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Does she talk like a waterfall?

One of the idioms my German speaking students sometimes use in class is ‘she talks like a waterfall’. This is a direct translation of the German version ‘sie redet wie ein Wasserfall’ used to describe someone who talks too much. However, in English we don’t actually compare speakers to waterfalls. We do, however, have an abundance of ways to describe people who speak too much or too quickly.

Included within the idioms, there are donkeys, voices, legs, breath but, as of yet, no waterfalls. The closest to a waterfall is probably diarrhoea, not quite as picturesque though!

Lots of the idioms tend to have a slightly negative connotation as talking too much is not generally regarded favourably so if you want to be positive about someone's capacity to chat, you might be better picking a single adjective.

Let's start with the adjectives then move on to some of the idiomatic ways of talking about talking.


Adjectives used to describe someone who talks a lot include talkative, chatty and the more formal loquacious. Words such as verbose and long-winded are negative ways of referring to someone who talks a lot. Garrulous can be used (and interpreted) positively or negatively. Describing someone as a chatterbox is probably rather old-fashioned.

Other options include motormouth, loudmouth and blabbermouth. If someone describes you as a motormouth, they probably think you speak too quickly. A loudmouth may share their unwanted opinions rather too much in a way that everyone can hear and a blabbermouth shouldn’t be trusted to keep a secret. Each of these options is negative.

British idioms

There are a range of idiomatic expressions to describe a person who talks too much. I’m familiar with the following ones:

He/ she

  • can talk the hind leg off a donkey

  • can talk for England

  • doesn’t draw breath

  • likes the sound of his/her own voice

  • has verbal diarrhoea

  • doesn't shut up

  • has got the gift of the gab (this tends to be positive)


Idioms used outside the UK

Here are some more expressions which I'm not so familiar with and are probably used outside the UK:


  • is a chatty Kathy (USA)

  • talks a blue streak (USA)

  • can chew/ talk/ burn someone’s ear off (USA)

  • talks a bunch (USA)

  • talks a mile a minute (Canada)

  • talk a leg off a table (USA)


Other idioms

As well as the idioms mentioned above which convey the idea of someone talking excessively, there are also idioms about pace and choice of topic.

Talking nineteen to the dozen is quite old-fashioned and refers to a person who speaks too quickly.

If someone talks about the same topic repeatedly they are like a broken record or a CD on repeat. I also like to use the expression ‘banging on about something’ in this context.


Choosing the best idiom

I've given you a whole range of idioms and vocabulary and now you are probably wondering which one to choose.

Personally, I really like the German version and wonder whether that one might eventually take off in England. If, however, you want to stick to something more conventional, I would probably recommend using he/she likes the sound of his/her own voice. For me this is the idiom with the most transparent meaning.

Of course, idioms aren't the only way to express this concept. Whilst idioms are a concise and interesting ways of referring to a situation, sometimes a single word might be just as effective and potentially clearer. Indeed, if you are looking for a positive way to describe a person who talks a lot, the list of adjectives above is a better starting point.

What do you think? Have you got a favourite idiom from this post?

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