Dog in the Manger

Meaning of Idiom ‘Dog in the Manger’

dog in the manger is a petty person who tries to keep others from having, using, or enjoying something even though they do not actually want or need it themselves.

Examples Of Use

“My uncle Paul is a dog in the manger about his swimming pool. He never uses it but won’t let any of the family use it either.”

“My roommate got a huge box of expensive chocolates and even though doesn’t like chocolates, she won’t let me eat them. She’s being a total dog in the manger.”

Origin

This expression is taken straight from the Aesop’s fable, The Dog in the Manger, c. 600 B.C.:

“A dog was lying in a manger full of hay. An ox, being hungry, came near and was going to eat of the hay. The dog, getting up and snarling at him, would not let him touch it.” “Surly creature,” said the Ox, “you cannot eat the hay yourself, and yet you will let no one else have any.”

It wasn’t until 1500, however, that the idiom came into general English use. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.,3Helterbran, Valeri R. Exploring Idioms: a Critical-Thinking Resource for Grades 4-8. Maupin House Pub., 2008.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
3. Helterbran, Valeri R. Exploring Idioms: a Critical-Thinking Resource for Grades 4-8. Maupin House Pub., 2008.