Eat A Horse, I could

Meaning of Idiom “I Could Eat a Horse”

I could eat a horse means “I am extremely hungry.” 1Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.


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Usage

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.

Examples:

“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.”

Origin

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.

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Sources   [ + ]

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