I heard teacher's pet in a movie and I know it means that teacher likes a student more than other students.
so I have a few questions:

  1. I was wondering if this expression can be applied to other people?
  2. Can it be used for adults?

Example: my wife is her mom's pet!


3 Answers 3


"Teachers pet" is a stand-alone idiomatic expression, and I have never heard "pet" used this way with other things. I suppose it could be, but it doesn't sound very clever.

In creative writing, of course, you can metaphorically say someone is a "pet":

He was her pet, her plaything, something to whistle over when she was lonely and to brush away when she became bored.

but this negative meaning of an owned animal is quite different from "teacher's pet", which is usually more positive.

I suppose "teacher's pet" can apply to adults, but it would be weird, with possible sexual overtones. In this case you would soften the idiom with "like a teacher's pet" to diminish any awkward connotations.

  • how about the combination of other words with pet? like boss's pet etc. Jul 12, 2017 at 15:09
  • @AliSherafat "Boss' pet" is possible, but not really used. Boss' favorite would be the expression with a similar meaning.
    – Andrew
    Jul 12, 2017 at 15:11
  • 3
    @Ali: Offhand I can only think of teacher's pet and pet project for "natural, idiomatic" metaphoric usages. As Andrew says, if you wanted to extend the usage beyond the literal in any other context you'd probably either explicitly make it a simile (using, for example, like a pet), or provide plenty of "spoonfeeding" additional context (whistle over, brush away) to ensure the intended sense was crystal clear. But that's more about "creative writing" - probably not very important for the average learner. Jul 12, 2017 at 15:29
  • I've heard "boss's pet" used, but I agree it's very rare, and clearly intended to be demeaning. "Teacher's pet" is not a positive thing to call someone either. It's usually used as an insult by children who are not doing well in school against a child who gets along well with the teacher.
    – Jay
    Jul 12, 2017 at 20:36
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    Occasionally someone will say that a person treats his or her spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend like a pet, as in, "Bob treats sally like she's his pet." This is intended to be insulting to the person acting as the pet-owner for demeaning another person, and often to the pet for tolerating such treatment.
    – Jay
    Jul 12, 2017 at 20:37

Another use of pet can be heard in parts of northern England.

It is used as an affectionate term of endearment (like saying hello dear).

Here are some examples:

How are you pet?

( used to refer to someone they know or to a stranger)

Have a great day pet.

other similar affectionate words used in England are dear, love, me duck etc. and any one of them could work in the sentences above.


Let's start with this. Per Merriam-Webster dictionary the FIRST definition of pet is either:

a) a pampered and usually spoiled child, or
b) a person who is treated with unusual kindness or consideration

and the meaning of a domesticated animal is only the SECOND definition.

Thus, teacher's pet is a person that the teacher treats with unusual kindness of consideration (generally because that person is a favorite of the teacher).

Like a teacher, any other person can have a pet: a boss, a co-worker, a doorman, anyone.

Second, the similar terms pet project/theory/subject/etc are well-known and mean:

a plan, idea, or subject that you particularly like or are interested in

All of these terms are related. For example, when you say that a student is the teacher's pet, it means that that student is a favorite of the teacher. A pet project is the same concept: a pet project is a favorite project of someone. Similar with theory, subject or whatever. The term always means a favorite.

There is a related term that can be applied to other people and used for some adults. It is pet cat. It is an example of coach-speak and particularly popularized by American football coach Bill Parcells and his staffs. The original meaning of the word as used by Parcells and his coaches is:

14 January 2007, Macon (GA) Telegraph, Michael A. Lough column: “I knew it was a bad sign when Bill Parcells talked about how ‘very, very athletic’ his pet cat, Cody, was earlier in the week. Men should never publicly acknowledge owning a cat.”

30 March 2007, Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, “Trying to eliminate ‘cat’ calls,” pg. D6: IRVING — Bill Parcells was a cat guy. He had a big, fat pet cat at his house. And he had his pet cats at Valley Ranch, too. Especially in April. “Pet cats” is a Parcellsism; they were the prospects whom a coach or scout adored. They are often so fond of such prospects they try to make sure their “pet cat” is drafted, regardless what the scouting consensus is. And every coach, general manager or scout has a pet cat; 2004 second-round flop Jacob Rogers was a Parcells’ pet cat.

However, it has begun to take on a life of it's own and is being used on a broader basis:

Among Cowboys fans, pet cat has since come to refer to a player who is a bubble player (even making the practice squad is often considered pet cat success) and is commonly selected from the very bottom of the roster where you'll find late-round draft picks, undrafted free agents or even street free agents. The pet cat is often - and preferably - chosen without the slightest factual or quantifiable basis. In fact, some would argue that you do not choose your pet cat, your pet cat chooses you.

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