10 Chinese Idioms to do with Animals

There’s one thing that Chinese isn’t short of and that’s idioms 成語(成语 chéng yŭ), so much so that we can even break them down into sub categories. For the moment, though, we’ll have a look at one category of idioms – those to do with animals. Each idiom lists the pronunciation, the translation, and most importantly examples of how the idiom can be used so you’ll know how to use it yourself!

1. 如魚得水(如鱼得水)

Pinyin: rú yú dé shuǐ
English: like a fish to water; naturally

Example:

Traditional
投資臉書(Facebook)、Groupon等新興網路媒體的創投業者如魚得水,擴大募資。

Simplified
投资脸书(Facebook)、Groupon等新兴网路媒体的创投业者如鱼得水,扩大募资。

Pinyin
tóuzī liǎnshū (Facebook), Groupon děng xīnxīng wǎnglù méitǐ de chuàngtóu yèzhě rúyúdéshuǐ, kuòdà mùzī.

English
Venture capitalists who invested in Facebook, Groupon and other up-and-coming Internet media companies, like a fish to water, upped their fundraising.

2. 一石二鳥(一石二鸟)

Pinyin: yī shí èr niǎo
English: to kill two bird with one stone

Example:

Traditional
專家認為,這些藥物都非常有效,如果小心正確使用,它會發揮很多潛在的作用,一石二鳥完全有可能。

Simplified
专家认为,这些药物都非常有效,如果小心正确使用,它会发挥很多潜在的作用,一石二鸟完全有可能。

Pinyin
zhuānjiā rènwéi, zhè xiē yàowù dōu fēicháng yǒuxiào, rúguǒ xiǎoxīn zhèngquè shǐyòng, tā huì fāhuī hěnduō qiánzài de zuòyòng, yīshíèrniǎo wánquán yǒu kěnéng.。

English
Experts believe that this medicine is very effective, and if used sensibly can exhibit lots of hidden effects, possibly killing two birds with one stone.

3. 亡羊補牢(亡羊补牢)

Pinyin: wáng yáng bŭ láo
English: to fix the pen after the sheep are lost; to close the stable door after the horse has bolted
Note: The usage of this idiom is a bit different than the English equivalent, with the Chinese version often meaning ‘better late than never’, which would alter the meaning of the example below. If anyone has any thoughts on the usage of this idiom please comment below.

Pleasant Goat

Example:

Traditional
有鑑於ALA PUB大火造成重大傷亡,台中市觀光旅遊局亡羊補牢,將積極配合消防局加強各觀光遊樂業、旅館業及民宿消防安全檢查與宣導工作

Simplified
有鉴于ALA PUB大火造成重大伤亡,台中市观光旅游局亡羊补牢,将积极配合消防局加强各观光游乐业、旅馆业及民宿消防安全检查与宣导工作

Pinyin
yǒu jiànyú ALA PUB dàhuǒ zàochéng zhòngdà shāngwáng, táizhōngshì guānguānglǚyóujú wángyángbŭláo, jiāng jījí pèihé xiāofángjú jiāqiáng gè guānguāng yóulèyè, lǚguǎnyè jí mínsù xiāofáng ānquán jiǎnchá yŭ xuāndǎo gōng zuò

English
In light of the injuries caused by a fire at Ala pub, Taichung City Tourism Board is effectively closing the stable door after the horse has bolted by working with the fire department to increase fire control safety checks and education for the tourism industry, hotels, and hostels.

4. 漏網之魚(漏网之鱼)

Pinyin: lòu wǎng zhī yú
English: to slip through the net; the fish that escaped the net

Example:

Traditional
新莊地政所人員指出,原本新北市升格後,市府就有專人稽核各機關網站上尚未改名之處,但仍然有漏網之魚,因此活動本意是希望網友幫忙找出未改為新北市的地方。

Simplified
新庄地政所人员指出,原本新北市升格后,市府就有专人稽核各机关网站上尚未改名之处,但仍然有漏网之鱼,因此活动本意是希望网友帮忙找出未改为新北市的地方。

Pinyin
xīnzhuāng dìzhèng suǒ rényuán zhǐ chū, yuánběn xīnběishì shēnggé hòu, shìfŭ jiù yǒu zhuānrén jīhé gè jīguān wǎngzhàn shàng shàngwèi gǎimíng zhī chù, dàn réngrán yǒu lòuwǎngzhīyú, yīncǐ huódòng běnyì shì xīwàng wǎngyǒu bāngmáng zhǎochū wèi gǎiwéi xīnběishì de dìfāng.

English
Hsinchuang government officials indicated that after the promotion to ‘New Taipei City’ specialists checked department websites for places where the name had not been changed, though some still slipped through the net. So the purpose of this activity is to have Internet users help by finding places where the name has yet to be changed to ‘New Taipei City’.

5. 馬馬虎虎(馬馬虎虎)

Pinyin: mǎ mǎ hŭ hŭ
English: careless or casual; not so good; just so so

Example:

Traditional
如果政黨馬馬虎虎選出總統候選人,這是不負責的政黨

Simplified
如果政党马马虎虎选出总统候选人,这是不负责的政党

Pinyin
rúguǒ zhèngdǎng mǎmǎhŭhŭ xuǎnchū zǒngtǒng hòuxuǎnrén, zhè shì bú fùzé de zhèngdǎng

English
If the government carelessly chooses a presidential candidate, then it is an irresponsible government

Horse Dragon Fish - Horse Horse Tiger Tiger

6. 虎頭蛇尾(虎头蛇尾)

Pinyin: hŭ tóu shé wěi
English: to start strong but finish weak (to have a dragons head but a snakes tail)

Example 1:

Traditional
我告訴隊友們,我不想繼續再虎頭蛇尾下去!

Simplified
我告诉队友们,我不想继续再虎头蛇尾下去!

Pinyin
wǒ gàosù duìyǒumen, wǒ bù xiǎng jìxù zài hŭtóushéwěi xià qù!

English
I told the team, I don’t want to continue like this, starting off strong but finishing weak!

Example 2:

Traditional
金融股尾盤也下跌,造成指數反彈表現虎頭蛇尾

Simplified
金融股尾盘也下跌,造成指数反弹表现虎头蛇尾

Pinyin
jīnrónggŭ wěipán yě xiàdié, zàochéng zhǐshù fǎndàn biǎoxiàn hŭtóushéwěi

English
At the end of the trading day financial stocks had tumbled, causing the rebound of the index to start of strong but finish weak

To start strong but finish weak

7. 豬狗不如(猪狗不如)

Pinyin: zhū gǒu bù rú
English: to be lower than a pig or dog; (inferior to a pig or dog)

Example:

Traditional
我希望警察能幫我,懲罰這些豬狗不如的變態,他們都是惡魔和瘋子

Simplified
我希望警察能帮我,惩罚这些猪狗不如的变态,他们都是恶魔和疯子

Pinyin
wǒ xīwàng jǐngchá néng bāng wǒ, chéngfá zhè xiē zhūgǒubùrú de biàntài, tāmen dōu shì èmó hé fēng zi

English
I hope the police can help me by punishing these ‘lower than a pig or dog’ perverts, they are demons and insane

8. 鳳毛麟角(鳳毛麟角)

Pinyin: fèng máo lín jiǎo (jué)
English: to be very rare; rare as “phoenix feathers and unicorn horns”

Charlie the unicorn

Example:

Traditional
免擔保的個人消費貸款幾近鳳毛麟角

Simplified
免担保的个人消费贷款几近凤毛麟角

Pinyin
miǎn dānbǎo de gèrén xiāofèi dàikuǎn jījìn fèngmáolínjiǎo

English
unguarenteed personal loans are almost as rare as phoenix feathers and unicorn horns

Example 2:

Traditional
市場競爭的白熱化使得大部分網路公司的利潤也只能維持生存,能夠發展壯大的也只是鳳毛麟角

Simplified
市场竞争的白热化使得大部分网路公司的利润也只能维持生存,能够发展壮大的也只是凤毛麟角

Pinyin
shìchǎng jìngzhēng de báirèhuà shǐdé dàbùfèn wǎnglùgōngsī de lìrùn yě zhǐnéng wéichí shēngcún, nénggòu fāzhǎn zhuàngdà de yě zhǐshì fèngmáolínjiǎo

English
The white hot competition in the market has caused most Internet company’s profit to be barely enought to continue existing, the ability to develop and expand is extremely rare

9. 池魚之殃(池鱼之殃)

Pinyin: chí yú zhī yāng
English: to be caught in the crossfire; to be inadvertently affected –  “fish pond calamity”, from a story of fish who were inadvertantly killed as the water from their pond was drained to extinguish a fire

Example:

Traditional
進口大豆價高“失寵” 沿海加工企業遭池魚之殃

Simplified
进口大豆价高“失宠” 沿海加工企业遭池鱼之殃

Pinyin
jìnkǒu dàdòu jiàgāo “shī chǒng” yánhǎi jiāgōng qìyè zāo chíyúzhīyāng

English
The high price of imported soyo beans has caused them to fall out of favour, inadvertently affecting the coastal processing industry

10. 雞犬升天(鸡犬升天)

Pinyin: jī quǎn shēng tiān
English: to ride on someone else’s success;
Shortened from 一人得道,雞犬升天 (When a man attains the Tao, even his pets ascend to heaven.)

Ride on someone else's success

Example:

Traditional
蘋果不只帶訂單給台廠,受惠iPhone、iPad、Macbook Air接連大賣,台股也相當熱愛蘋果題材,只要躋身蘋果供應鏈,股價通常也能跟著雞犬升天

Simplified
苹果不只带订单给台厂,受惠iPhone、iPad、Macbook Air接连大卖,台股也相当热爱苹果题材,只要跻身苹果供应链,股价通常也能跟着鸡犬升天

Pinyin
píngguǒ bùzhǐ dài dìngdān gěi táichǎng, shòuhuì iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air jiēlián dàmài, táigŭ yě xiāngdāng rèài píngguǒ tícái, zhǐyào jīshēn píngguǒ gōngyīngliàn, gŭjià tōngcháng yě néng gēnzhe jīquǎnshēngtiān

English
Apple not only brings orders to Taiwanese factories,  after benefitting from the continued sales of the iPhone, iPad and Macbook Air, Taiwanese stocks are also in love with Apple. All you have to do is move up the supply chain, and stock prices will also follow suit and ride on the success.

7 responses to “10 Chinese Idioms to do with Animals

  1. I meant to look up what 鳳毛麟角 the other day, but forgot, and here it is. I never thought the Charlie unicorn skit and my Chinese study would ever collide. Funny.

  2. Pingback: Hao Hao Report
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