Jump to content

Animal Idioms in Chinese


Recommended Posts

I got this idea from LauraM over at the English Idioms topic.

Please post Chinese idioms related to animals in this thread. When posting, please provide the Chinese characters (traditional or simplified are both fine), pinyin, direct translation (if possible) and the meaning of the idiom.

You can use this format or pick your own:

Chinese characters (pinyin)

Direct translation


Here are a few I know:

一石二鳥 (Yī shí èr niǎo)

Direct translation: to kill two birds with one stone

Meaning: two accomplish two tasks in one action

馬馬虎虎 (mǎ mǎ hŭ hŭ)

Direct translation: N/A

Meaning: to do things carelessly

豬狗不如 (zhū gǒu bù rú)

Direct translation: to be of lower status than a pig or a dog

Meaning: used to describe people who do terrible things

對牛彈琴 (Duì niú tán qín)

Direct translation: to play piano for a cow

Meaning: talking to people that don't and won't understand you

雞犬不寧 (Jī quǎn bù níng)

Direct translation: to make dogs and chickens feel uncomfortable

Meaning: to cause trouble for one

打草驚蛇 (Dǎ cǎo jīng shé)

Direct translation: hit the grass to scare the snake

Meaning: to ruin one's plans

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Center Script Content

Thank you for that fantastic thread. I'm eagerly gonna add to the collection! Let's start with some dragon-related idioms / 成语。

Dragon-related animal idioms

扳龙附凤 (bān lóng fù fèng)

Literal translation: pull;turn / dragon / add;attach / phoenix

Meaning: fig. currying favor with the rich and powerful in the hope of advancement

藏龙卧虎 (cáng lóng wò hǔ)

Literal translation: hidden dragon, crouching tiger

Meaning: fig., talented individuals in hiding / concealed talent

乘龙快婿 (chéng lóng kuài xù)

Literal translation: ride; take advantage of / dragon / fast;quick / son-in-law

Meaning: an excellent or ideal son-in-law (usu. of high social or official position)

Cow/Ox-related animal idioms

当牛作马 (dāng niú zuò mǎ)

Literal translation: equal; ought to / cow;ox / rise;grow / horse (to work like a horse and toil like an ox)

Meaning: fig., to slave for sb

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those are great ones! Your dragon idioms also made me think of this dragon related one:

人中之龍 (Rén zhōng zhī lóng)

Direct translation: The dragon among people

Meaning: One who is outstanding or very skillful

In the past when China still had kings, the kings would be described as 人中之龍 to prove that they are worthy of the throne.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great one Miya! Dragons have always been an important animal throughout Chinese' history. It is a very interesting topic! There are many legends about dragons and of course the dragon is also a Chinese Zodiac (the only supernatural one).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Haha, I love reading about dragons  such as 東海龍王 (Dragon king of the East Sea) in Chinese tales.

Here are some more dragon idioms:

龍馬精神 (Lóng mǎ jīng shén)

Direct translation: Energetic dragon & horse

Meaning: to wish one good health

龍精虎猛 (Lóng jīng hǔ měng)

Direct translation: Energetic like a dragon, brave as a tiger

Meaning: to wish one good health

望子成龍 (Wàng zǐ chéng lóng)

Direct translation: Hope for one's son to become a dragon

Meaning: Hope one's son will become successful

The first two are blessings you say during Chinese New Year. Both wish for good health and both have the Chinese character 'dragon' 龍 in it. As you can see, Chinese people really think positively of the dragon. Most of the idioms involving the "龍" character have a positive meaning.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

One of my favorite is 馬馬虎虎.

It means as "casually" or "carelessly". It does sound as sloppy as it means! (Word for word, it literally means horse-horse-tiger-tiger!).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I almost forgot, another interesting one is 虎頭蛇尾 , literally "to have a tiger's head and a snake's tail" meaning someone or something that starts strong but gradually weakens and finishes weakly. This could be used for athletes in a race, contestants in a game or even the stock market!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I think I have mentioned this before, but I learned in 文言 class that there is actually a word that consists of 4 times the character dragon 龍 and the meaning is garrulous / talkative. I can't write the character in pinyin as, obviously, it has not been included in the "character-set".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...