The question " Past tense of "to wing"? " got me thinking about terms we use in the English language that derive from parts of an animal, especially verbs or verb phrases, like 'wing it' or 'hoof it'.

There are many noun and adjective phrases that use animal parts, like 'on the horns of a dilemma', so I'm more curious about verbs and verb phrases, but all entries are welcome.

(-1 to anyone who proffers 'udder despair'!)

  • 1
    Pretty much anything an animal does? Root, fly, caw, screech, scamper, molt. I guess I don't understand what qualifications you are using.
    – MrHen
    Mar 28, 2011 at 20:07
  • Not what an animal does that a human can mimic, I'm looking for animal parts (nouns), 'wing', 'hoof', 'feather', etc., that are used as verbs (or other parts of speech) to describe what humans do.
    – oosterwal
    Mar 28, 2011 at 20:21
  • Ah, okay. Are these better: Feather, claw, tail (including hightail)?
    – MrHen
    Mar 28, 2011 at 20:28
  • @MrHen: Yes, those are all great examples (although one might argue that 'claw' is an action that animals do that humans mimic.)
    – oosterwal
    Mar 28, 2011 at 20:30
  • Udder despair, udder despair, udder despair. Now try to downvote this comment thrice. I'll wait. :P
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 29, 2011 at 11:28

2 Answers 2


Some of these are pushing the definition, I'm sure, but... You can:

  • hightail it out of here.
  • beef something up (or have a beef with someone).
  • nose around.
  • feather your nest.
  • shank a ball.
  • paw someone.
  • go into hock.
  • ham it up.
  • keep abreast of something.

A detective may tail a suspect.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.