Have you ever been tricked by someone? Of course you have! Who hasn’t? Some people are just good at pulling the wool over others’ eyes. Sometimes you may hear people say such tricksters are “sly as a fox.”

But what exactly does that mean? Are foxes really sly? And, if so, how did people find out? Were they tricked by foxes?

“Sly as a fox” has been a traditional saying for hundreds of years. It means that someone is particularly crafty or tricky. If you’re as sly as a fox, you are experienced and cunning and can usually get whatever you want, sometimes by underhanded means.

Long ago, fables, such as Aesop’s The Fox and the Crow, portrayed the fox as a creature that was very crafty and cunning as a hunter. Although there are plenty of other animals that are cunning hunters, the fox became associated with trickery.

For example, many medieval stories feature a character called Reynard the Fox. Reynard the Fox is a red fox who acts like a human. He is the central character of many fables from France, England and Germany. Reynard is known as a trickster who always gets into trouble, yet can always talk his way out of it!

Most fables featuring Reynard the Fox include other animals that also act like humans. Reynard is often portrayed as being captured or killed, only to trick the other animals in the end. He usually gets his revenge in a cunning and crafty way.

How common is the image of the sly fox? Very common! For example, the sly fox is referred to over and over again in many of Shakespeare’s plays.

This view of the fox has found its way into other words, too. Have you ever heard of a vixen? A vixen is a mean or argumentative woman. Where did the word come from? A vixen is also the official term for a female fox!

74 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (21 votes, avg. 4.52 out of 5)
    • Great job making a connection to today’s Wonder, Aaronyana! We are SUPER excited you enjoyed learning about the lesson of the Wonder– just like a fable teaches! We bet you’re a SUPER student, too!! Great work! :)

    • How great, Julianab123– we are SUPER excited that you thought today’s Wonder was as cool as a cucumber! We really appreciate your comment AND that you are joining us for WONDERing fun every day! Keep up the great work, Wonder Friend! :)

    • WOW, we are so happy to hear that, Pickle Boy! We Wonder if you’ve ever experienced a sly fox in real life? We bet if you used your imagination you could create a story about it, just like a fable! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

    • WOHOO, thank you for sharing your comment and affinity for today’s Wonder, Wulf! At Wonderopolis, it’s so exciting to Wonder each day about a new topic– but we have to wait until tomorrow to discover the next one! However, you can always guess what tomorrow’s Wonder will be– there are hints at the bottom of today’s page! We hope to see you tomorrow!! :)

  1. We thought the video was really good but… we were wondering, how did the foxes get in there?!!?! It looked like they were living in a house, who would keep a fox?!!!!!

    • High fives to Bella and Grace– we have been WONDERing the same thing about those domestic foxes!! :) We thought the video was very cool and are so happy to hear that you enjoyed it, too! Because we don’t always know the people in or behind the Wonder of the Day® videos, it’s often hard to know the background story of, say, a fox in the house! We will have to keep WONDERing about domestic foxes in the meantime– thanks for sharing your comment today! :)

    • WOHOO, we are so happy you can relate to today’s Wonder, John! We bet you’re a cunning, smart Wonder Friend indeed! Thanks for posting your AWESOME comment today! :)

  2. We really liked the video of the adorable fox. We think tomorrow’s wonder of the day® is going to be on pogo sticks. Thanks for posting!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • We are jumping for joy to hear that you have been WONDERing with us today, Zoey and Aniela!! We think foxes are some sly creatures– so interesting and smart! We are SUPER happy you posted your guess for tomorrow… we can’t wait to discover something WONDERful with both of you! :)

  3. I liked today’s wonder and I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about trampolines, Pogo sticks, or jumping off a diving board. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s wonder will be!

    • Alright, Tori, we are all smiles here at Wonderopolis after reading your comment! Thanks for joining us as we Wondered about those agile creatures known as foxes! We are jumping with excitement as we wait for tomorrow’s AWESOME Wonder– we will see you soon! :)

    • YIPPPEEE, Claire! Thanks for sharing your SUPER enthusiastic comment! We LOVE great Wonder Friends like you– so thank you for joining us!! :)

    • Well howdy, Batman, we just have to say THANK YOU! We really appreciate your rockin’ comment– thanks for WONDERing at school and at home– there’s nothing like letting your imagination run free! Thanks for commenting and spreading the Wonder today! :)

  4. Today’s wonder was very interesting and we thought that the video was cool! We think tomorrow’s wonder will either be about diving off a platform or high jump. Thank you for today’s wonder.

    • WOHOO, we are jumping high after seeing your comment, Elise and Anna! Thanks for swinging by Wonderopolis and joining the fun as we WONDERed about sly foxes today! We Wonder if you two have ever seen a fox in your neighborhood?! :)

      We can’t wait to jump into another Wonder with you both tomorrow! Have a WONDERful day! :)

  5. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We loved the Wonder about being as sly as a fox. We read the book Flossie and the Fox last week where Flossie outsmarted and tricked a fox.

    We have many predictions for tomorrow’s Wonder:
    1) something about the sky or stars
    2) something about springs in trampolines or pogo sticks
    3) how high people jump
    4) something about frogs, bunnies, or kangaroos
    5) and jumping out of a plane

    See ya tomorrow!
    Ms. Davidson’s Third Grade Class

    • Hip-hip-HOORAY, we are so glad to be WONDERing with Ms. Davidson’s Third Grade students!! We LOVE reading about cool characters like Flossie– how exciting that you JUST read Flossie and the Fox!

      We think you all deserve a big thumbs UP for your SUPER guesses! We can’t wait to hop back to Wonderopolis tomorrow to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be! Until then, have a WONDERful day, Wonder Friends! :)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Our fourth grade class thinks that tomorrow’s wonder could be about:

    -a bunny
    -a frog
    -a kangaroo
    -a grasshopper
    -a cricket
    -or a snake

    We cannot wait until tomorrow!

    • We’re sending a great big HELLO to all the WONDERful students in Mrs. Ouverson’s Fourth Grade class! :) We are so happy to hear about all the SUPER WONDERing you’ve been doing at school– we think you came up with some AWESOME guesses for tomorrow!

      We can’t wait to hop to it and find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will bring! Thank you for joining us today, Wonder Friends! You’re the BEST! :)

  7. We think this is sooo cool because we are the Yorkville Foxes. We are going to write about being as sly as a Fox!!!

    • WOW, what a COOL connection to today’s Wonder! We bet the students in Mrs. Stemmet’s class know all about these sly foxes mentioned in today’s Wonder– it’s your mascot! We hope you have a great time writing about being a sly fox– we can’t wait to use our imaginations with you soon, Wonder Friends! :)

  8. I was wrong! I almost never see foxes out in the wild, but I would LOVE to. I think tomorrows’s WONDER will be about trampolines.


    • Not to worry, Emily– today’s Wonder was a sly, sneaky one! :)

      Foxes are often hard to catch a glimpse of because they are so quiet and graceful when they move around. We Wonder if you can find some more images or videos of foxes in the wild on your own!? Thanks for joining us today and sharing your WONDERful guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, too! You ROCK! :)

  9. Hey wonderopolis!! Today’s Wonder of the day® was AWESOME!! I love foxes even though the are kind of nasty, they’re still cute! :D But I LOVE Chamelions SO SO SO SOOOOOOOOOO Much more!! I don’t think I’m very sly like a fox, but I know some people who are!
    Thanks for the wonder!

    Anna! :)

    • Hi there, Anna! Thanks for commenting on our Wonder today– we are over the moon excited that you liked today’s Wonder!! We like the connection you made, and how you determined that you are not sly like a fox, too! Thanks for WONDERing with us, Anna! :)

  10. I leaned is that sly means smart.
    Another thing I leared is that people are good at pulling the wool.
    Another thing is the name of the fox is Reynard. Another thing is other animals act like humans and foxes.

    • Nice job, Sasha! We are THRILLED to hear that you enjoyed learning about what a sly fox means! You’ve learned so much and we’ve had a great time WONDERing with you! Thanks for stopping by today, Sasha! :)

  11. That video was interesting. I wonder how many foxes there are in London.
    I learned that some foxes are not afraid of humans and vice versa.
    I also learned that a fox was smart enough that he went down an elevator then escaped and then went back at night. Where was I when that happened?

    • WOHOO, what a SUPER comment, Matt D! We are so happy you liked WONDERing about foxes with us today! We think you’ve been doing a great job WONDERing on your own about foxes in London– maybe you can check out some more information online or at your library? :)

      Thanks for sharing everything you learned today– you ROCK! :)

  12. I learned many things from wonderopolis today.
    I learned new fun things such as what sly means. How similes show how humans are like animals. That people have been referring to foxes as sly for hundreds of years.

    • WOHOO, we are so excited about all the great things you’ve learned today, Jules! Thanks for sharing exactly what you learned today– about sly foxes and common phrases associated with it! Have a WONDERful day! :)

  13. I have so many things about myself to describe, like I’m quiet as a mouse, I can go through anything. I’m strong as an ox, I can push up a 60 pound kid. And I’m as wise as an owl, I know the math and math knows me! :-) :-D

    • You are doing a great job using similes, Carlos– WAY TO GO! We also think you’re quite talented! You must have worked and trained very hard to lift 60 pounds and become a math whiz! :)

  14. Hi Wonderopolis I loved this video today because it was about foxes; I would think that foxes are interesting because of what they can do.
    Thanks wonderopolis,

    • Thank you for commenting today, MadelineD123!! We are super EXCITED that you loved today’s video– we love your comment! We hope you have a SUPER day and we can’t wait to Wonder with you again! :)

    • Alright, Siddman, we are SUPER excited that you liked today’s sly Wonder! Sometimes being tricked, in a good way, can challenge your mind and imagination, too! Nice work– keep it up! :)

  15. Cool!
    I think tomorrow’s is about trampolines.
    Can someone please tell me how to make those yellow smiley face things? Thanks. Have an wonderful day!

    • Our newest Wonder is going to make you jump for joy, Tiauna! We are SUPER happy to hear that you liked our Wonder about sly foxes, too– thanks for commenting! :)

      These smiley faces ( :) ) are SO MUCH FUN– all you have to do is hit the colon key (shift + : ) and then the closed parenthesis key ( shift+ 0 )! Let us know when you’ve got it down! :)

  16. Hey wonderopolis just wanted to say the video of the slow motion jumping was amazing and I was kind of thinking how that man could jump that high. Anyways have a great day. :)

    • Well thanks for that AWESOME comment about today’s Wonder, Hannah! We are SUPER excited you enjoyed learning about the high jump– isn’t that video SUPER cool? It’s hard to imagine anyone jumping nearly 8 feet, but we suspect there was a great deal of practice and training involved! We can’t wait to WONDER again with you! :)

    • Well thank YOU, Zechariah! We are glad you enjoyed learning about those sly creatures– they are pretty cool! Have a SUPER day, Wonder Friend! :)

    • You are quite the sly fox, Wonder Friend C! We Wonder if you have a favorite food to snack on, or what you would make for your family? Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! :)

    • Great question, Eric! You’ve been doing a lot of WONDERing about those sly foxes– way to go! We Wonder if you can do some research of your own to find out how many foxes are in your city or state. We bet you will be surprised by the different locations foxes like to call home! :)

    • Hey there Batman, we bet you’re very sly! You can disappear with ease and reappear, too! What other things make you as sly as a fox? We Wonder… :)

  17. Man I love foxes. They are adorable. They seems so cuddly and cute. However I’m not as sly as them.
    (basically I’m not oh so tricky).

    • Hey there, Tyler J! We think foxes are cool, too, but we don’t like to be tricky. Sometimes foxes are described as sly, but other times they are known to be sneaky. We like to have fun, but we don’t like to be sneaky like foxes! :)

  18. I LOVED this wonder. I think it’s because I love foxes, though your wonders are amazingly fun and packed with knowledge! My girlfriend is definitely a vixen hahaha don’t tell her though! She sometimes likes to play the role if a fox and pull off innocent pranks on me. In other words, thank you so much for this past day’s wonder, I enjoyed every word!!!!!!!

    • Hey there, Matt! We are so glad that you loved this Wonder! Foxes are AWESOME animals and so much fun to learn about. Keep on WONDERing! :)

    • WONDERful, Lauren! It is a funny video, and we are so glad that you enjoyed it and the article! Keep WONDERing, Wonder Friend! :-)

  19. I think that it is very interesting how the saying sly as a fox came about. This article really helped me understand this very common saying. The video showed an awesome example of sly foxes.

    • Great connections to the Wonder, Allyson! We are so glad that you were able to learn something new in Wonderopolis, today! :-)

  20. WOW, a fox in the London underground? Maybe its the start of a revolution? As in foxes might become house pets. Well some people have foxes as pets, but maybe they will become as popular as dogs or cats… we will just have to see.

  21. Dear Wonderopolis I enjoyed this wonder. I learned intresting stuff. For instants vixen means a mean or argumentative women. Thanks for sharing bye.

    • WONDERful, Evan. W! We are so glad that you enjoyed this Wonder and learned something new today in Wonderopolis! We hope you have a WONDERful weekend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Are you sly as a fox?
  • Who is Reynard the Fox?
  • What is a simile?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Are you sly as a fox? Maybe you’re hungry as a horse! Comparisons like these using the words “like” or “as” are called similes.

Because animals have many traits that humans can mimic or desire, animals are often used in similes. Here are several common animal similes you’ve probably heard before:

  • Blind as a bat
  • Busy as a bee
  • Free as a bird
  • Gentle as a lamb
  • Proud as a peacock
  • Wise as an owl
  • Strong as an ox
  • Quiet as a mouse
  • Slippery as an eel
  • Eager as a beaver

Do any of these describe you? If so, which ones? Can you come up with your own unique animal simile that describes you in some way? If so, share it with your Wonder Friends by posting it on Facebook. We can’t wait to read what you come up with. You never know when “as bodacious as a badger” or “as proud as a platypus” might catch on as a new saying!

Still Wondering

EDSITEment!’s Fables and Trickster Tales Around the World lesson introduces children to folktales, such as fables and trickster tales, from around the world.

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