What does the term “sick as a dog” mean?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – have you ever heard the term “as sick as a dog”? Where did that come from?

Daniel B. – Boston.


You wrote asking if I had ever heard of the term “as sick as a dog”? I certainly have and hear it used to express an extreme degree of illness. But I really didn’t know the origin of the term so looked it up and found this:

According to worldwildwords.com, “There are several expressions of the form “sick as a …”, that date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sick as a dog is actually the oldest of them, recorded from 1705; it is probably no more than an attempt to give force to a strongly worded statement of physical unhappiness. It was attached to a dog, I would guess, because dogs often seem to have been linked to things considered unpleasant or undesirable; down the years they have had an incredibly bad press, linguistically speaking (think of dog tired, dog in the manger, dog’s breakfast, go to the dogs, dog Latin – big dictionaries have long entries about all the ways that dog has been used in a negative sense).”

Interesting stuff!

Dr. Debra

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