Japanese Idiom: Start with a Dragon end with a Snake

Photo Credit: Christopher Chan

Photo Credit: Christopher Chan

At first glance, I had no idea what this Japanese idiom was about. Can you guess what it is? :)

Ryuto dabi ni owaru – 竜頭蛇尾に終わる (りゅうとうだびにおわる)

Meaning – Start with a dragon’s head and end with a snake’s tail.

This is a pretty visual idiom and it can be most compared to the idea of starting something off big but petering out at the end. If you’re like me, you probably have a closet full of projects that looked like they were going to be dragons, but ended up being measly little snakes in the end :)

Here’s an example sentence from the book 2001 Japanese and English Idioms:

Kasisha no kakucho wa, ni nen go ni wa ryuto dabi ni owarimashita.


The company expansion plan was a dragon that finished as a snake after two years.

Have fun with this new idiom :)

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