A modern bestiary: a contrastive study of the figurative meanings of animal terms

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This paper discusses the figurative meanings to the names of different animals in different cultures, and highlights some of the problems language learners and translators face when dealing with single-word conventional metaphor. Informants from thirty–eight geographical regions responded to a questionaire inviting them to comment on the figurative use made of animal names in their cultures. Many common terms such as ‘cat’, ‘cow’ and ‘mouse’ were found to have a wide range of figurative meanings, and discussions with informants revealed that even advanced learners tend to think in terms of the connotations of thier first culture when they encounter or use these words in a figurative sense in English.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-278
JournalEnglish Language Teaching Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1995


Bibliographical note

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in the English Language Teaching Journal following peer review. The version of record: Nesi, H. (1995) A modern bestiary: a contrastive study of the figurative meanings of animal terms. English Language Teaching Journal, volume 49 (3): 272-278 is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/elt/49.3.272.


  • single-word conventional metaphors
  • figurative meanings
  • English as a second language

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