the hair of the dog

the hair of the dog

a small quantity of alcohol taken as a remedy for a hangover – informal

The full form of this phrase is hair of the dog that bit you. Hair from a rabid dog was at one time thought to be a remedy against the effects of its bite. In this expression, the recommended cure for a hangover is a small amount of the cause of the problem.

1987 - Bruce Allen Powe - The Ice Eaters Murray, still feeling the effects of the previous evening, had suggested they go into a bar because he needed a hair of the dog.


dog and pony show

an elaborate display or performance designed to attract people's attention - North American informal

1998 - Spectator - Happy as I always am to help the Bank of England, I have supplied the script for its EURO dog and pony show.

dog eat dog

a situation of fierce competition in which people are willing to harm each other in order to succeed

This expression makes reference to the proverb dog does not eat dog which dates back to the mid 16th century in English and before that to Latin canis caninam non est a dog does not eat dog's flesh.

1998 - Rebecca Ray - A Certain Age - It's dog eat dog, it's every man for himself. Right from the start, fighting amongst ourselves for the few decent wages left.

dog in the manger

a person inclined to prevent others from having or using things that they do not want or need themselves.

This expression comes from the fable of the dog that lay in a manger to prevent the ox and horse from eating the hay.

the dog's bollocks

the best person or thing of its kind - British vulgar slang

a dog's dinner = a dog's breakfast

a poor piece of work

a mess - British informal

The image is of a dog's meal of jumbled-up scraps.

2000 - Independent - He was rightly sacked because he had made such a dog's dinner of an important job.

a dog's life

an unhappy existence full of problems or unfair treatment

1987 - Fannie Flagg - Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe - The judge's daughter had just died a couple of weeks ago, old before her time and living a dog's life on the outskirts of town.

dog tired

extremely tired

utterly worn out – informal

The image here and in the variant dog weary is of a dog exhausted after a long chase or hunt.

dogs of war

the havoc accompanying military conflict - literary

mercenary soldiers

This phrase is from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - let slip the dogs of war. The image is of hunting dogs being loosed from their leashes to pursue their prey.

1998 – Times - The good guys may have broken the rules by employing dogs of war.

dressed like a dog's dinner = dressed up like a dog's dinner

wearing ridiculously smart or ostentatious clothes - British informal

every dog has his day = every dog has its day

everyone will have good luck or success at some point in their lives – proverb

give a dog a bad name

it is very difficult to lose a bad reputation, even if it is unjustified

This is a shortened version of the proverb give a dog a bad name and hang him which was known from the early 18th century.

go to the dogs

deteriorate shockingly, especially in behaviour or morals – informal

This idiom derives from the fact that attending greyhound races was once thought likely to expose a person to moral danger and the risk of incurring great financial loss.

1997 - Daily Telegraph - If you read the English media or watch the cretinosities of television, you would think that the country is going to the dogs.

help a lame dog over a stile

come to the aid of a person in need

in a dog's age

in a very long time – North American informal

keep a dog and bark yourself

pay someone to work for you and then do the work yourself.

1991 - Purchasing and Supply Management – He does not solve the subcontractor's technical problems, keeping a dog and barking himself.

let the dog see the rabbit

let someone get on with work they are ready and waiting to do – informal

This phrase comes from greyhound racing where the dogs chase a mechanical rabbit around a track.

let sleeping dogs lie

avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems, but may well do so as a consequence of such interference – proverb

In the early 14th century the French phrase n'esveillez pas lou chien qui dort advised do not wake the sleeping dog while Chaucer remarks in Troilus and Criseyde…it is nought good a slepyng hound to wake. The present form of the proverb seems to be traceable to Walter Scott's novel Redgauntlet (1824).

like a dog with two tails

showing great pleasure


The image here is of a dog wagging it’s tail as an expression of happiness.

not a dog's chance

no chance at all

put on the dog

behave in a pretentious or ostentatious way - North American informal

Dog was late 19th-century US slang for style or a flashy display.

1962 - Anthony Gilbert - No Dust in the Attic - Matron put on a lot of dog about the hospital's responsibility.

rain cats and dogs

rain very hard

Despite much speculation, there is no consensus as to the origin of rain cats and dogs. Suggestions range from the supernatural (cats being associated with witches who were credited with raising storms, dogs being attendants upon Odin - the Scandinavian storm god) to the down-to-earth (animals in medieval times drowning in flooded streets in times of heavy rain and their bodies being assumed by the credulous to have fallen from the skies). Other versions of the saying are rain pitchforks and, in Britain, rain stair rods, which date from the early 19th century and mid 20th century respectively and reflect the shaft-like appearance of heavy rain. Rain cats and dogs is first recorded in Jonathan Swift's Polite Conversation (1738).

sick as a dog

extremely ill - Informal

throw someone to the dogs

discard someone as worthless

you cannot teach an old dog new tricks

you cannot make people change their ways - proverb

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