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To Get Someone’s Goat: Meaning, Origin, Synonyms-Antonyms & Examples

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“That is ridiculous. I don’t owe you anything. Now go away! You’re really beginning to get my goat.” The furious shopkeeper yelled at someone who seemed like his produce guy. Well, their argument continued with all its spirit. But, I found this funny yet interesting idiom thanks to the man’s rage! “To Get Someone’s Goat”. So, what does “To Get Someone’s Goat” mean?

“To get someone’s goat” is an English phrase that means to annoy or exasperate someone. When an idea/person/thing/situation annoys, angers, irritates, exasperates, or infuriates someone, it is said to be getting the person’s goat. “To get on one’s nerves” is the closest synonym. Example: “She got my goat the moment she said that my parents lacked parenting skills.”

In this article, I have tried to put together all the bits and pieces of the idiom “To get someone’s goat” that I could find. Right from its meaning, origin, and usage to its examples, and fun facts, you’ll find everything here. So, let’s dig in!

What is the Meaning of the Phrase “To Get Someone’s Goat”?

Remember all those times from your childhood when your sibling irritated you like anything. Or the time when the teacher had almost forgotten about that test but some nerd kid reminded her. Remember how you felt that time. Because they had gotten your goat.

The phrase “to get someone’s goat” is an adverb. When an idea/person/thing/situation annoys, angers, irritates, exasperates, or infuriates someone, it is said to be getting the person’s goat.

Let us take a look at some examples to understand it clearly-

“She got my goat the moment she said that my parents lacked parenting skills.”

We could have easily said – “She got on my nerves when she said that my parents lacked parenting skills.”

or maybe – “She annoyed me by saying that my parents lacked parenting skills.”

But look at the effect that simple phrase makes on the reader’s/listener’s minds. Using plain and straight forward language is okay. But sometimes, phrases and idioms convey our emotions in a way that plain words can’t.

What’s the Easiest Way to Remember the Meaning of “To Get Someone’s Goat”?

Best way to remember these phrases is to hear the actors use it in your favorites movies or TV shows.

Have you watched The Big Bang Theory? Season 8, Episode 4, The Hook-Up Reverberation. Remember when the boys talk about how they miss Stuart’s Comic Book Store and wish he reopens soon? Here’s how the dialogue goes!

Raj: He might not reopen. He didn’t get a lot of money from the insurance company.

Sheldon: Oh, boy, if there’s one thing that gets my goat, it’s those dadgum insurance companies.

Leonard: Why, because they won’t get off your lawn?

That’s it. If you can imagine them using it, you can remember it easily. Now the next time you watch a TV show or a movie, your mind will automatically spot the phrase when it appears in the dialogue.

Also Read: A Penny for Your Thoughts – English Idiom: Meaning & Usage

Synonyms of “To Get Someone’s Goat

Here are some synonymous VERBS of “To Get Someone’s goat”.

  • To anger someone / to make someone angry
  • To aggravate someone
  • To infuriate someone
  • To madden someone
  • To outrage someone
  • To irritate someone
  • To exasperate someone
  • To irk someone

Here are some synonymous PHRASES of “To Get Someone’s goat”.

  • To get on one’s nerves
  • To rile someone up
  • To rub the wrong way

Antonyms of “To Get Someone’s Goat”

Here are some antonyms of “To Get Someone’s goat”.

  • To please someone
  • To soothe someone
  • To gratify someone
  • To delight someone
  • To charm someone

How to use “To Get Someone’s Goat” in a sentence?

The following examples will help you see the correct usage of the phrase “To Get Someone’s Goat”:

  • I didn’t want to get your goat. I just wanted to show you the reality.
  • Gavin may seem unflappable but I know a way to get his goat.
  • By teasing me about the article I wrote, he is trying to get my goat, but I won’t let him.
  • Why are you sad? Who’s got your goat?
  • The abuse and shouting by the boys got my goat.
  • The new student is very intolerant, you can easily get her goat.
  • The foolish political leaders often get my goat.

Examples of “To Get Someone’s Goat” in Literature

“You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ’em get your goat. Try fightin’ with your head for a change.” – Atticus Finch
— Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)

“The concept that really gets the goat of the gay-hater, the idea that really spins their melon and sickens their stomachs is that most terrible and terrifying of all human notions, love.” — Stephen Fry (Moab Is My Washpot)

Examples of “To Get Someone’s Goat” in Media

  • Our advice to the union: Don’t let the greens get your goat; find allies instead. – The New York Post
  • The pugnacious Englishman says that a week of Glasgow players talking about how rubbish the Warriors were at Murrayfield, rather than how effectively 14-man Edinburgh performed, has got his goat. – The Telegraph
  • Mills, who had earlier questioned if the Saudi coach had even left his seat for the moment’s silence, then trained his sights on one player who particularly got his goat. – The West Australian

Also Read: Back to the Drawing Board: English Phrase – Meaning & Usage

What is the Origin of “To Get Someone’s Goat?

Even if the precise origin is yet unknown, the tales about how it might have started are quite interesting!

Scholars trace it back to the twentieth century. They believe that it originated from the horse racing tradition. Since horses (especially racehorses) are highly temperamental animals, goats were kept in the stable along with them to calm them down. The presence of a goat in a stable had a secure and relaxing influence on the horses. Being a companion, the horse would get attached to the goat. Competitor owners used to bribe the stable employees to steal the goat at night before the final racing day. In the absence of the companion goat, the horse had got irritated and therefore it did not do well in the race competition and had lost the game. This is one of the most common origin stories of the idiom to get someone’s goat. 

On the other hand, It is also a fact that the word goat was a prison slang for anger or to make someone exasperated, so the idiom to get someone’s goat may even be related to this.

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