Cliches with an animal connection


It is remarkable how our daily language imparts much to the animal kingdom and how much we either transmute human characteristics into animals or their characteristics into humans.

The word cliché is defined as a trite phrase or expression or one that is hackneyed, common place, or overly familiar.

Newcomers to our shores face a steep learning curve when it comes to deciphering the numerous cliches utilized in the English language, let alone those related to the animal kingdom.

Whether we use those cliches more of animals than others is hard to say, so I’ll leave it up to the reader of the compiled list below to decide:

‘fraidy cat, a albatross around his neck,

to be an argue ‘til the cows come home as the crow flies

badger him,

to barking up the wrong tree,

to be barnacle encrusted

beast of burden,

a beat a dead horse,

to bee in her bonnet,

a bee’s knees,

the beef up,

to begin as a lark bird brain,

a bird brained idea,

a bird in a gilded cage,

a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.,

A birds and the bees,

the Birds of a feather flock together,

birds-eye view

black sheep of the family

bluebird of happiness, the

bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

buffaloed by …, to be

Bug off!

bug out,

to bug-eyed


Build a better mousetrap, and they will come.

build a nest egg

bull in a china shop, a bull-rush, to bull-headed

bull his way into …,

to bum steer,

a busy beaver, a busy as a bee butterflies in the pit of his stomach.,

To have buy a pig in a poke,

to call off the dogs,

to canary in the mine,

a card shark,

a case of the chickens come home to roost,

a case of the tail wagging the dog.,

a cat and mouse game,

a cat burglar,

a cat got your tongue?

cat has nine lives.,

A cat’s pajamas,

the catbird seat,

in the chick flick,

a chicken feed

chicken in every pot.,

A chickens coming home to roost., A case of the circle like vultures, to clam up,

to clothes horse,

a clutter bug,

a cock of the roost

cock of the walk, the

cockroach heaven, a

cocksure of himself

cold fish, a

cold turkey, to go

come home to roost, to

complete hogwash

contrary as a mule

cook (pluck) his goose, to

cool cat, a

cowed by …, to be

crabby attitude, a

crazy like a fox

crow about…, to

crow flies, as the

… crowed the politician.

crow’s feet under her eyes

cry crocodile tears

curb your dog.

curiosity killed the cat.

dark horse …, a

dead duck, a

different kettle of fish, a

do the bunny hop

do the turkey trot


dog and pony show, a

dog eared

dog eat dog

Dog gone it!

dog his every move, to

dog house, in the

dog in the hunt, don’t have a

dog the …

dog tired

dog-eared book

dog-eat-dog world,

a dogfight, to be in a dogged by … dogged pursuit

Don’t be a jackass.

Don’t bug him!

Don’t hog all the …

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Don’t monkey with it.

double dog dare, a

dovish attitude, a

down a rabbit’s hole

down a rat hole

drink like a fish, to

drunk as a skunk

duck soup., It’s

dumb bunny, a

dyed in the wool …, an eager beaver,

an eagle eyes,

early bird gets the worm., The

early bird, an

easy as shooting fish in a barrel

eight hundred pound gorilla in the room, an

elephant in the room, the

fat cat, a

feather his own nest, to

filled to the gills

fish out of water, a

fish story, a

fish to fry

fishing expedition, a

fishing for a compliment

fishy deal

fly in the ointment, a

fly the coop, to

frog in his throat, a

furry friends

get his ducks in a row, to

get his goat, to

get off his high horse

get skunked, to

get the monkey off his back

give him a bear hug, to

given a bum steer, to be

go ape over …

go cold turkey

go hog wild

go whole hog


going like a bat out of hell

going to the dogs

Golden Fleece

goose someone, to

goose that laid the golden egg, the goose the …, to

got fleeced., He

got his goat

grease monkey, a

guinea pig for …, to be a


have a dog in the race, to

have bigger fish to fry, to

have butterflies in the pit of his stomach, to

He doesn’t give a hoot.

He has bats in his belfry.

He lacks any horse sense.

He’s a fox.

He’s a pussycat.

He’s a rare bird.

He’s a shrimp.

He’s a stud.

He’s no spring chicken.

healthy as a horse, to be

henpecked husband, a

His bark is worse than his bite.

his goose is cooked

hog wild


Hold your horses, … !

horn in on

horns of dilemma, on the

horse and buggy era

horse of a different color, a

horse sense

horse trading

horse’s mouth, from the

How many clams for this?

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

It’s a horse race between …

It’s a turkey.

jumbo shrimp

jump the shark

junkyard dog, a

kangaroo court, a

knock him off his high horse, to

lab rat for …, to be a

lame duck …, a

lap dog

lark, on a

lay an egg, to

leapfrog …, to

legal beagle, a

leopard can’t change its spots., A

let the cat out of the bag. To

like a bat out of hell

like a deer in the headlights

like a fish out of water

like a lamb to the slaughter

like a wounded deer

line snaked around the block., The

line up their ducks, to

lion’s share, the

lipstick on a pig

little bird told me., A

live high off the hog, to

loaded (out) for bear

loaded to the gills

lock horns, to

lone wolf, a

look like the cat who swallowed the canary

Look what the cat dragged in.

Look what the stork brought.

make a mountain out of a molehill, to

made the goat., He was

make a beeline to …

make it a horse race, to

Monkey see, monkey do.

morals of an alley cat, the

needs a good horse whipping

neither fish nor fowl

nest of vipers, a

nice kettle of fish, a

nip at his heels, to

nit picking

no fish to fry

not give a rat’s tail about …, to

odd duck, an

old coot, an

old goat, an

one horse town, a

out for bear, to be

out of the nest

outfoxed by …

Oysters are in season in months containing the letter “r”.

pack rat, a

packed in like sardines

pick of the litter, the

pig out, to

pig pen, a

pig’s eye!, In a

pigeon hole, to

pony up, to

proud as a peacock, to be

pull a rabbit out of the hat

puppy love

pussy-foot around, to

put all his ducks in a row

put on the feed bag

put the cart before the horse

Quit horsing around.

rabbit ear antenna, a

rabbit’s foot for good luck, a

rat him out, to

rat race, a

ravenous appetite, a

red herring, a

ruffle his feathers, to

rule the roost, to

runt of the litter, the

scapegoat, a

scaredy cat, a

sell snake oil

shaggy dog story, a

sing his swan song, to

sitting duck, a

sitting ducks, to be

sitting in the catbird seat

skunked., He was

sleep with sharks, to

slick chick, a

slow to a snail’s pace, to

smell a rat, to

snail’s pace, at a

snake his way to the front, to

snake in the grass, a

snake oil salesman, a

snake pit, a

snug as a bug in a rug

social butterfly, a

someone’s pigeon, to be

something fishy about it

squirrel away, to

squirrel shoot, a

stampeding herd of …, a

stool pigeon, a

Stop bugging him.

Stop horsing around.

straight from the horse’s mouth

straw that broke the camel’s back, the

stubborn as a mule (ox)

swim with the sharks

tail between his legs, with his

tail wagging the dog, the

take her under his wing, to

take the bull by the horns, to

talk turkey, to

That dog won’t hunt.

That’s the cat’s meow.

There’s plenty of other fish in the ocean.

Trojan horse, a

thrown to the wolves

top dog

turn tail, to

underdog, an

weasel out of …, to

whale of a tale, a

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

when pigs fly

when the chickens come home to roost

when the worm turns

white elephant, a

Who will get gored by this bull?

Who’s ox is being gored now?

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

wing it, to

wise owl

wolf at the door, the

wolf down his food, to

wolf in sheep’s clothing, a

world is his oyster., The

work his tail off, to

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

You low lying snake in the grass, you!