15 popular Italian idioms with animals

1.Muto come un pesce. Literally: Quiet as fish. Figurative: to  be very quiet.

Giuro che sarò muto come un pesceI swear I won’t say a word.

pesce2.Sano come un pesce. Literally: Fit as a fish. Figurative: very healthy.

Sono sano come un pesce. I am fit as a fiddle.


3. Essere un asino (o somaro). Literally: Being a donkey. Figurative: Being not clever, especially at school.

E’ un somaro come suo suo padre! He is a dunce as his dad!


4. Essere (lento come) lumaca o tartaruga.  Literally: being slow like a snail or a turtle. Figurative: being very slow.

Sei una lumaca! You are slow!

lumaca  tartaruga

5. Rosso come un gambero. Literally: Red as shrimp. Figurative: to become very red in the face, usually because you are embarrassed or sunburnt. 

Sei diventato rosso come un come un gambero. You went as re as a beetroot.


6. Essere una iena (o vipera). Literally: Being a hyena (or viper). Figurative: to be a very mean woman.

Quella è propria una vipera. She is a real a b**ch.


7. Piangere lacrime di coccodrillo. Literally: crying crocodrile tears. Figurative: to show sadness that is not sincere.

Basta versare lacrime di coccodrillo, prenditi le tue responsabilità! Stop weeping crocodrile tears, take the responsibility of your actions. 


8. Passare una notte da leoni. Literally: Spending a night like lions. Figuratively: having very fun (and exhausting) night.

”Una notte da leoni” is also the Italian title that has been given to the famous movie ‘The Hangover’.


9. Essere la pecora nera. Literally: being the black sheep. Figurative: someone who is thought to be a bad person by the rest of their family.

Mia sorella è la pecora nera della famiglia. My sister is the black sheep in the family.


10. Chiudersi a riccio. Literally: shutting yourself like a hedgehog.  Figurative: to clam up, to become silent suddenly, usually because you are embarrassed or nervous, or do not want to talk about a particular subject.

Quando si parla di suo padre, si chiude a riccio. When one speaks about her father, she calms up.


11. Essere un lupo solitario o fare il lupo solitario. Literally: being or make the lone wolf. Figurative: a person who prefers to do without the company or assistance of others.

Perché fai sempre il lupo solitario alle feste? Why do you make the lone wolf at the parties?


12. Essere un verme. Literally: being a worm/maggot. Figurative: being a despicable person.

Sei un verme! You’re a louse of a human being!


13. Mettere la pulce nell’orecchio a qualcuno. Literally: to put a flea into someone’s ear. Figurative: to plant a seed of doubt to suggest otherwise to a fact or thing.

Mi hai messo la pulce nell’orecchio...You’ve aroused my suspicions…


14. Avere o far venire la pelle d’oca. Literally: having goose bumps. Figurative: to having bumps on one’s skin due to fear, excitement, or cold.

Quel film mi ha fatto venire la pelle d’oca. That film gave me goose bumps.


15. Essere quattro gatti. Literally: being four cats. Figurative: being just a handful of people.

Alla festa di Maria, c’erano quattro gatti.  At Maria’s party there was just a handful of people.



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