Other fish to fry and bigger fish to fry

Other fish to fry and bigger fish to fry are idioms that may have been in use longer than you think. 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, 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 have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. 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. We will examine the meaning of the idioms other fish to fry and bigger fish to fry, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

The idioms other fish to fry and bigger fish to fry mean that the speaker has something more important to work on or other things he would rather do. Though interchangeable, the phrase other fish to fry simply means that the person has something else he should be doing or that he would rather do, while the phrase bigger fish to fry implies that he has something more important to do. The idiom other fish to fry is older, coming in to use in the mid-1600s. The phrase bigger fish to fry came into use at the end of the 1800s.


I’ll concede that feedback is valuable in any business or service that caters to the public, but I’ve got other fish to fry while the survey requests mercilessly keep rolling in. (The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

And whether it was those tensions or, as Edds said last week, “other fish to fry,” things stalled quickly after that. (The Salisbury Post)

I would guess they’ll never be buds, but both have bigger fish to fry heading into the next stage of their careers. (Sports Illustrated)

“I have bigger fish to fry in the town than whether a business person’s awning is a few inches into the right-of-way,” Marion said. (The Buffalo News)

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