Bright-eyed and Bushy-tailed

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Meaning of Idiom 'Bright-eyed and Bushy-tailed'

To be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed means to be wide awake, energetic, eager, and alert. 1,2,3


This informal and humorous expression is usually used in the morning, especially to refer to someone who had to arise very early. It is sometimes used ironically to refer to someone who obviously did not get enough sleep, and is anything but energetic and alert.


"My first-period English teacher loves to say we all look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed even though we all look like we just fell out of bed."

"Why don't you go home?" said Jane. "You look too tired to get anything else done. After a good night's sleep, you'll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed again."

"I see you all look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and are ready to get this meeting started," said the CEO.

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed idiom
Bright-eyed and bushy tailed idiom


Referring to certain animals as having 'bright eyes and bushy tail' was common since at least the mid-1800's. Although this idiom, today, probably alludes to a squirrel, in years past the fox and certain mice may have been the subject of this description. Squirrels, though, with their alert and energetic demeanor, and their habit of being up in the early hours and frolicking about, is probably the image most often invoked by this idiom, which has been used in its present form since at least the 1910's.

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.
3. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

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