Guinea pig

  • Guinea pig is an idiom that has been in use since the 1920s. An idiom is a 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, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, 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. These common phrases and colloquial terms do not translate well into other languages. 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 be fluent and know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom guinea pig, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


    The idiom guinea pig means the subject of experimentation, research, or testing. Someone who is a guinea pig is being used as a test case in a situation that others do not want to participate in. The safety and well being of the person who is the guinea pig is not considered. For instance, servicemen who were present during early nuclear tests were guinea pigs. The consequences for a person who is acting as a guinea pig do not have to be dire. A person who allows a barber student to cut his hair is a guinea pig. The literal meaning of the term guinea pig is a small rodent. This particular type of rodent was often used in experiments beginning in the 1800s and until the early twentieth century, when rats and mice because the test subjects of choice.



    The former Atomic Kitten songstress refused to be a ‘guinea pig’ and insisted that her kids Molly Marie, 18, Lily-Sue, 17, Heidi, 13, Maxwell, 12 and Dylan-Jorge, six would remain at home. (The Mirror)

    During an interview on Monday, Liccardo said defunding the department “doesn’t help the very communities that have been burdened by structural racism for decades in this nation” and said he would not want San Jose to be a “guinea pig” in the “experiment” of defunding police. (The San Jose Mercury)

    Chyna Darrow said her brother was a “guinea pig” for the health care system, having tried a variety of medications without the therapy he has needed for 12 years. (The Peninsula Daily News)

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