Feel one’s oats

Feel one’s oats is an American idiom. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying feel one’s oats, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To feel one’s oats means to feel bold, to feel empowered, or to feel frisky, sometimes to the point of arrogance. Usually, the term feel one’s oats is used when the speaker is feeling tolerant of the subject’s enthusiasm, even if it is a little cocksure. The expression feel one’s oats is an American idiom that came into use in the early 1800s. The image is of a colt that has been fed and is feeling energetic. Related phrases are feels one’s oats, felt one’s oats, feeling one’s oats.


From time to time as a pitcher, you’re feeling your oats a little bit and will say something like that: ‘Hey, just get me one because they’re not gonna (score).’ (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

“I feel my oats sometimes and I make a quip, some snide, snarky comment.” (Houston Chronicle)

This partly reflects so-called “risk on” sentiment – investors are feeling their oats as the odds of a smooth presidential transition, a return of inflationary pressures and sizeable Covid-19 relief for households all rise. (Reuters)

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