Holy Cow

Meaning of Idiom ‘Holy Cow’

Holy cow is used as an expression of surprise, astonishment, delight, or even dismay in English.

It means ‘what a surprise’ or ‘I am astonished, delighted, etc.’ It can also simply mean wonderful.

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Examples Of Use

“I just won five thousand dollars off a lottery ticket,” said Jane. “Holy cow!” replied John.

“Holy cow, did you see the size of that Limousine?”


There are many expressions, used in England, America, and Canada which are variations on “holy (noun).” Most of these are not as common today as they once were. Holy cow, however, is among the most widely used, although certainly not the oldest. Holy mackerel and holy smoke(s) are both older, dating from the 1800’s. All of these seem to be used as a variation on “Holy Christ” which was considered profane in improper when these idioms came into use.

Batman’s sidekick Robin, is famous for using myriad variations of this idiom depending on the situation.

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