Sick as a Dog (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Sick as a Dog"?

The term "sick as a dog" means to feel ill to the point of vomiting.
Sick as a Dog (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • You look assick as a dog. Do you want to lie down?
  • I threw up after the meal. Those mussels made me as sick a dog.
  • I've had too much wine. I'm going to feel as sick as a dog tomorrow.
The term "sick as a dog" originates from the 1700s, when dogs typically lived outside in poor conditions, causing them to be far mangier, dirtier, and sicker than today's well-groomed show-pieces. People's attitudes towards dogs back then is well captured in the following sayings from the same era:
  • I am "in the dog house." (in trouble)
  • That is "a dog's breakfast." (a total mess)
In other words, "as sick as a dog" was a simile (a comparison for analogy) that worked well in the 18th century. Back then, all dogs looked sick; therefore, no further explanation was required.

The term is marginally more common than as sick as a parrot, which has several competing theories as to its origin.

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