Idioms

An idiom is a phrase that cannot be understood through its individual words. It often uses figurative language, allusions, and atypical use of language. Idioms often require real-world context and experience to understand.

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  • a

  • A blessing in disguise
    “A blessing in disguise” refers to the idea that something negative can have a positive outcome.
  • A chip off the old block
    “A chip off the old block” is used to refer to someone who is similar to a person who was influential in their life.
  • A dime a dozen
    “A dime a dozen” refers to something that’s so common and plentiful that it’s practically worthless.
  • A method to the madness
    “A method to the madness” is an interesting English-language idiom that refers to someone’s tactics. They might seem “mad,” or unworkable, but there is a purpose to everything they’re doing.
  • A penny for your thoughts
    “A penny for your thoughts” is a figurative way of asking someone to rejoin a conversation.
  • A perfect storm
    “A perfect storm” is a common English idiom that is usually used as a metaphor to describe a worst-case scenario
  • A picture is worth a thousand words
    “A picture is worth a thousand words” suggests that a picture contains far more in its colors and content than 1,000 words ever could.
  • A snowball’s chance in hell
    “A snowball’s chance in hell” is an interesting English idiom that refers to a situation in which one has very little chance of succeeding.
  • A storm in a teacup
    “A storm in a teacup,” also sometimes said as a “tempest in a teacup,” is an English idiom. It refers to an event that’s been exaggerated out of proportion with its truth. 
  • A taste of your own medicine
    “A taste of your own medicine” is an English idiom that’s used to describe one person’s desire for another to experience something negative.
  • Actions speak louder than words
    “Actions speak louder than words” refers to the fact that acts are more meaningful than statements.
  • At the Drop of a hat
    To do something at the “drop of a hat” means that one is going to immediately do whatever it is they need to do.
  • b

  • Back to the drawing board
    “Back to the drawing board” is a common English idiom that’s used to refer to someone’s decision to rethink a plan or decision.
  • Barking up the wrong tree
    'Barking up the wrong tree' is an English-language idiom. It’s used to describe a situation in which someone is pursuing an incorrect assumption.
  • Beat a dead horse
    "Beat a dead horse" is an idiom that describes someone's attempt to complete or achieve something that is futile or wasted.
  • Beat around the bush
    "Beat around the bush” suggests someone is avoiding saying something. They're likely trying not to address a necessary topic.
  • Benefit of the doubt
    "Benefit of the doubt" is used to refer to a situation in which one person is willing to give another a chance before judging them.
  • Bent out of shape
    "Bent out of shape" is used to refer to how upset or angry someone is about something that's bothering them.
  • Bigger fish to fry
    “Bigger fish to fry” is a common English idiom that’s used to describe one’s belief that they have more important things to do.
  • Birds of a feather flock together
    Birds of a feather flock together refers to similarities within groups that allow the indiviudals to connect and feel safe with one another.
  • Bite off more than you can chew
    “Bite off more than you can chew” is used to describe the possibility that someone has taken on more than they can manage.
  • Bite the bullet
    “Bite the bullet” is used when speaking about something difficult or unpleasant. You bite the bullet when you do that unpleasant thing.
  • Break a leg
    “Break a leg” is commonly used in the world of theatre as a way of wishing a performer or group of performers good luck.
  • Break the ice
    “Break the ice” is an idiom used to describe the process of overcoming initial social awkwardness.
  • By the skin of your teeth
    The idiom "By the skin of your teeth" is a way of saying that you only just got by.
  • c

  • Call it a day
    “Call it a day” is a simple idiom that is used when someone wants to inform others they’re done working for the day.
  • Comparing apples to oranges
    "Comparing apples to oranges” is used when someone is wanting to refer to the obvious differences between two things.
  • Cost an arm and a leg
    “Cost an arm and a leg” refers to a high cost, something astronomically expensive that is compared through this phrase, to give up an arm or a leg.
  • Cross that bridge when you come to it
    “Cross that bridge when you come to it” is used to suggest that it's not necessary to do or worry about something until it happens.
  • Cut some slack
    “Cut some slack” is an idiom that’s used to refer to increased leniency, freedom, or forgiveness.
  • Cutting corners
    “Cutting corners” is a simple English idiom that suggests someone is taking a shortcut or an easy way out instead of putting the right amount of time into a task.
  • d

  • Dead as a doornail
    “Dead as a doornail” has been used for several centuries to refer to something that’s completely and irrevocably dead.
  • Don't cry over spilt milk
    “Don’t cry over spilt milk” is used to remind someone that there’s no point crying over something that has already happened.
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
    "Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” means don’t act on a good outcome that hasn’t actually occurred yet.
  • e

  • Easy does it
    “Easy does it” is a simple idiom. It suggests that someone shouldn’t get or remain upset about something going on in their life. 
  • Elephant in the room
    "The elephant in the room" is used to refer to an important topic, problem, or issue that needs to be addressed but has yet to be.
  • Extend an olive branch
    “Extend an olive branch” is used when someone wants to end a confrontation or an argument.
  • g

  • Get out of hand
    “Get out of hand” is a common English idiom. It suggests that something has gotten out of control. 
  • Get something out of your system
    “Get something out of your system” is used when someone wants to reveal something or get something off their mind that is bothering them. It could also be applied when someone needs to do something. 
  • Get your act together
    “Get your act together” is a common English idiom used to tell someone to stop messing around and focus. 
  • Give someone the cold shoulder
    To “give someone the cold shoulder” is an English-language idiom that’s used to describe one person ignoring or showing contempt for another.
  • Go down in flames
    “Go down in flames” is an English idiom that’s used to describe a miserable failure. It could also result in a spectacle of some kind.
  • Go on a wild goose chase
    “Go on a wild goose chase” is an English idiom that’s used to describe a purposeless task, doomed to failure.
  • h

  • Hang in there
    “Hang in there” is an English idiom that’s used to encourage someone to preserve through a tough situation. 
  • Have your head in the clouds
    “Head in the clouds” is an English idiom that refers to someone being absent-minded, distracted, or always dreaming.
  • Hit the sack
    “Hit the sack” is a common English idiom. It’s used to describe someone’s desire to go to bed or to inspire someone else to do the same. 
  • i

  • It takes one to know one
    “It takes one to know one” is an English idiom. It’s used when one person wants to point out that what they’re being accused of is actually reflected in the accuser.
  • It takes two to tango
    "It takes two to tango” is a popular English idiom that’s used to describe a task one person can’t do alone.
  • It's a piece of cake
    “It’s a piece of cake” is used to refer to something that’s simple or easy.
  • It's raining cats and dogs
    "It is raining cats and dogs" is an English idiom. It is used to describe a very heavy rain but not one that's associated with animals.
  • It’s not rocket science
    “It’s not rocket science” is a common English idiom that’s used to emphasize how simple something is, especially compared to rocket science. 
  • j

  • Jump on the bandwagon
    To “jump on the bandwagon” means that one is going to join in with whatever new or popular thing the majority is doing or thinking.
  • k

  • Kill two birds with one stone
    "Kill two birds with one stone" refers to getting two things done through one action that saves time, energy, and stress.
  • Know which way the wind blows
    “Know which way the wind blows” is used metaphorically to refer to understanding where public opinion is.
  • l

  • Leave no stone unturned
    "Leave no stone unturned" is a way of saying one is not going to give up searching till they find what they've lost or what they need.
  • Let the cat out of the bag
    “Let the cat out of the bag” is a common English idiom that’s used to describe what happens when someone tells a secret.
  • Long story short
    To make a "long story short” is a commonly used idiom that signals someone is going to summarize their information.
  • Love is blind
    “Love is blind” is a direct idiom, one that clearly refers to the way that love blinds the lover to certain truths.
  • m

  • Mad as a hatter
    “Mad as a hatter” is a humorous idiom used to refer to someone who is completely crazy.
  • Make hay while the sun shines
    “Make hay while the sun shines” suggests that someone should take advantage of the time they have to complete a task or take on an opportunity.
  • Miss the boat
    “Miss the boat” is an English idiom that’s used to refer to someone’s missed opportunity.
  • n

  • Not playing with a full deck
    “Not playing with a full deck” is a way of saying that someone is mentally unsound or unintelligent.
  • o

  • Off one's rocker
    "Off one's rocker" is used to describe someone who is acting differently or out of the ordinary in some important way.
  • On cloud nine
    “On cloud nine” is a common English idiom that’s used to refer to a  state of blissful happiness that one is experiencing.
  • On the ball
    “On the ball” is a commonly used idiom that describes someone or something that is performing well.
  • On the fence
    “On the fence” is an idiom. It’s used when someone wants to describe themselves or someone else as unable to make up their mind.
  • Once in a blue moon
    "Once in a blue moon" is a way of describing and emphasizing something, positive or negative, that happens very rarely.
  • Out of the frying pan and into the fire
    “Out of the frying pan and into the fire” is a clever way of depicting a bad situation getting worse.
  • p

  • Play Devil’s Advocate
    If someone decides to “play devil’s advocate” then they are arguing a position for the sake of it, not necessarily because they believe it.
  • Pull yourself together
    “Pull yourself together” is used in tense situations in order to calm down someone whose upset, panicking, or disorganized.
  • Pulling my leg
    “Pulling someone’s leg” is a humorous English idiom that refers to a joking comment made in order to trick or amuse another person.
  • Pushing up daisies
    Pushing up daisies” is a popular idiom used to refer to someone who has died.
  • r

  • Rain on someone’s parade
    “Rain on someone’s parade” is a clever English idiom that’s used to describe dampening someone’s mood.
  • Run like the wind
    "Run like the wind" is a common English idiom. It's used to describe how fast someone is moving.
  • s

  • Shape up or ship out
    'Shape up or ship out' is an English-language idiom that’s used to threaten someone with a consequence if they don’t do what they’re supposed to.
  • Speak of the devil
    "Speak of the devil" is used to acknowledge that someone who was the subject of discussion has come into the room.
  • Straight from the horse’s mouth
    “Straight from the horse’s mouth” is an English idiom that’s used to describe getting information from a first-hand source.
  • t

  • That's the last straw
    “That’s the last straw” is a common English idiom. It’s used to signal when someone is fed up with a situation. 
  • The best of both worlds
    “The best of both worlds” is an idiom that describes getting everything one wants. It’s used when a situation turns out perfectly.
  • The best thing since sliced bread
    “The best thing since sliced bread” is an English-language idiom that is used when someone wants to describe something that’s unusually interesting or great.
  • The pot calling the kettle black
    “The pot calling the kettle black” is used to remind someone that they’re guilty of the same thing they’re accusing another of.
  • The world is your oyster
    "The world is your oyster" is an idiom used to refer to the unlimited possiblites one has in front of them.
  • Time flies when you’re having fun
    "Time flies when you're having fun" refers to the phenomenon that time appears to pass more quickly when engaged in something they enjoy.
  • Time is money
    “Time is money” suggests that wasted time is wasted money. If one is wasting time, they’re missing out on an opportunity to make money.
  • To make matters worse
    “To make matters worse” is an English idiom that’s used to describe a situation that’s escalating in its difficulty or negativity. 
  • Two peas in a pod
    Two peas in a pod is used to refer to how close two people are to one another.
  • u

  • Under the weather
    "Under the weather" is used to describe someone whose feeling unwell.
  • w

  • When it rains it pours
    “When it rains it pours” is used to describe how good or bad experiences are expanded due to other circumstances.
  • Wolf in sheep's clothing
    The phrase 'Wolf in sheep’s clothing' is a Biblical idiom that is used to describe the difference between what something or someone looks like and what or who they really are.
  • y

  • You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs
    “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” implies that breaking eggs, or making sacrifices, is necessary for success.
  • You read my mind
    “You read my mind” is a common English idiom. It’s used when one person wants to convey how well the other person knows them.