What does the idiom "swim like a fish" mean?

The expression swim like a fish is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the swim like a fish idiom.

Meaning of "swim like a fish"


The English idiom “swim like a fish” is used to describe someone who is very efficient and skillful at swimming. This phrase usually implies that the person can maneuver in the water with a similar level of grace, speed, and agility as a fish.


This phrase is thought to have originated from the medieval era and has been associated with fishermen and sailors who often observed fish swimming in and out of the water, as well as their ability to dive for long periods of time. The phrase was eventually adopted by swimmers who saw the fish and thought to emulate their movements in the water.


The idiom is used to describe a person’s ability to move quickly, accurately, and gracefully through the water. This phrase can be used to describe a person’s skill level in any type of aquatic activity, such as swimming, diving, surfing, or sailing. It may also be used to contrast individuals who have difficulty maneuvering in the water.

Example Sentences

  • Jeff took swimming lessons and now he can swim like a fish.
  • It was amazing to watch Julie swim in the pool - she moved so gracefully, like a fish!
  • My cousin tried to pick up surfing but he just couldn't swim like a fish.
  • My niece has been swimming lessons since she was little and now she swims like a fish!

The meanings of the words in the "swim like a fish" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


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