sheep


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Related to sheep: Rambouillet sheep

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

white sheep

One who is dutiful and obedient, the opposite of a rebellious "black sheep." Everyone likes me because I'm the white sheep of the family. The same cannot be said for my wild cousin Nathan!
See also: sheep, white

a wolf in sheep's clothing

A person or thing that appears harmless but is actually dangerous or bad. Don't trust Dana—she's a wolf in sheep's clothing who will try to steal your position if given the chance. The politician portrayed himself as moderate, but turned out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing with a radical agenda.
See also: clothing, wolf

the black sheep of the family

One who is unlike other family members, sometimes due to intentional rebelliousness, and often viewed unfavorably by them. Everyone likes me because I'm so quiet and obedient. The same cannot be said for my wild cousin Nathan, who is the black sheep of the family.
See also: black, family, of, sheep

make sheep's eyes at (one)

To give someone an adoring, doting, or amorous look or glance. It's a bit weird, but Janet's boyfriend has been making sheep's eyes at me for the last hour.
See also: eye, make

separate the sheep from the goats

To separate the good from the bad. In this Biblical phrase, sheep represent the good and goats the bad. When you choose the students for your homeroom, don't separate the sheep from the goats and give me all the troublemakers!
See also: goat, separate, sheep

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

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

the black sheep

or

the black sheep of the family

COMMON If you describe someone as the black sheep or the black sheep of the family, you mean that the other people in their family disapprove of them and consider their behaviour to be bad. `I was always the black sheep,' he says. `Everyone else stayed in New Jersey but I was the one to go.' My uncle was the black sheep of the family and we were never encouraged to talk about him. Note: Black sheep are less valuable than white sheep since their wool cannot be dyed. In addition, people used to associate the colour black with evil.
See also: black, sheep

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

or

I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb

If someone says I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb or I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, they mean that as they will suffer or be punished whatever they do, they are choosing to do something really bad. I knew I was going to get into trouble for being late as it was, so I figured I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. Note: For a long time in the past in England, the penalty for sheep stealing was death.
See also: hanged, lamb, might, sheep, well

separate the sheep from the goats

or

sort out the sheep from the goats

If you separate the sheep from the goats or sort out the sheep from the goats, you examine a group of things or people and decide which are good and which are bad. It is getting harder and harder to sort out the sheep from the goats among the 4,000 or so titles for children that are published every year. Testing exists to separate the sheep from the goats. Note: The Bible says that on the Day of Judgment, Jesus will divide his sheep from the goats. The sheep represent those who are going to heaven, and the goats represent those who are going to hell. (Matthew 25:32)
See also: goat, separate, sheep

a wolf in sheep's clothing

A wolf in sheep's clothing is someone or something that appears harmless or ordinary but is in fact very dangerous or powerful. The judge said Granger appeared to be a nice young gentleman, but was in fact a wolf in sheep's clothing — a ruthless individual with absolutely no morals. This car has to be the ultimate wolf in sheep's clothing. It looks like an ever-so sensible estate — until you hit the accelerator. Note: Less often, people describe someone as a sheep in wolf's clothing, meaning that a person seems dangerous or powerful, but in fact is harmless or ordinary. She was tall, with a loud voice and could seem a little intimidating but was in fact a sheep in wolf's clothing, loved by all who knew her. Note: In one of Aesop's fables, a wolf wraps itself in a fleece and manages to get into a sheepfold without being noticed. It then attacks the sheep and eats them. This image is also used in the Bible: `Beware of false prophets, which come to you 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 classic literature ?
Then they went away, and I laughed inwardly at the success of my clever stratagem, but the Cyclops, groaning and in an agony of pain, felt about with his hands till he found the stone and took it from the door; then he sat in the doorway and stretched his hands in front of it to catch anyone going out with the sheep, for he thought I might be foolish enough to attempt this.
In the end I deemed that this plan would be the best; the male sheep were well grown, and carried a heavy black fleece, so I bound them noiselessly in threes together, with some of the withies on which the wicked monster used to sleep.
Thus, then, did we wait in great fear of mind till morning came, but when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the male sheep hurried out to feed, while the ewes remained bleating about the pens waiting to be milked, for their udders were full to bursting; but their master in spite of all his pain felt the backs of all the sheep as they stood upright, without being sharp enough to find out that the men were underneath their bellies.
However, I made signs to them by nodding and frowning that they were to hush their crying, and told them to get all the sheep on board at once and put out to sea; so they went aboard, took their places, and smote the grey sea with their oars.
We ran our vessel upon the sands and got out of her on to the sea shore; we also landed the Cyclops' sheep, and divided them equitably amongst us so that none might have reason to complain.
The sheep were bleating in terror, for the rising waters had invaded their fold.
Soon the shepherds find that one sheep is missing, and suspecting Mak of having stolen it they follow him home.
the Sheep said, as she took up another pair of needles.
the Sheep asked, handing her a pair of knitting- needles as she spoke.
cried the Sheep, as she took up another pair of needles.
the Sheep cried angrily, taking up quite a bunch of needles.
said the Sheep, sticking some of the needles into her hair, as her hands were full.
You needn't say "please" to ME about 'em' the Sheep said, without looking up from her knitting: 'I didn't put 'em there, and I'm not going to take 'em away.
And then the little sleeves were carefully rolled up, and the little arms were plunged in elbow-deep to get the rushes a good long way down before breaking them off--and for a while Alice forgot all about the Sheep and the knitting, as she bent over the side of the boat, with just the ends of her tangled hair dipping into the water--while with bright eager eyes she caught at one bunch after another of the darling scented rushes.
However, she wasn't hurt, and was soon up again: the Sheep went on with her knitting all the while, just as if nothing had happened.