Barking dogs seldom bite

A few articles ago (‘”Perdere la testa” and other idiomatic expressions‘, ‘Have you got brains? Avere cervello and other idiomatic expressions‘ , ‘Non c’è due senza tre’ or ‘Italian idioms: chi ha fatto trenta può fare trentuno‘), we were talking about idioms. Today we start with the well-known “Can che abbaia non morde/Barking dogs seldom bite”. How many Italian idioms with dogs do you know? Let’s see together!


Armenuhi Martirosyan wrote: “Idioms are figurative units, they describe the situation in a metaphoric way. They are often termed as ‘dead’ […] some linguists call them ‘sleeping’ metaphors rather than ‘dead’: there are speakers who are very good at ‘waking them up’. Educated people, students of language often play upon these idioms and make them serve their purposes. Thus, the metaphor underlying an idiom is ‘brought to life’ and gains its new colours.”

Animals – 1

“Barking dogs seldom bite” is a well known saying in English too. What about “fare una vita da cani” or “menare il can per l’aia” or “voler drizzare le gambe ai cani”? The first saying that in English can be translated as “leading a dog’s life” means having a very difficult life. The second one, instead, comes from an ancient tradition linked to the beating of wheat which was carried out thanks to very heavy animals and certainly not dogs. In fact its meaning is to waste time in useless chatter. Finally, the last one refers to the search to do absurd and unrealizable things.

Animals – 2

In addition to dogs we also have some sayings with cats. For example “Essere come cane e gatto“, that is to be irreducible enemies or “gatta ci cova”, that means that something is wrong and there is under a deception. “Essere una gatta morta” is to be a cunning and malicious person who hides his/her true nature behind an apparently naive and harmless behavior. And hopefully all of us can “avere sette vite come un gatto” that is to be strong and always be rotten to get out of difficult situations, even of health.

Help us to discover more idioms with animals! 

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