phrases, sayings, proverbs and idioms at
Home button Home | Search the website Search | Phrase Dictionary | A fish out of water

The meaning and origin of the expression: A fish out of water

A fish out of water

Other phrases about:

What's the meaning of the phrase 'A fish out of water'?

Someone who is in a situation they are unsuited to.

What's the origin of the phrase 'A fish out of water'?

This metaphor is quite old. Chaucer used a version of it in The Canterbury Tales: Prologue:

...a monk, when he is cloisterless;
Is like to a fish that is waterless

A fish out of waterThe earliest reference that I can find to the present day wording of the phrase is in Samuel Purchas's Pilgrimage, 1613:

"The Arabians out of the desarts are as Fishes out of the Water."

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Browse phrases beginning with:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ Full List