Ben has held a life-long interest in language and has a particular interest in the expressions, phrases, and idioms that contribute to it.
Pig Idioms and Phrases
Pigs are intelligent animals, yet due to their natural behaviours, rolling in mud, eating scraps of food, their harsh squealing, they can be tarnished with a poor reputation.
Many idioms that reference these animals are derogatory and do little to enhance their standing. Despite this, pigs are also considered cute, even adorable by many of us.
Idioms and phrases based on pigs often reference their everyday activities and assumptions that humans consider these animals to exhibit.
Piggy in the Middle
Meaning: a person who is caught in the middle of an argument between two people or groups.
Example sentence: "I did not want to offend either of them. I was like piggy in the middle."
Buy a Pig in a Poke
Origins: An idiom believed to have its origins back in the Middle Ages. Some think that it refers to a time when meat was hard to come by, but when rats and cats were not. It doesn't take much imagination to see what may have happened.
Meaning: To have bought something that is not everything it was as advertised as being.
When Pigs Fly
Meaning: That something is implausible.
Example sentence: "I don't know why you bothered buying that lottery ticket. You know that it will only be a winner when pigs fly."
Sweat Like a Pig
Origin: The origin of this idiom is difficult to source. It is strange to include a pig's reference in this phrase as pigs don't have any sweat glands and cannot perspire in this way. Some believe that this idiom stems from the smelter of pig iron, which at a critical stage of manufacture, when cool enough to transport, "sweats."
Meaning: That a person is sweating profusely.
You Can Put Lipstick on a Pig, But It's Still a Pig
Meaning: to suggest that you can dress up a situation or issue to make it appear more appealing, but that you cannot fundamentally change what it is.
Example statement: "That old jalopy has had a new paint job and the chrome polished, but it still has all the old mechanical problems and is continually breaking down. It's like they say, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."
In a Pigs Eye!
Origin: The origins of this expression are a little vague. Some people believe that there is a reference to the fact that pigs have small eyes.
Meaning: A statement of disbelief. To be scornful.
Example sentence: "You want me to clean up your mess. In a pig's eye, I will!"
Squeal Like a Stuck Pig
Meaning: that someone made a fuss, usually over nothing.
Example sentence: "He squealed like a pig, and I thought he had lost a finger. It turns out he had merely scratched his hand."
To Bleed Like a Stuck Pig
Meaning: That a person is bleeding profusely.
Example sentence: "He gashed his arm on a broken window pane, and he is bleeding like a stuck pig—he needs to get to the hospital quick."
If That Don't Beat a Pig a-Pecking
Meaning: that something is fantastic.
Example sentence: "I backed a 33 to 1 winner at the races yesterday. If that doesn't beat a pig, a-pecking."
Why not take part in my Idiom test. Just fill in the missing word.
As Happy as a Pig in Mud
Meaning: That a person is as happy as they can be.
Example sentence: "I could not be happier. I am as happy as a pig in mud!"
If you have ever seen a pig cavorting in the mud, you will understand how happy it seems to make them.
A few situations seem to make pigs happy and have found their way into our idiomatic language.
Further examples being:
- Like a Pig in Clover.
- As Happy as a Pig in a Puddle.
Pigs in Clover
Meaning: People who have more money than manners.
Example sentence: "They may have all the money in the world, but they are loud, brash, and a constant pain to their neighbors—they behave like pigs in clover."
To Go Hog Wild
Meaning: That someone is behaving wildly.
Example sentence: "That child is unruly, he has gone hog wild."
To Go the Whole Hog
Meaning: To be extravagant, to leave nothing out.
Example sentence: "Wow! You must have spent a fortune on the house makeover. You certainly went the whole hog."
These Idioms Have Everything but the Squeal
- Pig it
Meaning: To suggest that a person's living conditions are a mess and that they live like a pig.
- Everything but the squeal
Meaning: To say that nothing goes to waste.
- It ain't fitting to roll with a pig
Meaning: That a person is uncouth.
- Like pigs to the slaughter.
Meaning: That something is being done obediently and in large numbers.
Like a Pig on Ice
Meaning: To stumble, be unsteady, or clumsy.
Example sentence: "Watching Jake attempting to cross that frozen pond was hilarious—he was like a pig on ice."
More Pig Idioms
- Like stealing acorns from a blind pig.
Meaning: that something is straightforward to do.
- Pigs ear.
Meaning: To say that something or an object is useless.
- Casting pearls before swines.
Meaning: A way of saying that you are offering something of value to a person, who either cannot or does not appreciate it.
High on the Hog
Origin: An idiom believed to have crept into the English language during the early twentieth century. A variety of newspaper articles at that time make mention of the high cost of living and compare large corporate entities with the hog.
Meaning: That someone is living a life of luxury.
A Road Hog
Meaning: A driver who monopolizes the road. They often drive too slowly down the middle of the road or too quickly without due care and attention to other road users.
As Sick as a Pig
Meaning: An idiom indicating that a person is thoroughly disappointed or annoyed.
Example sentence: "I was so looking forward to on holiday next week—but this broken leg has put paid to that idea—I'm as sick a pig!"
Sometimes the expression "Pig, Sick!" is heard concerning the same meaning.
In a Pig's Whisper
Meaning: Something that happened very quickly.
Example: "There is no need to be impatient. I'll be with you in a pig's whisper!"
Wrestle With a Pig
Meaning: That your act of assistance is futile. The person you are attempting to help enjoys and encourages their struggle too much.
As anyone who has attempted to catch and hold onto a pig in mud will confirm, it is a futile task that the pig seems to enjoy.
Example sentence: "I don't know why I try so hard to help them improve their lot! At times it feels like I am wrestling with a pig."
Pig Idioms — a Lesson From BBC Learning English
Meaning: To stubbornly refuse to listen.
Example sentence: "I pleaded with Josh to change his mind about walking out of college without thinking of the consequences—but as usual, he wasn't listening and being pig-headed."
Origin: This is an expression coined by the Women's lib movement.
Meaning: A term of abuse. Describes a man who is aggressive too, or domineering of, women.
Pigs are an iconic farmyard animal. Their antics have seeped into the English language in the form of idioms and phrases over many generations.
The pig's influence on our lives continues in recent times, with modern-day advances in cinema and television have brought even more of the pig's attractions into people's lives. Toddlers are weened on cartoon pig characters, and we spend hours watching programs about farming and rural lives.
It seems inevitable that the humble pig will continue to inspire further inclusion of idioms for years to come.