What Does Get Your Goat Mean?

Get Your Goat Definition

Definition: To bother or annoy someone.

Origin of Get Your Goat

The exact origin of this phrase has been lost.

Some sources speculate that this expression comes from horse racing. People believed that placing a goat in a horse’s stall the night before a race would calm the horse. If someone stole (or got) the goat, it would upset the horse.

Another theory is that it originated from a mispronunciation of the verb to goad.

No matter it’s origin, it appears to come from the early 1900s, and its first uses are American. It took several decades to be cited in a British publication.

Examples of Get Your Goat

Getting your goat Here is an example of a math professor using the expression with a student who won’t pay attention in class.

Teacher: And that’s everything you need to know for the test. Okay, let’s get started. Put everything away except for your pencils. I’m going to hand out the math papers now.

Student: Mrs. Cooper? What’s going to be on the test today? Can you tell us before we start?

Teacher: I just told you everything that was going to be the test. We even did practice questions! It really gets my goat when students don’t listen. Next time you do this, I’m going to put you in detention!

Student: Sorry! I’ll pay better attention next time!

get your goat origin In this example, two friends are chatting together over some tea.

Monica: Would you like any more tea?

Janice: Oh, no, thank you.

Monica: What about some cookies? Here, take one. Oh no!

Janice: What’s wrong?

Monica: Someone ate half of this cookie and left the other half in the jar with all the other cookies. It must have been my boyfriend. Ugh! I’m so sick of him doing that. It really gets my goat when people leave half a cookie.

Janice: To be totally honest, I did it. I didn’t realize you got annoyed by half eaten cookies! Sorry!

Monica: That’s okay. I know it’s a weird thing to bother me.

More Examples

This excerpt is from a horoscope for people with the astrological sign Aries.

  • Today is a 6 — Despite your self-confidence, a structural problem or roadblock could get your goat. Guard against fears and impetuous action. Supplies can’t get through. Stay positive. –Chicago Tribune

The second excerpt is about how one coach told one of his players a strategy not to let others bother him.

  • The slights and slurs, the scorn and the scars, began the moment LeVias decided to go where no black football player had been. LeVias withstood on-field assault and battery, endured indignities and isolation, braved threats of snipers shooting him dead on a football field. Without fail, LeVias had abided by the countrified wisdom of SMU coach Hayden Fry: “If you don’t want ’em to get your goat, don’t tell ’em where it’s hid.” –Houston Chronicle


The saying get your goat is an idiom people use to express their frustration with something.