This post is the second one in the animal idiom series. We hope you enjoyed “Animal Idioms. Part 1,”and this time we’ll look at idioms related to monkeys, snakes, bears, horses and other animals…
MONKEYS & BEARS
- Monkey business – dishonest or bad behavior: I knew they’d pull some monkey business.
- To make a monkey out of someone – to make someone seem stupid: I won’t let you make a monkey out of me.
- I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! (old-fashioned) – used to show you are very surprised: I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! That’s our neighbor Grace on TV!
- I couldn’t/don’t give a monkey’s (British English) = I really don’t care: They say Mark has quit but I couldn’t give a monkey’s.
- To monkey around (disapproval) – to behave in a silly and annoying way: The children were bored and started monkeying around.
- Monkey suit (slang) – a man’s formal suit worn in the evening: I hate this monkey suit! – But you look very handsome in it!
- Like a bear with a sore head – in a bad mood that causes you to treat other people badly and complain a lot: You’re like a bear with a sore head this morning. What’s wrong with you?
- Don’t poke the bear – leave a person or situation alone if they might cause you trouble: The conflict is not settled, but don’t poke the bear.
- Loaded for bear – ready, equipped and eager for a fight: Our party are loaded for bear, and we are not afraid of our opponents. We’ll be able to stand our ground (we’ll face the situation bravely).
- Gruff as a bear – rude and unfriendly: I never ask him any questions because he’s gruff as a bear. (Related: Similes)
HORSES & DONKEYS
- You can lead/take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink – you can’t make someone do something that they don’t want to do: I was trying so hard to make him learn the language. The problem is you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. (Related: Animal English: Vocabulary in Use)
- To back/pick the right/wrong horse – to support someone or something that succeeds/fails: I’m afraid we’ve backed the wrong horse. This candidate will not win, now it’s obvious.
- To change horses in midstream – to change your mind about something in the middle of doing it: We started the project with a different goal, but changed horses in midstream.
- (Straight) from the horse’s mouth – information from the horse’s mouth comes from someone who is directly involved: How do you know all of this? – I got it from the horse’s mouth.
- To get on your high horse – to behave as if you know more or are better than anyone else: I hate it when you get on your high horse. You don’t seem to hear anyone else then.
- I could eat a horse! – used for saying that you are very hungry: Are you hungry? – I could eat a horse!
- Dark horse – someone with a secret, especially a secret ability, skill, or achievement, that surprises you when you finally discover it: I didn’t know you could play the piano like this. You’re a dark horse!
- One-trick pony – someone who can do only one thing well or is interested in only one thing: She is by no means a one-trick pony. In fact, she is one of the most many-sided people I know.
- Donkey work (British English) – the boring or laborious part of a job: I’m tired of doing all the donkey work!
- Donkey’s years (British English) – a very long time: I’ve been doing this for donkey’s years. So, I know what I’m talking about.
SNAKES, RATS & OTHER ANIMALS
- Snake in the grass – someone you can’t trust: Be careful! He’s a snake in the grass.
- Snake oil – something useless that someone tries to sell you or make you believe is good: This thing is nothing but snake oil.
- Snake oil salesman (disapproval) – someone who deceives people in order to get money from them: I try to stay away from those snake oil salesmen but sometimes they are difficult to avoid.
- Snake pit – an environment in which people treat each other very badly in order to succeed: I’m not walking back into that snake pit!
- Like rats deserting a sinking ship – in a hurry to leave when problems develop: When the company had problems some employees were like rats deserting a sinking ship. But now that that period is over, they are trying to come back.
- Love rat – a man who has had a secret sexual relationship with someone he is not married to or who is not his regular sexual partner: Her husband is a love rat, but she doesn’t have a clue.
- Weasel words – words that someone uses to avoid saying what they really mean: Forget these weasel words! I want to know what you really think.
- To weasel out of something – to escape responsibility for something: She may try to weasel out of coming to the party, but she won’t be able to.
- To get someone’s goat – to annoy someone: He always knows what to say to get my goat.
- To have a frog in your throat – to be unable to speak clearly for a short time because your throat is dry or blocked: Excuse me, may I have a glass of water? I have a frog in my through.
If you’d like to know what cat idioms there are, please check out “Cat English,” and for dog idioms – “Dog English.”
We hope you liked the article, and would like to help you test yourself. Do the test below and see the answers at the bottom of the page.
Choose the right word or phrase to complete the sentences:
- Promise me there will be no _____________ (weasel words/monkey business/donkey work). – I promise mom, I’ll behave.
- Just for once, wait before you get on your _____________ (high horse/dark horse/one-trick pony) and hear me out.
- Don’t listen to people who try and sell you _____________ (monkey suit/love rat/snake oil).
- Why do you have to be gruff as a _____________ (horse/bear/rat)?
- I thought you two’d been married for _____________ (donkey’s/weasel’s/frog’s) years.
- I hate that _____________ (rat/snake/weasel) in the grass!
- I hope we are backing the right _____________ (bear/horse/pony).
- I hope you _____________ (have a frog in your throat/don’t give a monkey’s/are loaded for bear). – Sure, I’m ready for anything.
- I hope she’ll come to the wedding. After all, she’s my sister. – Don’t worry, she won’t be able to _____________ (eat a horse/weasel out of it/get on her high horse).
- There is nothing worse than working in a snake _____________ (pit/hole/cave).
Answer key: 1. monkey business 2. high horse 3. snake oil 4. bear 5. donkey’s 6. snake 7. horse 8. loaded for bear 9. weasel out of it 10. pit