busy as a beaver

busy as a beaver
also, work like a beaver

Meaning

  • work very hard and actively.
  • to be intensely engaged in methodical and diligent work.
  • a simile derived from the fact that beavers spend a significant amount of time felling trees and building their dams.
  • the phrase can be contrasted with the related idiom, “busy as a bee,” which implies quick or rapid work. However, in practice, both have come to simply mean actively working.

Example Sentences

  1. I often find my husband in the garage, busy as a beaver, working on some new project.
  2. I have been busy as a beaver, working to complete my thesis prior to graduation.
  3. Although they are clearly enjoying themselves, the children are as busy as beavers, constructing their pretend fort.
  4. Ahead of Christmas, she worked like a beaver to clean out all the closets.
  5. My dad has to work like a beaver to buy a new house.

Origin

The 1850 pamphlet, The Child’s Companion and Juvenile Instructor (Religious Tract Society, 1850, p. 86) uses the phrase to describe the activities of an impoverished child:

“when the tide is out, you may see him on the river’s brink […], busy as a beaver, searching the mud…”

In an 1823 column published in the New York Observer, titled, “Be Ye Not as the Horse,” Henry Force noted that this idiom, along with a litany of others, exemplified the long-standing use of animal similes to describe human behavior. Since Force takes it as a well-known and often-used turn of phrase, this suggests that it was widely used and well-established at the time, probably having originated in the 18th Century.

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