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The meaning and origin of the expression: A fish out of water

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A fish out of water

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Someone who is in a situation they are unsuited to.


a fish out of waterThis metaphor is quite old. Chaucer used a version of it in The Canterbury Tales: Prologue:

...a monk, when he is cloisterless;
Is like to a fish that is waterless

The earliest reference that I can find to the present day wording of the phrase is in Samuel Purchas's Pilgrimage, 1613:

"The Arabians out of the desarts are as Fishes out of the Water."