Fish idioms in English

fish idioms

The word “fish” originated from the Old English word fisc. One of the favourite dishes with the British, fish is remarkable not only for its unusual plural (one fish – two fish), but also for its use in English idioms.

Here are some most widespread English idioms with the word fish.

1. A big fish in a small pond

This idiom means a person who is important only within the limited scope of a small field or group.

As the director of a local branch, he enjoys being a big fish in a small pond.

2. There are plenty more fish in the sea

This expression is used to console someone whose romantic relationship is over. It means that there are many other people with whom they may have a better relationship in the future.

Jane’s boyfriend has just left her, but I told her not to worry. There are plenty more fish in the sea.

3. A fish out of water

This idiom could be used to show a person who is in a completely unsuitable environment or situation.

Senior bankers are fish out of water when it comes to international loans.

4. A cold fish

A cold fish is a person who does not look very friendly and does not display their emotions.

He hardly ever speaks to anyone, but his mother was a cold fish so he probably gets it from her.

5. Neither fish nor fowl

If something is neither fish nor fowl, it is difficult to describe or understand it because it is like one thing in some ways but like another thing in other ways.

The car that they drove up in was neither fish nor fowl. It must have been made out of spare parts.

6. Have other (or bigger) fish to fry

This idiom means that a person has more important matters to attend to.

The currency markets have had other fish to fry, with all attention focused on the dollar and yen.

I won’t waste my time doing this. I have bigger fish to fry.

7. There’s something fishy about it

This expression means that a person has a feeling of doubt or suspicion.

I’m convinced there is something fishy going on.

It smells fishy. It is too good to be true.

8. To fish for a compliment

People fish for a compliment when they try to make someone pay them a compliment.

When she showed me her new designer suit, I could bet that she was fishing for a compliment.