sheep

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count sheep

1. To perform any repetitive or monotonous thought exercise as a means of calming the mind to try to fall asleep (such as the traditional sleep aid of counting imaginary sheep). Whenever I go to bed with a racing mind, I make myself count sheep until I drift off to sleep.
2. By extension, to be kept awake at night or experience insomnia. Usually used in the continuous form. After I lost my job, I was up counting sheep all night, trying to figure out how I'd make ends meet.
See also: count, sheep

cast a sheep's eye

To give a sideways glance or a suspicious look. When I tried to feed the baby something new, she cast a sheep's eye at it and then tried to smack it out of my hand. Miss Stevens cast a sheep's eye at me when I complimented her outfit, but I really did think that she looked nice!
See also: cast, eye

black sheep of the family

Fig. the worst member of the family. Mary is the black sheep of the family. She's always in trouble with the police. He keeps making a nuisance of himself. What do you expect from the black sheep of the family?
See also: black, family, of, sheep

might as well be hung for a sheep as (for) a lamb

Rur. might as well commit a large fault as a small one, since the same punishment will result. I'll take the expensive fishing rod. My wife will be mad at me no matter how much I spend, so I might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb.
See also: hung, lamb, might, sheep, well

separate the men from the boys

 and separate the sheep from the goats
Fig. to separate the competent from those who are less competent. (Not necessarily just about males.) This is the kind of task that separates the men from the boys. Working in a challenging place like this really separates the sheep from the goats.
See also: boy, men, separate

wolf in sheep's clothing

Fig. a dangerous person pretending to be harmless. Carla thought the handsome stranger was gentle and kind, but Susan suspected he was a wolf in sheep's clothing. Mimi: Why shouldn't I go out with David? He's the nicest man I've ever met. Alan: He's a wolf in sheep's clothing, Mimi. Can't you tell?
See also: clothing, wolf

separate the men from the boys

to show which people in a group can do something difficult and which people cannot The five-day camping trip next month should separate the men from the boys!
See also: boy, men, separate

a wolf in sheep's clothing

someone or something that seems to be good but is actually bad The financial advisor we hired turned out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing who stole from the people he promised to help.
See also: clothing, wolf

the black sheep (of the family)

someone who is thought to be a bad person by the rest of their family My father was the black sheep - he ran away at 16 to become an actor and his parents never forgave him.
See also: black, sheep

I might as well be hanged/hung for a sheep as a lamb.

something that you say when you are going to be punished for something so you decide to do something worse because your punishment will not be any more severe
Usage notes: In the past, people who stole lambs were killed, so it was worth stealing something more because there was no worse punishment.
I'm going to be late for work anyway, so I think I'll go to the shop for a paper. I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
See also: hanged, lamb, might, sheep, well

make sheep's eyes at somebody

  (old-fashioned)
to look at someone in a way that shows that you love them or are attracted to them Ken's been making sheep's eyes at his ex-girlfriend all night.
See also: eye, make

separate the sheep from the goats

  (British, American & Australian) also sort (out) the sheep from the goats (British & Australian)
to choose the people or things of high quality from a group of mixed quality I'll look through the application forms and separate the sheep from the goats.
See also: goat, separate, sheep

a wolf in sheep's clothing

someone who seems to be pleasant and friendly but is in fact dangerous or evil My next boss, on the surface very warm and charming, proved to be something of a wolf in sheep's clothing.
See also: clothing, wolf

black sheep

The least reputable member of a group; a disgrace. For example, Uncle Fritz was the black sheep of the family; we always thought he emigrated to Argentina to avoid jail . This metaphor is based on the idea that black sheep were less valuable than white ones because it was more difficult to dye their wool different colors. Also, in the 16th century, their color was considered the devil's mark. By the 18th century the term was widely used as it is today, for the odd member of a group.
See also: black, sheep

hanged for a sheep as a lamb, might as well be

Might just as well be punished for a big misdeed as a small one. For example, I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb and have a third piece of cake-I've gone off my diet anyhow . Already a proverb in John Ray's 1678 collection, this expression alludes to the old punishment for stealing sheep, which was hanging no matter what the age or size of the animal.
See also: hanged, might, sheep, well

separate the men from the boys

Distinguish between mature, experienced individuals and novices, as in The picket line will separate the men from the boys in the union. The idiom is used without respect to gender. [c. 1930]
See also: boy, men, separate

separate the sheep from the goats

Distinguish between good and bad individuals, or superior and inferior ones. For example, In a civil war where both sides commit atrocities, you can't separate the sheep from the goats . This term refers to Jesus's prophecy in the New Testament (Matthew 25:32) that the sheep (that is, the compassionate) will sit on God's right hand (and find salvation), and the goats (the hard-hearted) will sit on the left (and be sent to damnation).
See also: goat, separate, sheep

wolf in sheep's clothing

An enemy disguised as a friend, as in Dan was a wolf in sheep's clothing, pretending to help but all the while spying for our competitors . This term comes from the ancient fable about a wolf that dresses up in the skin of a sheep and sneaks up on a flock. This fable has given rise to a rich history of allusions as in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus speaks of false prophets in sheep's clothing, "but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matthew 7:15).
See also: clothing, wolf

wolf in sheep's clothing

One who feigns congeniality while actually holding malevolent intentions.
See also: clothing, wolf

black sheep

A disreputable or unloved family member. Since the majority of domestic sheep have white fleece, a black one would be different from the rest of the flock. And because the word “black” has a historically strong negative connotation, one of that color would be unwanted (in real life, sheep farmers don't like them because black fleece, which can't be dyed, is less commercially valuable). In the age of politically correct speech, the phrase is now infrequently used, and that's not because family members now get along in greater harmony than they once did.
See also: black, sheep
References in periodicals archive ?
As the NSA says, 'There's no shame in having sheep scab - the shame is not dealing with it.