Fish out of water

Dive into "Fish out of water" and how this phrase vividly describes feeling out of place, enriching English learning.


Ever heard the phrase “fish out of water” and thought someone was discussing a pet fish adventure gone wrong? Let’s swim into what this phrase really means and how it can help your young one navigate the vast ocean of English idioms.

What does “Fish out of water” mean?

Hold onto your fins! When someone says they feel like a “fish out of water,” they’re saying they’re out of their comfort zone or in a situation they’re not familiar with. Imagine how a fish would feel flopping around on dry land; that’s the gist!

Where does “Fish out of water” come from?

The phrase paints a vivid picture that most people, even kids, can immediately understand. Fish belong in water, right? So, being outside of that environment would be confusing and uncomfortable.

This idiom likely swims back to the early 17th century, originally splashing into the English language to describe someone feeling out of place or awkward. In 1613, a man named Samuel Purchas first penned the phrase as we know it, describing Arabians in the desert feeling as out of place as “Fishes out of the Water.”

Whenever it was first actually said, it sure is a colorful way to say, “Hey, I don’t belong here,” whether you’re a knight at a garden party or a cat at a dog show. This phrase reminds us that it’s okay to feel a bit awkward sometimes—we all find ourselves in unfamiliar ponds now and then!

How to use “Fish out of water”

Let’s dive into some examples your little minnows can practice:

  • “On my first day of ballet, I felt like a fish out of water."
  • "Trying to solve that super-hard puzzle made me feel like a fish out of water."
  • "Meeting your new classmates? It’s okay to feel like a fish out of water at first.”

Some other “fishy” phrases to explore!

Need more ways to express being out of your element? Check these out:

  • “Out of my depth” - Similar to our fishy friend, this means you’re in a situation that’s too complex or difficult.
  • ”Like a bull in a china shop” - Feeling awkward and out of place, often in a way that could cause damage!

While you’re at it, why not read a story about sea creatures and then ask your child how they think a fish would feel on land? Use that to explain that sometimes everyone feels like a “fish out of water,” and that’s okay.

The idiom “fish out of water” is a great addition to your child’s language toolkit, helping them describe situations where they might feel a bit lost, but willing to learn.

So let’s dive in and make learning idioms a swimmingly good time!