Animal Idioms List with Meanings, Examples, & PDFs

Animal Idioms List

Download the Animal Idioms List & PDF Worksheets

PDF Animal Idioms PDF

View the updated web-version of the animal idioms list in the table below.

The idiom worksheets and games are also free to download.

  • Download and print the PDFs.
  • Use the materials for interactive learning activities in class.
  • Students can also complete the worksheets to review or for self-study.

Animal Idiom Worksheets for ESL Students

PDF Worksheet A: Defining Idioms & Writing Sentences with Idioms

PDF Worksheet B: Reading Idioms in Context & Describing Meanings

Fun Animal Idiom Games for the Classroom

PDF Animal Idioms Crossword

PDF Animal Idioms BINGO

50 Idioms and Phrases About Animals

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*Updated: March 23, 2020

Idiom / PhraseMeaningExample Sentence
a little bird told mesomeone told me a secretA little bird told me that you're getting a divorce.
a whale of a timean exciting experienceThe family had a whale of a time at the theme park.
ants in your pantsanxious or nervousFrank had ants in his pants before taking his exam.
bark up the wrong treelook in the wrong place or falsely accuseHe asked me if I broke his laptop. I said he was barking up the wrong tree.
beast of burdensomeone carries others problemsI will never be your beast of burden. You have got to deal with your own problems.
beat a dead horsedwell on a topic beyond resolutionI told you several times that I won't do it. Don't beat a dead horse!
black sheepunaccepted group memberTom was the black sheep of the family and preferred to do things on his own.
cat got your tonguesaid when someone doesn't speakWhat's wrong? Cat got your tongue? You haven't said a word since we arrived.
cat napa short sleepMy father always takes a cat nap after work.
chicken outavoid doing something because of fearMary was going to go skydiving, but she chickened out.
clam upbecome quietTom always clams up when you ask him about his ex-girlfriend.
copy catsomeone who copies anotherYou're such a copy cat! Do your own work!
crocodile tearsfake tearsHer little daughter always cries crocodile tears to get whatever she wants.
dog daysvery hot daysThe dog days of summer are really humid and uncomfortable.
don't count chickens before they hatchdon't plan for something that may not happenZoe bought the dress, before anyone asked her to the prom. I told her not to count her chickens before they hatch.
drop like fliesdye or give up quicklyThe other candidates dropped like flies at the end of the election.
eager beaversomeone who is excited about somethingShe's such an eager beaver when checking updates on Instagram.
early birdsomeone who likes to wake up earlySara is such an early bird. She gets up before the sun rises.
elephant in the rooma sensitive unaddressed issueThe couple's money problem was an elephant in the room. They never talk about finances.
fishystrange or suspiciousSomething fishy is going on. He takes his wedding ring off when he leaves.
fly in the ointmentannoyance that spoils enjoymentThe wedding crasher was such a fly in the ointment.
have a cowget upsetDon't have a cow! It's not like I scratched the car on purpose!
hold your horseswait and be patientHold your horses! I'll be ready in a minute.
holy cowthat is surprisingHoly cow! Did she really dye her hair blue?
horse aroundplay roughlyStop horsing around kids. You're in the library.
in the dog housein troubleThe coach won't let me play. I'm in the dog house.
keep the wolves at baystay safe from or prevent near disasterHe needed a part-time job to keep the wolves at bay and to avoid serious debt.
kill two birds with one stoneaccomplish two things at onceWhy not kill two birds with one stone and brush your teeth in the shower?
kitty cornerdiagonally across fromStarbucks is kitty corner to the gas station.
let the cat out of the bagreveal a secretDon't let the cat out of the bag about the birthday party.
lion's sharethe majority of somethingYou took the lion's share of the money. All I got was a couple pennies.
monkey see, monkey dosilly people copy each otherMonkey see, monkey do. Your brother spilt ketchup on his shirt too.
nest eggsaved moneyShe has a huge nest egg, so she doesn't have to work anymore.
pig outeat a lotLast night, I pigged out on a bag of potato chips.
plenty of other fish in the seathere are many other available partnersDon't worry. You'll find another girl. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.
puppy loveteenager romantic loveIt was just puppy love during high school but they broke up in university.
raining cats and dogsraining heavilyIt's raining cats and dogs. Remember your umbrella.
rat racecompetitive struggleI escaped the rat race in the office and moved to Hawaii.
red herringsomething that draws attention away from an important topicThe President's gambling addiction was just a red herring for the pipeline problems.
screw the poochfailCarl really screwed the pooch on the exam. He's the only one who failed.
shooting fish in a barreleasy or not challengingFor my brilliant little brother, setting up the Wifi connection is like shooting fish in a barrel.
sleep with the fishesdieBefore pulling the trigger, he told the gangster to sleep with the fishes.
smell a ratsuspect deceptionI smell rat. I know I left my wallet on my desk, but it's gone.
straight from the horse's mouthdirectly from the sourceThe boss said we're bankrupt. The news came straight from the horse's mouth.
take the bull by the hornsbe brave and face a challengeIf you want to be rich, take the bull by the horns and work harder.
the birds and the beessex educationI remember learning about the birds and the bees in middle school.
the lion's sharethe majorityShe was upset because her sister got the lion's share of the inheritance.
until the cows come homefor a long timeShe can watch Netflix until the cows come home.
water off a duck's backa harmful remark that has no effect on someoneShe insulted me but I didn't care. It was like water off a duck's back.
wild goose chaselengthy undertaking that accomplishes littleMaking the playoffs is now a wild goose chase. The team should focus on player development.

Extra Examples of Animal Idioms in Use

Do you want to read more examples and sentences with animal idioms?

Try entering the expressions in a corpus database or language app.

We highly recommend the following corpus resources and tools:

Watch on YouTube: Animal Idioms and Expressions in English

View more Idioms and Phrases on ESL Expat

View the complete list of English idioms and phrases.