee 

      6 years ago

      "Well shoot my dog if that don't take the cake!"

    • profile image

      Rod Oliver 

      6 years ago

      "A dog's life."

      -- Depends on the circumstances. Either: Cared for and sheltered, allowed to sleep in the shade under trees all day or repeatedly kicked in the ribs and made to eat crap; or a mixture of the two, possibly more.

    • profile image

      D'Shawn Jackson 

      6 years ago

      For a real sexy dancer: "She done got a moose on the loose in her caboose."

    • profile image

      Madeline Gibney 

      6 years ago

      "He's hung like a horse!"

    • profile image

      Eric von Slyke 

      6 years ago

      Here's another: "Your mother hops from one bed to the next like a rabbit in heat."

    • gryphin423 profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      Hi Charlotte! How about "gruff as a bear"

      Alex is as gruff as a bear in the morning before he has had his first cup of joe.

      Liked the hub, voted up!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      6 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I have used these idioms most of my life. They seem to get the point across quite well. This hub is a wonderful review. You have given an excellent example of the uses of idioms. Rated UP!

    • Charlotte B Plum profile imageAUTHOR

      Charlotte B Plum 

      6 years ago

      Hey anglnwu,

      This brought back memories for you? it did for me too! trying to recall all these expressions that I learned as a kid made me realise how little I use them today! Thanks for dropping by!

    • Charlotte B Plum profile imageAUTHOR

      Charlotte B Plum 

      6 years ago

      Hey JamaGenee,

      I've never heard of the hot tin roof version! Thanks for sharing that with me. =) It seems that there are a few versions going around? Thanks so much for dropping by!

    • Charlotte B Plum profile imageAUTHOR

      Charlotte B Plum 

      6 years ago

      Hey Sally,

      Thank you for the comment and the follow too! I should write more hubs about these idiomatic expressions!

    • anglnwu profile image


      6 years ago

      As a kid, I used to have to learn English idioms for my English class (English being my 2nd language) and I come from a country colonized by the English. This brings back memories. Thanks and rated up.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      In my neck of the woods, it's always been "like a cat on a hot tin roof", not hot bricks. ;D

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I enjoyed these and would like to hear more from you about idiomatic speech and cliché. Voted up and interesting. TY for commenting on my following you. :)

    • Charlotte B Plum profile imageAUTHOR

      Charlotte B Plum 

      6 years ago

      Hey marellen!

      oh yeah I forgot about that idiom, but we use it so often!

      Thanks for reading and for your vote! =)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Here is one: Fraidy Cat or Scaredy cat...a person who is skittish or fearful.

      Fun hub and voted up.....


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