Here at Funky English we love to share our favourite idioms with you. In this article we’ll list our Top 10 English Animal Idioms! Which one do you like best?

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.

Ten – Like Turkeys Voting For Christmas

Like turkeys voting for Christmas

We’ll start the list with an idiom featuring the turkey. This idiom describes a situation when you choose to do something that will end badly for you. Christmas is obviously a bad time for turkeys – many of them will end up being eaten over Christmas dinner!

Nine – Canary In A Coalmine

canary in the coal mine idiom

Another feathered friend in a precarious situation? Yes! Like the poor turkey at Christmas, our canary is at risk once it enters the coalmine. The helpful canary will serve as an early warning of danger or trouble ahead. How does it warn us? By dropping dead. At least the canary doesn’t get eaten, I guess.

Eight – Pigs Might Fly

Idiom - Pigs might fly

It’s time to move on from the flying birds (yes, turkeys can fly) to an animal that definitely cannot fly. Pigs are – somewhat unfairly – known as fat and lazy animals, hence the difficulty imagining them growing wings and taking to the sky. There really is little chance of that happening. Still, why fly when you can take to the water like the swimming pigs of the Bahamas.

Seven – Whale Of A Time

Idiom - Whale of a time

Let’s swim our past our paddling pigs out into the deep blue sea until we find some whales. The whales are mighty creatures; you won’t find anything bigger on Earth. The impressiveness of this mammal lead to whale being used to describe a really great example of something. A whale of a time is used to help us understand that the time had was impressive, or just really enjoyable.

Six – Butterflies In My Stomach

butterflies in my stomach idiom

Let’s be honest, if I was in the middle of the ocean and I saw a pod of whales I might feel anxious. That anxiousness – that can be described as a fluttery feeling – is sometimes referred to as butterflies in the stomach. Different things give us butterflies: an English test, a smile from someone special or making a speech in front of a large group of people.

Five – As Sick As A Parrot

as sick as a parrot idiom

Our next featured idiom – a British classic – features the beautiful, talkative, intelligent parrot. What joyous emotion does the colourful parrot convey? That’s right! Disappointment, misfortune or despair. The English language doesn’t always make sense. This idiom is often used to describe a sportsperson or team who has suffered a surprising or crushing defeat.

Four – Wouldn’t Say Boo To  A Goose

boo to a goose idiom

Geese are known as aggressive animals and you should probably avoid startling them. This British idiom is slightly confusing because most people wouldn’t say boo to a goose. This expression – however – is used to describe someone very timid or nervous. You might also come across the similar expression wouldn’t say boo to a fly, which certainly makes more literal sense. Who is frightened of a fly?

Three – Raining Cats and Dogs

Idiom - Raining cats and dogs

Cats and dogs are our most popular pets, and we even call the dog man’s best friend. We weren’t always so found of these animals, as this idiom probably originates from dead cats and dogs being discarded in open sewers! Heavy rain would wash the bodies away. Despite the horrible history of this idiom it remains one of the most widely used idiomatic expressions, and often the first  learned by people learning to speak English.

Two – Ants In Your Pants

ants in your pants idiom

Are you getting excited because we are nearly at number one in our list? So excited that you are wriggling about as if you have ants in your pants? Probably not, but at least you understand the context of this antsy expression. This idiom can also be used to describe that nervous movement when you are anxious about something. The word pants means different things in the UK and the US. You’d be much better off in America with ants in your pants, that is for sure.

One – Let The Cat Out Of The Bag

cat out bag idiom

Why did we choose this idiom as our favourite? We promise to let the cat of the bag and tell you! Everyone loves a good secret, and it is normal to get excited when a secret is revealed. This expression paints a great mental picture too – a secret cat being let out of a bag. How awesome is that? Finally, and perhaps most important of all, we get to share a picture of a cute moggy in a bag.

So how did we do? Did you learn any new idioms? Are you satisfied with our top ten or are we daft for missing your favourite? Well, what are you waiting for? Let the cat out of the bag and let us know!