There are some people, who always need to do something. They can't just sit and relax. If they are on the job, they constantly try to change something (e. g. propose new approaches to existing tasks). If they go on vacation, they visit all possible places.

These people are mentally healthy, even though sometimes you may suspect them having ADHD or being in a maniac phase of manic-depressive disorder.

Note that most of the time their active nature is beneficial (stuff is get done, innovation happens), but can also have negative consequences (e. g. they may bully everyone to start a project at work, which doesn't make sense economically).

Also, they are very active not because they have to, but because it seems to be part of their nature.

What do you call such people?

In Russian there is an idiom of people having an awl in the anus (шило в попе), which makes it hard for those guys and gals to sit still. I'm looking for something similar in English.

  • See formerly answered question, english.stackexchange.com/questions/101689/… Commented May 30, 2015 at 9:24
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    Please note: "Awl in the anus" seems very close conceptually to the English, "Stick/pole up his/her ass." (They are not the same) The English expression is used to mean: haughty, cranky, irritable, unyielding... and other things - but, not what you describe.
    – Oldbag
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 11:50
  • "Annoying​‌​‌​‌​‌". Commented May 30, 2015 at 20:19
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    Just playing with Google Translate: Is попе really the word for both "ass" and "pope"?? Commented May 31, 2015 at 18:16
  • "Note that most of the time their active nature is beneficial (stuff is get done, innovation happens)," a word to describe this by itself is workaholic. This doesn't fit your question, though, since it doesn't have the hyperactivity connotation. Also, the negative connotation for workaholism aren't that they'll be mean or lash out, but rather neglect other aspects of their life to the point of destruction.
    – Patrick M
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 23:13

9 Answers 9


I guess the English equivalent of your Russian "awl in the anus" is "ants in your pants". It's almost the same thing, given that in British the primary meaning of 'pants' is not trousers but the things underneath.

However, the British idiom to me suggests impatience rather than permanent hyperactivity.

Which brings us to "hyperactive", which is what we called people back in the days before everybody had a medical condition requiring Big Pharma.

People also used to be called "live wires". Dangerous things as well as beneficial, if you dwell on the metaphor!



  • (of a person or animal) unable to rest or relax as a result of anxiety or boredom.
  • offering no physical or emotional rest; involving constant activity or motion.

Synonyms: uneasy, ill at ease, restive, fidgety, edgy, on edge, tense, worked up, nervous, agitated, anxious, on tenterhooks, keyed up; jumpy, jittery, twitchy, uptight, antsy; sleepless, wakeful; fitful, broken, disturbed, troubled, unsettled


We do use the adjective "driven" for such people: Having a compulsive or urgent quality; a driven sense of obligation - Merriam Webster.

To extend David Pugh's suggestion a little, it's quite common to use "hyper" by itself, which may be less clinical than "hyperactive."

Perhaps there's also "control freak", which is someone who has to keep personal control over events and people around them, much in the way you suggest.

I can't think of an idiom, though, other than David's "live wire", which I like, but perhaps it's not quite as meddlesome as you want.

  • No, "driven" only applies when the activity is coherent and focused towards a specific objective (presumably, a sane and achievable one). Someone who counts the cracks in the paving stones is hyperactive but not driven.
    – smci
    Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 0:44

Perhaps "fidgety" or "a fidget".


Less likely: On edge, ill at ease.

One who does it when they are sleeping, is a somnambulist :-).


It's not really an idiom, but "Type A" can be used to describe such people. It is one if the personality types proposed by cardiologists.


In Russian there is an idiom of people having an awl in the anus (шило в попе), which makes it hard for those guys and gals to sit still. I'm looking for something similar in English.

A possibility: "a bee up one's ass".

  • I would feel extremely offended if someone said I have "a bee up my ass". The very idea! Commented May 30, 2015 at 14:34
  • "a rocket up his ass" is how a person may be similarly described in Scotland (and probably elsewhere). I think this may be where straight use of the word "rocket" to describe such a person is derived from.
    – PCARR
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 15:05

There is widespread use of the word rocket to describe this sort of person in Scotland.

  • Not exactly. The term 'rocket' would imply that the person's actions have great magnitude and direction, but that is not what the OP is looking for. Commented May 30, 2015 at 14:33
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    Interesting, I've not thought of the word being used like that. I'm sure the term does imply those other qualities, as you mention. A straightforward use of the word 'rocket' in my region (i.e "That guy's a rocket") implies he is a live-wire: non-stop, hyperactive, erratic, easily distracted, and (predictably) unpredictable.
    – PCARR
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 15:01

The medical term "akathisia" refers to an uncomfortable sort of restlessness,characterized by the NEED to be in constant motion. So I suppose you could call such folks "akathisics", by extension.

Close to the meaning of "awl in the ass", but hardly a colloquialism, though!


Over-enthusiastic, Over-zealous.

In Singapore, we call them:

  1. 'siao on' (literally: crazy enthusiasm) or
  2. 'on the ball' (similar to 'on the go')

1 has a slight negative connotation. 2 is a compliment.

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