7 Idioms with TIGER (Infographic, videos)

Idioms with TIGER

  • Catch a tiger by the tail – Trying to control something that is very powerful
  • Paper tiger – Acts strong but is actually weak 
  • Tiger milk – Hard liquor
  • A tiger cannot change its stripes – You can’t change your true nature
  • Eye of the tiger – Determined and focused

2022 is the Year of the Tiger

In the Chinese zodiac, 2022 is the year of the tiger. Do you know what zodiac means? Zodiac is…

the imaginary area in the sky in which the sun, moon and planets appear to lie, and which has been divided into twelve equal parts, each with a special name and symbol


According to Wikipedia, the Chinese animal zodiac is used in many Asian countries including China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, Bhutan, and Thailand. LINK

According to Wikipedia, the way we measure years using the Gregorian calendar is slightly different from the traditional Chinese year.  The Year of the Tiger, according to the Chinese calendar, starts on February 1st, 2022, and ends on January 21st, 2023.

Every year in the 12-year cycle is a different animal but it is also a different element. That means this year is not just the year of the Tiger, it’s also the year of the water tiger.

The five elements are Earth, Metal, Wood, Water, and Fire

Chinese astrology says the lucky colors this year are gray, white, blue, purple, orange, and black. The lucky numbers are 0, 1, 3, 4, and 5. LINK

Idioms with Tiger

I usually find Long lists idioms online full of idioms that I almost never hear used. I have to go through the list and find the idioms that I use or hear when speaking to other native English speakers and take out the idioms that I have never heard before. There are actually not so many idioms with tiger so this list was easy to put together. 

The following is a short list of idioms with tiger that I have heard or used myself in the past. There are also a few new ones that come directly from China. I hope you find this list helpful, interesting, and fun. 

Catch a tiger by the tail – trying to control something that is very powerful for you. 

  • Jason told the boss that he could handle this project by himself but it’s huge! The CEO will be looking over his shoulder at every step. He has caught a tiger by the tail with this one. 
  • I think investing in this market may have been a bad idea. The investments are very risky. I’ve already put in a lot of my savings and now I think I caught a tiger by the tail

Paper tiger – Someone who is a paper tiger acts strong (like a tiger) but they are actually weak (made of paper).

  • Don’t let Dennis scare you, he talks tough but he’s just a paper tiger

Tiger(‘s) milk (juice) (sweat) – Hard liquor, especially gin, whiskey, or brandy.

  • It’s been a rough week. I can’t wait to relax this weekend with some Tiger’s milk
  • None of that Tiger juice for me tonight. I need to be sharp tomorrow. 

A tiger cannot change its stripes – You can’t change your true nature. 
This idiom is more commonly known as – A leopard cannot change its spots, this has the same meaning.

  • Hector served six years in prison and as soon as he was released he committed another crime. He was sent right back to jail. Maybe it’s true what they say: a tiger cannot change its stripes. 

Eye of the tiger – This idiom has two uses. If we say someone has the eye of a tiger it means they are very focused and determined.

  • I think Brian plans to be the next assistant manager. I talked to him this morning and he’s really got the eye of the tiger. He’s going to do his best. 

Another way this idiom is used, and I think its original meaning, was death. The last thing an animal sees before it’s killed by a tiger is its eyes. The eye of the tiger is the last thing you see before it kills you. 

*I found this information online but to be honest I’ve never heard it used like this in my life. It may be common in some places but as a Canadian and a lifelong native English speaker, it’s new for me. 

Eye of the Tiger – Song
This was a popular song that was released in 1982. It is the theme song for a popular 1982 movie called Rocky III starring Sylvester Stallone. Here is the song’s chorus:

It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger

Here’s the music video. (It’s very 80s’!)

Traditional Chinese Tiger idioms and phrases

The following are two traditional Chinese idioms with tiger that are easy for me to understand, and they make perfect sense when translated into English.

(A newborn calf has no fear of tigers) The young are brave, but often due to inexperience.

I like this idiom, the meeting is very clear to me. A newborn calf represents someone with very little knowledge and experience of the real world. They wouldn’t recognize a tiger as being dangerous because they have no experience or knowledge of tigers. This can apply to young people making foolish decisions based on a lack of experience or knowledge. 

(You can’t catch a tiger cub without venturing into a tigress’ den) This Chinese idiom lines up with a common English expression that says “No risk, no reward.”  The message here is that you have to take chances and be brave in order to find success.

Idioms with TIGER infographic

Thanks for reading. Below are links to some other idiom blog posts on my website. Check them out!

Learn 10 Idioms with Rats and Mice (Are they different?)
10 Idioms with PIG (Learn FAST with pictures and examples)
5 English Idioms with EYE (2021)
Adverbs of Probability + an English Idiom (2021)
25 common English idioms with Body Parts

Discover more from World English Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top