Eat A Horse, I could

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Meaning of Idiom "I Could Eat a Horse"

I could eat a horse means "I am extremely hungry." 1


The idiom is usually used to refer to oneself but can be used to refer to others, especially if they have an unusually large appetite.


"Do you want to go out for dinner?" said Colleen. "Yes," said Martin, "I'm starving. I could eat a horse."

"When is dinner going to be ready? I could eat a horse!"

"I've never seen anyone eat like Jack. That guy could eat a horse."


In use since the 1800's, it is difficult to know the precise allusion. The expression could refer to the size of the animal, or the unusual nature of such a repast. However, eating the flesh of horses is not all that uncommon, and this expression is not unique to English.

The idiom may have derived from an earlier expression, sometimes listed as a proverb: Eat a horse behind the saddle. Although I can only speculate, the allusion seems to be to being so hungry that you would eat something that was of particular value to you, such as a riding horse. See further discussion here.

1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

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