A fish out of water

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A fish out of water is an idiom that goes back hundreds of years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of the phrase a fish out of water, where the term came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A fish out of water describes someone who is not in his element, someone who is unsuited for the situation or environment he finds himself in. The term a fish out of water is found in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer: …a monk, when he is cloisterless; Is like to a fish that is waterless…” It is safe to assume that the term was in use before that time. Note that when used as an adjective before a noun, the phrase is hyphenated as in a fish-out-of-water.


The fish-out-of-water moments from Gadot are comedic gold — their first long interaction in a pool is perfectly written and played — and the majority of their conversations not only move the story forward but both of their characters, too. (The Register-Pajaronian)

When she fell in love with the local outdoorsman, she moved and became a fish out of water in New York Mills. (The Wadema Pioneer Journal)

At first, “Frontier” resembles a fish-out-of-water story; as Liujin encounters new people in the market where she sells cloth, we imagine that she will be tested and changed according to some established narrative laws. (The New Yorker)

Yashere’s comedy tends to revolve around being a fish out of water, the tensions inherent in being born in London but having Nigerian roots, or a black Brit in America. (The Guardian)

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