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English Idioms


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  • 1. To be over the moon To tell a secret carelessly or by mistake.To be very happy and excited about something "I was going to surprise my wife but my mother let the cat out of the"When she found out she had got the promotion, she was over the bag."moon." Make a mountain out of a molehillTo let your hair down To make a big problem out of a small problem.To really relax and feel comfortable "He is making a mountain out of a molehill by worrying about his"As soon as the boss left the party, the staff really let their hair down." son`s school report."."A stiff upper lip Out of the blueTo keep your emotions to yourself and not let people know when you To happen unexpectedly, without warning.feel bad "His resignation came out of the blue.""And men are brought up with this awful burden of having to have astiff upper lip and not crying at all." To get off on the wrong footTo burn the candle at both ends To start a relationship badly.To regularly stay awake late and get up early because you are too busy "I seem to have got off on the wrong foot with the new boss.""Im busy trying to get ready for the holidays and burning the candle atboth ends." Parrot-fashion Learning or repeating something without understanding or thinkingTo put your foot in it about it.To commit a blunder or indiscretion "He just repeated the poem parrot-fashion""I really put my foot in it when I told him about his surprise birthdayparty." The Bees Knees An excellent person or thing - the highest quality.To get (hold of) the wrong end of the stick "I just bought a new television its the bees knees."To not understand a situation correctly"I told him that I liked Judy a lot but he got the wrong end of the stick A whale of a timeand thought I wanted to go out with her" To enjoy yourself very much, to have a good time. "Last night I went to Mikes party and had a whale of a time."The gift of the gabThe ability to speak easily and persuade people with your words.(inf) A red herring"If you want to be a good salesman, youve got to have the gift of the A false clue which leads investigators, readers, or solvers towards angab." incorrect solution. "In The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Dr. Watson sees a man on the hillTo go pear-shaped and thinks he is the murderer. However, this is a red herring as heTo go badly wrong. later discovers that the man is actually Sherlock Holmes.""The first six months were great, but then our relationship went pear-shaped." [Hes been] sent to Coventry Hes being deliberately ignored by everybody, perhaps because they areTo pull your socks up angry with him.To make an effort to improve your work or behaviour because it is notgood enough. It cost an arm and a leg"If you dont pull your socks up, you are definitely going to fail the This is a very common idiom in British English which means "it wasexam." extremely expensive". It is used to emphasize the high price and sometimes means "it cost too much".To be snowed under (with sth) For example:To have more things than you can deal with. "Be careful with that phone! It cost me an arm and a leg!""I have got three extra classes to teach this week. I am really snowedunder with work." Bobs your uncle! This popular idiom means "and in this way it is easily done",Hit the roof and is used to explain how an action or process is successfullyTo become very angry. completed in a simple way."My boss is going to hit the roof when he finds out that I lost so much "How do you find the British Councils address on this website?"money." "You just click on Contact Us in the top right corner and Bobs your uncle!".Take the bull by the hornsTo face a difficult or dangerous situation. Across the pond"I think you have to take the bull by the horns and tell him you are This idiom means on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean,leaving." used to refer to the US or the UK depending on the speakersPay over the odds location.To pay more than the usual rate."I had to pay over the odds for a hotel during the last week of the All mouth and trousersfestival" Someone whos all mouth and trousers talks or boasts a lot but doesnt deliver. All mouth and no trousers is also used,Let the cat out of the bag though this is a corruption of the original.
  • 2. Someone who wears belt and braces is very cautious andAll my eye and Peggy Martin takes no risks. An idiom that appears to have gone out of use but was prevalent in the English north Midlands of Staffordshire, Black as Newgates knocker Cheshire and Derbyshire from at least the turn of the 20th If things are as black as Newgates knocker, they are very bad. century until the early 1950s or so. The idioms meaning is Newgate was an infamous prison in England, so its door literally something said or written that is unbelievable, rumor, knocker meant trouble. over embellished, the result of malicious village gossip etc. Bobs your uncleAll talk and no trousers This idiom means that something will be successful: Just tell Someone who is all talk and no trousers, talks about doing him that I gave you his name and Bobs your uncle- hell help big, important things, but doesnt take any action. you.Argue the toss If you argue the toss, you refuse to accept a decision and Box clever argue about it. If you box clever, you use your intelligence to get what you want, even if you have to cheat a bit.As the actress said to the bishop This idiom is used to highlight a sexual reference, deliberate Brass neck or accidental. Someone who has the brass neck to do something has no sense of shame about what they do.At a loose end If you are at a loose end, you have spare time but dont know Break your duck what to do with it. If you break your duck, you do something for the first time.At the end of your tether By a long chalk If you are at the end of your tether, you are at the limit of If you beat somebody by a long chalk, you win easily and your patience or endurance. comfortably.Back foot Canary in a coal mine If you are on your back foot, you are at a disadvantage and A canary in a coal mine is an early warning of danger. forced to be defensive of your position. Cheap as chipsBad mouth If something is very inexpensive, it is as cheap as chips. When you are bad mouthing, you are saying negative things about someone or something.(Bad-mouth and badmouth are Chinese whispers also used.) When a story is told from person to person, especially if it is gossip or scandal, it inevitably gets distorted and exaggerated.Banana skin This process is called Chinese whispers. A banana skin is something that is an embarrassment or causes problems. Coals to Newcastle Taking, bringing, or carrying coals to Newcastle is doingBarrack-room lawyer something that is completely unnecessary. A barrack-room lawyer is a person who gives opinions on things they are not qualified to speak about. Come a cropper Someone whose actions or lifestyle will inevitably result inBe up the spout trouble is going to come a cropper. If a woman is up the spout, she is pregnant. Come up smelling of rosesBeen in the wars If someone comes up smelling of roses, they emerge from a If someone has been in the wars, they have been hurt or look situation with their reputation undamaged. as if they have been in a struggle. Cupboard loveBeer and skittles To show love to gain something from someone People say that life is not all beer and skittles, meaning that it is not about self-indulgence and pleasure. Curates egg If something is a bit of a curates egg, it is only good in parts.Belt and braces Cut the mustard
  • 3. If somebody or something doesnt cut the mustard, they fail If someone has or goes for an early bath, they quit or lose or it fails to reach the required standard. their job or position earlier than expected because things have gone wrong.Daft as a brush Someone who is daft as a brush is rather stupid. Easy peasy If something is easy peasy, it is very easy indeed. (EasyDamp squib peasy, lemon squeezy is also used.) If something is expected to have a great effect or impact but doesnt, it is a damp squib. Economical with the truth If someone, especially a politician, is economical with theDeath warmed up truth, they leave out information in order to create a false If someone looks like death warmed up, they look very ill picture of a situation, without actually lying. indeed. (death warmed over is the American form) Fair crack of the whipDo a Devon Loch If everybody has a fair crack of the whip, they all have equal If someone does a Devon Loch, they fail when they were opportunities to do something. very close to winning. Devon Loch was a horse that collapsed just short of the winning line of the Grand National Fall off the back of a lorry race. If someone tries to sell you something that has fallen of the back of a lorry, they are trying to sell you stolen goods.Do a runner If people leave a restaurant without paying, they do a runner. Fifth columnist A fifth columnist is a member of a subversive organisationDo the running who tries to help an enemy invade. The person who has to do the running has to make sure that things get done. (Make the running is also used.) Fine and dandy If things are fine and dandy, then everything is going well.Dog in the manger If someone acts like a dog in the manger, they dont want Flogging a dead horse other people to have or enjoy things that are useless to them. If someone is trying to convince people to do or feel something without any hope of succeeding, theyre flogging aDont wash your dirty laundry in public dead horse. This is used when someone is trying to raise People, especially couples, who argue in front of others or interest in an issue that no-one supports anymore; beating a involve others in their personal problems and crises, are said dead horse will not make it do any more work. to be washing their dirty laundry in public; making public things that are best left private. (In American English, dont Footballs a game of two halves air your dirty laundry in public is used.) If somethings a game of two halves, it means that its possible for someones fortunes or luck to change and theDouble Dutch person whos winning could end up a loser. If something is double Dutch, it is completely incomprehensible. For donkeys years If people have done something, usually without much if anyDrunk as a lord change, for an awfully long time, they can be said to have Someone who is very drunk is as drunk as a lord. done it for donkeys years.Dull as ditchwater For England If something is as dull as ditchwater, it is incredibly boring. A person who talks for England, talks a lot- if you do A ditch is a long narrow hole or trench dug to contain water, something for England, you do it a lot or to the limit. which is normally a dark, dirty colour and stagnant (when water turns a funny colour and starts to smell bad). (In Full Monty American English,things are dull as dishwater.) If something is the Full Monty, it is the real thing, not reduced in any way.Dunkirk spirit Dunkirk spirit is when people pull together to get through a Gardening leave very difficult time. If someone is paid for a period when they are not working, either after they have given in their notice or when they areEarly bath being investigated, they are on gardening leave.
  • 4. Get it in the neck This is a cliched way of telling the driver of a vehicle to start If you get it in the neck, you are punished or criticised for driving. It is supposed to be an order to a chauffeur (a something. privately employed driver). The full phrase is Home, James, and dont spare the horses.Get the nod If you get the nod to something, you get approval or I should cocoa permission to do it. This idiom comes from I should think so, but is normally used sarcastically to mean the opposite.Give it some stick If you give something some stick, you put a lot of effort into If youll pardon my French it. This idiom is used as a way of apologising for swearing.Give someone stick In a tick If someone gives you stick, they criticise you or punish you. If someone will do something in a tick, theyll do it very soon or very quickly.Give the nod If you give the nod to something, you approve it or give In rude health permission to do it. If someones in rude health, they are very healthy and look it.Go down like a lead balloon In spades If something goes down like a lead balloon, it fails or is If you have something in spades, you have a lot of it. extremely badly received. In the clinkGo spare If someone is in the clink, they are in prison. If you go spare, you lose your temper completely. In the clubGone for a burton If a womans in the club, shes pregnant. In the pudding club If somethings gone for a burton, it has been spoiled or ruined. is an alternative form. If a person has gone for a burton, they are either in serious trouble or have died. Jam tomorrow This idiom is used when people promise good things for theGone pear-shaped future that will never come. If things have gone pear-shaped they have either gone wrong or produced an unexpected and unwanted result. Jersey justice Jersey justice is very severe justice.Grasp the nettle If you grasp the nettle, you deal bravely with a problem. Keen as mustard If someone is very enthusiastic, they are as keen as mustard.Green fingers Someone with green fingers has a talent for gardening. Keep your chin up This expression is used to tell someone to have confidence.Grey pound In the UK, the grey pound is an idiom for the economic Keep your wig on! power of elderly people. This idiom is used to tell someone to calm down.Hairy at the heel Kick your heels Someone who is hairy at the heel is dangerous or If you have to kick your heels, you are forced to wait for the untrustworthy. result or outcome of something.Hard cheese Kitchen-sink Hard cheese means hard luck. Kitchen-sink drama deals with ordinary peoples lives.Hold the baby Laugh to see a pudding crawl If someone is responsible for something, they are holding the Someone who would laugh to see a pudding crawl is easily baby. amused and will laugh at anything.Home, James Like a bear with a sore head
  • 5. If someones like a bear with a sore head, they complain a lot Someone who is off their rocker is crazy. and are unhappy about something. On Carey StreetLike giving a donkey strawberries If someone is on Carey Street, they are heavily in debt or If something is like giving a donkey strawberries, people fail have gone bankrupt. to appreciate its value. On the blinkLook after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves Is a machine is on the blink, it isnt working properly or is out If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after of order. themselves, meaning that if someone takes care not to waste small amounts of money, they will accumulate capital. (Look On the blower after the pence and the pounds will look after themselves is If someone is on the blower, they are on the phone. an alternative form of this idiom.) On the fiddleLose your lunch Someone who is stealing money from work is on the fiddle, If you lose your lunch, you vomit. especially if they are doing it by fraud.Make a song and dance On the game If someone makes a song and dance, they make an A person who is on the game works as a prostitute. unecessary fuss about something unimportant. On the never-neverMan on the Clapham omnibus If you buy something on the never-never, you buy it on long- The man on the Clapham omnibus is the ordinary person in term credit. the street. On the nodMoney for old rope If something is accepted by parliament or a committee If somethings money for old rope, its a very easy way of majority, it is on the nod. making money. On the nodMore front than Brighton Someone whos on the nod is either asleep or falling asleep, If you have more front than Brighton, you are very self- especially when the shouldnt or are are in a position unusual confident, possibly excessively so. for sleep, like sitting or standing.New man On the nod A New man is a man who believes in complete equality of When a horse runs, its head moves backwards and forwards the sexes and shares domestic work equally. alternately - in horse racing, if 2 horses cross the line together the one whose head happens to be going forward often winsNods as good as a wink and is said to win on the nod. A nods as good as a wink is a way of saying you have understood somethin that someone has said, even though it On the take was not said directly. The full phrase (sometimes used in the Someone who is stealing from work is on the take. UK ) is a nods as good as a wink to a blind horse. On the trotNosy parker This idiom means consecutively; Id saw them three days on A nosy parker is someone who is excessively interested in the trot, which means that I saw them on three consecutive other peoples lives. (Nosey parker is an alternative spelling.) days.Not cricket One over the eight If something is not cricket, it is unfair. Someone who is one over the eight is drunk.Not give a monkeys Out in the sticks If you couldnt give a monkeys about something, you dont If someone lives out in the sticks, they live out in the country, care at all about it. a long way from any metropolitan area.Off your chump Over-egg the pudding If someone is off their chump, they are crazy or irrational. If you over-egg the pudding, you spoil something by trying to improve it excessively. It is also used nowadays with theOff your rocker
  • 6. meaning of making something look bigger or more important Spanner in the works than it really is. (Over-egg alone is often used in this sense.) If someone puts or throws a spanner in the works, they ruin a plan. In American English, wrench is used instead ofPin money spanner. If you work for pin money, you work not because you need to but because it gives you money for extra little luxuries and Spend a penny treats. This is a euphemistic idiom meaning to go to the toilet.Pink pound Spoil the ship for a hapworth of tar In the UK, the pink pound is an idiom for the economic If someone spoils the ship for a hapworth (halfpennys worth) power of gay people. of tar, they spoil something completely by trying to make a small economy.Plain as a pikestaff If something is as plain as a pikestaff, it is very clear. Square Mile The Square Mile is the City, the financial area of London.Pull your finger out! If someone tells you to do this, they want you to hurry up. Sticky end (Get your finger out is also used.) If someone comes to a sticky end, they die in an unpleasant way. (Meet a sticky end is also used.)Quart into a pint pot If you try to put or get a quart into a pint pot, you try to put Sticky wicket too much in a small space. (1 quart = 2 pints) If you are on a sticky wicket, you are in a difficult situation.Queer fish Stiff upper lip A strange person is a queer fish. If you keep your emotions to yourself and dont let others know how you feel when something bad happens, you keep aQuids in stiff upper lip. If somebody is quids in, they stand to make a lot of money from something. Take the biscuit If something takes the biscuit, it is the absolute limit.Rake over old coals If you go back to old problems and try to bring them back, Tally ho! making trouble for someone, you are raking over old coals. This is an exclamation used for encouragement before doing something difficult or dangerous.Rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic If people are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, they Tears before bedtime are making small changes that will have no effect as the This idiom is used when something seems certain to go project, company, etc, is in very serious trouble. wrong or cause trouble.Right royal Teething problems A right royal night out would be an extremely exciting, The problems that a project has when it is starting are the memorable and fun one. teething problems.See you anon Ten a penny If somebody says this when leaving, they expect to see you If something is ten a penny, it is very common. ("Two a again soon. penny" is also used.)Send someone to Coventry Thick as mince If you send someone to Coventry, you refuse to talk to them If someone is as thick as mince, they are very stupid indeed. or co-operate with them. Thin blue lineShankss pony The thin blue line is a term for the police, suggesting that If you go somewhere by Shankss pony, you walk there. they stand between an ordered society and potential chaos. (Police uniforms are blue.)Sound as a pound if something is as sound as a pound, it is very good or Three sheets in the wind reliable.
  • 7. Someone who is three sheets in the wind is very drunk. Babe in arms (Three sheets to the wind is also used. Seven sheets is an alternative number used.) A babe in arms is a very young child, or a person who is very young to be holding a position.Tired and emotional This idiom is a euphemism used to mean drunk, especially Babe in the woods when talking about politicians. A babe in the woods is a naive, defenceless, young person.Up sticks Baby boomer If you up sticks, you leave somewhere, usually permanently and without warning- he upped sticks and went to work (USA) A baby boomer is someone born in the years after the abroad. end of the Second World War, a period when the population was growing very fast.Up the duff If a woman is up the duff, shes pregnant. Back burnerUp the spout If an issue is on the back burner, it is being given low priority. If something has gone up the spout, it has gone wrong or been ruined. Back foot (UK) If you are on your back foot, you are at a disadvantageUp the stick and forced to be defensive of your position. If a woman is up the stick, shes pregnant. Back numberVicar of Bray A person who changes their beliefs and principles to stay Something thats a back number is dated or out of fashion. popular with people above them is a Vicar of Bray Back the wrong horseWatering hole A watering hole is a pub. If you back the wrong horse, you give your support to the losing side in something.Who wears the trousers? The person who wears the trousers in a relationship is the Back to back dominant person who controls things. If things happen back to back, they are directly one after another.Wipe the floor with If you wipe the floor with someone, you destroy the Back to square one arguments or defeat them easily. If you are back to square one, you have to start from theWith child beginning again. If a womans with child, shes pregnant. Back to the drawing boardWood for the trees If someone cant see the wood for the trees, they get so If you have to go back to the drawing board, you have to go caught up in small details that they fail to understand the back to the beginning and start something again. bigger picture. Back to the salt mineWouldnt touch it with a bargepole If you wouldnt touch something with a bargepole, you would If someone says they have to go back to the salt mine, they not consider being involved under any circumstances. (In have to return to work. American English, people say they wouldnt touch it with a Back to the wall ten-foot pole) If you have your back to the wall, you are in a difficultYou do not get a dog and bark yourself situation with very little room for manoeuvre. If there is someone in a lower position who can or should do a task, then you shouldnt do it. Backseat driver~B~ A backseat driver is an annoying person who is fond of giving advice to the person performing a task or doing
  • 8. something, especially when the advice is either wrong or Ball is in your court unwelcome. If the ball is in your court, it is up to you to make the nextBad Apple decision or step. A person who is bad and makes other bad is a bad apple. Ballpark figureBad blood A ballpark figure is a rough or approximate number (guesstimate) to give a general idea of something, like a If people feel hate because of things that happened in the past, rough estimate for a cost, etc. there is bad blood between them. Banana republicBad egg Banana republic is a term used for small countries that are A person who cannot be trusted is a bad egg. Good egg is the dependent on a single crop or resource and governed badly opposite. by a corrupt elite.Bad hair day Banana skin If youre having a bad hair day, things are not going the way (UK) A banana skin is something that is an embarrassment or you would like or had planned. causes problems.Bad mouth Bandit territory (UK) When you are bad mouthing,you are saying negative An area or an industry, profession, etc, where rules and laws things about someone or something.(Bad-mouth and are ignored or flouted is bandit territory. badmouth are also used.) Baptism of fireBad shape A baptism of fire was a soldiers first experience of shooting. If somethings in bad shape, its in bad condition. If a persons Any unpleasant experience undergone, usually where it is in bad shape, they are unfit or unhealthy. also a learning experience, is a baptism of fire.Bad taste in your mouth Bar fly If something leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, you A bar fly is a person who spends a lot of time drinking in feel there is something wrong or bad about it. different bars and pubs.Bad workers always blame their tools Bare your heart "A bad worker always blames their tools" - If somebody does If you bare your heart to someone, you tell them you personal a job badly or loses in a game and claims that they were let and private feelings. (Bare your soul is an alternative form down by their equipment, you can use this to imply that this of the idiom.) was not the case. Barefaced liarBag of bones A barefaced liar is one who displays no shame about lying If someone is a bag of bones, they are very underweight. even if they are exposed.Bag of nerves Bark is worse than their bite If someone is a bag of nerves, they are very worried or Someone whos bark is worse than their bite may well get nervous. angry and shout, but doesnt take action.Bakers dozen Barking up the wrong tree A Bakers dozen is 13 rather than 12. If you are barking up the wrong tree, it means that you have completely misunderstood something or are totally wrong.Bald as a coot Barkus is willing A person who is completely bald is as bald as a coot. This idiom means that someone is willing to get married.
  • 9. Barrack-room lawyer other person has just said, its not going to change your opinions in any significant manner. (UK) A barrack-room lawyer is a person who gives opinions on things they are not qualified to speak about. Be true blueBarrel of laughs If a person/object/situation is considered to be true blue, it is considered genuine. If someones a barrel of laughs, they are always joking and you find them funny. Be up the spoutBasket case (UK) If a woman is up the spout, she is pregnant. If something is a basket case, it is so bad that it cannot be Bean counter helped. A bean counter is an accountant.Bat an eyelid Bear fruit If someone doesnt bat an eyelid, they dont react or show any emotion when surprised, shocked, etc. If something bears fruit, it produces positive results.Batten down the hatches Bear market If you batten down the hatches, you prepare for the worst that A bear market is a period when investors are pessimistic and could happen to you. expect finanical losses so are more likely to sell than to buy shares.Battle of nerves Bear the brunt A battle of nerves is a situation where neither side in a conflict or dispute is willing to back down and is waiting for People who bear the brunt of something endure the worst of the other side to weaken. (A war of nerves is an alternative something bad. form.) Beard the lion in his own denBe all ears If you confront a powerful or dangerous rival on their If you are all ears, you are very eager to hear what someone territory, you are bearding the lion in his own den. has to say. Beat about the bushBe careful what you wish for If someone doesnt say clearly what they mean and try to If you get things that you desire, there may be unforeseen and make it hard to understand, they are beating about (around) unpleasant consequences.(Be careful what you wish for, lest the bush. it come true. and Be careful what you wish for; you may receive it. are also used.) Beat someone to the drawBe on the pigs back (USA) If you beat someone to the draw, you do something before they do. If youre on the pigs back, youre happy / content / in fine form. Beat swords into ploughsharesBe out in left field If people beat swords into ploughshares, they spend money on humanitarian purposes rather than weapons. (The (USA) To be out in left field is not to know whats going on. American English spelling is plowshares) Taken from baseball, when youngsters assign less capable players to the outfield where the ball is less likely to be hit by Beat the daylights out of someone a young player. In business, one might say, Dont ask the If someone beats the daylights out of another person, they hit new manager; hes out in left field and doesnt know any them repeatedly. (Knock can also be used and it can be answers yet. made even stronger by saying the living daylights.)Be that as it may Beat to the punch Be that as it may is an expression which means that, while you are prepared to accept that there is some truth in what the
  • 10. If you beat someone to the punch, you act before them and If people make an agreement or contract and then the gain an advantage. situation changes very quickly, it changes before the ink is dry.Beating a dead horse Before you can say Jack Robinson (USA) If someone is trying to convince people to do or feel something without any hope of succeeding, theyre beating a The term Jack Robinson represents a short amount of time. dead horse. This is used when someone is trying to raise When you do something before you can say Jack Robinson, interest in an issue that no-one supports anymore; beating a you do it very quickly. dead horse will not make it do any more work. Beg the questionBeauty is in the eye of the beholder In philosophy "to beg the question" is to assume something Beauty is in the eye of the beholder means that different to be true that has not yet been proved. I have seen the idiom people will find different things beautiful and that the also to mean that a question is crying out to be asked. differences of opinion dont matter greatly. Beggars cant be choosersBeauty is only skin deep This idiom means that people who are in great need must This idiom means that appearances can be deceptive and accept any help that is offered, even if it is not a complete something that seems or looks good may turn out to be bad. solution to their problems.Beck and call Behind bars Someone who does everything for you, no matter when you When someone is behind bars, they are in prison. ask, is at your beck and call. Behind closed doorsBedroom eyes If something happens away from the public eye, it happens Someone with bedroom eyes has a sexy look in their eyes. behind closed doors.Bee in your bonnet Behind someones back If someone is very excited about something, they have a bee If you do something behind someones back, you do it in their bonnet. without telling them.Bees Knees Behind the times If something is the bees knees, its outstanding or the best in Someone that is behind the times is old-fashioned and has its class. ideas that are regarded as out-dated.Beeline for Believe in the hereafter If you make a beeline for a place, you head there directly. A belief in the hereafter is a belief in the afterlife, or life after death. It is, therefore, associated with religions and the soulsBeen in the wars journey to heaven or to hell, whichever way being just deserts for the person based on how they led their life. (UK) If someone has been in the wars, they have been hurt or look as if they have been in a struggle. Bells and whistlesBeen there, done that Bells and whistles are attractive features that things like computer programs have, though often a bit unnecessary. People say this when they have already experienced what is being discussed. Bells onBeer and skittles (USA) To be somewhere with bells on means to arrive there happy and delighted to attend. (UK) People say that life is not all beer and skittles, meaning that it is not about self-indulgence and pleasure. Belly upBefore the ink is dry If things go belly up, they go badly wrong.
  • 11. Below par If something is the best thing since sliced bread, it is excellent. (The greatest thing since sliced bread is also used.) If something isnt up to standard, or someone isnt feeling or doing very well, they are below par. Bet your bottom dollarBelow the belt (USA) If you can bet your bottom dollar on something, you can be absolutely sure about it. If someone says something that is cruel or unfair, it is below the belt, like the illegal punches in boxing. Better late than neverBelt and braces This idiom suggests that doing something late is better than not doing it at all. (UK) Someone who wears belt and braces is very cautious and takes no risks. Better safe than sorryBelt and suspenders This idiom is used to recommend being cautious rather than taking a risk. (USA) Someone who wears belt and suspenders is very cautious and takes no risks. Better than a stick in the eyeBend over backwards If something is better than a stick in the eye, it isnt very good, but it is better than nothing. If someone bends over backwards, they do everything they can to help someone. Better the devil you knowBend someones ear This is the shortened form of the full idiom, better the devil you know than the devil you dont, and means that it is often To bend someones ear is to talk to someone about something better to deal with someone or something you are familiar for a long-enough period that it becomes tiresome for the with and know, even if they are not ideal, than take a risk listener. with an unknown person or thing.Benjamin of the family Between a rock and a hard place The Benjamin of the family is the youngest child. If you are caught between a rock and a hard place, you are in a position where you have to choose between unpleasantBeside the point alternatives, and your choice might cause you problems; you will not be able to satisfy everyone. If something is beside the point, its not relevant to the matter being discussed or considered. Between the devil and the deep blue seaBeside themselves If you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, you are in a dilemma; a difficult choice. If people are beside themselves, they are very worried or emotional about something. Between the linesBeside yourself If you read between the lines, you find the real message in what youre reading or hearing, a meaning that is not If you are beside yourself, you are extremely angry. available from a literal interpretation of the words.Best of a bad bunch Between you and me and the cats whiskers The best that could be obtained from a list of options that This idiom is used when telling someone something that you were not exactly what was required. want them to keep secret.Best of both worlds Beyond a shadow of a doubt If you have the best of both worlds, you benefit from If somethings beyond a shadow of a doubt, then absolutely different things that do not normally go together. no doubts remain about it.Best thing since sliced bread Beyond belief
  • 12. If people behave in such a way that you find it almost This can be used to with the meaning very much- if you like impossible to accept that they actually did it, then you can something big time, you like it a lot. say that their behaviour was beyond belief. Bigger fish to fryBeyond our ken If you arent interested in something because it isnt important If somethings beyond your ken, it is beyond your to you and there are more important things for you to do, you understanding. have bigger fish to fry.Beyond the pale Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush If somethings beyond the pale, it is too extreme to be A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush is a proverb acceptable morally or socially. meaning that it is better to have something that is certain than take a risk to get more, where you might lose everything.Big Apple Birds eye view (USA) The Big Apple is New York. If you have a birds eye view of something, you can see itBig bucks perfectly clearly. If someone is making big bucks, they are making a lot of Bird-brain money. Someone who has a bird-brain, or is bird-brained, is stupid.Big cheese Birds and the bees The big cheese is the boss. If a child is taught about the birds and the bees, they areBig Easy taught about sex. (USA) The Big Easy is New Orleans, Louisiana Birds of a feather flock togetherBig fish This idiom means that people with similar interests will stick together. An important person in a company or an organisation is a big fish. Birthday suitBig fish in a small pond If you are in your birthday suit, you are naked. A big fish in a small pond is an important person in a small Bit between your teeth place or organisation. If you take or have the bit between your teeth, you take orBig girls blouse have control of a situation. (Bit = piece of metal in a horses mouth) A person who is very weak or fussy is a big girls blouse. Bit partBig hitter If someone has a small or unimportant role in something, A big hitter is someone who commands a lot of respect and is they have a bit part. very important in their field. Bit playerBig nose A bit player has a small or unimportant role in something. If someone has a big nose, it means they are excessively interested in everyone elses business. Bite off more than you can chewBig picture If you bite off more than you can chew, you take on more responsibilities than you can manage. Dont bite off more The big picture of something is the overall perspective or than you can chew is often used to advise people against objective, not the fine detail. agreeing to more than they can handle.Big time Bite someones head off
  • 13. If you bite someones head off, you criticise them angrily. If you vote against allowing someone to be a member of an organisation or group, you are blackballing him or her.Bite the bullet Blank cheque If you have to bite the bullet, you have to accept or face something unpleasant because it cannot be avoided. If you are given a blank cheque, you are allowed to use as much money as you need for a project.Bite the dust Bleeding edge This is a way of saying that somebody has died, especially if they are killed violently like a soldier in battle. Similar to cutting edge, this implies a technology or process that is at the forefront or beyond current practices. However,Bite your lip because it is unproven, it is often dangerous to use (hence the bleeding). If you have to bite your lip, you have to make a conscious effort not to react or to keep quiet about something that Bleeding heart displeases you. A bleeding heart is a person who is excessively sympatheticBite your tongue towards other people. If you bite your tongue, you refrain from speaking because it Bless your pointy little head is socially or otherwise better not to. This expression is used as to patronise someone, especiallyBits and bobs when they dont realise that theyre not very clever.(Bless your pointes little head is also used.) Bits and bobs are small, remnant articles and things- the same as odds and ends. Blessing in disguiseBitter end If some bad luck or misfortune ultimately results in something positive, its a blessing in disguise. If you do something to the bitter end, you do it to the very end, no matter how unsuccessful you are. Blind as a batBitter pill to swallow If you are in total darkness and cant see anything at all, you are as blind as a bat. A bitter pill to swallow is something that is hard to accept. Blind leading the blindBlack and white When the blind are leading the blind, the people in charge of When it is very clear who or what is right and wrong, then something dont know anything more than the people they are the situation is black and white. in charge of, when they should have greater knowledge.Black as Newgates knocker Blink of an eye (UK) If things are as black as Newgates knocker, they are If something happens in the blink of an eye, it happens so fast very bad. Newgate was an infamous prison in England, so its it is almost impossible to notice it. door knocker meant trouble. Blood and thunderBlack hole An emotional speech or performance is full of blood and If there is a black hole in financial accounts, money has thunder. disappeared. Blood from a turnipBlack sheep It is impossible to get something from someone if they dont Someone who is the black sheep doesnt fit into a group or have it, just as you cannot get blood from a turnip. family because their behaviour or character is not good enough. Blood is thicker than waterBlackball This idiom means that family relationships are stronger than others.
  • 14. Blood is worth bottling Something that will blow your mind is something extraordinary that will amaze you beyond explanation. (AU) If an Australian says to you "Your blood is worth bottling", he/she is complimenting or praising you for doing Blow your own horn something or being someone very special. If you blow your own horn, you boast about yourBlood out of a stone achievements and abilities. (Blow your own trumpet is an alternative form.) If something is like getting blood out of a stone, it is very difficult indeed. Blow your own trumpetBlood, sweat and tears If someone blows their own trumpet, they boast about their talents and achievements. (Blow your own horn is an If something will take blood, sweat and tears, it will be very alternative form.) difficult and will require a lot of effort and sacrifice. Blow your stackBlow a gasket If you blow your stack, you lose your temper. If you blow a gasket, you get very angry. Blow your topBlow by blow If someone blows their top, they lose their temper. A blow-by-blow description gives every detail in sequence. Blue bloodBlow hot and cold Someone with blue blood is royalty. If you blow hot and cold on an idea, your attitude and opinion keeps changing; one minute you are for it, the next Blue-eyed boy you are against. Someones blue-eyed boy is their favourite person.Blow me down Bobs your uncle People say (well,) blow me down when you have just told them something surprising, shocking or unexpected. (Blow (UK) This idiom means that something will be successful: me down with a feather is also used.) Just tell him that I gave you his name and Bobs your uncle- hell help you.Blow off steam Body politic (USA) If you blow off steam, you express your anger or frustration. A group of people organised under a single government or authority (national or regional) is a body politic.Blow out of the water Bold as brass If something, like an idea, is blown out of the water, it is destroyed or defeated comprehensively. Someone who is as bold as brass is very confident and not worried about how other people will respond or about beingBlow smoke caught. (USA) If people blow smoke, the exaggerate or say things Bolt from the blue that are not true, usually to make themselves look better. If something happens unexpectedly and suddenly, it is a boltBlow the cobwebs away from the blue. If you blow the cobwebs away, you make sweeping changes Bone of contention to something to bring fresh views and ideas in. If there is an issue that always causes tension and arguments,Blow the whistle it is a bone of contention. If somebody blows the whistle on a plan, they report it to the Bone to pick authorities.Blow your mind
  • 15. If you have a bone to pick with someone, you are annoyed If something is not brain surgery, it isnt very complicated or about something they have done and want to tell them how difficult to understand or master. you feel. Brass monkeyBoot is on the other foot If its brass monkey weather, or cold enough to freeze the When the boots on the other foot, a person who was in a balls off a brass monkey, it is extremely cold. position of weakness is now in a position of strength. Brass neckBorn to the purple (UK) Someone who has the brass neck to do something has Someone who is born to the purple is born in a royal or no sense of shame about what they do. aristocratic family. ("Born in the purple" is also used.) Brass tacksBorn with a silver spoon in your mouth If you get down to brass tacks, you get down to the real If you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you are business. born into a rich family. Bread and butterBoth ends meet Bread and butter issues are ones that affect people directly If you make both ends meet, you live off the money you earn and in a very important way. and dont go into debt. BreadwinnerBottom line Used to describe the person that earns the most money. For In accountancy, the bottom line is net income, and is used example - Shes the breadwinner in the family. idiomatically to mean the conclusion. Break a legBounce off the walls This idiom is a way of wishing someone good luck. If someones bouncing off the walls, they are very excited about something. Break evenBouquet of orchids If you break even, you dont make any money, but you dont lose any either. Id someone deserves a bouquet of orchids, they have done something worthy of praise. Break groundBox and dice If you break ground, or break new ground, you make progress, taking things into a new area or going further than Box and dice means everything. anyone has gone before. Ground-breaking is used an adjective.Box clever Break the back of the beast (UK) If you box clever, you use your intelligence to get what you want, even if you have to cheat a bit. If you break the back of the beast, you accomplish a challenge.Boxing and coxing Break the ice If people are boxing and coxing, they are sharing responsibilities so that one of them is working while the other When you break the ice, you get over any initial isnt. It can also be used when couples are sharing a house, embarrassment or shyness when you meet someone for the but their relationship has broken down and when one is at first time and start conversing. home, the other stays out. Break your duckBoys in blue (UK) If you break your duck, you do something for the first The boys in blue are the police. time.Brain surgery Break your heart
  • 16. If someone upsets you greatly, they break your heart, Bring someone to heel especially if they end a relationship. If you bring someone to heel, you make them obey you.(CallBreathe down your neck someone to heel is also used.) If someone follows you or examines what youre doing very Bring the house down closely, they are breathing down your neck. Something that brings the house down is acclaimed andBreathe life into praised vigorously. If you breathe life into something, you give people involved Bring to the table more energy and enthusiasm again. (Breathe new life is also used.) If you bring something to the table, you make a contribution or an offer in a discussion or negotiation..Breathe your last Broad church When you breathe your last, you die. If an organisation is described as broad church, it is tolerantBridge the gap and accepting of different opinions and ideas. If you bridge the gap, you make a connection where there is a Broad strokes great difference. If something is described or defined with broad stokes, thenBright and breezy only an outline is given, without fine details. When someone is cheerful and full of energy, they are bright Broke as a joke and it aint funny and breezy. This idiom in my opinion describes how its not funny to beBright as a button without a cent and just uses broke and joke as rhyming words that help explain this idiom a lot better. A person who is as bright as a button is very intelligent or smart. Brown noseBright-eyed and bushy-tailed When someone tries to make themselves popular with somebody, usually in a position of authority, especially by If someones bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, they are full of flattering them, they are brown nosing. energy and enthusiasm. Brownie pointsBrighten up the day If you try to earn Brownie points with someone, you do If something brightens up your day, something happens that things you know will please them. makes you feel positive and happy all day long. Brush under the carpetBring a knife to a gunfight If you brush something under the carpet, you are making an If someone brings a knife to a gunfight, they are very badly attempt to ignore it, or hide it from others. prepared for something. Bull in a China shopBring home the bacon If someone behaves like a bull in a China shop, they are A person who brings home the bacon earns the money that a clumsy when they should be careful. family live on. Bull marketBring on board A bull market is a period when investors are optimistic and To make people embrace the ideas intended by the leader or there are expectations that good financial results will agree to join a team or project is to bring them on board. continue.Bring someone to book Bull session If somebody is brought to book, they are punished or made to If you have a bull session, you have an informal group account for something they have done wrong. discussion about something.
  • 17. Bull-headed Busmans holiday If youre a bull-headed, youre stubborn or inflexible. A busmans holiday is when you spend your free time doing the same sort of work as you do in your job.Bun in the oven Bust my chops If a woman has a bun in the oven, she is pregnant. When someone says that theyre not going to bust their chops,Bundle of nerves it means they are not going to work that hard or make much effort. Someone who is a bundle of nerves is very worried or nervous. Busted flushBur under my saddle Someone or something that had great potential but ended up a useless failure is a busted flush. A bur under your saddle is something that annoys you or spurs you into action.(Burr is an alternative spelling.) Busy as a beaverBurn rubber If youre as busy as a beaver, youre very busy indeed. If you burn rubber, you drive very fast to get somewhere. Busy as a beeBurn the candle at both ends If you are as busy as a bee, you are very busy indeed. Someone who burns the candle at both ends lives life at a Butter wouldnt melt in their mouth hectic pace, doing things which are likely to affect their health badly. If someone looks as if butter wouldnt melt in their mouth, they look very innocent.Burn the midnight oil Butterfingers If you stay up very late working or studying, you burn the midnight oil. Someone who has butterfingers is clumsy and drops things.Burn your bridges Butterflies in your stomach If you burn your bridges, you do something that makes it The nervous feeling before something important or stressful impossible to go back from the position you have taken. is known as butterflies in your stomach.Burn your fingers Button your lip If you burn your fingers, you suffer a loss or something If you button your lip, you keep quiet and dont speak. It is unpleasant as the result of something you did, making you also used as a way of telling someone to shut up. less likely to do it again. Buy the farmBurning question When somebody has bought the farm, they have died. A burning question is something we all want to know about. By a hairs breadthBurst at the seams If a person escapes from some danger by a hairs breadth, To be filled to or beyond normal capacity: This room will be they only just managed to avoid it. The breadth is the bursting at the seams when all the guests arrive. thickness of a hair, so they probably feel somewhat lucky because the margin between success and what could easilyBury the hatchet have been failure was so close. If you bury the hatchet, you make peace with someone and By a long chalk stop arguing or fighting. (UK) If you beat somebody by a long chalk, you win easilyBury your head in the sand and comfortably. If someone buries their head in the sand, they ignore By a whisker something that is obviously wrong.
  • 18. If you do something by a whisker, you only just manage to By the skin of your teeth do it and come very near indeed to failing. If you do something by the skin of your teeth, you only justBy cracky manage to do it and come very near indeed to failing. A term used by rural folks in years past to emphasize a By word of mouth matter of importance or urgency. An example: By cracky, you need to get out there in the field with that mule and plow If something becomes known by word of mouth, it gets and finish the sod-busting before dark. known by being talked about rather than through publicity or advertising, etc.By dint of ~C~ This means as a result of or because of: It would be good to think hed risen to position of Chief Executive by dint of hard Cakes not worth the candle work. If someone says that the cakes not worth the candle, theyBy heart mean that the result will not be worth the effort put in to achieve it. If you learn something by heart, you learn it word for word. Calf lickBy hook or by crook A calf lick is the weird parting in your fringe where your hair If you are prepared to do something by hook or by crook, you grows in a different direction, usually to one side. are willing to do anything, good or bad, to reach your goal. Call a spade a spadeBy leaps and bounds A person who calls a spade a spade is one speaks frankly and Something that happens by leaps and bounds happens very makes little or no attempt to conceal their opinions or to quickly in big steps. spare the feelings of their audience.By the back door Call it a day If something is started or introduced by the back door, then it If you call it a day, you stop doing something for a while, is not done openly or by following the proper procedures. normally at least until the following day.By the book Call on the carpet If you do something by the book, you do it exactly as you are If you are called on the carpet, you are summoned for a supposed to. reprimand by superiors or others in power.By the by Call the dogs off This is used as a way of introducing an incidental topic in a If someone calls off their dogs, they stop attacking or conversation or to say that something is irrelevant. (By the criticising someone. bye is also used.) Call the shotsBy the numbers If you call the shots, you are in charge and tell people what to If something is done by the numbers, it is done in a do. mechanical manner without room for creativity. Call the tuneBy the same token The person who calls the tune makes the important decisions If someone applies the same rule to different situations, they about something. judge them by the same token: If things go well, hes full of praise, but, by the same token, when things go wrong he gets Calm before the storm furious. A calm time immediately before period of violent activity orBy the seat of your pants argument is the calm before the storm. If you do something by the seat of your pants, you do it Can of worms without help from anyone.
  • 19. If an action can create serious problems, it is opening a can of If you cash in your chips, you sell something to get what worms. profit you can because you think its value is going to fall. It can also mean to die.Cant dance and its too wet to plow Cast a long shadow (USA) When you cant dance and its too wet to plow, you may as well do something because you cant or dont have the Something or someone that casts a long shadow has opportunity to do anything else. considerable influence on other people or events.Cant do it for toffee Cast aspersion If you cant so something for toffee, you are incapable of If you cast aspersion, you try to blacken someones name and doing something properly or to any sort of standard. make people think badly of them.Cant hold a candle Cast doubt on If something cant hold a candle to something else, it is much If you make other people not sure about a matter, then you worse. have cast doubt on it.Cant see the forest for its trees Cast iron stomach If someone cant see the forest for its trees, they are too A person with a cast iron stomach can eat or drink anything focused on specific details to see the picture as a whole. without any ill effects.Canary in a coal mine Cast pearls before swine (UK) A canary in a coal mine is an early warning of danger. If you cast pearls before swine, you offer something of value to someone who doesnt appreciate it- swine are pigs.Card up your sleeve Cast sheeps eyes at If you have a card up your sleeve, you have a surprise plan or idea that you are keeping back until the time is right. If you cast sheeps eyes at at someone, you look lovingly or with longing at them.Carpetbagger Cast your mind back A carpetbagger is an opportunist without any scruples or ethics, or a politican who wants to represent a place they If somebody tells you to cast your mind back on something, have no connection with. they want you to think about something that happened in the past, but which you might not remember very well, and to tryCarrot and stick to remember as much as possible. If someone offers a carrot and stick, they offer an incentive to Cast your net widely do something combined with the threat of punishment. If you cast your net widely, you use a wide range of sourcesCarry the can when trying to find something. If you carry the can, you take the blame for something, even Casting vote though you didnt do it or are only partly at fault. The casting vote is a vote given to a chairman or presidentCase by case that is used when there is a deadlock. If things are done case by case, each situation or issue is Castles in the air handled separately on its own merits and demerits. Plans that are impractical and will never work out are castlesCase in point in the air. Meaning an instance of something has just occurred that was Cat among the pigeons previously discussed. For instance, a person may have told another that something always happens. Later that day, they If something or someone puts, or sets or lets, the cat among see it happening, and the informer might say, case in point. the pigeons, they create a disturbance and cause trouble.Cash in your chips Cat and dog life
  • 20. If people lead a cat and dog life, they are always arguing. (USA) If someone is caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar, he or she is caught doing something wrong.Cat burglar Chalk and cheese A cat burglar is a skillful thief who breaks into places without disturbing people or setting off alarms. Things, or people, that are like chalk and cheese are very different and have nothing in common.Cat fur and kitty britches Champ at the bit (USA) When I used to ask my grandma what was for dinner, she would say cat fur and kitty britches. This was her Ozark If someone is champing at the bit, they are very eager to way of telling me that I would get what she cooked. (Ozark is accomplish something. (Chomping at the bit is also used.) a region in the center of the United States) Champagne taste on a beer budgetCat got your tongue? Someone who lives above their means and likes things they If someone asks if the cat has got your tongue, they want to cannot afford has champagne taste on a beer budget. know why you are not speaking when they think you should. Change horses in midstreamCat nap If people change horses in midstream, they change plans or If you have a short sleep during the day, you are cat napping. leaders when they are in the middle of something, even though it may be very risky to do so.Cats lick Change of heart (Scot) A cats lick is a very quick wash. If you change the way you think or feel about something, youCats pajamas have a change of heart. (USA) Something that is the cats pajamas is excellent. Change tackCats whiskers If you change tack, you use a different method for dealing with something. Something excellent is the cats whiskers. Change your tuneCatch as catch can If someone changes their ideas or the way they talk about This means that people should try to get something any way them, they change their tune. they can. Chapter and verseCatch hell When you know something very well, and can quote it, you If you catch hell, you get into trouble or get scolded. (Catch know it chapter and verse. heck is also used.) Charity begins at homeCatch someone red-handed This idiom means that family members are more important If someone is caught red-handed, they are found doing than anyone else, and should be the focus of a persons efforts. something wrong or illegal. Chase rainbowsCatch-22 If someone chases rainbows, they try to do something that Catch-22 is a situation where conflicting rules make the they will never achieve. desired outcome impossible. It comes from a novel by the American author Joseph Heller, in which pilots would not Chase your tail have to fly missions if they were mentally ill, but not wanting to fly dangerous missions was held to be proof of sanity, so If you are chasing your tail, you are very busy but not being they had to fly anyway. (Catch 22, without the hyphen, is very productive. also used.) Cheap as chipsCaught with your hand in the cookie jar (UK) If something is very inexpensive, it is as cheap as chips.
  • 21. Cheap at half the price If someone has a chip on their shoulder, they are resentful about something and feel that they have been treated badly. If somethings cheap at half the price, its very cheap indeed. Chop and changeCheap shot If things chop and change, they keep changing, often A cheap shot is an unprincipled criticism. unexpectedly.Cheat death Cigarette paper If someone cheats death, they narrowly avoid a major If you cannot get or put a cigarette paper between people, problem or accident. they are so closely bonded that nothing will separate them or their positions on issues.Cheek by jowl Circle the wagons If things or people are cheek by jowl, they are very close together. (USA) If you circle the wagons, you stop communicating with people who dont think the same way as you to avoidCherry pick their ideas. It can also mean to bring everyone together to defend a group against an attack. If people cherry pick, they choose things that support their position, while ignoring things that contradict it. Circling the drainChew on a bone If someone is circling the drain, they are very near death and have little time to live. The phrase can also describe a project If someone is chewing on a bone, he or she is thinking about or plan or campaign that that is on the brink of failure. something intently. Class actChew the cud Someone whos a class act is exceptional in what they do. If you chew the cud, you think carefully about something. Clean as a whistleChew the fat If something is as clean as a whistle, it is extremely clean, If you chew the fat with someone, you talk at leisure with spotless. It can also be used to mean completely, though this them. meaning is less common nowadays. If somebody is clean as aChickenfeed whistle, they are not involved in anything illegal. If something is small or unimportant, especially money, it is Clean bill of health chickenfeed. If something or someone has a clean bill of health, thenChinese walls theres nothing wrong; everythings fine. Chinese walls are regulatory information barriers that aim to Clean break stop the flow of information that could be misused, especially If you make a clean break, you break away completely from in financial corporations. something.Chinese whispers Clean hands (UK) When a story is told from person to person, especially Someone with clean hands, or who keeps their hands clean, is if it is gossip or scandal, it inevitably gets distorted and not involved in illegal or immoral activities. exaggerated. This process is called Chinese whispers. Clean sheetChip off the old block When someone has a clean sheet, they have got no criminal If someone is a chip off the old block, they closely resemble record or problems affecting their reputation. In football and one or both of the parents in character. other sports, a goalkeeper has a clean sheet when let no goalsChip on your shoulder in. Clean slate
  • 22. If you start something with a clean slate, then nothing bad Close to your heart from your past is taken into account. If something is close to your heart, you care a lot about it.Clean sweep (Dear to your heart is an alternative.) If someone makes a clean sweep, they win absolutely Closed book to me everything in a competition or contest. If a subject is a closed book to you, it is something that youClear as a bell dont understand or know anything about. If something is as clear as a bell, it is very clear or easy to Cloth ears understand. If you dont listen to people, they may suggest you have clothClear as mud ears. If something is as clear as mud, then it is very confusing and Cloud cuckoo land unclear. If someone has ideas or plans that are completely unrealistic,Cliffhanger they are living on cloud cuckoo land. If something like a sports match or an election is a Cloud nine cliffhanger, then the result is so close that it cannot be predicted and will only be known at the very end. If you are on cloud nine, you are extremely happy. (cloud seven is a less common alternative)Climb on the bandwagon Cloud of suspicion When people climb on the bandwagon they do something because it is popular and everyone else is doing it. If a cloud of suspicion hangs over an individual, it means that they are not believed or are distrusted.Cling to hope Cloud on the horizon If people cling to hope, they continue to hope though the chances of success are very small. If you can see a problem ahead, you can call it a cloud on the horizon.Close at hand Clutch at straws If something is close at hand, it is nearby or conveniently located. If someone is in serious trouble and tries anything to help them, even though their chances of success are probably nil,Close but no cigar they are clutching at straws. (USA) If you are close but no cigar, you are close to success, Coals to Newcastle but have not got there. (UK) Taking, bringing, or carrying coals to Newcastle isClose call doing something that is completely unnecessary. If the result of something is a close call, it is almost Coast is clear impossible to distinguish between the parties involved and to say who has won or whatever. It can also mean that you very When the coast is clear, the people supposed to be watching nearly have a serious accident or get into trouble. you are not there and you are able to move or leave.Close shave Cock a snook If you have a close shave, you very nearly have a serious To make a rude gesture by putting one thumb to the nose accident or get into trouble. with the fingers outstretched.Close the stable door after the horse has bolted Cock and bull story If people try to fix something after the problem has occurred, A cock and bull story is a lie someone tells that is completely they are trying to close the stable door after the horse has unbelievable. bolted. Close the barn door after the horse has bolted is alternative, often used in American English. Cock in the henhouse
  • 23. This is used to describe a male in an all-female environment. If someone comes clean about something, they admit to deceit or wrongdoing.Cold day in hell Come hell or high water This is used as a prediction there is no chance some event or condition will ever happen.There will be a cold day in hell If someone says theyll do something come hell or high water, before he manages it. they mean that nothing will stop them, no matter what happens.Cold feet Come of age If you get cold feet about something, you lose the courage to do it. When something comes of age it develops completely and reach maturity. When someone comes of age, they reachCold fish adulthood or fulfill their potential. A cold fish is a person who doesnt show how they feel. Come on the heels ofCold light of day If something comes on the heels of something, it follows very soon after it. If you see things in the cold light of day, you see them as they really are, not as you might want them to be. Come out in the washCold shoulder If something will come out in the wash, it wont have any permanent negative effect. If you give or show someone the cold shoulder, you are deliberately unfriendly and unco-operative towards them. Come out of the woodworkCold sweat When things come out of the woodwork, they appear unexpectedly. (Crawl out of the woodwork is also used.) If something brings you out in a cold sweat, it frightens you a lot. Come out of your shellCold turkey If someone comes out of their shell, they stop being shy and withdrawn and become more friendly and sociable. If someone suddenly stops taking drugs, instead of slowly cutting down, they do cold turkey. Come rain or shineColder than a witches tit If I say Ill be at a place come rain or shine, I mean that I can be relied on to turn up; nothing, not even the vagaries of If it is colder than a witches tit, it is extremely cold outside. British weather, will deter me or stop me from being there.Collateral damage Come to bear Accidental or unintended damage or casualties are collateral If something comes to bear on you, you start to feel the damage. pressure or effect of it.Collect dust Come to call If something is collecting dust, it isnt being used any more. If someone comes to call, they respond to an order or summons directly.Color bar Come to grips Rules that restrict access on the basis of race or ethnicity are a color bar. If you come to grips with a problem or issue, you face up to it and deal with it.Come a cropper Come to heel (UK) Someone whose actions or lifestyle will inevitably result in trouble is going to come a cropper. If someone comes to heel, they stop behaving in a way that is annoying to someone in authority and start being obedient.Come clean Come up roses
  • 24. If things come up roses, they produce a positive result, Cool your heels especially when things seemed to be going badly at first. If you leave someone to cool their heels, you make them waitCome up smelling of roses until they have calmed down. (UK) If someone comes up smelling of roses, they emerge Coons age from a situation with their reputation undamaged. (USA) A very long time, as in I havent seen her in a coonsCome up trumps age! When someone is said to have come up trumps, they have Corner a market completed an activity successfully or produced a good result, especially when they were not expected to. If a business is dominant in an area and unlikely to be challenged by other companies, it has cornered the market.Come what may Couch potato If youre prepared to do something come what may, it means that nothing will stop or distract you, no matter how hard or A couch potato is an extremely idle or lazy person who difficult it becomes. chooses to spend most of their leisure time horizontal in front of the TV and eats a diet that is mainly junk food.Come with the territory Could eat a horse If something comes with the territory, it is part of a job or responsibility and just has to be accepted, even if unpleasant. If you are very hungry, you could eat a horse.Comes with the territory Couldnt give two hoots If something comes with the territory, especially when If you couldnt give two hoots about something, you dont undesirable, it is automatically included with something else, care at all about it. like a job, responsibility, etc.(Goes with the territory is also used.) Count sheepComfort zone If people cannot sleep, they are advised to count sheep mentally. It is the temperature range in which the body doesnt shiver or sweat, but has an idiomatic sense of a place where people Count your blessings feel comfortable, where they can avoid the worries of the When people count their blessings, they concentrate on all world. It can be physical or mental. the good things in their lives instead of the negative ones.Constitution of an ox Country mile If someone has the constitution of an ox, they are less (USA) A country mile is used to describe a long distance. affected than most people by things like tiredness, illness, alcohol, etc. Cover all the basesCook someones goose If you cover all the bases, you deal with all aspects of a situation or issue, or anticipate all possibilities. (Cover all If you cook someones goose, you ruin their plans. bases is also used.)Cook the books Crack a nut with a sledgehammer If people cook the books, they keep false accounts to make If you use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, you apply too money illegally or avoid paying tax. much force to achieve a result. (Jackhammer is also used.)Cook up a storm Crash a party If someone cooks up a storm, they cause a big fuss or If you crash a party, or are a gatecrasher, you go somewhere generate a lot of talk about something. you havent been invited to.Cool as a cat Cream of the crop To act fine when you a actually scared or nervous
  • 25. The cream of the crop is the best there is. When people, companies, etc, have to make an important decision that will have a considerable effect on their future, itCream rises to the top is crunch time. A good person or idea cannot go unnoticed for long, just as Cry wolf cream poured in coffee or tea eventually rises to the top. If someone cries wolf, they raise a false alarm aboutCreature comforts something. If a person said "I hate camping. I dont like giving up my Cry your eyes out creature comforts." the person would be referring, in particular, to the comfortable things he/she would have at If you cry your eyes out, you cry uncontrollably. home but not when camping. At home, for example, he/she would have complete shelter from the weather, a television, a Cry-baby nice comfortable warm bed, the ability to take a warm bath or shower, comfortable lounge chairs to relax in and so on. The A cry-baby is a person who gets emotional and cries too person doesnt like giving up the material and psychological easily. benefits of his/her normal life. Cuckoo in the nestCrème de la crème Is an issue or a problem, etc, is a cuckoo in the nest, it grows The crème de la crème is the very best of something. quickly and crowds out everything else.Crocodile tears Cupboard love If someone cries crocodile tears, they pretend to be upset or (UK) To show love to gain something from someone affected by something. Curates eggCrooked as a dogs hind leg (UK) If something is a bit of a curates egg, it is only good in Someone who is very dishonest is as crooked as a dogs hind parts. leg. Curiosity killed the catCross swords As cats are naturally curious animals, we use this expression When people cross swords, they argue or dispute. This to suggest to people that excessive curiosity is not necessarily expression is used when some groups accuse each other for a good thing, especially where it is not their business. non-adherence to norms. Actually no sword is used but the Curry favour tempo of the argument is high enough to cause worsening of the already bad situation. It is a tussle (vehement struggle If people try to curry favour, they try to get people to support without use of arms) between the parties to establish them. (Curry favor is the American spelling.) supremacy. Curve ballCross that bridge when you come to it (USA) If something is a curve ball, it is deceptive. If you will cross that bridge when you come to it, you will deal with a problem when it arises, but not until that point Cut a rugCross to bear To cut a rug is to dance. If someone has a cross to bear, they have a heavy burden of Cut above responsibility or a problem that they alone must cope with. If a person is described as a cut above other people, they areCrossing the Rubicon better in some way. When you are crossing the Rubicon, you are passing a point Cut and dried of no return. After you do this thing, there is no way of turning around. The only way left is forward. If something is cut and dried, then everything has already been decided and, in the case of an opinion, might be a littleCrunch time stale and predictable.
  • 26. Cut and run Cut your teeth on If people cut and run, they take what they can get and leave The place where you gain your early experience is where you before they lose everything. cut your teeth.Cut corners Cute as a bug If people try to do something as cheaply or as quickly as (USA) If something is as cute as a bug, it is sweet and possible, often sacrificing quality, they are cutting corners. endearing.Cut down the tall poppies Cuts no ice (AU) If people cut down the tall poppies, they criticise If something cuts no ice, it doesnt have any effect or people who stand out from the crowd. influence.Cut it fine Cutting edge If you cut it fine, you only just manage to do something- at Something that is cutting edge is at the forefront of progress the very last moment. Cut things fine is the same. Cut it a in its area. bit fine is a common variation. D~Cut off your nose to spite your face Daft as a brush If you cut off your nose to spite your face, you do something rash or silly that ends up making things worse for you, often (UK) Someone who is daft as a brush is rather stupid. because you are angry or upset. Damp squibCut someone some slack (UK) If something is expected to have a great effect or To relax a rule or make an allowance, as in allowing impact but doesnt, it is a damp squib. someone more time to finish something. Dancing on someones graveCut the Gordian knot If you will dance on someones grave, you will outlive or If someone cuts the Gordian knot, they solve a very complex outlast them and will celebrate their demise. problem in a simple way. Dark horseCut the mustard If someone is a dark horse, they are a bit of a mystery. (UK) If somebody or something doesnt cut the mustard, they fail or it fails to reach the required standard. Davey Jones lockerCut to the chase Davey Jones locker is the bottom of the sea or resting place of drowned sailors.(Davy Jones locker is an alternative If you cut to the chase, you get to the point, or the most spelling.) interesting or important part of something without delay. Day in the sunCut to the quick If you have your day in the sun, you get attention and are If someones cut to the quick by something, they are very hurt appreciated. and upset indeed. Daylight robberyCut your coat according to your cloth If you are overcharged or underpaid, it is a daylight robbery; If you cut your coat according to your cloth, you only buy open, unfair and hard to prevent. Rip-off has a similar things that you have sufficient money to pay for. meaning.Cut your losses Dead air If you cut your losses, you avoid losing any more money than When there is a period of total silence, there is dead air. you already have by getting out of a situation before matters worsen. Dead and buried
  • 27. If something is dead and buried, it has all long been settled If promotion or success requires replacing somebody, then it and is not going to be reconsidered. can only be reached by dead mens shoes by getting rid of them.Dead as a dodo Dead right If somethings dead as a dodo, it is lifeless and dull. The dodo was a bird that lived the island of Mauritius. It couldnt fly This means that something or someone is absolutely correct, and was hunted to extinction. without doubt.Dead as a doornail Dead to the world This is used to indicate that something is lifeless. If somebodys fast asleep and completely unaware of what if happening around them, he or shes dead to the world.Dead duck Dead wrong If something is a dead duck, it is a failure. If someone is dead wrong, they are absolutely in error,Dead even absolutely incorrect or of incorrect opinion. If people competing are dead even, they are at exactly the Deaf as a post same stage or moving at exactly the same speed. Someone who is as deaf as a post is unable to hear at all.Dead from the neck up Dear John letter Someone whos dead from the neck up is very stupid indeed. A letter written by a partner explaining why they are endingDead heat the relationship is a Dear John letter. If a race ends in a dead heat, two or more finish with exactly Death of a thousand cuts the same result. If something is suffering the death of a thousand cuts, orDead heat death by a thousand cuts, lots of small bad things are happening, none of which are fatal in themselves, but which If people finish a race or competition at axactly the same time add up to a slow and painful demise. and it is impossible to declare one of them the winner, its a dead heat. Death warmed upDead in the water (UK) If someone looks like death warmed up, they look very ill indeed. (death warmed over is the American form) If something is dead in the water, it isnt going anywhere or making any progress. Deep pocketsDead level best If someone has deep pockets, they are wealthy. If you try your dead level best, you try as hard as you Deliver the goods possibly could to do something. Do what is required, come up to expectations. For example,Dead man walking Kate delivered the goods and got us the five votes we needed. This phrase alludes to delivering an order of groceries or A dead man walking is someone who is in great trouble and other items. [Colloquial; second half of 1800s] will certainly get punished, lose their job or position, etc, soon. Demon weedDead meat Tobacco is the demon weed. This is used as a way of threatening someone: Youll be dead Derring-do meat if you dont go along. If a person shows derring-do, they show great courage.Dead mens shoes Devil finds work for idle hands
  • 28. When people say that the devil finds work for idle hands, I someone is dining on ashes he or she is excessively they mean that if people dont have anything to do with their focusing attention on failures or regrets for past actions. time, they are more likely to get involved in trouble and criminality. Dip your toes in the waterDevil is in the detail If you dip your toes in the water, you try something tentatively because you are not sure whether it will work or When people say that the devil in the detail, they mean that not. small things in plans and schemes that are often overlooked can cause serious problems later on. Dirty dogDevil may care A dirty dog is an untrustworthy person. If you live a devil-may-care life it means you are willing to Discerning eye take more risks than most people. If a person has a discerning eye, they are particularly good atDevils advocate judging the quality of something. If someone plays Devils advocate in an argument, they adopt Discretion is the better part of valour a position they dont believe in just for the sake of the argument This idiom means that it is often better to think carefully and not act than to do something that may cause problems.Diamond in the rough Dish the dirt A diamond in the rough is someone or something that has great potential, but isnt not refined and polished. If you dish the dirt on something or someone, you make unpleasant or shocking information public.Die is cast Do a Devon Loch If the die is cast, a decision has been made that cannot be altered and fate will decide the consequences. (UK) If someone does a Devon Loch, they fail when they were very close to winning. Devon Loch was a horse thatDifferent kettle of fish collapsed just short of the winning line of the Grand National race. If something is a different kettle of fish, it is very different from the other things referenced. Do a runnerDifferent ropes for different folks (UK) If people leave a restaurant without paying, they do a runner. (USA) This idiom means that different people do things in different ways that suit them. Do as you would be done byDifferent strokes for different folks Treat and respect others as you would hope to be respected and treated by them. (USA) This idiom means that different people do things in different ways that suit them. Do the needfulDig way down deep (India) If you do the needful, you do what is necessary. When someone digs way down deep, they look into their Do the running inner feelings to see how they feel about it. (UK) The person who has to do the running has to make sureDig your heels in that things get done. (Make the running is also used.) If you dig your heels in, you start to resist something. Do their dirty workDime a dozen Someone who does someones dirty work, carries out the unpleasant jobs that the first person doesnt want to do. (USA) If something is a dime a dozen, it is extremely Someone who seems to enjoy doing this is sometimes known common, possibly too common. as a henchman.Dine on ashes Dos and donts
  • 29. The dos and donts are what is acceptable or allowed or not Dollars for doughnuts within an area or issue, etc. (USA) If something is dollars for doughnuts, it is a sure betDodge the bullet or certainty. If someone has dodged a bullet, they have successfully Dont bite the hand that feeds avoided a very serious problem. When someone says this to you, they are trying to tell youDog and pony show not to act against those on whom you depend. (USA) A dog and pony show is a presentation or some Dont catch your chickens before theyre hatched marketing that has lots of style, but no real content. This means that you should wait until you know whetherDog days something has produced the results you desire, rather than acting beforehand. (Dont count your chickens until theyve Dog days are very hot summer days. hatched is an alternative.)Dog eat dog Dont cry over spilt milk In a dog eat dog world, there is intense competition and When something bad happens and nothing can be done to rivalry, where everybody thinks only of himself or herself. help it people say, Dont cry over spilt milk.Dog in the manger Dont give up the day job (UK) If someone acts like a dog in the manger, they dont This idiom is used a way of telling something that they do want other people to have or enjoy things that are useless to something badly. them. Dont hold your breathDog tired If you are told not to hold your breath, it means that you If you are dog tired, you are exhausted. shouldnt have high expectations about something.Dogs dinner Dont judge a book by the cover Something that is a dogs dinner is a real mess. This idiom means that you should not judge something or someone by appearances, but should look deeper at what isDogs life inside and more important. If some has a dogs life, they have a very unfortunate and Dont know whether to wind a watch or bark at the moon wretched life. If you dont know what to do, you dont know whether toDog-eared wind a watch or bark at the moon. If a book is dog-eared, it is in bad condition, with torn pages, Dont look a gift horse in the mouth etc. This means that if you are given something, a present or aDog-whistle politics chance, you should not waste it by being too critical or examining it too closely. (AU) When political parties have policies that will appeal to racists while not being overtly racist, they are indulging in Dont mention the war dog-whistle politics. This means that you shouldnt speak about things that couldDoggy bag cause an argument or tension.This idiom was used in a classic episode of the much-loved British comedy series If you ask for a doggy bag in a restaurant, they will pack the Fawlty Towers. As a consequence if you use this phrase in food you havent eaten for you to take home. Britain, listeners will understand you to be referring toDoldrums Germans, or just start laughing. If a person is in the doldrums, they are depressed. If a project Dont push my buttons! or something similar is in the doldrums, it isnt making any This can be said to someone who is starting to annoy you. progress.
  • 30. Dont stand there with curlers in your hair Double Dutch This means dont keep me waiting. Its said to someone who (UK) If something is double Dutch, it is completely is taking too long to get moving. incomprehensible.Dont sweat the small stuff Double take (USA) This is used to tell people not to worry about trivial or If someone does a double take, they react very slowly to unimportant issues. something to show how shocked or surprised they are.Dont take any wooden nickels Double whammy (USA) This idiom is used to advise people not to be cheated A double whammy is when something causes two problems or ripped off. at the same time, or when two setbacks occur at the same time.Dont take any wooden nickels Double-edged sword (USA) This is a warning that you should not allow yourself to be cheated or fooled. If someone uses an argument that could both help them and harm them, then they are using a double-edged sword sword;Dont throw bricks when you live in a glass house it cuts both ways. Dont call others out on actions that you, yourself do. Dont Doubting Thomas be a hypocrite. A Doubting Thomas is someone who only believes what theyDont trouble trouble until trouble troubles you see themselves, not what they are told. Dont go looking for trouble or problems- let them come to Down and out you. If someone is down and out, they are desperately poor andDont upset the applecart need help. If you are advised not to upset the applecart, you are being Down at heel told not to disturb the way things are done because it might ruin things. Someone who is down at heel is short of money. (Down in heel is used in American English)Dont wash your dirty laundry in public Down for the count (UK) People, especially couples, who argue in front of others or involve others in their personal problems and crises, are If someone is down for the count, they have lost a struggle, said to be washing their dirty laundry in public; making like a boxer who has been knocked out. public things that are best left private. (In American English, dont air your dirty laundry in public is used.) Down in the doldrumsDone to death If somebodys down in the doldrums, they are depressed and lacking energy. If a joke or story has been done to death, it has been told so often that it has stopped being funny. Down in the dumpsDonkeys years If someones down in the dumps, they are depressed. This idiom means a very long time. Down in the mouthDoormat If someone is down in the mouth, they look unhappy or depressed. A person who doesnt stand up for themselves and gets treated badly is a doormat. Down the drainDot all the is and cross all the ts If something goes down the drain, especially money or work, it is wasted or produces no results. If you dot all the is and cross all the ts, you do something very carefully and thoroughly. Down the hatch
  • 31. This idiom can be said before drinking alcohol in company. Dress to killDown the pan When someone is dressed to kill, they are dressed very smartly. If something has gone down the pan, it has failed or been ruined. Dressed to the ninesDown the tubes If you are in your very best clothes, youre dressed to the nines. If something has gone down the tubes, it has failed or been ruined. Drink like a fishDown to the wire If someone drinks like a fish, they drink far too much alcohol. (USA) If something goes down to the wire, like a Drive a wedge competition, then it goes to the very last moment before it is clear who has won. If you drive a wedge between people, you exploit an issue so that people start to disagree.Down-to-earth Drive home Someone whos down-to-earth is practical and realistic. It can also be used for things like ideas. The idiomatic expression drive home means reinforce as in The company offered unlimited technical support as a way toDrag your feet drive home the message that customer satisfaction was its highest priority. If someone is dragging their feet, they are taking too long to do or finish something, usually because they dont want to do Drive someone up the wall it. If something or someone drives you up the wall, they doDrag your heels something that irritates you greatly. If you drag your heels, you either delay doing something or Drive you spare do it as slowly as possible because you dont want to do it. If someone or something drives you spare, it is extremelyDraw a blank annoying. If you try to find something out and draw a blank, you dont Driven by a motor get any useful information. This is used to describe people with Attention DeficitDraw a line in the sand Hyperactivity Disorder when they talk excessively: they act as if driven by a motor. If you draw a line in the sand, you establish a limit beyond which things will be unacceptable. Drop a bombshellDraw a long bow If someone drops a bombshell, they announce something that changes a situation drastically and unexpectedly. If someone draws a long bow, they lie or exaggerate. Drop a dimeDraw the line (USA) If you tell someone to drop a dime, youre suggesting When you draw the line, you set out limits of what you find he or she telephone you at some future time. acceptable, beyond which you will not go. Drop in the bucketDraw the shortest straw (USA) A drop in the bucket is something so small that it If someone draws the shortest straw, they lose or are chosen wont make any noticeable difference. to do something unpleasant. Drop in the oceanDress someone down A drop in the ocean implies that something will have little If you dress someone down, you scold them. effect because it is small and mostly insignificant.
  • 32. Drop like flies Dumb as a rock This means that something is disappearing very quickly. For If you are dumb as a rock, you have no common sense and example, if you said people were dropping like flies, it would are stupid. mean that they were dying off, quitting or giving up something rapidly. Dunkirk spiritDrop someone a line (UK) Dunkirk spirit is when people pull together to get through a very difficult time. If you drop someone a line, you send a letter to them. Dutch auctionDrop the ball If something is sold by setting a price, then reducing it until If someone drops the ball, they are not doing their job or someone buys it, it is sold in a Dutch auction. It can also taking their responsibilities seriously enough and let mean that something is changed until it is accepted by something go wrong. everyone.Drown your sorrows Dutch courage If someone gets drunk or drinks a lot to try to stop feeling Dutch courage is the reckless bravery caused by drinking too unhappy, they drown their sorrows. much.Drunk as a lord Dutch treat (UK) Someone who is very drunk is as drunk as a lord. If something like a meal is a Dutch treat, then each person pays their own share of the bill.Dry as a bone Dutch uncle If your lawn is as dry as a bone, the soil is completely dry. A Dutch uncle is a person who gives unwelcome advice.Dry run Dutch wife A dry run is a full rehearsal or trial exercise of something to see how it will work before it is launched. A Dutch wife is a long pillow or a hot water bottle.Dry spell Dwell on the past If something or someone is having a dry spell, they arent Thinking too much about the past, so that it becomes a being as successful as they normally are. problem is to dwell on the past.Duck soup Dyed-in-the-wool (USA) If something is duck soup, it is very easy. If someone is a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of a political party, etc, they support them totally, without any questions.Duck to water ~E~ If you take to something like a duck to water, you find when you start that you have a natural affinity for it. Each to their ownDucks in a row Different people have different preferences. In American (USA) If you have your ducks in a row, you are well- English, Each to his own is more common. organized. Eager beaverDull as ditchwater A person who is extremely keen is an eager beaver. (UK) If something is as dull as ditchwater, it is incredibly Eagle eyes boring. A ditch is a long narrow hole or trench dug to contain water, which is normally a dark, dirty colour and stagnant Someone who has eagle eyes sees everything; no detail is too (when water turns a funny colour and starts to smell bad). (In small. American English,things are dull as dishwater.) Early bath
  • 33. (UK) If someone has or goes for an early bath, they quit or If someone eats like a bird, they eat very little. lose their job or position earlier than expected because things have gone wrong. Eat like a horseEarly bird catches the worm Someone who eats like a horse, eats a lot. The early bird catches the worm means that if you start Eat like a pig something early, you stand a better chance of success. If some eats like a pig, they either eat too much or they haveEarly to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise bad table manners. It means that sleeping well and not staying up late will help Eat my hat you out physically and financially. People say this when they dont believe that something isEarn a living going to happen e.g. If he passes that exam, Ill eat my hat! To make money Ex: We need to get a good job to earn a Eat someone alive decent living. If you eat someone alive, you defeat or beat themEasier said than done comprehensively. If something is easier said than done, it is much more Eat your heart out difficult than it sounds. It is often used when someone advises you to do something difficult and tries to make it If someone tells you to eat your heart out, they are saying sound easy. they are better than you at something.Easy as ABC Eat your words Something that is as easy as ABC is very easy or simple. If you eat your words, you accept publicly that you were wrong about something you said.Easy as beans Economical with the truth Something that is so easy that anyone can do it is easy as beans. (UK) If someone, especially a politician, is economical with the truth, they leave out information in order to create a falseEasy as pie picture of a situation, without actually lying. If something is easy as pie, it is very easy indeed. Egg on your faceEasy come, easy go If someone has egg on their face, they are made to look foolish or embarrassed. This idiom means that money or other material gains that come without much effort tend to get spent or consumed as Elbow grease easily. If something requires elbow grease, it involves a lot of hardEasy peasy physical work. (UK) If something is easy peasy, it is very easy indeed. Elbow room (Easy peasy, lemon squeezy is also used.) If you havent got enough elbow room, you havent gotEat crow enough space. (USA) If you eat crow, you have to admit that you were Elephant in the room wrong about something. An elephant in the room is a problem that everyone knowsEat humble pie very well but no one talks about because it is taboo, embarrassing, etc. If someone apologises and shows a lot of contrition for something they have done, they eat humble pie. Eleventh hourEat like a bird If something happens at the eleventh hour, it happens right at the last minute.
  • 34. Empty vessels make the most noise Every man has his price The thoughtless often speak the most. Anyones opinion or support can be bought, everyones principles have a limit.End in smoke Every man jack If something ends in smoke, it produces no concrete or positive result. This expression refers to the boasting by a If every man jack was involved in something, it is an person, of having put in a lot of efforts by him, for a emphatic way of saying that absolutely everybody was particular cause or to attain a result which is very difficult to involved. be done by any person. (This mainly refers to an investigation of a crime or solving a serious offence or a Every Tom, Dick and Harry mystery). But at the end, when the desired result is not obtained, his claims are found to be false and not worth If every Tom, Dick and Harry knows about something, then mentioning. So, he looses his credibility. it is common knowledge.Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while Every trick in the book This expression means that even if people are ineffective or If you try every trick in the book, you try every possible way, misguided, sometimes they can still be correct just by being including dishonesty and deceit, to get what you want. lucky. Everybody and their uncleEven keel This basically means a lot of people or too many people; If something is on an even keel, it is balanced. everybody and their uncle was there.Even Stevens Everything but the kitchen sink If everything is equal between people, they are even Stevens. If people include everything but the kitchen sink, they include every possibility, regardless of whether they areEven the dogs in the street know useful. (Irish) This idiom is used frequently in Ireland, and means Exception that proves the rule something is so obvious that even the dogs in the street know it. This expression is used by many to indicate that an exception in some way confirms a rule. Others say that the exceptionEvery ass likes to hear himself bray tests the rule. In its original legal sense, it meant that a rule could sometimes be inferred from an exemption or exception. This means that people like the sound of their own voice. In general use, the first meaning predominates nowadays, much to the annoyance of some pedants.Every cloud has a silver lining Explore all avenues People sometimes say that every cloud has a silver lining to comfort somebody whos having problems. They mean that it If all avenues are being explored, then every conceivable is always possible to get something positive out of a situation, approach is being tried that could possibly get the desired no matter how unpleasant, difficult or even painful it might result. seem. Eye candyEvery dog has its day When a person is very attractive, they can be described as This idiom means that everyone gets their moment to shine. eye candy - sweet to look at!Every man and his dog Eye for an eye A lot of people - as in sending out invitations to a large This is an expression for retributive justice, where the number of people punishment equals the crime.Every man for himself Eye- wash If its every man for himself, then people are trying to save This expression eye-wash is generally used to cover up the themselves from a difficult situation without trying to help anxiety of a person who is seeking a concrete reply or anyone else. justification for an act or an event that had affected his
  • 35. personal image or caused him a loss. The affected person If someone wins something fair and square, they follow the usually represents his case to the higher-ups and puts forth rules and win conclusively. his demands for redressal. But the authority, in order to avoid embarassment to his organisation or to himself, is not in a Fair crack of the whip position to expose the entire material or evidence which in turn tell upon the credibility of the organisation. In such (UK) If everybody has a fair crack of the whip, they all have circumstances, he will usually call for an investigation to equal opportunities to do something. satisfy the complainant, but will not be keen in disposing the Fair shake of the whip case. The authority will drag on the issue, (at the same time pretending to be serious) until the seriousness of the issue (USA) If everybody has a fair shake of the whip, they all dies down and no finality is reached. So, The investigation have equal opportunities to do something. on the issue by the authority is an eye-wash. Fair thee wellEyes are bigger than ones stomach Meaning completely and fully: I am tied up today to a fair- If someones eyes are bigger than their stomach, they are thee-well. greedy and take on more than they can consume or manage. Fairweather friend~F~ A fairweather friend is the type who is always there whenFace like thunder times are good but forgets about you when things get difficult or problems crop up. If someone has a face like thunder, they are clearly very angry or upset about something. Fall by the waysideFace only a mother could love To fall by the wayside is to give up or fail before completion. When someone has a face only a mother could love, they are Fall from grace ugly. If a person falls from grace, they lose favor with someone.Face the music Fall off the back of a lorry If you have to face the music, you have to accept the negative consequences of something you have done wrong. (UK) If someone tries to sell you something that has fallen of the back of a lorry, they are trying to sell you stolen goods.Face value Fall off the turnip truck If you take something at face value, you accept the appearance rather than looking deeper into the matter. (USA) If someone has just fallen off the turnip truck, they are uninformed, naive and gullible. (Often used in the negative)Face your demons Fall off the wagon If you face your demons, you confront your fears or something that you have been trying hard to avoid. If someone falls off the wagon, they start drinking after having given up completely for a time.Facts of life Fall on our feet When someone is taught the facts of life, they learn about sex and reproduction. If you fall on your feet, you succeed in doing something where there was a risk of failure.Failure is the mother of success Fall on your sword Failure is often a stepping stone towards success. If someone falls on their sword, they resign or accept theFaint heart never won fair lady consequences of some wrongdoing. This means that you will not get the partner of your dreams if Familiarity breeds contempt you lack the confidence to let them know how you feel. This means that the more you know something or someone,Fair and square the more you start to find faults and dislike things about it or them.
  • 36. Famous last words Feel free This expression is used as a way of showing disbelief, If you ask for permission to do something and are told to feel rejection or self-deprecation.They said we had no chance of free, the other person means that there is absolutely no winning- famous last words! problemFast and furious Feel like a million Things that happen fast and furious happen very quickly If you feel like a million, you are feeling very well (healthy) without stopping or pausing. and happy.Fat cat Feel the pinch A fat cat is a person who makes a lot of money and enjoys a If someone is short of money or feeling restricted in some privileged position in society. other way, they are feeling the pinch.Fat chance! Feeling blue This idiom is a way of telling someone they have no chance. If you feel blue, you are feeling unwell, mainly associated with depression or unhappiness.Fat head Feet of clay A fat head is a dull, stupid person. If someone has feet of clay, they have flaws that make themFat hits the fire seem more human and like normal people. When the fat hits the fire, trouble breaks out. Feet on the groundFat of the land A practical and realistic person has their feet on the ground. Living off the fat of the land means having the best of Fence sitter everything in life. Someone that try to support both side of an argument withoutFate worse than death committing to either is a fence sitter. Describing something as a fate worse than death is a fairly Fiddle while Rome burns common way of implying that it is unpleasant. If people are fiddling while Rome burns, they are wastingFeather in your cap their time on futile things while problems threaten to destroy them. A success or achievement that may help you in the future is a feather in your cap. Fifth columnistFeather your own nest (UK) A fifth columnist is a member of a subversive organisation who tries to help an enemy invade. If someone feathers their own nest, they use their position or job for personal gain. Fifth wheelFeathers fly (USA) A fifth wheel is something unnecessary or useless. When people are fighting or arguing angrily, we can say that Fight an uphill battle feathers are flying. When you fight an uphill battle, you have to struggle againstFed up to the back teeth very unfavourable circumstances. When you are extremely irritated and fed up with something Fight tooth and nail or someone, you are fed up to the back teeth. If someone will fight tooth and nail for something, they willFeel at home not stop at anything to get what they want. (Fight tooth and claw is an alternative.) If you feel relaxed and comfortable somewhere or with someone, you feel at home. Fighting chance
  • 37. If you have a fighting chance, you have a reasonable Fish out of water possibility of success. If you are placed in a situation that is completely new to youFind your feet and confuses you, you are like a fish out of water. When you are finding your feet, you are in the process of Fishy gaining confidence and experience in something. If there is something fishy about someone or something,Fine and dandy there is something suspicious; a feeling that there is something wrong, though it isnt clear what it is. (UK) If things are fine and dandy, then everything is going well. Fit as a fiddleFine tuning If you are fit as a fiddle, you are in perfect health. Small adjustments to improve something or to get it working Fit for a king are called fine tuning. If something is fit for a king, it is of the very highest qualityFine words butter no parsnips or standard. This idiom means that its easy to talk, but talk is not action. Fit of piqueFinger in the pie If someone reacts badly because their pride is hurt, this is a fit of pique. If you have a finger in the pie, you have an interest in something. Fit the billFingers and thumbs If something fits the bill, it is what is required for the task. If you are all fingers and thumbs, you are being clumsy and Fit to be tied not very skilled with your hands. If someone is fit to be tied, they are extremely angry.Fire away Flash in the pan If you want to ask someone a question and they tell you to fire away, they mean that you are free to ask what you want. If something is a flash in the pan, it is very noticeable but doesnt last long, like most singers, who are very successfulFire on all cylinders for a while, then forgotten. If something is firing on all cylinders, it is going as well as it Flat as a pancake could. It is so flat that it is like a pancake- there is no head on thatFirst come, first served beer it is as flat as a pancake. This means there will be no preferential treatment and a Flat out service will be provided to those that arrive first. If you work flat out, you work as hard and fast as youFirst out of the gate possibly can. When someone is first out of the gate, they are the first to do Fleet of foot something that others are trying to do. If someone is fleet of foot, they are very quick.First port of call Flesh and blood The first place you stop to do something is your first port of call. Your flesh and blood are your blood relatives, especially your immediate family.Fish or cut bait Flogging a dead horse (USA) This idiom is used when you want to tell someone that it is time to take action. (UK) If someone is trying to convince people to do or feel something without any hope of succeeding, theyre flogging a
  • 38. dead horse. This is used when someone is trying to raise This is used to describe someone who has just said something interest in an issue that no-one supports anymore; beating a embarrassing, inappropriate, wrong or stupid. dead horse will not make it do any more work. Foot in the doorFlowery speech If you have or get your foot in the door, you start working in Flowery speech is full of lovely words, but may well lack a company or organisation at a low level, hoping that you substance. will be able to progress from there.Fly by the seat of ones pants Foot the bill If you fly by the seat of ones pants, you do something The person who foots the bill pays the bill for everybody. difficult even though you dont have the experience or training required. Footballs a game of two halvesFly in the ointment (UK) If somethings a game of two halves, it means that its possible for someones fortunes or luck to change and the A fly in the ointment is something that spoils or prevents person whos winning could end up a loser. complete enjoyment of something. For a songFly off the handle If you buy or sell something for a song, it is very cheap. If someone flies off the handle, they get very angry. For donkeys yearsFly on the wall (UK) If people have done something, usually without much if If you are able to see and hear events as they happen, you are any change, for an awfully long time, they can be said to a fly on the wall. have done it for donkeys years.Fly the coop For England When children leave home to live away from their parents, (UK) A person who talks for England, talks a lot- if you do they fly the coop. something for England, you do it a lot or to the limit.Fly the coop For kicks When someone flies the coop, they leave home and their If you do something for kicks, or just for kicks, you do it family to start a new life. purely for fun or thrills.Fly the flag For my money If someone flies the flag, they represent or support their This idiom means in my opinion. country. (Wave the flag and show the flag are alternative forms of this idiom) For Petes sakeFood for thought This is used as an exclamation to show exasperation or irritation. If something is food for thought, it is worth thinking about or considering seriously. For the birdsFool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me If something is worthless or ridiculous, it is for the birds. This means that you should learn from your mistakes and not For the love of Pete allow people to take advantage of you repeatedly. Usually used in exasperation, as in Oh, for the love of Pete!Fools rush in where angels fear to tread For the time being This idiom is used where people who are inexperienced or lack knowledge do something that more informed people For the time being indicates that an action or state will would avoid. continue into the future, but is temporary. Im sharing an office for the time being.Foot in mouth
  • 39. Forbidden fruit If someone makes a Freudian slip, they accidentally use the wrong word, but in doing so reveal what they are really Something enjoyable that is illegal or immoral is forbidden thinking rather than what they think the other person wants to fruit. hear.Foregone conclusion Friendly footing If the result of, say, a football match is a foregone conclusion, When relationships are on a friendly footing, they are going then the result is obvious before the game has even begun. well.Forest for the trees From a different angle (USA) If someone cant see the forest for the trees, they get If you look at something from a different angle, you look at it so caught up in small details that they fail to understand the from a different point of view. bigger picture. From MissouriFortune knocks once at every mans door (USA) If someone is from Missouri, then they require clear Everyone gets one good chance in a lifetime. proof before they will believe something.Foul play From pillar to post If the police suspect foul play, they think a crime was If something is going from pillar to post, it is moving around committed. in a meaningless way, from one disaster to another.Four corners of the earth From rags to riches If something goes to, or comes from, the four corners of the Someone who starts life very poor and makes a fortune goes earth, it goes or comes absolutely everywhere. from rags to riches.Four-eyes From scratch A person who wears glasses This idiom means from the beginning.Four-square behind From soup to nuts If someone stands four-square behind someone, they give If you do something from soup to nuts, you do it from the that person their full support. beginning right to the very end.Fourth estate From the bottom of your heart This is an idiomatic way of describing the media, especially If someone does something from the bottom of their heart, the newspapers. then they do it with genuine emotion and feeling.Free rein From the get-go If someone has a free rein, they have the authority to make (USA) If something happens from the get-go, it happens the decisions they want without any restrictions. (Free reign from the very beginning. is a common mistake.) From the horses mouthFree-for-all If you hear something from the horses mouth, you hear it A free-for-all is a fight or contest in which everyone gets directly from the person concerned or responsible. involved and rules are not respected. From the sublime to the ridiculousFresh from the oven If something declines considerably in quality or importance, If something is fresh from the oven, it is very new. it is said to have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.Freudian Slip From the word go
  • 40. From the word go means from the very beginning of Someone with airs and graces, but no real class is fur coat something. and no knickers.Full as a tick Fuzzy thinking If you are as full as a tick, you have eaten too much. Thinking or ideas that do not agree with the facts or information availableFull bore G~ If something is full bore, it involves the maximum effort or is complete and thorough. Game onFull circle When someone says Game on!, it means that they are When something has come full circle, it has ended up where accepting a challenge or ready to get something done. it started. Game planFull Monty A game plan is a strategy. (UK) If something is the Full Monty, it is the real thing, not Garbage fee reduced in any way. A garbage fee is a charge that has no value and doesntFull of beans provide any real service. If someones full of beans, they are very energetic. Garbage in, garbage outFull of hot air If a computer system or database is built badly, then the Someone who is full of hot air talks a lot of rubbish. results will be bad.Full of oneself Gardening leave Someone who acts in a arrogant or egotistical manner is full (UK) If someone is paid for a period when they are not of himself/herself. working, either after they have given in their notice or when they are being investigated, they are on gardening leave.Full of piss and vinegar Gather pace Someone whos full of piss and vinegar is full of youthful energy. If events gather pace, they move faster.Full of the joys of spring Gather steam If you are full of the joys of spring, you are very happy and If something gathers speed, it moves or progresses at an full of energy. increasing speed.Full swing Get along famously If a something is in full swing, it is going or doing well. If people get along famously, they have an exceedingly good relationship.Full throttle Get away scot-free If you do something full throttle, you do it with as much speed and energy as you can. If someone gets away scot-free, they are not punished when they have done something wrong. (Get off scot-free is anFullness of time alternative.) If something happens in the fullness of time, it will happen Get away with murder when the time is right and appropriate. If you get away with murder, you do something bad and dontFur coat and no knickers get caught or punished.(Get away with blue murder is also used.) Get in on the act
  • 41. If people want to get in on the act, they want to participate in Get the monkey off your back something that is currently profitable or popular. If you get the monkey off your back, you pass on a problemGet in on the ground floor to someone else. If you get in on the ground floor, you enter a project or Get the nod venture at the start before people know how successful it might be. (UK) If you get the nod to something, you get approval or permission to do it.Get it in the neck Get to grips (UK) If you get it in the neck, you are punished or criticised for something. If you get to grips with something, you take control and do it properly.Get it off your chest Get up and go If you get something off your chest, you confess to something that has been troubling you. If someone has lots of get up and go, they have lots of enthusiasm and energy.Get my drift Get wind of If you get someones drift, you understand what they are trying to say. (Catch their drift is an alternative form.) If you get wind of something, you hear or learn about it, especially if it was meant to be secret.Get off the ground Get your ducks in a row If a project or plan gets off the ground, it starts to be put into operation. If you get your ducks in a row, you organise yourself and your life.Get on like a house on fire Get your feathers in a bunch If people get on like a house on fire, they have a very close and good relationship. If you get your feathers in a bunch, you get upset or angry about something.Get on your nerves Get your feet wet If something gets on your nerves, it annoys or irritates you. If you get your feet wet, you gain your first experience ofGet on your soapbox something. If someone on their soapbox, they hold forth (talk a lot) about Get your goat a subject they feel strongly about. If something gets your goat, it annoys you.Get out of bed on the wrong side Get your hands dirty If you get out of bed on the wrong side, you wake up and start the day in a bad mood for no real reason. If you get your hands dirty, you become involved in something where the realities might compromise yourGet the axe principles. It can also mean that a person is not just stuck in an ivory tower dictating strategy, but is prepared to put in the If you get the axe, you lose your job. (Get the ax is the effort and hard work to make the details actually happen. American spelling.) Get your head around somethingGet the ball rolling If you get your head around something, you come to If you get the ball rolling, you start something so that it can understand it even though it is difficult to comprehend. start making progress. Get your teeth intoGet the green light If you get your teeth into something, you become involved in If you get the green light to do something, you are given the or do something that is intellectually challenging or necessary permission, authorisation.
  • 42. satisfying. (Dig you teeth into and sink your teeth into are If you give as good as you get, you are prepared to treat also used.) people as badly as they treat you and to fight for what you believe.Get your wires crossed Give it some stick If people get their wires cross, they misunderstand each other, especially when making arrangements. (Get your lines (UK) If you give something some stick, you put a lot of effort crossed is also used.) into it.Ghost of a chance Give me a hand If something or someone hasnt got a ghost of a chance, they If someone gives you a hand, they help you. have no hope whatsoever of succeeding. Give me fiveGhostly presence If someone says this, they want to hit your open hand against You can feel or otherwise sense a ghostly presence, but you theirs as a way of congratulation or greeting. cannot do it clearly only vaguely. Give someone a leg upGift of the gab If you give someone a leg up, you help them to achieve If someone has the gift of the gab, they speak in a persuasive something that they couldnt have done alone. and interesting way. Give someone a piece of your mindGild the lily If you give someone a piece of your mind, you criticise them If you gild the lily, you decorate something that is already strongly and angrily. ornate. Give someone a run for their moneyGilded cage If you can give someone a run for the money, you are as If someone is in a gilded cage, they are trapped and have good, or nearly as good, as they are at something. restricted or no freedom, but have very comfortable surroundings- many famous people live in luxury but cannot Give someone enough rope walk out of their house alone. If you give someone enough rope, you give them the chanceGirl Friday to get themselves into trouble or expose themselves. (The full form is give someone enough rope and theyll hang A girl Friday is a female employee who assists someone themselves) without any specific duties. Give someone stickGive a big hand (UK) If someone gives you stick, they criticise you or punish Applaud by clapping hands. Lets give all the contestents a you. big hand. Give the nodGive a dog a bad name (UK) If you give the nod to something, you approve it or give A person who is generally known to have been guilty of permission to do it. some offence will always be suspected to be the author of all similar types of offence. Once someone has gained a bad Give up the ghost reputation, it is very difficult to lose it. People give up the ghost when they die. Machines stopGive and take working when they give up the ghost. Where there is give and take, people make concessions in Give your eye teeth order to get things they want in negotiations. If you really want something and would be prepared toGive as good as you get sacrifice a lot to get it, you would give your eye teeth for it. Given the day thats in it
  • 43. (Irish) This idiom is used when something is obvious because Go down like a lead balloon of the day that it occurs: traffic, for example would be busy around a football stadium on game day, given the day thats (UK) If something goes down like a lead balloon, it fails or is in it. On any other day the traffic would be unexplainable, but extremely badly received. because its game day its obvious why there is traffic. Go down swingingGlass ceiling If you want to go down swinging, you know you will The glass ceiling is the discrimination that prevents women probably fail, but you refuse to give up. and minorities from getting promoted to the highest levels of companies and organisations. Go down without a fightGloves are off If someone goes down without a fight, they surrender without putting up any resistance. When the gloves are off, people start to argue or fight in a more serious way. (The gloves come off and take the gloves Go Dutch off are also used. It comes from boxing, where fighters If you go Dutch in a restaurant, you pay equal shares for the normally wear gloves so that they dont do too much damage meal. to each other.) Go fly a kiteGlutton for punishment (USA) This is used to tell someone to go away and leave you If a person is described as a glutton for punishment, the alone. happily accept jobs and tasks that most people would try to get out of. A glutton is a person who eats a lot. Go for brokeGnaw your vitals If someone goes for broke, they risk everything they have for a potentially greater gain. If something gnaws your vitals, it troubles you greatly and affects you at a very deep level. (Gnaw at your vitals is also Go fry an egg used.) (USA) This is used to tell someone to go away and leave youGo against the grain alone. A person who does things in an unconventional manner, Go hand in hand especially if their methods are not generally approved of, is said to go against the grain. Such an individual can be called If things go hand in hand, they are associated and go together. a maverick. Go nutsGo awry If someone goes nuts, they get excited over something. If things go awry, they go wrong. Go off on a tangentGo bananas If someone goes off on a tangent, they change the subject If you go bananas, you are wild with excitement, anxiety, or completely in the middle of a conversation or talk. worry. Go over like a lead balloonGo blue (USA) If something goes over like a lead balloon, it will not If you go blue, you are very cold indeed. (Turn blue is an work well, or go over well. alternative form.) Go pear-shapedGo bust If things have gone wrong, they have gone pear-shaped. If a company goes bust, it goes bankrupt. Go play in trafficGo by the boards This is used as a way of telling someone to go away. If something goes by the boards, it fails to get approved or accepted. Go round in circles
  • 44. If people are going round in circles, they keep discussing the Going concern same thing without reaching any agreement or coming to a conclusion. A successful and active business is a going concern.Go south Going overboard If things go south, they get worse or go wrong. If you go overboard with something, then you take something too far, or do too much.Go spare Golden handshake (UK) If you go spare, you lose your temper completely. A golden handshake is a payment made to someone to getGo the extra mile them to leave their job. If someone is prepared to go the extra mile, they will do Golden rule everything they can to help or to make something succeed, going beyond their duty what could be expected of them . The golden rule is the most essential or fundamental rule associated with something. Originally, it was not a generalGo the whole hog reference to an all purpose first rule applicable to many groups or protocols, but referred to a verse in the Bible about If you go the whole hog, you do something completely or to treating people they way you would want them to treat you, its limits. which was considered the First Rule of behavior towards all by all.Go through the motions Golden touch When you go through the motions, you do something like an everyday routine and without any feelings whatsoever. Someone with a golden touch can make money from or be successful at anything they do.Go to seed Gone fishing If someone has gone to seed, they have declined in quality or appearance. If someone has gone fishing, they are not very aware of what is happening around them.Go to the wire Gone for a burton If someone goes to the wire, they risk their life, job, reputation, etc, to help someone. (UK) If somethings gone for a burton, it has been spoiled or ruined. If a person has gone for a burton, they are either inGo to your head serious trouble or have died. If something goes to your head, it makes you feel vain. If Gone pear-shaped alcohol goes to your head, it makes you feel drunk quickly. (UK) If things have gone pear-shaped they have either goneGo under the hammer wrong or produced an unexpected and unwanted result. If something goes under the hammer, it is sold in an auction. Gone to potGo west If something has gone to pot, it has gone wrong and doesnt work any more. If something goes west, it goes wrong. If someone goes west, they die. Gone to the dogsGo with the flow If something has gone to the dogs, it has gone badly wrong and lost all the good things it had. If you go with the flow, you accept things as they happen and do what everyone else wants to do. Good antennaeGo-to guy Someone with good antennae is good at detecting things. A go-to guy is a person whose knowledge of something is Good egg considerable so everyone wants to go to him or her for information or results.
  • 45. A person who can be relied on is a good egg. Bad egg is the (UK) If you grasp the nettle, you deal bravely with a problem. opposite. Grass rootsGood fences make good neighbours This idioms is often used in politics, where it refers to the This means that it is better for people to mind their own ordinary people or voters. It can be used to mean people at business and to respect the privacy of others. (Good fences the bottom of a hierarchy. make good neighbors is the American English spelling.) Grass widowGood hand A grass widow is a woman whose husband is often away on If you are a good hand at something, you do it well. work, leaving her on her own.Good Samaritan Graveyard shift A good Samaritan is a persoon wh helps others in need. If you have to work very late at night, it is the graveyard shift.Good shape Gravy train If somethings in good shape, its in good condition. If a If someone is on the gravy train, they have found and easy persons in good shape, they are fit and healthy. way to make lots of money.Good spell Grease monkey A spell can mean a fairly or relatively short period of time; A grease monkey is an idiomatic term for a mechanic. youll hear weather forecasts predict a dry spell. Sports commentators will say that a sportsperson is going through a Grease someones palm good spell when theyre performing consistently better than they normally do. If you grease someones palm, you bribe them to do something.Good time Grease the skids If you make good time on a journey, you manage to travel faster than you expected. If you grease the skids, you facilitate something.Good to go Greased lightning Someone or something that meets ones approval. He is good If something or someone moves like greased lightning, they to go. The idea you had is good to go. move very fast indeed.Good walls make good neighbours Great guns Your relationship with your neighbours depends, among If something or someone is going great guns, they are doing other things, on respecting one anothers privacy. very well.Goody two-shoes Great Scott A goody two-shoes is a self-righteous person who makes a An exclamation of surprise. great deal of their virtue. Great unwashedGrab the bulls by its horns This is a term used for the working class masses. If you grab (take) the bull by its horns, you deal head-on and Great white hope directly with a problem. Someone who is expected to be a great success is a greatGrain of salt white hope. If you should take something with a grain of salt, you Greek to me shouldnt necessarily believe it all. (pinch of salt is an alternative) If you dont understand something, its all Greek to you.Grasp the nettle Green around the gills
  • 46. If someone looks green around the gills, they look ill. If someone has a very wide smile, they have a grin like a Cheshire cat.Green fingers Grist for the mill (UK) Someone with green fingers has a talent for gardening. Something that you can use to your advantage is grist for theGreen light mill. (Grist to the mill is also used.) If you are given the green light, you are given approval to do Guinea-pig something. If you are a guinea-pig, you take part in an experiment ofGreen thumb some sort and are used in the testing. (USA) Someone with a talent for gardening has a green Gunboat diplomacy thumb. If a nation conducts its diplomatic relations by threateningGreen with envy military action to get what it wants, it is using gunboat diplomacy. If you are green with envy, you are very jealous. Gung hoGreen-eyed monster If someone is gung ho about something, they support it The green-eyed monster is an allegorical phrase for blindly and dont think about the consequences. somebodys strong jealousyGreenhorn H~ A greenhorn or someone who is described simply as green Hail-fellow-well-met lacks the relevant experience and knowledge for their job or task Someone whose behavior is hearty, friendly and congenial.Grey area Hair of the dog A grey/gray area is one where there is no clear right or wrong. If someone has a hair of the dog, they have an alcoholic drink as a way of getting rid of a hangover, the unpleasant effectsGrey Cardinal of having drunk too much alcohol the night before. It is commonly used as a way of excusing having a drink early on Someone who is a Grey Cardinal exerts power behind the in the day. scenes, without drawing attention to himself or herself. Hairy at the heelGrey matter (UK) Someone who is hairy at the heel is dangerous or Grey/gray matter is the human brain. untrustworthy.Grey pound Hale and hearty (UK) In the UK, the grey pound is an idiom for the economic Someone who is hale and hearty is in very good health. power of elderly people. Half a mindGrey suits If you have half a mind to do something, you havent decided The men in grey suits are people who have a lot of power in to do it, but are thinking seriously about doing it. business or politics, but arent well-known or charismatic. Half-bakedGrin and bear it A half-baked idea or scheme hasnt not been thought through If you have to grin and bear it, you have to accept something or planned very well. that you dont like. Hammer and tongsGrin like a Cheshire cat
  • 47. If people are going at it hammer and tongs, they are arguing to a dog when its trying to get something it wants but darent fiercely. The idiom can also be used hen people are doing take without permission. something energetically. Hanged for a sheep as a lambHand in glove This is an expression meaning that if you are going to get If people are hand in glove, they have an extremely close into trouble for doing something, then you ought to stop relationship. worrying and should try to get everything you can before you get caught.Hand in hand Happy medium Hand in hand= work together closely When people in a group, say in an office or in a project, work together with mutual If you reach a happy medium, you are making a compromise; understanding to achieve the target, we say they work hand in reaching a conclusion or decision. hand. There is no lack of co-operation and each synchoranises the activity with that of the other. Hard as nailsHand that rocks the cradle A person who is as hard as nails is either physically tough or has little or no respect for other peoples feelings. Women have a great power and influence because they have the greatest influence over the development of children- the Hard cheese hand that rocks the cradle. (The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world is the full form.) (UK) Hard cheese means hard luck.Hand to mouth Hard of hearing Someone whos living from hand to mouth, is very poor and Someone whos hard of hearing is a bit deaf. needs the little money they have coming in to cover their Hard on someones heels expenses. If you are hard on someones heels, you are close to them andHands down trying to catch or overtake them. (Hot on someones heels is If someone is better hands down than everyone else, they are also used.) much better. Hard sellHandwriting like chicken scratch If someone puts a lot of pressure on you to do or buy If your handwriting is very hard to read, it is like chicken something, they are hard selling it. scratch. Hard to come byHang by a thread If something is hard to come by, it is difficult to find. If something hangs by a thread, there is a very small chance Hard up indeed of it being successful or surviving. If you are hard up, you have very little money.Hang in the balance Haste makes waste If an outcome is hanging in the balance, there are at least two possibilities and it is impossible to predict which will win out. This idiom means that if you try to do something quickly, without planning it, youre likely to end up spending moreHang out to dry time, money, etc, doing it. If you hang someone out to dry, you abandon them when Hat trick they are in trouble. Three successes one after the other is a hat trick.Hangdog expression Hatchet job A hangdog expression is one where the persons showing their emotions very clearly, maybe a little too clearly for your A piece of criticism that destroys someones reputation is a liking. Its that mixture of misery and self-pity that is similar hatchet job.
  • 48. Have a ball Having a gas If you have a ball, you have a great time, a lot of fun. If youre having a gas, you are having a laugh and enjoying yourself in company.Have a bash Hay is for horses If you have a bash at something, you try to do it, especially when there isnt much chance of success. This idiom is used as a way of telling children not to say the word hey as in hey you or hey there.Have a go He that travels far knows much If you have a go, you try to do something, often when you dont think you have much chance of succeeding. People who travel widely have a wide knowledge.Have a heart Hell rue the day If someone has a heart, they arekind and sympathetic. If you Hell rue the day that he crossed me. This means that the say, Have a heart to someone, you are asking them to be person will one day bitterly regret what they have done. understanding and sympathetic. Head for the hillsHave a ripper If people head for the hills, they run away from trouble. If you have a ripper of a time, you enjoy yourself. Head is in the cloudsHave a trick up your sleeve If a person has their head in the clouds, they have unrealistic, If you have a trick up your sleeve, you have a secret strategy impractical ideas. to use when the time is right. Head nor tailHave the floor If you cant make head nor tail of something, you cannot If someone has the floor, it is their turn to speak at a meeting. understand it at all or make any sense of it.Have your cake and eat it too Head on a spike If someone wants to have their cake and eat it too, they want If someone wants a head on a spike, they want to be able to everything their way, especially when their wishes are destroy or really punish a person. contradictory. Head on the blockHave your collar felt If someones head is on the block, they are going to be held If someone has their collar felt, they are arrested. responsible and suffer the consequences for something that has gone wrong.Have your fill Head over heels in love If you have had your fill, you are fed up of somebody or something. When someone falls passionately in love and is intoxicated by the feeling has fallen head over heels in love.Have your moments Head south Someone who has his or her moments exhibits a positive behavior pattern on an occasional basis but not generally. If something head south, it begins to fail or start going bad.The project proceeded well for the first two months, butHave your tail up then it headed south. If someone has their tail up, they are optimistic and expect to Heads will roll be successful. If heads will roll, people will be punished or sacked forHave your work cut out something that has gone wrong. If you have your work cut out, you are very busy indeed. Heads-up
  • 49. A heads-up is advanced information or a warning Heaven knowsHeadstrong If you ask someone a question and they say this, they have no idea. A headstrong person is obstinate and does not take other peoples advice readily. Heavenly bodiesHealthy as a horse The heavenly bodies are the stars. If youre as healthy as a horse, youre very healthy. Heavy-handedHeap coals on someones head If someone is heavy-handed, they are insensitive and use excessive force or authority when dealing with a problem. To do something nice or kind to someone who has been nasty to you. If someone felt bad because they forgot to get you a Hedge your bets Christmas gift, for you to buy them a specially nice gift is heaping coals on their head. (Heap coals of fire is also used.) If you hedge your bets, you dont risk everything on one opportunity, but try more than one thing.Hear a pin drop Hell for leather If there is complete silence in a room, you can hear a pin drop. If you do something hell for leather, especially running, you do it as fast as you can.Hear on the grapevine Hell in a handcart To receive information indirectly through a series of third parties, similar to a rumour. If something is going to hell in a handcart, it is getting worse and worse, with no hope of stopping the decline.Heart in the right place Herding cats If someones heart is in the right place, they are good and kind, though they might not always appear to be so. If you have to try to co-ordinate a very difficult situation, where people want to do very different things, you areHeart in your boots herding cats. If youre heart is in your boots, you are very unhappy. Here today, gone tomorrowHeart in your mouth Money, happiness and other desirable things are often here today, gone tomorrow, which means that they dont last for If your heart is in your mouth, then you feel nervous or very long. scared. Hiding to nothingHeart isnt in it If people are on a hiding to nothing, their schemes and plans If your heart is not in something, then you dont really believe have no chance of succeeding. Hiding to nowhere is an in it or support it. alternative.Heart misses a beat High and dry If your heart misses a beat, you are suddenly shocked or If you are left high and dry, you are left alone and given no surprised. (Heart skips a beat is an alternative) help at all when you need it.Heart of gold High and mighty Someone with a heart of gold is a genuinely kind and caring The high and mighty are the people with authority and power. person. If a person is high and mighty, they behave in a superior and condescending way.Heart-to-heart High as a kite A heart-to-heart is a frank and honest conversation with someone, where you talk honestly and plainly about issues, If someones as high as a kite, it means they have had too no matter how painful. much to drink or are under the influence of drugs.
  • 50. High on the hog If someone hits the ceiling, they lose their temper and become very angry. To live in great comfort with lots of money. Hit the fanHigh-handed When it hits the fan, or, more rudely, the shit hits the fan, If someone is high-handed, they behave arrogantly and serious trouble starts. pompously. Hit the ground runningHigh-wire act If someone hits the ground running, they start a new job or A high-wire act is a dangerous or risky strategy, plan, task, position in a very dynamic manner. etc. Hit the hayHimalayan blunder When you hit the hay, you go to bed. A Himalayan blunder is a very serious mistake or error. Hit the markHindsight is twenty-twenty If someone hits the mark, they are right about something. After something has gone wrong, it is easy to look back and make criticisms. Hit the nail on the headHit a nerve If someone hits the nail on the head, they are exactly right about something. If something hits a nerve, it upsets someone or causes them pain, often when it is something they are trying to hide. Hit the roadHit and miss When people hit the road, they leave a place to go somewhere else. Something that is hit and miss is unpredictable and may produce results or may fail. Hit the roofHit me with your best shot If you lose your temper and get very angry, you hit the roof. If someone tells you to hit them with your best shot, they are Hit the sack telling you that no matter what you do it wont hurt them or make a difference to them. When you hit the sack, you go to bed.Hit rough weather Hive of worker bees If you hit rough weather, you experience difficulties or A hive of worker bees is a group of people working actively problems. and cooperatively. Example: The classroom was a hive of worker bees.Hit the airwaves Hobsons choice If someone hits the airwaves, they go on radio and TV to promote something or to tell their side of a story. A Hobsons choice is something that appears to be a free choice, but is really no choice as there is no genuineHit the books alternative. If you hit the books, you study or read hard. Hoist with your own petardHit the bulls-eye If you are hoist with your own petard, you get into trouble or caught in a trap that you had set for someone else. If someone hits the bulls-eye, they are exactly right about something or achieve the best result possible. "Bulls-eye" and Hold all the aces "bullseye" are alternative spellings. If you hold all the aces, you have all the advantages and yourHit the ceiling opponents or rivals are in a weak position. Hold the baby
  • 51. (UK) If someone is responsible for something, they are privately employed driver). The full phrase is Home, James, holding the baby. and dont spare the horses.Hold the bag Honest truth (USA) If someone is responsible for something, they are If someone claims that something is the honest truth, they holding the bag. wish to sound extra-sincere about something.Hold the fort Honor among thieves If you hold the fort, you look after something or assume If someone says there is honor among thieves, this means that someones responsibilities while they are away. even corrupt or bad people sometimes have a sense of honor or integrity, or justice, even if it is skewed. (Honour amongHold the torch thieves is the British English version.) If you hold the torch for someone, you have an unrequited or Honours are even unspoken love. If honours are even, then a competition has ended withHold your horses neither side emerging as a winner. If someone tells you to hold your horses, you are doing Hook, line, and sinker something too fast and they would like you to slow down. If somebody accepts or believes something hook, line, andHold your own sinker, they accept it completely. If you can hold your own, you can compete or perform Hop, skip, and a jump equally with other people. If a place is a hop, skip, and a jump from somewhere, itsHold your tongue only a short distance away. If you hold your tongue, you keep silent even though you Hope against hope want to speak. If you hope against hope, you hope for something evenHolier-than-thou though there is little or no chance of your wish being fulfilled. Someone who is holier-than-thou believes that they are Hope in hell morally superior to other people. If something hasnt got a hope in hell, it stands absolutely noHollow victory chance of succeeding. A hollow victory is where someone wins something in name, Hornets nest but are seen not to have gained anything by winning. A hornets nest is a violent situation or one with a lot ofHoly smoke! dispute. (If you create the problem, you stir up a hornets nest.) This is a way of expressing surprise: "Holy smoke! Look at all of those geese!" Horns of a dilemmaHome and hearth If you are on the horns of a dilemma, you are faced with two equally unpleasant options and have to choose one. Home and hearth is an idiom evoking warmth and security. Horse of a different colorHome stretch (USA) If something is a horse of a different color, its a The home stretch is the last part of something, like a journey, different matter or separate issue altogether. race or project. Horse tradingHome, James Horse trading is an idiom used to describe negotiations, (UK) This is a cliched way of telling the driver of a vehicle to especially where these are difficult and involve a lot of start driving. It is supposed to be an order to a chauffeur (a compromise.
  • 52. Horses for courses A time when someone really needs something, almost a last chance, is their hour of need. Horses for courses means that what is suitable for one person or situation might be unsuitable for another. House of cardsHostile takeover Something that is poorly thought out and can easily collapse or fail is a house of cards. If a company is bought out when it does not want to be, it is known as a hostile takeover. How comeHot air If you want to show disbelief or surprise about an action, you can ask a question using how come. How come he got the Language that is full of words but means little or nothing is job? (You cant believe that they gave the job to somebody hot air. like him)Hot as blue blazes How do you like them apples If somethings as hot as blue blazes, its extremely hot. (USA) This idiomatic expression is used to express surprise or shock at something that has happened. It can also be usedHot as Hades to boast about something you have done. If somethings as hot as Hades, its extremely hot. How long is a piece of stringHot button If someone has no idea of the answer to a question, they can ask How long is a piece of string? as a way of indicating (USA) A hot button is a topic or issue that people feel very their ignorance. strongly about. Hows tricks?Hot foot This is used as a way of asking people how they are and how If you hot foot it out of a place, you leave very quickly, often things have been going in their life. running. Hue and cryHot ticket Hue and cry is an expression that used to mean all the people (USA) A hot ticket is something that is very much in demand who joined in chasing a criminal or villain. Nowadays, if you at the moment. do something without hue and cry, you do it discreetly andHot to trot without drawing attention. If someone is hot to trot, they are sexually aroused or eager to Hung the moon do something. If you refer to someone as having hung the moon, you thinkHot under the collar they are extremely wonderful, or amazing, or good. If youre hot under the collar, youre feeling angry or Hungry as a bear bothered. If you are hungry as a bear, it means that you are reallyHot water hungry. If you get into hot water, you get into trouble. Hunky DoryHot-blooded If something is hunky dory, it is perfectly satisfactory, fine. Someone who is hot-blooded is easily excitable or passionate. ~I~Hot-headed I hereby give notice of my intention A hot-headed person gets angry very easily. (The noun Hereby is used sometimes in formal, official declarations and hothead can also be used.) statements to give greater force to the speaker or the writers affirmation. People will say it sometimes to emphasise theirHour of need sincerity and correctness.
  • 53. I may be daft, but Im not stupid If something cannot or will not happen the easy way, then sometimes it must be done the hard way. I might do or say silly things occasionally, but in this instance I know what I am doing (Usually used when If the cap fits, wear it someone questions your application of common-sense). This idiom means that if the description is correct, then it isI should cocoa describing the truth, often when someone is being criticised. (If the shoe fits, wear it is an alternative) (UK) This idiom comes from I should think so, but is normally used sarcastically to mean the opposite. If wishes were horses, beggars would rideIll cross that road when I come to it This means that wishing for something or wanting it is not the same as getting or having it. Ill think about something just when it happens, not in advance. If wishes were horses, beggars would rideIll eat my hat If we could have things the way we wanted them, then life would be much easier than it is. You can say this when you are absolutely sure that you are right to let the other person know that there is no chance of If you cant stand the heat, get out of the kitchen your being wrong. Originally a Harry S. Truman quote, this means that if youIve got a bone to pick with you cant take the pressure, then you should remove yourself from the situation. If somebody says this, they mean that they have some complaint to make against the person they are addressing. If you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crowsIve got your number If you wish to be associated with a particular high risk and/or high profile situation and benefit from the rewards of that You have made a mistake and I am going to call you on it. association, you have to accept the consequences if things go You are in trouble (a threat). I have a disagreement with you. wrong - you cannot dissociate yourself. I understand your true nature. If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleasIcing on the cake This means that if you become involved with bad company, This expression is used to refer to something good that there will be negative consequences. happens on top of an already good thing or situation. If you willIdle hands are the devils handiwork If you will is used as a way of making a concession in a When someone is not busy, or being productive, trouble is sentence: He wasnt a very honest person, a liar if you will. bound to follow. Here, it is used a way of accepting that the reader or listener might think of the person as a liar, but without commit theIf at first you dont succeed try try again writer or speaker to that position fully. When you fail, try until you get it right! If youll pardon my FrenchIf I had a nickel for every time (UK) This idiom is used as a way of apologising for swearing. (USA) When someone uses this expression, they mean that Ill at ease the specific thing happens a lot. It is an abbreviation of the statement If I had a nickel for every time that happened, I If someone is ill at ease, they are worried or uncomfortable. would be rich Ill-gotten gainsIf it aint broke, dont fix it Ill-gotten gains are profits or benefits that are made either Any attempt to improve on a system that already works is illegally or unfairly. pointless and may even hurt it. In a cleft stickIf Mohammed wont come to the mountain, the mountain must come toMohammed If you are in a cleft stick, you are in a difficult situation, caught between choices.
  • 54. In a fix In anothers shoes If you are in a fix, you are in trouble. It is difficult to know what another persons life is really like, so we dont know what it is like to be in someones shoes.In a flash In broad daylight If something happens in a flash, it happens very quickly indeed. If a crime or problem happens in broad daylight, it happens during the day and should have been seen and stopped.In a fog In cahoots If youre in a fog, you are confused, dazed or unaware. If people are in cahoots, they are conspiring together.In a heartbeat In cold blood If something happens very quickly or immediately, it happens in a heartbeat. If something is done in cold blood, it is done ruthlessly, without any emotion.In a jam In dire straits If you are in a jam, you are in some trouble. If you get out of a jam, you avoid trouble. If youre in dire straits, youre in serious trouble or difficulties.In a jiffy In donkeys years If something happens in a jiffy, it happens very quickly. I havent seen her in donkeys years. - This means for a very long time.In a nutshell In dribs and drabs This idiom is used to introduce a concise summary. If people arrive in dribs and drabs, they come in small groupsIn a pickle at irregular intervals, instead of all arriving at the same time. If you are in a pickle, you are in some trouble or a mess. In drovesIn a pickle When things happen in droves, a lot happen at the same time or very quickly. If you are in a pickle you are in some trouble or a mess. In for a penny, in for a poundIn a rut If something is worth doing then it is a case of in for a penny, In a settled or established pattern, habit or course of action, in for a pound, which means that when gambling or taking a especially a boring one. chance, you might as well go the whole way and take all the risks, not just some.In a tick In full swing (UK) If someone will do something in a tick, theyll do it very soon or very quickly. If things are in full swing, they have been going for a sufficient period of time to be going well and very actively.In a tight spot In high gear If youre in a tight spot, youre in a difficult situation. (USA) If something is in high gear, it is in a quick-pacedIn all honesty mode. If someone is in high gear, they are feverishly on the If you say something in all honesty, you are telling the fast track. complete truth. It can be used as a way of introducing a In high spirits negative opinion whilst trying to be polite; in all honesty, I have to say that I wasnt very impressed. If someone is in high spirits, they are in a very good mood or feeling confident about something.In an instant In hot water If something happens in an instant, it happens very rapidly.
  • 55. If you are in hot water, you are in serious trouble. In spadesIn light of (UK) If you have something in spades, you have a lot of it. In light of is similar to due to. In stitchesIn like Flynn If someone is in stitches, they are laughing uncontrollably. Refers to Errol Flynns popularity with women in the 40s. In tandem His ability to attract women was well known throughout the world. (In like flint is also used.) If people do things in tandem, they do them at the same time.In my bad books In the bag If you are in someones bad books, they are angry with you. If something is in the bag, it is certain that you will get it or Likewise, if you are in their good books, they are pleased achieve it with you. In the ballparkIn my book This means that something is close to the adequate or This idiom means in my opinion. required value.In my good books In the black If someone is in your good books, you are pleased with or If your bank account is in credit, it is in the black. think highly of them at the moment. In the cardsIn one ear and out the other If something is in the cards, it is bound to occur, it is going to If something goes in one ear and out the other, you forget it happen, or it is inevitable. as soon as youve heard it because it was too complicated, boring etc. In the clearIn over your head If someone is in the clear, they are no longer suspected of or charged with wrongdoing. If someone is in over their head, they are out of the depth in something they are involved in, and may end up in a mess. In the clinkIn perfect form (UK) If someone is in the clink, they are in prison. When something is as it ought to be. Or, when used cynically, In the club it may refer to someone whose excesses are on display; a (UK) If a womans in the club, shes pregnant. In the pudding caricature. club is an alternative form.In rude health In the dock (UK) If someones in rude health, they are very healthy and If someone is in the dock, they are on trial in court. look it. In the doghouseIn so many words If someone is in the doghouse, they are in disgrace and very This phrase may be used to mean approximately or more or unpopular at the moment. less. I think it may have a sarcastic connotation in that the individual listening needed so many words to get the point. In the drivers seat It also may suggest the effort on the part of the speaker to explain an unpleasant truth or difficult concept. If you are in the drivers seat, you are in charge of something or in control of a situation.In someones pocket In the face of If a person is in someones pocket, they are dependent, especially financially, on them. If people act in the face of something, they do it despite it or when threatened by it.
  • 56. In the family way In the same boat If a woman is in the family way, she is pregnant. If people are in the same boat, they are in the same predicament or trouble.In the flesh In the short run If you meet or see someone in the flesh you actually meet or see them, rather than seeing them on TV or in other media. This refers to the immediate future.In the gravy In the soup If youre in the gravy, youre rich and make money easily. If youre in the soup, youre in trouble.In the hot seat In the swim If someones in the hot seat, they are the target for a lot of If you are in the swim, you are up-to-date with and fully unwelcome criticism and examination. informed about something.In the know In the swing If you are in the know, you have access to all the information If things are in the swing, they are progressing well. about something, which other people dont have. In the tall cottonIn the long run A phrase that expresses good times or times of plenty and This means over a long period of time, in the end or in the wealth as tall cotton means a good crop. final result. In the twinkling of an eyeIn the loop If something happens in the twinkling of an eye, it happens If youre in the loop, you are fully informed about what is very quickly. happening in a certain area or activity. In the zoneIn the lurch If you are in the zone, you are very focused on what you have If you are left in the lurch, you are suddenly left in an to do. embarrassing or tricky situation. In turnIn the making This means one after the other. Example: She spoke to each When something is in the making, it means it is in the of the guests in turn. process of being made. In two mindsIn the offing If you are in two minds about something, you cant decide If something is in the offing, it is very likely to happen soon. what to do.In the pink In your blood If you are in very good health, you are in the pink. A trait or liking that is deeply ingrained in someones personality and unlikely to change is in their blood. AIn the pipeline similar idiom is in his DNA. If somethings in the pipeline, it hasnt arrived yet but its In your element arrival is expected. If you are in your element, you feel happy and relaxedIn the red because you are doing something that you like doing and are good at. "You should have seen her when they asked her to If your bank account is overdrawn, it is in the red. sing; she was in her element."In the saddle In your face If youre in the saddle, you are in control of a situation.
  • 57. If someone is in your face, they are direct and confrontational. If something costs an arm and a leg, it is very expensive (It is sometime written in yer facecolloquially) indeed.In your sights It cost the earth If you have someone or something in your sights, they are If something costs the earth, it is very expensive indeed. your target to beat. It never rains but it poursIndian file It never rains but it pours means that when things go wrong, If people walk in Indian file, they walk in a line one behind they go very wrong. the other. It takes a village to raise a childIndian giver It takes many people to teach a child all that he or she should An Indian giver gives something, then tries to take it back. know.Indian summer It takes two to tango If there is a period of warmer weather in late autumn, it is an This idiom is used to suggest that when things go wrong, Indian summer. both sides are involved and neither side is completely innocent.Ins and outs Its an ill wind that blows no good If you know the ins and outs of something, you know all the details. This is said when things have gone wrong; the idea being that when bad things happen, there can also be some positiveInto each life some rain must fall results. This means that bad or unfortunate things will happen to Its no use crying over spilt milk everyone at some time. This idiom means that getting upset after something has goneInto thin air wrong is pointless; it cant be changed so it should be accepted. If something vanishes or disappears without trace, it vanishes into thin air; no-one knows where it has gone. Its not the size of the man in the fight, its the size of the fight in the manIron fist This idiom means that determination is often more important Someone who rules or controls something with an iron fist is than size, strength, or ability. (Its not the size of the dog in in absolute control and tolerates no dissent. An iron fist in a the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog. is also used.) velvet glove is used to describe someone who appears soft on the outside, but underneath is very hard. Mailed fist is an Its your funeral alternative form. The other person has made a decision that you think is bad.Irons in the fire However, it is their choice; it is their funeral. A person who has a few irons in the fire has a number of Itch to things working to their advantage at the same time. If you are itching to do something, you are very eager to do it.Is Saul also among the prophets? Itchy feet Its a biblical idiom used when somebody known for something bad appears all of a sudden to be doing something One gets itchy feet when one has been in one place for a time very good. and wants to travel.It aint over till the fat lady sings Ivory tower This idiom means that until something has officially finished, People who live in ivory towers are detached from the world the result is uncertain. around them.It cost an arm and a leg ~J~
  • 58. Jack Frost If you jog someones memory, you say words that will help someone trying to remember a thought, event, word, phrase, If everything has frozen in winter, then Jack Frost has visited. experience, etc.Jack-of-all-trades John Doe A jack-of-all-trades is someone that can do many different John Doe is a name given to an unidentified male who may jobs. be party to legal proceedings, or to an unidentified person in hospital, or dead. Jane Doe is the female equivalent.Jam on your face John Q Public If you say that someone has jam on their face, they appear to be caught, embarrassed or found guilty. (USA) John Q Public is the typical, average person.Jam tomorrow Johnny on the spot (UK) This idiom is used when people promise good things A person who is always available; ready, willing, and able to for the future that will never come. do what needs to be done.(Johnny-on-the-spot is also used.)Jane Doe Johnny-come-lately Jane Doe is a name given to an unidentified female who may A Johnny-come-lately is someone who has recently joined be party to legal proceedings, or to an unidentified person in something or arrived somewhere, especially when they want hospital, or dead. John Doe is the male equivalent. to make changes that are not welcome.Jekyll and Hyde Joined at the hip Someone who has a Jekyll and Hyde personality has a If people are joined at the hip, they are very closely pleasant and a very unpleasant side to the character. connected and think the same way.Jersey justice Judge, jury and executioner (UK) Jersey justice is very severe justice. If someone is said to be the judge, jury, and executioner, it means they are in charge of every decision made, and theyJet set have the power to be rid of whomever they choose. Very wealthy people who travel around the world to attend Juggle frogs parties or functions are the jet set. If you are juggling frogs, you are trying to do something veryJet-black difficult. To emphasise just how black something is, such as someones Jump down someones throat hair, we can call it jet-black. If you jump down someones throat, you criticise or chastiseJobs comforter them severely. Someone who says they want to comfort, but actually Jump on the bandwagon discomforts people is a Jobs comforter. (Jobs is pronounced jobes, not jobs) If people jump on the bandwagon, they get involved in something that has recently become very popular.Jobs for the boys Jump the gun Where people give jobs, contracts, etc, to their friends and associates, these are jobs for the boys. If you jump the gun, you start doing something before the appropriate time.Jockey for position Jump the shark If a number of people want the same opportunity and are struggling to emerge as the most likely candidate, they are Said of a salient point in a television show or other activity at jockeying for position. which the popularity thereof begins to wane: The Flintstones jumped the shark when a man from outer space came to visitJog my memory them. The expression derives from an episode of the
  • 59. television sitcom Happy Days in which Fonzie, clad in ~K~ leather jacket and on water skis, jumps over a shark. That episode was widely seen as the beginning of the end for the Kangaroo court formerly popular series. When people take the law into their own hands and formJump through hoops courts that are not legal, these are known as kangaroo court. If you are prepared to jump through hoops for someone, you Keen as mustard are prepared to make great efforts and sacrifices for them. (UK) If someone is very enthusiastic, they are as keen asJungle out there mustard. If someone says that it is a jungle out there, they mean that Keep abreast the situation is dangerous and there are no rules. If you keep abreast of things, you stay informed aboutJurys out developments. If the jurys out on an issue, then there is no general Keep at bay agreement or consensus on it. If you keep someone or something at bay, you maintain aJust around the corner safe distance from them. If something is just around the corner, then it is expected to Keep body and soul together happen very soon. If you earn enough to cover your basic expenses, but nothingJust coming up to more than that, you earn enough to keep body and soul together. If the time is just coming up to nine oclock, it means that it will be nine oclock in a very few seconds. Youll hear them Keep in touch say it on the radio in the morning. If you keep in touch with someone, you keep communicatingJust deserts with them even though you may live far apart. If a bad or evil person gets their just deserts, they get the Keep it under your hat punishment or suffer the misfortune that it is felt they deserve. If you keep something under your hat, you keep it secret.Just for the heck of it Keep mum When someone does something just for the heck of it, they do it without a good reason. If you keep mum about something, you keep quiet and dont tell anyone.Just for the record Keep posted If something is said to be just for the record, the person is saying it so that people know but does not necessarily agree If you keep posted about something, you keep up-to-date with or support it. with information and developments.Just in the nick of time Keep someone at arms length If you do something in the nick of time, you just manage to If you keep someone or something at arms length, you keep do it just in time, with seconds to spare. a safe distance away from them.Just off the boat Keep someone on their toes If someone is just off the boat, they are naive and If you keep someone on their toes, you make sure that they inexperienced. concentrate on what they are supposed to do.Just what the doctor ordered Keep the wolf at bay If somethings just what the doctor ordered, it is precisely If you keep the wolf at bay, you make enough money to what is needed. avoid going hungry or falling heavily into debt.
  • 60. Keep up with the Joneses If you keep your nose to the grindstone, you work hard and seriously. People who try to keep up with the Joneses are competitive about material possessions and always try to have the latest Keep your options open and best things. If someones keeping their options open, they arent going toKeep your chin up restrict themselves or rule out any possible course of action. (UK) This expression is used to tell someone to have Keep your pecker up confidence. If someone tells you to keep your pecker up, they are tellingKeep your cool you not to let your problems get on top of you and to try to be optimistic. If you keep your cool, you dont get excessively excited or disturbed in a bad situation. Keep your powder dryKeep your ear to the ground If you keep your powder dry, you act cautiously so as not to damage your chances. If you keep your ear to the ground, you try to keep informed about something, especially if there are rumours or Keep your shirt on! uncertainties. This idiom is used to tell someone to calm down.Keep your eye on the ball Keep your wig on! If you keep your eye on the ball, you stay alert and pay close attention to what is happening. (UK) This idiom is used to tell someone to calm down.Keep your eye on the prize Kettle of fish This means that you should keep your focus on achieving a A pretty or fine kettle of fish is a difficult problem or positive end result. situation.Keep your eyes peeled Kick a habit If you keep your eyes peeled, you stay alert or watchful. If you kick a habit, you stop doing it.Keep your fingers crossed Kick away the ladder If you are keeping your fingers crossed, you are hoping for a If someone kicks away the ladder, they remove something positive outcome. that was supporting or helping someone.Keep your hair on Kick in the teeth Keep your hair on is advice telling someone to keep calm and Bad news or a sudden disappointment are a kick in the teeth. not to over-react or get angry. Kick something into the long grassKeep your head If an issue or problem is kicked into the long grass, it is If you keep your head, you stay calm in times of difficulty. pushed aside and hidden in the hope that it will be forgotten or ignored.Keep your head above water Kick the ballistics If you are just managing to survive financially, you are keeping your head above water. It means you realise the intensity of a situation. For example, there is too much unemployment now, so the prime ministerKeep your nose clean must kick the ballistics and change his policy. If someone is trying to keep their Nose Clean, they are trying Kick the bucket to stay out of trouble by not getting involved in any sort of wrong-doing. When someone kicks the bucket, they die.Keep your nose to the grindstone Kick up your heels
  • 61. (USA) If you kick up your heels, you go to parties or A kissing cousin is someone you are related to, but not celebrate something. closely.Kick your heels Kitchen-sink (UK) If you have to kick your heels, you are forced to wait (UK) Kitchen-sink drama deals with ordinary peoples lives. for the result or outcome of something. Kith and kinKicked to touch Your kith and kin are your family; your next of kin are close Touch is a zone of the playing field in Rugby. Kicked to relations you nominate to deal with your affairs in the event touch means the ball was put safely out of play. Idiomatic of your death on a document, like a passport. usage usually means a person has deftly avoided an issue in argument. Knee-jerk reactionKid gloves A knee-jerk reaction is an instant, instinctive response to a situation. If someone is handled with kid gloves, they are given special treatment and handled with great care. Knickers in a twistKill the goose that lays the golden egg When your knickers are in a twist, you are angry and snappish over something trivial. Whenever he loses his car If you kill the goose that lays the golden egg, you ruin keys, he gets his knickers in a twist. something that is very profitable. Knight in shining armourKill two birds with one stone A knight in shining armour is someone who saves you when When you kill two birds with one stone, you resolve two you are in great trouble or danger. difficulties or matters with a single action. Knit your browsKindred spirit If you knit your brows, you frown or look worried. A kindred spirit is someone who feels and thinks the way you do. Knock em deadKing of the castle Knock em dead is used as a way of wishing someone luck before they give a performance or have to appear before The king of the castle is the person who is in charge of people, as in an interview, etc. (em = them) something or in a very comfortable position compared to their companions. Knock on woodKings ransom This idiom is used to wish for good luck. (Touch wood is also used.) If something costs or is worth a kings ransom, it costs or is worth a lot of money. Knock something on the headKiss and tell If you knock something on the head, you stop it or stop doing it. If people kiss and tell, they disclose private or confidential information. Knock the pins from under someoneKiss of death If someone knocks the pins from under you, they let you down. The kiss of death is an action that means failure or ruin for someone, a scheme, a plan, etc. Knock your socks offKiss something goodbye If something knocks your socks off, it amazes and surprises you, usually in a positive way. If someone tells you that you can kiss something goodbye, you have no chance of getting or having it. Know a hawk from a handsawKissing cousin
  • 62. If someone knows a hawk from a handsaw, they are able to Lap dog distinguish things and assess them. A lap dog is a person who is eager to please another at theKnow full well expense of his or her own needs in order to maintain a position of privilege or favor. When you know full well, you are absolutely sure that you know. Lap of the godsKnow the ropes If something is in the lap of the gods, it is beyond our control and fate will decide the outcome. Someone who is experienced and knows how the system works know the ropes. Larger than lifeKnow which side ones bread is buttered on If something is excessive or exaggerated, it is larger than life. If you know which side ones bread is buttered on, you know Last hurrah where your interests lie and will act accordingly to protect or further them. If an elderly person does something special before they die, it is a last hurrah.Know which way the wind blows Last laugh This means that you should be know how things are developing and be prepared for the future. The person who has the last laugh ends up with the the advantage in a situation after some setbacks.Know your onions Last straw If someone is very well-informed about something, they know their onions. The last straw is the final problem that makes someone lose their temper or the problem that finally brought about theKnow your place collapse of something. It comes from an Arabic story, where a camel was loaded with straw until a single straw placed on A person who knows their place doesnt try to impose the rest of the load broke its back. themselves on others. Last-ditch~L~ A last-ditch attempt is a desperate attempt that will probably fail anyway.Labor of love Laugh a minute A labor of love is a project or task undertaking for the interest or pleasure in doing it rather than the reward, Someone who is a laugh a minute is very funny. financial or otherwise. Laugh to see a pudding crawlLabour of love (UK) Someone who would laugh to see a pudding crawl is A labour of love is a project or task undertaking for the easily amused and will laugh at anything. interest or pleasure in doing it rather than the reward, financial or otherwise. Laugh up your sleeveLame duck If you laugh up your sleeve, you laugh at someone secretly. If something or someone is a lame duck, they are in trouble. Laughing stockLand of nod If someone becomes a laughing stock they do something so stupid or wrong that no one can take them seriously and If someone has gone to the land of nod, they have fallen people scorn and laugh at them. asleep or gone to bed. Laughter is the best medicineLandslide victory Laughing is often helpful for healing, especially emotional A landslide victory is a victory in an election by a very large healing. margin.
  • 63. Law unto yourself Somebody who becomes a legend in their own lifetime acquires fame, but often only to a select or specialist If somebodys a law unto themselves, they do what they audience, while they are still alive. believe is right regardless of what is generally accepted as correct. Lend an earLay down the law If you lend an ear, you listen to what someone has to say. (Lend your ear is an alternative form.) If someone lays down the law, they tell people what to do and are authoritarian. Leopard cant change its spotsLead someone up the garden path This idiom means that people cannot change basic aspects of their character, especially negative ones. ("A leopard doesnt If someone leads you up the garden path, they deceive you, change its spots" is also used.) or give you false information that causes you to waste your time. Lead someone down the garden path is also used. Lesser of two evilsLead with the chin Something that is the lesser of two evils, is an unpleasant option, but not as bad as the other. If someone leads with their chin, they speak or behave without fear of the consequences. Let aloneLearn the ropes This is used to emphasise how extreme something could be: We hadnt got the money to phone home, let alone stay in a If you are learning the ropes, you are learning how to do hotel. This emphasises the utter impossibility of staying in a something. hotel.Leave no stone unturned Let bygones be bygones If you look everywhere to find something, or try everything If people decide to let bygones be bygones, they decide to to achieve something, you leave no stone unturned. forget old problems or grievances they have with each other.Leave well alone Let sleeping dogs lie If you leave something well alone, you keep a safe distance If someone is told to let sleeping dogs lie, it means that they from it, either physically or metaphorically. shouldnt disturb a situation as it would result in trouble or complications.Left hand doesnt know what the right hand is doing Let the best be the enemy of the good If the left hand doesnt know what the right hand is doing, then communication within a company, organisation, group, If the desire for an unattainable perfection stops someone etc, is so bad that people dont know what the others are from choosing good possibilities, they let the best be the doing. enemy of the good.Left in the dark Let the cat out of the bag If you are left in the dark about something, you arent given If you accidentally reveal a secret, you let the cat out of the the information that you should have. bag.Left to your own devices Let the chips fall where they may If someone is left to their own devices, they are not This means that we shouldnt try to control events, because controlled and can do what they want. destiny controls them.Left-handed compliment Let the devil take the hindmost A left-handed compliment is one that sounds like praise but This idiom means that you should think of yourself and not has an insulting meaning. (Backhanded compliment is an be concerned about other people; look after yourself and let alternative form.) the devil take the hindmost.Legend in your own lunchtime Let the genie out of the bottle
  • 64. If people let the genie out of the bottle, they let something Light years ahead bad happen that cannot be put right or controlled. If you are light years ahead of others, you are a long way inLet the grass grow round your feet front of them in terms of development, success, etc. If you let the grass grow round your feet, you delay doing Lightning rod things instead of taking action. Someone or something that attracts a lot of negativeLet your hair down comment, often diverting attention from other problems, is a lightning rod. If someone lets their hair down, they relax and stop feeling inhibited or shy. Like a bat out of hellLetter of the law This expression means extremely quickly. If people interpret laws and regulations strictly, ignoring the Like a beached whale ideas behind them, they follow the letter of the law. Once a whale is on a beach, it cannot get back into the easily,Level playing field so if you are completely stuck somewhere and cant get away, you are stranded like a beached whale. If theres a level playing field everybody is treated equally. Like a bear with a sore headLie like a rug (UK) If someones like a bear with a sore head, they If someone lies like a rug, they lie to the point where it complain a lot and are unhappy about something. becomes obvious that theyre lying. Like a bull at a gateLie low If you tackle a job very quickly, without any real thought If someone lies low, they try not to be found or caught. about what you are doing, you are going at it like a bull at a gate.Lie through your teeth Like a cat on hot bricks Someone who is always lying, regardless of what people know, lies through their teeth. If someone is like a cat on hot bricks, they are very nervous or excited.Life and limb Like a cat that got the cream When people risk life and limb, they could be killed or suffer serious injuries. If someone looks very pleased with themselves and happy, they look like a cat that got the cream.Life is just a bowl of cherries Like a duck to water This idiom means that life is simple and pleasant. If someone has a natural talent for something and enjoys it,Light at the end of the tunnel they take to it like a duck to water. If you can see light at the end of the tunnel, then you can see Like a fish needs a bicycle some signs of hope in the future, though things are difficult at the moment. If someone needs something like a Fish Needs a Bicycle, they do not need it at all, originally a feminist slogan: ALight bulb moment woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. A light bulb moment is when you have a sudden realisation Like a fish out of water about something, like the light bulbs used to indicate an idea in cartoons. If someone feels like a fish out of water, they are very uncomfortable in the situation they are in.Light on your feet Like a hawk If someone is light on their feet, they can move quickly and are agile. If you watch something or someone like a hawk, you observe very closely and carefully.
  • 65. Like a headless chicken Like taking candy from a baby If someone rushes about like a headless chicken, they move (USA) If something is like taking candy from a baby, it is very fast all over the place, usually without thinking. very easy to do.Like a kid in a candy store Like the back of your hand If someone is like a kid in a candy store, they are very If you know something like the back of your hand, you know excited about something. it very well indeed.Like a moth to a flame Like the clappers Something that is like a moth to a flame is attracted to If something is going like the clappers, it is going very fast. something that is deadly or dangerous. Like theres no tomorrowLike a rat deserting a sinking ship If you do something like theres no tomorrow, you do it fast If people leave a company because they know that its about or energetically. to have serious problems, or turn their back on a person about to be in a similar situation, they are said to be like rats Like theres no tomorrow deserting a sinking ship. If someone does something like theres no tomorrow, they doLike Chinese arithmetic it to an extreme level. If something is complicated and hard to understand, its like Like two peas in a pod Chinese arithmetic. Things that are like two peas in a pod are very similar orLike clockwork identical, If something happens like clockwork, it happens at very Like white on rice regular times or intervals. (USA) If you do something like white on rice, you do it veryLike father, like son closely: When Bob found out I had front row tickets for the concert, he stuck to me like white on rice. This idiom is used when different generations of a family behave in the same way or have the same talents of defects. Like wildfireLike giving a donkey strawberries If something happens or spreads like wildfire, it happens very quickly and intensely. (UK) If something is like giving a donkey strawberries, people fail to appreciate its value. Lily-liveredLike lambs to the slaughter Someone who is lily-livered is a coward. If somebody does something unpleasant without any Lines of communication resistance, they go like lambs to the slaughter. Lines of communication are the routes used to communicateLike no ones business by people or groups who are in conflict; a government might open lines of communication with terrorists if it wished to If I say my children are growing like no ones business, it negotiate with them. means theyre growing very quickly. See also Like the clappers and Like theres no tomorrow. Lions shareLike peas in a pod The lions share of something is the biggest or best part. If people or things are like peas in a pod, they look identical. Lip serviceLike pulling teeth When people pay lip service to something, they express their respect, but they dont act on their words, so the respect is If something if like pulling teeth, it is very difficult, hollow and empty. especially if trying to extract information or to get a straight answer from someone. Little pitchers have big ears
  • 66. (USA) This means that children hear more and understand Long time no see means that the speaker has not seen that the world around them better than many adults realize. person for a long time.Little strokes fell great oaks Look after number 1 Meaning: even though something may seem impossible, if You are number one, so this idiom means that you should you break it up into small parts and take one step at a time, think about yourself first, rather than worrying about other you will succeed. people.Live high off the hog Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves If you are living high off the hog, you are living lavishly. (UK) If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves, meaning that if someone takes care not to wasteLive wire small amounts of money, they will accumulate capital. (Look after the pence and the pounds will look after themselves is A person who is very active, both mentally and physically, is an alternative form of this idiom.) a live wire. Look before you leapLo and behold This idiom means that you should think carefully about the This phrase is used to express surprise. possible results or consequences before doing something.Loan shark Look on the bright side A loan shark lends money at very high rates of interest. If you look on the bright side, you try to see things in an optimistic way, especially when something has gone wrong.Lock horns Look out for number one When people lock horns, they argue or fight about something. If you look out for number one, you take care of yourself andLock the stable door after the horse has bolted your interests, rather than those of other people. If someone takes action too late, they do this; there is no Look what the cat dragged in reason to lock an empty stable. This idiom is used when someone arrives somewhere lookingLock, stock and barrel a mess or flustered and bothered. This is an expressions that means everything; if someone Loose cannon buys a company lock, stock and barrel, they buy absolutely everything to do with the company. A person who is very difficult to control and unpredictable is a loose cannon.Long face Loose lips sink ships Someone with a long face is sad or depressed about something. To have loose lips means to have a big mouth, susceptible to talking about everything and everyone. Sinking ships refersLong in the tooth to anything from small acquaintances to long and hearty If someone is long in the tooth, they are a bit too old to do relationships (with friends or a significant other). So when something. one says loose lips sink ships, one is basically saying if you cant shut up you are going to end hurting people, usuallyLong shot psychologically or emotionally.Loose lips sink ships comes from World War I and/or WWII, when sailors on leave from If something is a long shot, there is only a very small chance their ships might talk about what ship they sailed on or where of success. it had come from, or where it was going. If they talked too much (had loose lips) they might accidentally provide theLong time no hear enemy with anecdotal information that might later cause their ship to be tracked, and bombed and sunk, hence Loose lips The speaker could say this when they have not heard from a sink ships. Later, it came to mean any excessive talk might person, either through phone calls or emails for a long time. sabotage a project.Long time no see Lord love a duck
  • 67. An exclamation used when nothing else will fit. Often fitting Mad as a badger when one is stunned or dismayed. If someone is as mad as a badger, they are crazy.Lose face Mad as a bag of hammers To lose ones reputation or standing is to lose face Someone who is as mad as a bag of hammers is crazy orLose the plot stupid. (Daft as a bag of hammers is also used.) If someone loses the plot, they have stopped being rational Mad as a cut snake about something. (USA) One who is mad as a cut snake has lost all sense ofLose your lunch reason, is crazy, out of control. (UK) If you lose your lunch, you vomit. Mad as a hornetLose your marbles (USA) If someone is as mad as a hornet, they are very angry indeed. If someone has lost their marbles, theyve gone mad. Mad as a March hareLose your shirt Someone who is excitable and unpredictable is as mad as a If someone loses their shirt, they lose all their money through March hare. a bad investment, gambling, etc. Made in the shadeLove is blind One has an easy time in life or in a given situation. Finding If you love someone, it doesnt matter what they look like. things working to ones benefit. You will also overlook faults. Made of moneyLow-hanging fruit If you are made of money, you have a lot of money. Low-hanging fruit are things that are easily achieved. Mailed fistLower than a snakes belly Someone who rules or controls something with a mailed fist Someone or something that is lower than a snakes belly is of is in absolute control and tolerates no dissent. A mailed fist in a very low moral standing. a velvet glove is used to describe someone who appears soft on the outside, but underneath is very hard. Iron fist is anLower than a snakes belly in a wagon rut alternative form. (USA) If someone or something is lower than a snakes belly Major league in a wagon rut, they are of low moral standing because a snakes belly is low and if the snake is in a wagon rut, it is Something major league is very important. really low. Make a better fistLower the bar If someone makes a better fist of doing something, they do a If people change the standards required to make things easier, better job. they lower the bar. Make a clean breastLower your sights If someone makes a clean breast, they confess in full to If you lower your sights, you accept something that is less something they have done. than you were hoping for. Make a killingLuck of the draw If you make a killing, you do something that makes you a lot To have the Luck of the draw is to win something in a of money. competition where the winner is chosen purely by chance. Make a meal~M~
  • 68. If someone makes a meal of something, they spend too long Make my day doing it or make it look more difficult than it really is. If something makes your day, it satisfies you or makes youMake a mint happy. If someone is making a mint, they are making a lot of money. Make no bones about itMake a monkey of someone If somebody make no bones about a scandal in their past, they are open and honest about it and show no shame or If you make a monkey of someone, you make them look embarrassment. foolish. Make out like a banditMake a mountain out of a molehill (USA) If someone is extremely successful in a venture, they If somebody makes a mountain out of a molehill, they make out like a bandit. exaggerate the importance or seriousness of a problem. Make wavesMake a pitch If someone makes waves, they cause a lot of trouble. If you make a pitch for something, you make a bid, offer or other attempt to get it. Make your blood boilMake a request If something makes your blood boil, it makes you very angry. If you request something, or make a request, you are asking Make your flesh crawl for something you want or need. If something makes your flesh crawl, it really scares orMake a song and dance revolts you. (Make your flesh creep is an alternative. Make your skin crawl is also used.) (UK) If someone makes a song and dance, they make an unecessary fuss about something unimportant. Make your hair stand on endMake an enquiry If something makes your hair stand on end, it terrifies you. If you make an enquiry, you ask for general information Make your toes curl about something. If something makes your toes curl, it makes you feel veryMake bets in a burning house uncomfortable, shocked or embarrassed. (USA) If people are making bets in a burning house, they are Make yourself scarce engaged in futile activity while serious problems around them are getting worse. If someone makes themselves scarce, they go away from a place, especially to avoid trouble or so that they cant beMake ends meet found. If somebody finds it hard to make ends meet, they have Man Friday problems living on the money they earn. From Robinson Crusoe, a Man Friday refers to an assistantMake hay or companion, usually a capable one. The common feminine equivalent is Girl Friday. (Also, right-hand man. ) If you make hay, or may hay while the sun shines, you take advantage of an opportunity as soon as it arises and do not Man in the street waste time. The man in the street is an idiom to describe ordinary people,Make headway especially when talking about their opinions and ideas. If you make headway, you make progress. Man of his wordMake money hand over fist A man of his word is a person who does what he says and keeps his promises. If you make money hand over fist, you make a lot of money without any difficulty. Man of letters
  • 69. A man of letters is someone who is an expert in the arts and If people march to the beat of their own drum, they do things literature, and often a writer too. the way they want without taking other people into consideration.Man of means Mark my words A man, or woman, of means is wealthy. Mark my words is an expression used to lend an air ofMan of parts seriousness to what the speaker is about to say when talking about the future. You often hear drunks say it before they A man of parts is a person who is talented in a number of deliver some particularly spurious nonsense. different areas or ways. Mark someones cardMan of straw If you mark someones card, you correct them in a forceful A weak person that can easily be beaten of changed is a man and prompt manner when they say something wrong. of straw. Marked manMan of the cloth A marked man is a person who is being targeted by people A man of the cloth is a priest. who want to do them harm or cause them trouble.Man on the Clapham omnibus Matter of life and death (UK) The man on the Clapham omnibus is the ordinary If something is a matter of life and death, it is extremely person in the street. important.Man proposes, God disposes Mealy-mouthed Your fate lies in the hands of God. A mealy-mouthed person doesnt say what they mean clearly.Man upstairs Meat and drink When people refer to the man upstairs, they are referring to If something is meat and drink to you, you enjoy it and are God. naturally good at it, though many find it difficult.Mans best friend Meat and potatoes This is an idiomatic term for dogs. The meat and potatoes is the most important part of something. A meat and potatoes person is someone whoMans man prefers plain things to fancy ones. A mans man is a man who does things enjoyed by men and Meet someone halfway is respected by other men. If you meet someone halfway, you accept some of their ideasMany a slip twixt cup and lip and make concessions. Theres many a slip twixt cup and lip means that many things Meet your expectations can go wrong before something is achieved. If something doesnt meet your expectations, it means that itMany hands make light work wasnt as good as you had thought it was going to be; a This idiom means that when everyone gets involved in disappointment. something, the work gets done quickly. Meet your MakerMany happy returns If someone has gone to meet their Maker, they have died. This expression is used to wish someone a happy birthday. Meet your matchMany moons ago If you meet your match, you meet a person who is at least as A very long time ago. good if not better than you are at something.March to the beat of your own drum Megaphone diplomacy
  • 70. If negotiations between countries or parties are held through Might and main press releases and announcements, this is megaphone diplomacy, aiming to force the other party into adopting a This means with all your effort and strength. As he failed in desired position. the previous exam,the student tried might and main to pass the next one.Melt your heart Mighty oaks from little acorns grow If something melts your heart, it affects you emotionally and you cannot control the feeling. Big or great things start very small.Melting pot Millstone round your neck A melting pot is a place where people from many ethnicities A millstone around your neck is a problem that prevents you and nationalities live together. from doing what you want to do.Memory like a sieve Mince words If somebody cant retain things for long in his or her memory If people mince words, or mince their words, they dont say and quickly forgets, he or she has a memory like a sieve. A what they really mean clearly. sieve has lots of tiny holes in it to let liquids out while keeping the solids inside. Mind over matterMemory like an elephant This idiom is used when someone uses their willpower to rise above adversity. An elephant never forgets is a saying, so if a person has a memory like an elephant, he or she has a very good memory Mind the gap indeed. Mind the gap is an instruction used on the Underground inMend fences the UK to warn passengers to be careful when leaving the tube or train as there is quite a distance between the train and When people mend fences, they try to improve or restore the platform. relations that have been damaged by disputes or arguments. Mind your own beeswaxMess with a bull, you get the horns (USA) This idiom means that people should mind their own If you do something stupid or dangerous, you can get hurt. business and not interfere in other peoples affairs.Method in his madness Mind Your Ps and Qs If theres method in someones madness, they do things in a If you are careful about the way you behave and are polite, strange and unorthodox way, but manage to get results. you mind Your Ps and Qs.Mexican standoff Mind your Ps and Qs When there is a deadlock in strategy and neither side can do This is used as a way of telling someone to be polite and anything that will ensure victory, its a Mexican standoff. behave well.Mickey Mouse Mint condition If something is Mickey Mouse, it is intellectually trivial or If something is in mint condition, it is in perfect condition. not of a very high standard. Misery gutsMidas touch A misery guts is a person whos always unhappy and tries to If someone has the Midas touch, they make a lot of money make others feel negative. out of any scheme they try. Miss is as good as a mileMiddle of nowhere A miss is as good as a mile means that if you fail, even by the If someone says that he/she is in the middle of nowhere, smallest margin, it is still a failure. he/she means that he/she is not sure where he/she is. Miss the boat
  • 71. If you miss the boat, you are too late to take advantage of an This idiom means that children will learn their behaviour by opportunity. copying what they see happening around them.Mom and pop Moot point (USA) A mom and pop business is a small business, If somethings a moot point, theres some disagreement about especially if it is run by members of a family. It can used in a it: a debatable point. In the U.S., this expression usually wider sense to mean that something is small scale. means that there is no point in debating something, because it just doesnt matter. An example: If you are arguing overMonday morning quarterback whether to go the beach or to the park, but you find out the car wont start and you cant go anywhere, then the (USA) A Monday morning quarterback is someone who, destination is said to be a moot point. with the benefit of hindsight, knows what should have been done in a situation. Moral fibreMoney burns a hole in your pocket Moral fibre is the inner strength to do what you believe to be right in difficult situations Example: He lacked the moral If someone has money burning a hole in their pocket, they fibre to be leader (In American English the correct spelling is are eager to spend it, normally in a wasteful manner. fiber.)Money doesn`t grow on trees Moral high ground This means that you have to work to earn money; it doesnt If people have/take/claim/seize, etc, the moral high ground, come easily or without effort. they claim that their arguments, beliefs, etc, are morally superior to those being put forward by other people.Money for jam More front than Brighton If somethings money for jam, its a very easy way of making money. (UK) If you have more front than Brighton, you are very self- confident, possibly excessively so.Money for old rope More haste, less speed (UK) If somethings money for old rope, its a very easy way of making money. The faster you try to do something, the more likely you are to make mistakes that make you take longer than it would hadMoney laundering you planned it. If people launder money, they get money made illegally into More heat than light the mainstream so that it is believed to be legitimate and clean. If a discussion generates more heat than light, it doesnt provide answers, but does make people angry.Money makes many things More holes than Swiss cheese This means that money is important. If something has more holes than a Swiss cheese, it isMoney talks incomplete,and lacks many parts. This means that people can convey many messages with More than meets the eye money, and many things can be discovered about people by observing the way they use their money. If there is more than meets the eye to something, it is more complex or difficult than it appears.Money to burn More than one string to their bow If someone is very rich, they have money to burn. A person who has more than one string to their bow hasMonkey business different talents or skills to fall back on. If children get up to monkey business, they are behaving More than one way to skin a cat naughtily or mischievously. This is the same as monkeying around.Monkey see, monkey do
  • 72. When people say that there is more than one way to skin a cat, Mums the word they mean that there are different ways of achieving the same thing. When people use this idiom, they mean that you should keep quiet about something and not tell other people.Mountain to climb Murder will out If you have a mountain to climb, you have to work hard or make a lot of progress to achieve something. This idiom means that bad deeds cant be kept secret forever.Move heaven and earth Murky waters This expression indicates a persons determined intention of Where people are behaving in morally and ethically getting a work done in spite of all odds he may face. He will questionable ways, they are in murky waters. use all and every means to accomplish the target. Example: He moved heaven and earth to get his literary work Music to my ears recognised by the committee of experts. If something someone says is music to your ears, it is exactlyMove mountains what you had wanted to hear. If you would move mountains to do something, you would Mutton dressed as lamb make any effort to achieve your aim. When people say that Mutton dressed as lamb is term for middle-aged or elderly faith can move mountains, they mean that it can achieve a lot. people trying to look younger.Move the goalposts My dogs are barking When people move the goalposts, they change the standards (USA) When someone says this, they mean that their feet are required for something to their advantage. hurting.Mover and shaker My eye A person who is a mover and shaker is a highly respected, This idiom is added to an adjective to show that you disagree key figure in their particular area with a lot of influence and with it: Hes shy. Shy my eye- hes just planning something importance. secret.Much ado about nothing My foot! If theres a lot of fuss about something trivial, theres much This idiom is used to show that you do not believe what ado about nothing. someone has just said.Muck or nettles My hands are full Muck or nettles means all or nothing. If your hands are full, you have so much to do that youMud in the fire cannot take on any more work, responsibilities and so on. The things that cannot be changed in the past that we usually My hands are tied forget about are mud in the fire. If your hands are tied, you are unable to act for some reason.Mud in your eye My heart bleeds This is a way of saying cheers when you are about to drink If your heart bleeds for someone, you feel genuine sympathy something, normally alcohol. and sadness for them.Mud-slinging My heart goes out to someone If someone is mud-slinging, they are insulting someone and If your heart goes out to someone, you feel genuine sympathy trying to damage that persons reputation. for them.Muddy the waters My way or the highway If somebody muddies the waters, he or she makes the situation more complex or less clear.
  • 73. This idiom is used to say that if people dont do what you say, If someone has nerves of steel, they dont get frightened they will have to leave or quit the project, etc. when other people do.~N~ Nest egg If you have some money saved for the future, it is a nest egg.Nail in the coffin Never a rose without the prick A nail in someone or somethings coffin is a problem or event that is a clear step towards an inevitable failure. This means that good things always have something bad as well; like the thorns on the stem of a rose.Nail-biter Never darken my door again If a game, election, contest, etc, is a nail-biter, it is exciting because the competitors are so close that it is impossible to This is a way of telling someone never to visit you again. predict the result. New bloodNature abhors a vacuum If something needs new blood, it has become stale and needs This idiom is used to express the idea that empty or unfilled new ideas or people to invigorate it. spaces are unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics. New brush sweeps cleanNeck and neck A new brush sweeps clean means that someone with a new perspective can make great changes. However, the full If two competitors or candidates, etc, are neck and neck, then version is a new brush sweeps clean, but an old brush knows they are very close and neither is clearly winning. the corners, which warns that experience is also a valuable thing. Sometimes broom is used instead of brush.Neck of the woods New kid on the block If someone talks about their neck of the woods, they mean the area where they live. A new kid on the block is a person who has recently joined a company, organisation, team, etc, and does not know howNeed no introduction things work yet. Someone who is very famous and known to everyone needs New lease of life no introduction. If someone finds new enthusiasm and energy for something,Needle in a haystack they have a new lease of life. If trying to find something is like looking for a needle in a New man haystack, it means that it is very difficult, if not impossible to find among everything around it. (UK) A New man is a man who believes in complete equality of the sexes and shares domestic work equally.Neither fish nor fowl New sheriff in town Something or someone that is neither fish nor fowl doesnt really fit into any one group. This is used when a new authority figure takes charge.Neither here nor there New York minute If something is neither here nor there, it is of very little (USA) If something happens in a New York minute, it importance. happens very fast.Neither use nor ornament Newfangled Something that serves no purpose and is not aesthetically People who dont like new methods, technologies, etc, pleasing is neither use nor ornament. describe them as newfangled, which means new but not as good or nice as the old ones.Nerves of steel Nice as pie
  • 74. If a person is nice as pie, they are surprisingly very kind and No great shakes friendly. "After our argument, she was nice as pie!" If someone is no great shakes at something, they are not veryNick of time good at it. If you do something in the nick of time, you do it at the very No harm, no foul last minute or second. Theres no problem when no harm or damage is done, such asNickel tour the time my sister-in-law stole the name wed chosen for a boy and we both ended up having girls. (USA) If someone gives you a nickel tour, they show you around a place. (Fifty-cent tour is also used.) No holds barredNight owl If there are no holds barred, there are no rules of conduct; you can do anything. A night owl is someone who goes to bed very late. No ifs or butsNinth circle of hell Ifs and Buts is a term used to describe the reasons people In Dantes Inferno, the ninth circle of hell is the centre where give for not wanting to do something. To show that you dont the worst punishments are found, so it is used idiomatically wish to accept any excuses, you can tell somebody that you for something that couldnt get worse. wish to hear no ifs or buts Here IF & BUT have become nounsNip and tuck No laughing matter A close contest where neither opponent seems to be gaining the advantage. Something that is no laughing matter is very serious.Nip at the bit No love lost If someone is nipping at the bit, they are anxious to get If there is no love lost between two people they have a strong something done and dont want to wait. enmity towards or hate for the other and make no effort to conceal it.Nip it in the bud No pain, no gain If you nip something in the bud, you deal with a problem when it is still small, before it can grow into something Achievements require some sort of sacrifice. serious. No quarterNitty gritty This means without mercy. We can say no quarter given or If people get down to the nitty gritty, they concentrate on the asked. most important and serious issues. No questionNo bed of roses This idiom means that something is certain or definite. If something isnt a bed of roses, it is difficult. No questions askedNo can do If something is to be done and no questions asked, then it No can do means that the speaker cant do whatever it is that doesnt matter what methods are used or what rules are has been asked of him or her. broken to ensure that it gets done.No go No skin off my nose Something that will not work. A square peg in a round hole If somethings no skin off your nose, it doesnt affect or is a no go. bother you at all.No good deed goes unpunished No smoke without fire This means that life is unfair and people can do or try to do This idiom means that when people suspect something, there good things and still end up in a lot of trouble. is normally a good reason for the suspicion, even if there is
  • 75. no concrete evidence. (Wheres theres smoke, theres fire is Nosy parker also used.) (UK) A nosy parker is someone who is excessively interestedNo spine in other peoples lives. (Nosey parker is an alternative spelling.) If someone has no spine, they lack courage or are cowardly. Not a snowballs chance in hellNo spring chicken There is absolutely no possibility of something hapening if If someone is no spring chicken, they are not young. theres not a snowballs chance in hell.No strings attached Not all there If something has no strings attached, there are no obligations If someone isnt all there, they are a little bit stupid or crazy. or requirements involved. Not bat an eyeNo time for If someone doesnt bat an eye, they do not react when other If you have no time for an activity, you have absolutely no people normally would. desire to spend or waste any time doing it. You can have no time for people, too. Not born yesterdayNo time like the present When someone says that they werent born yesterday, they mean that they are not naive or easily fooled. If people say that theres no time like the present , they believe that it is far better to do something now than to leave Not cricket it for later, in which case it might never get done. (UK) If something is not cricket, it is unfair.No time to lose Not enough room to swing a cat If theres no time to lose, then its time to get started otherwise it wont be finished on time. If a room is very small, you can say that there isnt enough room to swing a cat in it.No use to man or beast Not give a monkeys If something or someone is no use to man or beast, they it or they are utterly useless. (UK) If you couldnt give a monkeys about something, you dont care at all about it.Nods as good as a wink Not have the heart (UK) A nods as good as a wink is a way of saying you have understood somethin that someone has said, even though it If you dont have the heart to do something, you dont have was not said directly. The full phrase (sometimes used in the the strength or courage to do something. (Usually used in the UK ) is a nods as good as a wink to a blind horse. negative)None so blind as those who will not see Not have two pennies to rub together This idiom is used when people refuse to accept facts If someone hasnt got two pennies to rub together, they are presented to them. (None so deaf as those who will not hear very poor indeed. is an alternative.) Not know beans aboutNone so blind as those who will not see (USA) If someone doesnt know beans about something, they This idiom is used when people refuse to accept the know nothing about it. truth.(None so blind as those who will not see is also used if they refuse to listen to the truth.) Not know you are bornNose in the air This indicates that the person described is unaware of his or her good fortune or is unaware of how difficult day to day If someone has their nose in the air, they behave in a way that life was before he/she was born. Typical usage: Kids today is meant to show that they are superior to others. dont know they are born.
  • 76. Not much cop Nothing ventured, nothing gained Describing a film or something as not much cop is a way of You cant win if you dont join in the game; if you dont saying that you didnt think much of it. participate in something, you will not achieve anything.Not my cup of tea Now and then If something is not your cup of tea, you dont like it very This idiom means occasionally. much. Null and voidNot on my watch If somethings null and void, it is invalid or is no longer Someone distancing themselves from a situation could say applicable. that it is not on their watch. Number cruncherNot our bag A number cruncher is an accountant or someone who is very If something is not your bag, it is not really suitable for your good at dealing with numbers and calculations. needs or you dont like it much. Nuts and boltsNot the only pebble on the beach The nuts and bolts are the most essential components of If something is not the only pebble on the beach, there are something. other possibilities or alternatives. Nutty as a fruitcakeNot to be sneezed at Someone whos nutty as a fruitcake is irrational or crazy. If something is not to be sneezed at, it should be taken (This can be shortened to a fruitcake.) seriously. ~O~Not wash Object lesson If a story or explanation will not wash, it is not credible. An object lesson serves as a warning to others. (In someNot worth a red cent varieties of English abject lesson is used.) (USA) If something is not worth a red cent, it has no value. Odds and endsNot worth a tinkers dam Odds and ends are small, remnant articles and things- the This means that something is worthless and dates back to same as bits and bobs. when someone would travel around the countryside repairing Off colour things such as a kitchen pot with a hole in it. He was called a tinker. His dam was used to stop the flow of soldering If someone looks off colour/color, they look ill. material being used to close the hole. Of course his trade is passé, thus his dam is worth nothing. Off the beaten trackNotch on your belt Somewhere thats off the beaten track is in a remote location. A success or achievement that might help you in the future is Off the chart a notch on your belt. If something goes off the chart, it far exceeds the normalNothing to crow about standards, good or bad, for something. If somethings nothing to crow about, its not particularly Off the cuff good or special. If you do something off the cuff, you do it without anyNothing to write home about preparation. Something that is not special or good is nothing to write Off the grid home about.
  • 77. Someone who is off the grid lives outside society and Oh, my goodness! chooses not to follow its rules and conventions. An expression of surprise.Off the hook Old chestnut If someone is off the hook, they have avoided punishment or criticism for something they have done. An old chestnut is something that has been repeated so many times that it has lost its impact.Off the mark Old flames die hard If something is off the mark, it is inaccurate or incorrect. Its very difficult to forget old things, especially the first love.Off the rails Old friends and old wine are best If someone has gone off the rails, they have lost track of reality. This idiom means that the things and people that we know well are better than the unfamiliar.Off the record Old hat Something off the record is said in confidence because the speaker doesnt want it attributed to them, especially when If somethings old hat, it seems rather old fashioned and talking to the media. dated.Off the scale Old wives tale If something goes off the scale, it far exceeds the normal A proverb or piece of advice that is commonly accepted as standards, good or bad, for something. truth and is handed down the generations, but is normally false.Off the shelf Oldest trick in the book If a product is off the shelf, it can be used straightaway without any setting-up. The oldest trick in the book is a well-known way of deceiving someone, though still effective.Off the top of your head Olive branch If you say something off the top of your head, you dont think about it beforehand. If you hold out or offer an olive branch, you make a gesture to indicate that you want peace.Off the track On a fishing expedition If something puts or throws you off your track, it distracts you or keeps you from achieving what you want. If someone is on a fishing expedition, they are trying to get information, often using incorrect or improper ways to findOff the wall things out. Something that is off the wall is unconventional. On a rollOff your chump If youre on a roll, youre moving from success to success. (UK) If someone is off their chump, they are crazy or On a silver platter irrational. If you hand or give something on a silver platter to someone,Off your rocker you let them have it too easily. (UK) Someone who is off their rocker is crazy. On all foursOff-hand If someone is on all fours, they crawl. Off-hand means without preparation. People say that they On Carey Street dont know the answer off-hand, meaning that they dont know it at that time. (UK) If someone is on Carey Street, they are heavily in debt or have gone bankrupt.
  • 78. On good terms On the factory floor means the place where things are actually produced. If people are on good terms, they have a good relationship. On the fiddleOn hold (UK) Someone who is stealing money from work is on the If something is on hold, no action is being taken. fiddle, especially if they are doing it by fraud.On ice On the flip side If plans are put on ice, they are delayed and no action will be On the reverse or the other side taken for the foreseeable future. On the flyOn pins and needles If you do things on the fly, you do things without preparation, If you are on pins and needles, you are very worried about responding to events as they happen. something. On the gameOn tenterhooks (UK) A person who is on the game works as a prostitute. This means that she is waiting impatiently and excitedly for something. On the groundOn the ball Events on the ground are where things are actually happening, not at a distance. If someones on the ball, they are well-informed and know whats going on in their area of responsibility or interest. On the hoofOn the blink If you decide something on the hoof, you do it without planning, responding to events as they happen. (UK) Is a machine is on the blink, it isnt working properly or is out of order. On the houseOn the blower If you get something for free that would normally have to be bought, especially in a bar or restaurant, it is on the house. (UK) If someone is on the blower, they are on the phone. On the lamOn the carpet If someone is on the lam, they are hiding from the police or When you are called to the bosses office (since supposedly, authorities, especially to avoid arrest or prison. they are the only ones who have carpet) and its definitely not for a good reason, i.e., you are in trouble, something has not On the level gone according to plan and either maybe you are responsible and/or have some explaining to do. If someone is honest and trustworthy, they are on the level.On the case On the line If someone is on the case, they are dealing with a problem. If somebodys job is on the line, they stand a very good chance of losing it.On the cheap On the make If you do something on the cheap, you spend as little as possible to do it. If someone is on the make, they are trying to make a lot of money, usually illegally.On the dot On the map If someone says that theyre leaving at seven on the dot, dont be late; they mean at exactly seven oclock. If a place becomes widely known, it is put on the map. A place that remains unknown is off the map.On the factory floor On the never-never
  • 79. (UK) If you buy something on the never-never, you buy it on When things or people are on the skids, they are in serious long-term credit. decline and trouble.On the nod On the sly (UK) If something is accepted by parliament or a committee If someone does something on the sly, they do it furtively or majority, it is on the nod. secretly.On the nod On the stump (UK) Someone whos on the nod is either asleep or falling When politicians are campaigning for support and votes, they asleep, especially when the shouldnt or are are in a position are on the stump. unusual for sleep, like sitting or standing. On the takeOn the nod (UK) Someone who is stealing from work is on the take. (UK) When a horse runs, its head moves backwards and forwards alternately - in horse racing, if 2 horses cross the On the tip of your tongue line together the one whose head happens to be going forward often wins and is said to win on the nod. If a word is on the tip of your tongue, you know you know the word, but you just cant quite remember it at the moment.On the nose On the trot This means right on time. (UK) This idiom means consecutively; Id saw them threeOn the rebound days on the trot, which means that I saw them on three consecutive days. If someone is on the rebound, their relationship has recently ended and they are emotionally unstable. On the up and upOn the right foot If you are on the up and up, you are making very good progress in life and doing well. If you start something or set off on the right foot, you get off to a good start. On the up and upOn the ropes When someone is on the up and up, he or she is truthful, honest, and straightforward. It can also mean that they are When something or someone is on the ropes, it or they are very successful in life at the moment. doing badly and likely to fail. On the wagonOn the run If someone is on the wagon, they have stopped drinking If someone is on the run, they are avoiding arrest and hiding alcohol. from the police. On the wallaby trackOn the same page (AU) In Australian English, if youre on the wallaby track, If people are on the same page, they have the same you are unemployed. information and are thinking the same way. On top of the worldOn the same wavelength If you are on top of the world, everything is going well for If people are on the same wavelength, they have the same you. ideas and opinions about something. On your high horseOn the shelf When someone is on their high horse, they are being If something like a project is on the shelf, nothing is being inflexible, arrogant and will not make any compromises. done about it at the moment. On your last legsOn the skids If someones on their last legs, theyre close to dying.
  • 80. On your soapbox One over the eight If someone is up on their soapbox about something, they are (UK) Someone who is one over the eight is drunk. very overtly and verbally passionate about the topic. One swallow does not make a summerOn your tod This means that one good or positive event does not mean If you are on your tod, you are alone. that everything is all right.On your toes One-man band Someone on his or her toes is alert and ready to go. If one person does all the work or has all the responsibility somewhere, then they are a one-man band.Once bitten, twice shy One-off If somebody is said to be once bitten twice shy, it means that someone who has been hurt or who has had something go A one-off event only happens once and will not be repeated. wrong will be far more careful the next time. One-trick ponyOnce in a blue moon A one-trick pony is someone who does one thing well, but If something happens once in a blue moon, it happens very has limited skills in other areas. rarely indeed. Oops a daisyOne bad apple An expression used to indicate surprise. The full form of this proverb is one bad apple spoils the barrel, meaning that a bad person, policy, etc, can ruin Open all hours everything around it. If a shop or suchlike is open all hours, it only closes, if at all,One fell swoop terribly late. If something is done at one fell swoop, it is done in a single Open book period of activity, usually swiftly and ruthlessly. If a person is an open book, it is easy to know what theyOne for the road think or how they feel about things. A last drink before leaving a pub or bar is one for the road. Open old soresOne good turn deserves another When a sore is almost healed, and if a person rips or tears it open, it is way of preventing the healing process and further This means that when people do something good, something aggravating the pain. This phrase, metaphorically suggests, to good will happen to them. revive or reopen a quarrel or enmity which was almost forgotten.One hand washes the other Open old wounds This idiom means that we need other people to get on as cooperation benefits us all. If you open old wounds, you revive a quarrel or problem that caused a lot of trouble in the past.One mans loss is another mans gain Opening a can of worms This means thato ne persons setback benefits someone else. If you open a can of worms, you do something that will causeOne mans meat is another mans poison a lot of problems and is, on balance, probably going to cause more trouble than its worth. This idiom means that one person can like something very much, but another can hate it. Opportunity knocks but onceOne mans trash is another mans treasure This idiom means that you only get one chance to achieve what you really want to do. What is useless to one person might be valuable to another. Other side of the coin
  • 81. The other side of the coin is a different, usually opposing, Out of the woods view of a situation. (Flip side of the coin is an alternative.) If you are out of the woods, you have emerged safely from aOut and about dangerous situation, though the idiom is often used in the negative. If someone is out and about, they have left their home and are getting things done that they need to do. Out of this worldOut in the sticks If something is out of this world, it is fantastic. (UK) If someone lives out in the sticks, they live out in the Out of your hair country, a long way from any metropolitan area. If you get someone out of your hair, you get them to stopOut like a light bothering or annoying you. (Stay/keep/get out of my hair! can be used as imperatives) If you are out like a light, you fall fast asleep. Out of your mindOut of hand If someone is out of the mind, they are so emotional about If something gets out of hand, it gets out of control. something that they are no longer rational.Out of my league Out of your own pocket If someone or something is out of your league, you arent If someone does something out of their own pocket, they pay good enough or rich enough, etc, for it or them. all the expenses involved.Out of pocket Out on a limb If you are out of pocket on a deal, you have lost money. If somebodys out on a limb, they are in a very exposed position and could get into difficulties.Out of sight, out of mind Out to lunch Out of sight, out of mind is used to suggest that someone will not think or worry about something if it isnt directly visible If someones out to lunch, they are crazy or out of touch. or available to them. Out-and-outOut of sorts This means complete or total; an out-and-out lie is completey If you are feeling a bit upset and depressed, you are out of false. sorts. Over a barrelOut of the blue If someone has you over a barrel, they have you in a position If something happens out of the blue, it happens suddenly where you have no choice but to accept what they want. and unexpectedly. Over and overOut of the box If something happens over and over, it happens repeatedly. Thinking out of the box is thinking in a creative way. However, it can also be used for a ready-made product that Over my dead body requires no specialist knowledge to set it up. If you say that something will happen over your dead body,Out of the frying pan, into the fire you will not let it happen. If you get out of one problem, but find yourself in a worse Over the counter situation, you are out of the frying pan, into the fire. Medicines and drugs that can be sold without a doctorsOut of the mouths of babes prescription are sold over the counter. People say this when children unexpectedly say something Over the hill very intelligent or wise.
  • 82. If someone is over the hill they have reached an age at which If you open a Pandoras box, something you do causes all they can longer perform as well as they used to. sorts of trouble that you hadnt anticipated.Over the moon Paper over the cracks If you are over the moon about something, you are overjoyed. If you paper over the cracks, you try to make something look or work better but only deal with superficial issues, not theOver the top real underlying problems. If something is over the top, it is excessive or unnecessary. It Paper tiger refers to the moment a soldier leaves the trenches. A paper tiger is a person, country, institution, etc, that looksOver your head powerful, but is actually weak. If something is over your head, or goes over your head, it is Par for the course too complex or difficult for you to understand. If something is par for the course, it is what you expected itOver-egg the pudding would be. If it is above par, it is better, and if it is below par, it is worse. (UK) If you over-egg the pudding, you spoil something by trying to improve it excessively. It is also used nowadays Parrot fashion with the meaning of making something look bigger or more important than it really is. (Over-egg alone is often used in If you learn something parrot fashion, you learn it word for this sense.) word. A parrot is a bird from South America that can talk.~P~ Part and parcel If something is part and parcel of your job, say, it is anPacked like sardines essential and unavoidable part that has to be accepted. If a place is extremely crowded, people are packed like Pass muster sardines, or packed in like sardines. If something passes muster, it meets the required standard.Paddle your own canoe Pass the buck (USA) If you paddle your own canoe, you do things for yourself without outside help. If you pass the buck, you avoid taking responsibility by saying that someone else is responsible.Pain in the neck Pass the hat If someone is very annoying and always disturbing you, they are a pain in the neck. Pain in the butt, or pain in the ass If you pass the hat, you ask a people in a group to give (USA), and Pain in the arse (UK) are less polite alternative money. forms. Pass the time of dayPaint the town red If you pass the time of day with somebody, you stop and say If you go out for a night out with lots of fun and drinking, hello, enquire how they are and other such acts of social you paint the town red. politeness.Paint yourself into a corner Patience of Job (USA) If someone paints themselves into a corner, they get If something requires the patience of Job, it requires great themselves into a mess. patience.Painted Jezebel Pay on the nail A painted Jezebel is a scheming woman. If you pay on the nail, you pay promptly in cash.Pandoras box Pay the piper
  • 83. When you pay the piper, you have to accept the Perish the thought consequences of something that you have done wrong or badly. Perish the thought is an expression meaning that you really hope something will not happen.Pay through the nose Pet peeve If you pay through the nose for something, you pay a very high price for it. A pet peeve is something that irritates an individual greatly.Pay your dues Photo finish If you have paid your dues, you have had your own struggles A photo finish is when two contestants (usually in a race) and earned your place or position. finish at almost exactly the same time, making it difficult to determine the winner. (The saying stems from the practice ofPecking order taking a photograph when the winners cross the finish line to determine who was ahead at the time.) The pecking order is the order of importance or rank. Pick up the tabPeeping Tom A person who pays for everyone picks up the tab. A peeping Tom is someone who tries to look through other peoples windows without being seen in order to spy on Pick-up game people in their homes. (USA) A pick-up game is something unplanned where peoplePen is mightier than the sword respond to events as they happen. The idiom the pen is mightier than the sword means that Picture perfect words and communication are more powerful than wars and fighting. When something is exactly as it should be it is said to be picture perfect.Penny ante Pie in the sky (USA) Something that is very unimportant is penny ante. If an idea or scheme is pie in the sky, it is utterly impractical.Penny pincher Piece of cake A penny pincher is a mean person or who is very frugal. If something is a piece of cake, it is really easy.Penny wise, pound foolish Pieces of the same cake Someone who is penny wise, pound foolish can be very careful or mean with small amounts of money, yet wasteful Pieces of the same cake are things that have the same and extravagant with large sums. characteristics or qualities.People who live in glass houses should not throw stones Pig in a poke People should not criticize other people for faults that they If someone buys a pig in a poke, they buy something without have themselves. checking the condition it was in, usually finding out later that it was defective.Pep talk Pigs might fly When someone gives you a pep talk it is to build you up to help you accomplish something. In sports a coach might give If you think something will never happen or succeed, you can a player a pep talk before the game to bolster his confidence. say that pigs might fly (or pigs can fly and pigs will fly- At work the boss might give you a pep talk to get you to do a the idiom is used in many forms) better job. Pin moneyPerfidious Albion (UK) If you work for pin money, you work not because you England is known to some as perfidious Albion, implying need to but because it gives you money for extra little that it is not trustworthy in its dealings with foreigners. luxuries and treats.
  • 84. Pinch of salt If people play fast and loose, they behave in an irresponsible way and dont respect rules, etc. If what someone says should be taken with a pinch of salt, then they exaggerate and distort things, so what they say Play for keeps shouldnt be believed unquestioningly. (with a grain of salt is an alternative.) If you are playing for keeps, you take things very seriously and the outcome is very important to you; it is not a merePink pound game. (UK) In the UK, the pink pound is an idiom for the economic Play for time power of gay people. If you play for time, you delay something because becausePink slip you are not ready or need more time to thing about it. Eg. I knew I had to play for time until the police arrived. If someone receives a pink slip, they receive a letter telling them they have lost their job. Play hardballPipe dream If someone plays hardball, they are very aggressive in trying to achieve their aim. A pipe dream is an unrealistic, impractical idea or scheme. Play havocPiping hot Playing havoc with something is creating disorder and If food is piping hot, it is very hot indeed. confusion; computer viruses can play havoc with your programs.Place in the sun Play hooky If you have your place in the sun, you find wealth, happiness or whatever you are looking for in life. If people play hooky, they dont attend school when they should and dont have a valid reason for their absence.Plain as a pikestaff Play into someones hands (UK) If something is as plain as a pikestaff, it is very clear. If you play into someones hands, you do what they werePlain as the nose on your face expecting you to do and take advantage of this. If something is as plain as the nose on your face, it is very Play it by ear clear and obvious. If you play it by ear, you dont have a plan of action, butPlain Jane decide what to do as events take shape. A plain Jane is a woman who isnt particularly attractive. Play out of your skinPlain sailing If someone plays out of their skin, they give an outstanding performance. If something is relatively easy and there are no problems doing it, it is plain sailing. Play second fiddlePlan B If you play second fiddle, you take a subordinate role behind someone more important. Plan is an alternate or fall-back position or method when the initial attempt or plan goes wrong. Play the fieldPlastic smile Someone who plays the field has sexual relationships with many people. When someone is wearing a plastic smile, they are appear to be happier with a situation or events than they actually are. Play the fool This is actually a description of the forced smile you might see in many photographs. If someone plays the fool, they behave in a silly way to make people laugh. (Act the fool is and alternative form.)Play fast and loose Play with fire
  • 85. If people take foolish risks, they are playing with fire. Pork barrel politics involves investing money in an area to get political support rather than using the money for thePlaying to the gallery common good. If someone plays to the gallery, they say or do things that will Pot calling the kettle black make them popular, but which are not the right things to do. If someone hypocritically criticises a person for somethingPleased as punch that they themselves do, then it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. When someone is pleased as punch, they are very satisfied about something Pot-luckPoacher turned gamekeeper If you take pot-luck, you take whatever happens to be available at the time. Someone who gets a legitimate job which is the opposite of their previous one. E.G a computer hacker who then helps to Pound of flesh catch other hackers or an ex-bank robber who then advises banks on security. If someone wants their pound of flesh, the force someone to pay or give back something owed, even though they dontPoetry in motion need it and it will cause the other person a lot of difficulty. Something that is poetry in motion is beautiful to watch. Pour oil on troubled watersPointy-heads If someone pours oil on troubled waters, they try to calm things down. Pointy-heads are supposed intellectuals or experts, but who dont really know that much. Powder your nosePoison pill If somebody goes to powder your nose, it is a euphemism for going to the lavatory (toilet). A poison pill is a strategy designed to prevent a company from being take over. Powers that bePolish the apples The powers that be are the people who are in charge of something. (USA) Someone who polishes the apples with someone, tries to get into that persons favor. Practical jokePolishing peanuts A practical joke is a trick played on someone that is meant to be funny for people watching, though normally embarrassing To work very hard at something for little or no return. In for the person being tricked. other words, wasting time on work which will not yield reasonable value. Practise what you preachPolitically correct If you practise what you preach, you do what you say other people should do.(In American English, the verb is practice) Things or people that are politically correct use language that will not cause offence. Preaching to the choirPop the question If someone preaches to the choir, they talking about a subject or issue with which their audience already agrees. (Preaching When someone pops the question, they ask someone to marry to the converted is an alternative form.) them. Presence of mindPop your clogs If someone behaves calmly and rationally in difficult When someone pops their clogs, they die. circumstances, they show presence of mind.Pork barrel Press the flesh
  • 86. When people, especially politicians, press the flesh, they If you pull a rabbit out of a hat, you do something that no one meet members of the public and shake their hands, usually was expecting. when trying to get support. Pull in the reinsPressed for time When you pull in the reins, you slow down or stop something If you are pressed for time, you are in a hurry or working that has been a bit out of control. against a very tight schedule. Pull no punchesPrim and proper If you pull no punches, you hold nothing back. Someone who is prim and proper always behaves in the correct way and never breaks the rules of etiquette. Pull out all the stopsPrimrose path If you pull out all the stops, you do everything you possibly can to achieve the result you want. The primrose path is an easy and pleasurable lifestyle, but one that ends in unpleasantness and problems. Pull out of the firePrince charming (USA) If you pull something out of the fire, you save or rescue it. A prince charming is the perfect man in a womans life. Pull rankProblem is thirty A person of higher position or in authority pulls rank, he or If a problem is 30, the problem is the person who sits 30 cm she exercises his/her authority, generally ending any from the computer screen. It is used to describe people that discussion and ignoring other peoples views. lack technical knowledge and can be used when you insult someone whos having computer problems. Pull someones legProclaim it from the rooftops If you pull someones leg, you tease them, but not maliciously. If something is proclaimed from the rooftops, it is made as widely known and as public as possible. Pull stringsProdigal son If you pull strings, you use contacts you have got to help you get what you want. A prodigal son is a young man who wastes a lot on money on a lavish lifestyle. If the prodigal son returns, they return to a Pull the fat from the fire better way of living. If you pull the fat from the fire, you help someone in aProof of the pudding is in the eating difficult situation. This means that something can only be judged when it is Pull the other one, its got brass bells on tested or by its results. (It is often shortened to Proof of the pudding.) This idiom is way of telling somebody that you dont believe them. The word brass is optional.Pros and cons Pull the trigger Pros and cons are arguments for or against a particular issue. Pros are arguments which aim to promote the issue, while The person who pulls the trigger is the one who does the cons suggest points against it. The term has been in use since action that closes or finishes something. the 16th century and is a shortening of a Latin phrase, pro et Pull the wool over someones eyes contra, which means “for and against.” Considering the pros and cons of an issue is a very useful way to weigh the issue If you pull the wool over someones eyes, you deceive or thoughtfully and reach an informed decision. cheat them.Proud as a peacock Pull up your socks Someone who is as proud as a peacock is excessively proud. If you arent satisfied with someone and want them to do better, you can tell them to pull up their socks.Pull a rabbit out of your hat
  • 87. Pull your chain Put all your eggs in one basket (USA) If someone pulls your chain, they take advantage of If you put all your eggs in one basket, you risk everything on you in an unfair way or do something to annoy you. a single opportunity which, like eggs breaking, could go wrong.Pull your finger out! Put it on the cuff (UK) If someone tells you to do this, they want you to hurry up. (Get your finger out is also used.) If you put something on the cuff, you will take it now and pay for it later.Pull your punches Put lipstick on a pig If you pull your punches, you do not use all the power or authority at your disposal. If people put lipstick on a pig, they make superficial or cosmetic changes, hoping that it will make the product morePull your weight attractive. If someone is not pulling their weight, they arent making Put on airs enough effort, especially in group work. If someone puts on airs, they pretend to be grander and morePull yourself up by your bootstraps important than they really are. If you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you make the Put or get someones back up effort to improve things for yourself. If you put or get someones back up, you annoy them.Punching bag Put some dirt on it A punching bag (or punch bag) is a person who gets a lot of unfair criticism. This means that when you get hurt, you should rub it off or shake it off and youll be ok.Pups chance Put some mustard on it! A pups chance is no chance. (USA) I think its used to encourage someone to throw a ballPuppy love like a baseball hard or fast. Puppy love is love between two very young people. Put somebodys nose out of jointPush comes to shove If you put someones nose out of joint, you irritate them or make them angry with you. If or when push comes to shove, the situation has become some bad that you are forced to do something: If push comes Put someone on a pedestal to shove, well just have to use our savings. If you put someone on a pedestal, you admire them greatly,Push the envelope idolise them. This means to go to the limits, to do something to the Put someone out to pasture maximum possible. If someone is put out to pasture, they are forced to resign orPushing up the daisies give up some responsibilities. If someone is said to be pushing up the daisies, they are dead. Put the carriage before the horsePut a bug in your ear If you put the carriage before the horse, you try to do things in the wrong order. If you put a bug in someones ear, you give him or her a reminder or suggestion relating to a future event. Put the kybosh onPut a cork in it! To put an end to something. This is a way of telling someone to be quiet. Put the pedal to the metal
  • 88. If you put the pedal to the metal, you go faster. If someone puts their money where their mouth is, they back up their words with action.Put to the sword Put your shoulder to the wheel If someone is put to the sword, he or she is killed or executed. When you put your shoulder to the wheel, you contribute toPut two and two together an effort. If someone puts two and two together, they reach a correct Put your thumb on the scales conclusion from the evidence. If you put your thumb on the scales, you try to influence thePut up or shut up result of something in your favour. Put up or shut up means you do something you are talking Putting the cart before the horse about or not to talk about it any more. When you put the cart before the horse, you are doingPut you in mind something the wrong way round. If something suggests something to you, it puts you in mind Pyrrhic victory of that thing. A Pyrrhic victory is one that causes the victor to suffer soPut you in the picture much to achieve it that it isnt worth winning. If you put someone in the picture, you tell them the ~Q~ information they need to know about something.Put your best foot forward Quarrel with bread and butter If you ut your best foot forward, you try your best to do Bread and butter, here, indicate the means of one‟s living. something. (That is why we say „he is the bread winner of the family‟). If a sub-ordinate in an organisation is quarrelsome or if he isPut your cards on the table not patient enough to bear the reprimand he deserves, gets angry and retorts or provokes the higher-up, the top man If you put your cards on the table, you make your thoughts or dismisses him from the job. So, he loses the job that gave ideas perfectly clear. him bread and butter. Hence we say, he quarrelled with bread and butter (manager or the top man) and lost his job.Put your foot down Quart into a pint pot When someone puts their foot down, they make a firm stand and establish their authority on an issue. (UK) If you try to put or get a quart into a pint pot, you try to put too much in a small space. (1 quart = 2 pints)Put your foot in it Queen bee If you put your foot in it, you do or say something embarrassing and tactless or get yourself into trouble. The queen bee is a woman who holds the most important position in a place.Put your foot in your mouth Queen of Hearts If you put your foot in your mouth, you say something stupid or embarrassing. A woman who is pre-eminent in her area is a Queen of Hearts.Put your hand on your heart Queer fish If you can out your hand on your heart, then you can say something knowing it to be true. (UK) A strange person is a queer fish.Put your heads together Queer Street If people put their head together, they exchange ideas about If someone is in a lot of trouble, especially financial, they are something. in Queer Street.Put your money where your mouth is Queer your pitch
  • 89. If someone queers your pitch, they interfere in your affairs Rack your brain and spoil things. If you rack your brain, you think very hard when trying toQuestion of time remember something. (Rack your brains is an alternative.) If somethings a question of time, its certain to happen, Rack your brain though we dont know exactly when. If you rack your brain, you think hard, especially when tryingQueue jumping to remember something or find a solution. (Rack your brains is also used.) Someone who goes to the front of a queue instead of waiting is jumping the queue. Ragged blue lineQuick as a flash (USA) This term was used to signify the Union forces (who wore blue uniforms) in the American Civil war . If something happens quick as a flash, it happens very fast indeed. Rags to richesQuick buck Someone who starts life very poor and becomes rich goes from rags to riches. If you make some money easily, you make a quick buck. Raining cats and dogsQuick fix When it is raining cats and dogs, it is raining very heavily. A quick fix is an easy solution, especially one that will not last. Rainy dayQuick off the mark If you save something, especially money, for a rainy day, you save it for some possible problem or trouble in the future. If someone is quick off the mark, they are very quick to use, start or do something new. Raise CainQuick on the trigger (USA) If someone raises Cain, they make a big fuss publicly, causing a disturbance. Someone who is quick on the trigger acts or responds quickly. Raise eyebrowsQuids in If something raises eyebrows, it shocks or surprises people. (UK) If somebody is quids in, they stand to make a lot of money from something. Rake over old coalsQuiet as a cat (UK) If you go back to old problems and try to bring them back, making trouble for someone, you are raking over old If somebody is as quiet as a cat they make as little noise as coals. possible and try to be unnoticeable. Rake someone over the coalsQuiet as a mouse (USA) If you rake someone over the coals, you criticize or If someones as quiet as a mouse, they make absolutely no scold them severely. noise. Rank and fileQuiet before the Storm The rank and file are the ordinary members of a company, When you know that something is about to go horribly wrong, organisation, etc, excluding the managers and directors. but hasnt just yet, then you are in the quiet before the storm. Rat race~R~ The rat race is the ruthless, competitive struggle for success in work, etc.Rack and ruin Rather you than me If something or someone goes to rack and ruin, they are utterly destroyed or wrecked.
  • 90. Rather you than me is an expression used when someone has If something is a distraction from the real issues, it is a red something unpleasant or arduous to do. It is meant in a good herring. natured way of expressing both sympathy and having a bit of a laugh at their expense. Red letter dayRaw deal A red letter day is a one of good luck, when something special happens to you. If you get a raw deal, you are treated unfairly. Red light districtRead from the same page The red light district is the area of a town or city where there When people are reading from the same page, they say the is prostitution, sex shops, etc. same things in public about an issue. Red mistRead someone the riot act If someone sees red or the red mist, they lose their temper If you read someone the riot act, you give them a clear and self-control completely. warning that if they dont stop doing something, they will be in serious trouble. Red rag to a bullReal deal If something is a red rag to a bull, it is something that will inevitably make somebody angry or cross. If something is the real deal, it is genuine and good. Red tapeReal McCoy This is a negative term for the official paperwork and Something thats the real McCoy is the genuine article, not a bureaucracy that we have to deal with. fake. Reds under the bedReal plum An ironic allusion to the obsession some people have that A real plum is a good opportunity. there are reds (communists) everywhere plotting violent revolution.Real trooper Reduce to ashes A real trooper is someone who will fight for what they believe in and doesnt give up easily. If something is reduced to ashes, it is destroyed or made useless. His infidelities reduced their relationship to ashes.Rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic Reinvent the wheel (UK) If people are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, they are making small changes that will have no effect as the If someone reinvents the wheel, they waste their time doing project, company, etc, is in very serious trouble. something that has already been done by other people, when they could be doing something more worthwhile.Recharge your batteries Renaissance man If you recharge your batteries, you do something to regain your energy after working hard for a long time. A Renaissance man is a person who is talented in a number of different areas, especially when their talents include bothRecipe for disaster the sciences and the arts. A recipe for disaster is a mixture of people and events that Rest is gravy could only possibly result in trouble. (USA) If the rest is gravy, it is easy and straightforward onceRed carpet you have reached that stage. If you give someone the red-carpet treatment, you give them Rest on your laurels a special welcome to show that you think they are important. You can roll out the red carpet, too. If someone rests on their laurels, they rely on their past achievements, rather than trying to achieve things now.Red herring Revenge is sweet
  • 91. When you are happy to be proved right, then you know that If something rings a bell, it reminds you of something you revenge is sweet. have heard before, though you may not be able to remember it very well. A name may ring a bell, so you know you haveRewrite history heard the name before, but cannot place it properly. If you rewrite history, you change your version of past events Ringside seat so as to make yourself look better than you would if the truth was told. If you have a ringside seat, you can observe something from a very close and clear position.Rhyme or reason Rip van Winkle If something is without rhyme or reason, it is unreasonable. (Beyond rhyme or reason is an alternative.) Rip van Winkle is a character in a story who slept for twenty years, so if someone is a Rip van Winkle, they are behind theRice missionary times and out of touch with whats happening now. A rice missionary gives food to hungry people as a way of Rise and shine converting them to Christianity. If you wake up full of energy, you rise and shine.Rich as Croesus Rise from the ashes Someone who is as rich as Croesus is very wealthy indeed. If something rises from the ashes, it recovers after a seriousRich mans family failure. A rich mans family consists of one son and one daughter. Road to DamascusRide roughshod If someone has a great and sudden change in their ideas or beliefs, then this is a road to Damascus change, after the If someone rides roughshod over other people, they impose conversion of Saint Paul to Christianity while heading to their will without caring at all for other peoples feelings. Damascus to persecute Christians.Ride with the tide Rob Peter to pay Paul If you ride with the tide, you accept the majority decision. If you rob Peter to pay Paul, you try to solve one problem, but create another in doing so, often through short-termRight as rain planning. If things are right as rain, then everything is going well in Rock the boat your life. If you rock the boat, you destabilise a situation by makingRight out of the blocks trouble. It is often used as advice; Dont rock the boat. This means immediately; at the very beginning. It describes Rocket science a sprinter blasting out of the starting blocks at the beginning of a short distance race (e.g., 100-yard dash, 50-yard dash). If something is not rocket science, it is not very complicated or difficult to understand. This idiom is normally used in theRight royal negative. (UK) A right royal night out would be an extremely exciting, Roll out the red carpet memorable and fun one. If you roll out the red carpet, you treat someone in a specialRight up my alley way, especially when welcoming them. If something is right up your alley, it suits you perfectly. Roll with the punchesRight up your street If you roll with the punches, you are flexible and able to If something is ideal for you, it is right up your street. adapt to difficult circumstances.Ring a bell Roll your eyes
  • 92. If you roll your eyes, you show with your eyes that you dont If something, especially something made from wood or stone, believe someone or arent interested in what theyre saying. is rough-hewn, it is unfinished or unpolished.Rolling in the aisles Round the bend If the audience watching something are laughing loudly, the If someone has gone round the bend, they have stopped being show has them rolling in the aisles. rational about something. If something drives you round the bend, it irritates you or makes you angry.Rome was not built in a day Round the houses This idiom means that many things cannot be done instantly, and require time and patience. If you go round the houses, you do something in an inefficient way when there is a quicker, more convenient way.Root hog or die poor Rub shoulders (USA) Its a expression used in the Southern USA that means that you must look out for yourself as no ones going to do it If you rub shoulders with people, you meet and spend time for you. (It can be shortened to root hog. A hog is a pig.) with them, especially when they are powerful or famous.Rooted to the spot Rub someone up the wrong way If someone is rooted to the spot, they canot move, either If you annoy or irritate someone when you didnt mean to, physically or they cannot think their way out of a problem. you rub them up the wrong way.Rose-colored glasses Rudderless ship If people see things through rose-colored (coloured) glasses, If an organisation, company, government, etc, is like a they see them in a more positive light than they really are. rudderless ship, it has no clear direction and drifts about without reaching its goals.Rose-tinted glasses Ruffle a few feathers If people see things through rose-tinted glasses, they see them in a more positive light than they really are. If you ruffle a few feathers, you annoy some people when making changes or improvements.Rough and ready Rule of thumb If something is rough and ready, it has not been carefully prepared, but is fit for its purpose. If a person is rough and Rule of thumb means approximately. ready, they are not very refined or mannered. Rule the roostRough around the edges If someone rules the roost they are the boss. Example:Theres If someone is rough around the edges, they havent mastered no doubt who rules the roost in this house. something, though they show promise. Run a mileRough diamond If someone "Runs a mile", they do everything they can to A rough diamond is a person who might be a bit rude but avoid a situation. Example: "I was worried that hed take one who is good underneath it all. look at me and run a mile."Rough edges Run amok If something has rough edges, it is still not a finished product When things or people are running amok, they are wild and and not all of a uniform standard. out of control.(Run amuck is also used.)Rough end of the stick Run around the bush To get the rough end of the stick is to be treated unfairly or to (USA) If you run around the bush, it means that youre taking come off worse than the other party in a transaction, situation a long time to get to the point. or relationship. Run before you can walkRough-hewn
  • 93. If someone tries to run before they can walk, they try to do Running on fumes something requiring a high level of knowledge before they have learned the basics. If someone has used all their energy on something, but must continue, they are running on fumes. It is an expression usedRun circles around someone when driving a car when the needle is on empty but still running. We say it is running on fumes. If you can run circles around someone, you are smarter and intellectually quicker than they are. Runs in the familyRun into the sand If a characteristic runs in the family, it can clearly be seen members of different generations. A hereditary illness that is If something runs into the sand, it fails to achieve a result. passed from one generation to the next also runs in the family.Run off your feet Russian roulette If you are run off your feet, you are extremely busy and dont If people take a dangerous and unnecessary risk, they are have enough time to do everything. playing Russian roulette.Run out of gas Rusty needle If a campaign, project, etc, runs out of gas, it loses energy When something is described as a rusty needle, it is badly and momentum, and progress slows or halts. damaged but still works, or if someone very is sick or tired but still manages to do things at a fairly good level. AnRun rings around someone alternative form is "a tarnished needle". If you run rings around someone, you are so much better than them that they have no chance of keeping up with you. ~S~Run something into the ground Sacred cow If people run something into the ground, they treat or manage Something that is a sacred cow is held in such respect that it it so badly that they ruin it. cannot be criticised or attacked.Run the gauntlet Safe and sound If somebody is being criticised harshly by a lot of people, If you arrive safe and sound, then nothing has harmed you on they are said to run the gauntlet. your way.Run the show Safe bet If someone runs the show, they like to be in control and make A proposition that is a safe bet doesnt have any risks all the decisions. attached.Run to ground Safe pair of hands If you run someone or something to ground, you pursue until A person who can be trusted to do something without causing you capture or find them or it. any trouble is a safe pair of hands.Run your mouth off Safety in numbers If someone runs their mouth off, they talk too much. If a lot of people do something risky at the same time, the risk is reduced because there is safety in numbers.Run-of-the-mill Saigon moment If something is run-of-the-mill, there is nothing exceptional about it- it is ordinary or average. (USA) A Saigon moment is when people realise that something has gone wrong and that they will lose or fail.Running on empty Sail close to the wind If you are exhausted but keep going, you are running on empty. If you sail close to the wind, you take risks to do something, going close to the limit of what is allowed or acceptable.
  • 94. Sail under false colours People say this when pouring a drink as a way of telling you to tell them when theres enough in your glass. Someone who sails under false colours (colors) is hypocritical or pretends to be something they arent in order Say-so to deceive people. If you do something on someone elses say-so, you do it onSalad days the authority, advice or recommendation. Your salad days are an especially happy period of your life. Scales fall from your eyesSalt in a wound When the scales fall from your eyes, you suddenly realise the truth about something. If you rub salt in a wound, you make someone feel bad about something that is already a painful experience. Pour salt on a Scare the daylights out of someone wound is an alternative form of the idiom. If you scare the daylights out of someone, you terrify them.Salt of the earth (This can be made even stronger by saying the living daylights.) People who are salt of the earth are decent, dependable and unpretentious. Scarlet womanSalty dog This idiom is used as a pejorative term for a sexually promiscuous woman, especially an adulteress. A salty dog is an experienced sailor. Scattered to the four windsSame old, same old If somethings scattered to the four winds, it goes out in all When nothing changes, its the same old, same old. directions.Save face Scent blood If someone saves face, they manage to protect their If you can scent blood, you feel that a rival is having reputation. difficulties and you are going to beat them.Save someones bacon Schoolyard pick If something saves your bacon, it saves your life or rescues When people take it in turns to choose a member of a team, it you from a desperate situation. People can also save your is a schoolyard pick. bacon. Scot freeSave your skin If someone escapes scot free, they avoid payment or If someone saves their skin, they manage to avoid getting punishment. Scot is an old word for a tax, so it originally into serious trouble. referred to avoiding taxes, though now has a wider sense of not being punished for someone that you have done.Saved by the bell Scraping the barrel If you are saved by the bell, you are rescued from a danger or a tricky situation just in time. When all the best people, things or ideas and so on are used up and people try to make do with what they have left, theySaving grace are scraping the barrel. If someone has some character defects, but has a Scream blue murder characteristic that compensate for their failings and shortcomings, this is their saving grace. If someone shouts very loudly in anger, or fear, they scream blue murder.Say uncle Screw loose (USA) If you say uncle, you admit defeat. (Cry uncle is an alternative form.) If someone has a screw loose, they are crazy.Say when Screwed if you do, screwed if you dont
  • 95. This means that no matter what you decide or do in a Seeing is believing situation, there will be negative consequences. This idiom means that people can only really believe whatSea legs they experience personally. If you are getting your sea legs, it takes you a while to get Seen better days used to something new. If somethings seen better days, it has aged badly and visiblySeamy side compared to when it was new. The phrase can also be used to describe people. The seamy side of something is the unpleasant or sordid aspect it has. Sell down the riverSearching question If you sell someone down the river, you betray their trust. A searching question goes straight to the heart of the subject Sell like hot cakes matter, possibly requiring an answer with a degree of honesty that the other person finds uncomfortable. If a product is selling very well, it is selling like hot cakes.Second thoughts Sell like hotcakes If some has second thoughts, they start to think that an idea, If something is selling like hotcakes, it is very popular and etc, is not as good as it sounded at first and are starting to selling very well. have doubts. Sell your birthright for a mess of pottageSecond wind If a person sells their birthright for a mess of pottage, they If you overcome tiredness and find new energy and accept some trivial financial or other gain, but lose something enthusiasm, you have second wind. much more important. Sell your soul for a mess of pottage is an alternative form.See eye to eye Sell your soul If people see eye to eye, they agree about everything. If someone sells their soul, their betray the most preciousSee red beliefs. If someone sees red, they become very angry about Send someone packing something. If you send someone packing, you send them away, normallySee the light when they want something from you. When someone sees the light, they realise the truth. Send someone to CoventrySee you anon (UK) If you send someone to Coventry, you refuse to talk to them or co-operate with them. (UK) If somebody says this when leaving, they expect to see you again soon. Separate the sheep from the goatsSee you later If you separate the sheep from the goats, you sort out the good from the bad. A casual way of saying to friends Ill see you again, sometime, (without a definite date or time having been set) - Separate the wheat from the chaff this is often abbreviated to Later or Laters as an alternative way of saying goodbye. When you separate the wheat from the chaff, you select what is useful or valuable and reject what is useless or worthless.See you on the big drum Serve time A good night phrase to children. When someone is serving time, they are in prison.Seed money Set in stone Seed money is money that is used to start a small business.
  • 96. If something is set in stone, it cannot be changed or altered. If you shed light on something, you make it clearer and easier to understand.Set the wheels in motion Shifting sands When you set the wheels in motion, you get something started. If the sands are shifting, circumstances are changing.Set your sights on Shilly-shally If you set your sights on someone or something, it is your If people shilly-shally, they cant make up their minds about ambition to beat them or to achieve that goal. something and put off the decision.Seven sheets to the wind Ship came in If someone is seven sheets to the wind, they are very drunk. If your ship has come in, something very good has happened to you.Seventh heaven Shipshape and Bristol fashion If you are in seventh heaven, you are extremely happy. If things are shipshape and Bristol fashion, they are in perfectShades of meaning working order. Shades of meaning is a phrase used to describe the small, Shoe is on the other foot subtle differences in meaning between similar words or phrases; kid and youth both refer to young people, but carry If the shoe is on the other foot, someone is experiencing what differing views and ideas about young people. they used to make others experience, normally negative things.Shaggy dog story Shoestring A shaggy dog story is a joke which is a long story with a silly end. If you do something on a shoestring, you try to spend the absolute minimum amount of money possible on it.Shake a leg Shoot down in flames If you shake a leg, you are out of bed and active. It can be used to tell someone to hurry up. If someone demolishes your argument, it (and you) have been shot down in flames.Shankss pony Shoot from the hip (UK) If you go somewhere by Shankss pony, you walk there. Someone who shoots from the hip talks very directly orShape up or ship out insensitively without thinking beforehand. If someone has to shape up or ship out, they have to improve Shoot the breeze or leave their job, organisation, etc. When you shoot the breeze, you chat in a relaxed way.Sharp as a tack Shoot your wad (USA) If someone is as sharp as a tack, they are very clever indeed. When you have shot your wad, you have expended everything and have no more to say or do about a matter.Sharp cookie Shoot yourself in the foot Someone who isnt easily deceived or fooled is a sharp cookie. If you shoot yourself in the foot, you do something that damages your ambition, career, etc.Sharpen your pencil Shooting fish in a barrel (USA) If someone says this when negotiating, they want the other person to make a better offer, a lower price. If something is like shooting fish in a barrel, it is so easy that success is guaranteed.Shed light
  • 97. Shop floor Shrinking violet Shop floor refers to the part of an organisation where the A shrinking violet is a shy person who doesnt express their work is actually performed rather than just managed. views and opinions.Short end of the stick Sick and tired If someone gets the short end of the stick, they are unfairly If you are sick and tired of something, it has been going on treated or dont get what they deserve. for a long time and you can no longer tolerate it.Short horse soon curried Sick as a dog A convenient and superficial explanation that is normally If somebodys as sick as a dog, they throw up (=vomit) unconvincing is a short horse soon curried. violently.Short shrift Sick as a parrot If somebody gives you short shrift, they treat you rudely and If someones sick as a parrot about something, they are brusquely, showing no interest or sympathy. unhappy, disappointed or depressed about it.Short-change Sick to death If you are short-changed, someone cheats you of money or If you are sick to death of something, you have been exposed doesnt give you full value for something. to so much of it that you cannot take any more.Shot across the bow Sight for sore eyes A shot across the bow is a warning to tell someone to stop Someone or something that is a sight for sore eyes is a doing something or face very serious consequences. pleasure to see.Shot in the dark Sight to behold If you have a shot in the dark at something, you try If something is a sight to behold, it means that seeing it is in something where you have little hope of success. some way special, either spectacularly beautiful or, equally, incredibly ugly or revolting, etc.Shotgun marriage Signed, sealed and delivered A shotgun marriage, or shotgun wedding, is one that is forced because of pregnancy. It is also used idiomatically for a If somethings signed, sealed and delivered, it has been done compromise, agreement or arrangement that is forced upon correctly, following all the necessary procedures. groups or people by necessity. Silence is goldenShow me the money It is often better to say nothing than to talk, so silence is When people say this, they either want to know how much golden. they will be paid for something or want to see evidence that something is valuable or worth paying for. Silly seasonShow someone a clean pair of heels The silly season is midsummer when Parliament is closed and nothing much is happening that is newsworthy, which If you show someone a clean pair of heels, you run faster reduces the press to reporting trivial and stupid stories. than them when they are chasing you. Silver bulletShow someone the ropes A silver bullet is a complete solution to a large problem, a If you show someone the ropes, you explain to someone new solution that seems magical. how things work and how to do a job. Silver screenShow your true colors The silver screen is the cinema. To show your true colors is to reveal yourself as you really are. Silver surfer
  • 98. A silver surfer is an elderly person who uses the internet. Skate on thin iceSince time immemorial If someone is skating on thin ice, they are taking a big risk. If something has happened since time immemorial, its been Skeleton in the closet going on for such a long time that nobody can remember a time without it. If someone has a skeleton in the closet, they have a dark, shameful secret in their past that they want to remain secret.Sing for your supper Skin and bones If you have to sing for your supper, you have to work to get the pay or reward you need or want. If someone is skin and bones, they are very underweight and look bad.Sing from the same hymn sheet Skin in the game If people are singing from the same hymn sheet, they are expressing the same opinions in public. A person who has skin in the game has invested in the company they are running.Sing like a canary Skin someone alive If someone sings like a canary, they tell everything they know about a crime or wrongdoing to the police or If someone skins you alive, they admonish and punish you authorities. hard.Sink or swim Skunkworks Of you are left to sink or swim, no one gives you any help An unauthorised, or hidden program or activity, often and its up to you whether you fail or succeed. research-oriented, and out of the bureaucratic chain of command is known as a skunkworks.Sit on the fence Sky is the limit If someone sits on the fence, they try not to support either side in a dispute. When people say that the sky is the limit, they think that there are no limits to the possibilities something could have.Sit pretty Slap on the wrist Someone whos sitting pretty is in a very advantageous situation. If someone gets a slap on the wrist, they get a very minor punishment when they could have been punished moreSitting duck severely. A sitting duck is something or someone that is easy to Sleep like a baby criticise or target. If you sleep very well, you sleep like a baby.Six feet under Sleep like a log If someone is six feet under, they are dead. If you sleep like a log, you sleep very soundly.Six of one and half-a-dozen of the other Sleep well- dont let the bedbugs bite This is an idiom used when there is little or no difference between two options. This is a way of wishing someone a good nights sleep.Sixes and sevens Sleight of hand If something is all at sixes and sevens, then there is a lot of Sleight of hand is the ability to use your hands in a clever disagreement and confusion about what should be done. way, like a magician performing tricks you cant see.Sixty-four-thousand-dollar-question Slim chance The sixty-four-thousand-dollar-question is the most A slim chance is a very small chance. important question that can be asked about something.
  • 99. Slip of the tongue If something is small beer, its unimportant. If you say something accidentally, it is a slip of the tongue. Small dog, tall weedsSlip through ones fingers This idiom is used to describe someone the speaker does not believe has the ability or resources to handle a task or job. If something slips through one‟s fingers it escapes or is lost through carelessness. Small frySlippery customer If someone is small fry, they are unimportant. The term is often used when the police arrest the less important criminals, A person from whom it is difficult to get anything definite or but are unable to catch the leaders and masterminds. fixed is a slippery customer. Small-timeSlippery slope If a person or a thing is called small-time it means theyre A slippery slope is where a measure would lead to further inconsequential, not worth much, dont play in the big worse measures. leagues, as in a small-time operator.Slough of despond Smart Alec If someone is very depressed or in despair, theyre in a slough A smart Alec is a conceited person who likes to show off of despond. how clever and knowledgeable they are.Slow and steady wins the race Smart as a whip This expression means that consistency, although progress A person who is smart as a whip is very clever. may be slow, will eventually be more beneficial than being hasty or careless just to get something done. Smarty pantsSlow boat to China A smarty pants is someone who displays the intelligence in an annoying way. This idiom is used to describe something that is very slow and takes a long time. Smell a ratSlow but sure If you smell a rat, you know instinctively that something is wrong or that someone is lying to you. If something or someone is slow but sure, they may take their time to do something, but they are reliable. Smoke and mirrorsSlower than molasses going uphill in January An attempt to conceal something is smoke and mirrors. (USA) To move extremely slowly. Molasses drips slowly Smoke like a chimney anyway but add January cold and gravity, dripping uphill would be an impossibility, thereby making the molasses Someone who smokes very heavily smokes like a chimney. move very slowly indeed! Smoke the peace pipeSlowly, slowly catchy monkey If people smoke the peace pipe, they stop arguing and This means that eventually you will achieve your goal. fighting.Sly as a fox Smokestack industry Someone who is as sly as a fox is cunning and experienced Heavy industries like iron and steel production, especially if and can get what they want, often in an underhand way. they produce a lot of pollution, are smokestack industries.Smack in the face Smoking gun If something is a smack in the face, it is a shock, usually one A smoking gun is definitive proof of someones guilt. that impedes progress. Smooth as a babys bottomSmall beer
  • 100. If something is smooth as a babys bottom, it has a regular, If something or someone is as sound as a bell, they are very flat surface. healthy or in very good condition.Smooth sailing Sound as a pound If something is smooth sailing, then you can progress without (UK) if something is as sound as a pound, it is very good or difficulty. (Plain sailing is an also used.) reliable.Snake in the grass Sour grapes Someone who is a snake in the grass betrays you even though When someone says something critical or negative because you have trusted them. they are jealous, it is a case of sour grapes.Snake oil Sow the seeds Advice or medicine which is of no use. When people sow the seeds, they start something that will have a much greater impact in the future.Snake oil salesperson Sow your wild oats A person who promotes something that doesnt work, is selling snake oil. If a young man sows his wild oats, he has a period of his life when he does a lot of exciting things and has a lot of sexualSnow job relationships. for e.g. Hed spent his twenties sowing his wild oats but felt that it was time to settle down. (USA) A snow job is an attempt to persuade or deceive someone, especially when flattery is used. Spanish practicesSnug as a bug in a rug Unauthorized working methods that benefit those who follow them are Spanish practices. If youre as snug as a bug in a rug, you are feeling very comfortable indeed. Spanner in the worksSo it goes (UK) If someone puts or throws a spanner in the works, they ruin a plan. In American English, wrench is used instead of This idiom is used to be fatalistic and accepting when spanner. something goes wrong. Spare the rod and spoil the childSo on and so forth This means that if you dont discipline children, they will And so on and so forth mean the same as etcetera (etc.). become spoilt.Sods law Speak of the devil! Sods law states that if something can go wrong then it will. If you are talking about someone and they happen to walk in, you can use this idiom as a way of letting them know youSoft soap someone were talking about them. If you soft soap someone, you flatter them. Speak to the organ grinder not the monkeySome other time Talk to the boss not the subordinate If somebody says theyll do something some other time, they Speak volumes mean at some indefinite time in the future, possibly never, but they certainly dont want to feel obliged to fix a specific If something speaks volumes, it tells us a lot about the real time or date. nature of something or someone,even though it may only be a small detail.Something nasty in the woodshed Speak with a forked tongue Something nasty in the woodshed means that someone as a dark secret or an unpleasant experience in their past. To say one thing and mean another, to lie, to be two-facedSound as a bell Spend a penny
  • 101. (UK) This is a euphemistic idiom meaning to go to the toilet. If people split the blanket, it means they get a divorce or end their relationship.Spend like a sailor Spoil the ship for a hapworth of tar Someone who spends their money wildly spends like a sailor. (UK) If someone spoils the ship for a hapworth (halfpennysSpick and span worth) of tar, they spoil something completely by trying to make a small economy. If a room is spick and span, it is very clean and tidy. Spot onSpill the beans If something is spot on, it is exactly right. If you spill the beans, you reveal a secret or confess to something. Sprat to catch a mackerelSpin a yarn If you use a sprat to catch a mackerel, you make a small expenditure or take a small risk in the hope of a much greater If someone spins a yarn, they tell a story, usually a long or gain. fanciful one. Spur of the momentSpinning a line If you do something on the spur of the moment, you do it When someone spins you a line, they are trying to deceive because you felt like it at that time, without any planning or you by lying. preparation.Spinning a yarn Sputnik moment When someone spins you a yarn, they are trying to deceive A Sputnik moment is a point where people realise that they you by lying. are threatened of challenged and have to redouble their efforts to catch up. It comes from the time when the SovietSpirit is willing, but the flesh is weak Union launched the first satellite, the Sputnik 1, and beat the If the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, someone lacks the USA into space. willpower to change things they do because they derive too Square meal much pleasure from them. A square meal is a substantial or filling meal.Spirit of the law Square Mile The spirit of the law is the idea or ideas that the people who made the law wanted to have effect. (UK) The Square Mile is the City, the financial area of London.Spit blood Square peg in a round hole If someone is spitting blood, they are absolutely furious. If somebodys in a situation, organisation, etc, where theySpit the dummy dont fit in and feel out of place, they are a square peg in a Reference to an infant spitting out their dummy (or pacifier) round hole. in order to cry. To spit the dummy is to give up. Squared awaySpitting image Being prepared or ready for business or tasks at hand. Having If a person is the spitting image of somebody, they look the proper knowledge, skill and equipment to handle your exactly alike.(Spit and image is also used.) assignment or station. He is a great addition to the squad; he is squared away.Split hairs Squeaky clean If people split hairs, they concentrate on tiny and unimportant details to find fault with something. If something is squeaky clean, it is very clean indeed- spotless. If a person is squeaky clean, they have no criminalSplit the blanket record and are not suspected of illegal or immoral activities. Squeaky wheel gets the grease
  • 102. (USA) When people say that the squeaky wheel gets the If you steer clear of something, you avoid it. grease, they mean that the person who complains or protests the loudest attracts attention and service. Stem the tideSqueeze blood out of a turnip If people try to stem the tide, they are trying to stop something unpleasant from getting worse, usually when they (USA) When people say that you cant squeeze blood out of a dont succeed. turnip, it means that you cannot get something from a person, especially money, that they dont have. Step on itStalking horse This idiom is a way of telling someone to hurry up or to go faster. A stalking horse is a strategy or something used to conceal your intentions. It is often used where someone put Step on someones toes themselves forwards as a candidate to divide opponents or to hide the real candidate. If you step on someones toes, you upset them, especially if you do something that they should be in charge of.Stand in good stead Step up to the plate If something will stand you in good stead, it will probably be advantageous in the future. If someone steps up to the plate, they take on or accept a challenge or a responsibility.Stars and stripes Stew in your own juices The stars and stripes is the American flag. If you leave someone to stew in their own juices, you leaveStars in your eyes them to worry about the consequences of what they have done wrong or badly. Someone who dreams of being famous has stars in their eyes. Stick out like a sore thumbStart from scratch If something sticks or stands out like a sore thumb, it is When you start something from scratch, you start at the very clearly and obviously different from the things that are beginning. around it.State of the art Stick to your guns If something is state of the art, it is the most up-to-date model If you stick to your guns, you keep your position even though incorporating the latest and best technology. people attack or criticise you.Status quo Stick your neck out Someone who wants to preserve the status quo wants a If you stick you neck out, you take a risk because you believe particular situation to remain unchanged. in something.Steal a march Stick-in-the-mud This expression indicates the stealthiness of a person over A stick-in-the-mud is someone who doesnt like change and another to gain advantage of the situation. For instance, if wants things to stay the same. two persons are offered some jobs which are vacant, they resolve to go together next day at an agreed time, but one of Stick-in-the-mud them, without telling the other, goes earlier than the other and secures the better of the two jobs, he is said to steal a march A stick-in-the-mud is a person who is old-fashioned, does not on the other person. want to change the way they do things or innovate.Steal someones thunder Sticking point If someone steals your thunder, they take the credit and A sticking point is a controversial issue that blocks progress praise for something you did. in negotiations, etc, where compromise is unlikely or impossible.Steer clear of Sticky end
  • 103. (UK) If someone comes to a sticky end, they die in an If someone exaggerates a problem or makes a small problem unpleasant way. (Meet a sticky end is also used.) seem far greater than it really is, then they are making a storm in a teacup.Sticky fingers Straight face The tendency to keep (or steal) an object you touch. Also, to steal something quickly without anyone noticing. (ex: You If someone keeps a straight face, they remain serious and do stole that guys wallet? You have some sticky fingers, my not show emotion or amusement. friend.) Straight from the shoulderSticky wicket If someone talks straight from the shoulder, they talk (UK) If you are on a sticky wicket, you are in a difficult honestly and plainly. situation. Strain every nerveStiff upper lip If you strain every nerve, you make a great effort to achieve (UK) If you keep your emotions to yourself and dont let something. others know how you feel when something bad happens, you keep a stiff upper lip. Strange at the best of timesStiff-necked To describe someone or something as really weird or unpleasant in a mild way. A stiff-necked person is rather formal and finds it hard to relax in company. Straw manStill in the game A straw man is a weak argument that is easily defeated. It can also be a person who is used as to give an illegal or If someone is still in the game, they may be having troubles inappropriate activity an appearance of respectability. competing, but they are not yet finished and may come back. Straw pollStill waters run deep A straw poll is a small unofficial survey or ballot to find out People use this idiom to imply that people who are quiet and what people think about an issue. dont try to attract attention are often more interesting than people who do try to get attention. Straw that broke the camels backStitch in time saves nine The straw that broke the camels back is the problem that made you lose your temper or the problem that finally A stitch in time saves nine means that if a job needs doing it brought about the collapse of something. is better to do it now, because it will only get worse, like a hole in clothes that requires stitching. Streets aheadStone dead If people are streets ahead of their rivals, they are a long way in front. This idiom is a way of emphasizing that there were absolutely no signs of life or movement. Strike a chordStone deaf If strikes a chord, it is familiar to you, reminds you of something or is connected to you somehow. Someone who is stone deaf is completely deaf. Strike while the iron is hotStones throw If you strike while the iron is hot you do something when If a place is a stones throw from where you are, it is a very things are going well for you and you have a good chance to short distance away. succeed.Stool pigeon Stroll down memory lane (USA) A stool pigeon is a police informer. If you take a stroll down memory lane, you talk about the past or revisit places that were important to you in the past.Storm in a teacup (You can also take a trip down memory lane.)
  • 104. Strong as an ox Sweep things under the carpet Someone whos exceedingly strong physically is said to be as If people try to ignore unpleasant things and forget about strong as an ox. them, they sweep them under the carpet.Stubborn as a mule Sweet as a gumdrop Someone who will not listen to other peoples advice and This means that something or someone is very nice or pretty. wont change their way of doing things is as stubborn as a mule. Sweet toothStuffed to the gills If you have a sweet tooth, you like eating food with sugar in it. If someone is stuffed to the gills, they have eaten a lot and are very full. Swim against the tideSucceed in the clutch If you swim against the tide, you try to do something that is very difficult because there is a lot of opposition to you. (Go If you succeed in the clutch, you perform at a crucial time; it against the tide is an alternative form.) is particularly used in sports for the decisive moments of the game. The opposite is fail in the clutch. Swim with the fishesSunday driver If someone is swimming with the fishes, they are dead, especially if they have been murdered. Sleep with the fishes A Sunday driver drives very slowly and makes unexpected is an alternative form. manoeuvres. Swim with the tideSure as eggs is eggs If you swim with the tide, you do the same as people around These means absolutely certain, and we do say is even you and accept the general consensus. (Go with the tide is an though it is grammatically wrong. alternative form.)Sure-fire Swimmingly If something is sure-fire, it is certain to succeed. (Surefire is If things are going swimmingly, they are going very well. also used.) Swing the leadSwansong If you swing the lead, you pretend to be ill or do not do your A persons swansong is their final achievement or public share of the work. appearance. Swings and roundaboutsSwear like a sailor If somethings swings and roundabouts, it has about as many Someone who is foul-mouthed and uses bad language all the disadvantages as it has advantages. time, swears like a sailor. ~T~Swear like a trooper Tables are turned Someone who is foul-mouthed and uses bad language all the time, swears like a trooper. When the tables are turned, the situation has changed giving the advantage to the party who had previously been at aSweat blood disadvantage. If you sweat blood, you make an extraordinary effort to Tackle an issue achieve something. If you tackle an issue or problem, you resolve or deal with it.Sweep off your feet Take a hike If you are swept off your feet, you lose control emotionally when you fall in love or are really impressed. This is a way of telling someone to get out.
  • 105. Take a leaf out of someones book If someone is taken to the woodshed, they are punished for something they have done. If you take a leaf out of someones book, you copy something they do because it will help you. Take the biscuitTake a punch (UK) If something takes the biscuit, it is the absolute limit. If somebody takes a blow, something bad happens to them. Take the bull by its hornsTake a raincheck Taking a bull by its horns would be the most direct but also the most dangerous way to try to compete with such an If you take a rain check, you decline an offer now, suggesting animal. When we use the phrase in everyday talk, we mean you will accept it later. (Raincheck is also used.) that the person we are talking about tackles their problems directly and is not worried about any risks involved.Take a straw poll Take the chair If you take a straw poll, you sound a number of people out to see their opinions on an issue or topic. If you take the chair, your become the chairman or chairwoman of a committee, etc.Take by the scruff of the neck Take the fall If you take something by the scruff on the neck, you take complete control of it. If you tall the fall, you accept the blame and possibly the punishment for anothers wrongdoing, with the implicationTake for a test drive that the true culprit, for political or other reasons, cannot be exposed as guilty (accompanied by a public suspicion that a If you take something for a test driver, you try something to reward of some sort may follow). see if you like it. Take the floorTake for granted Start talking or giving a speech to a group If you take something for granted, you dont worry or think about it because you assume you will always have it. If you Take the plunge take someone for granted, you dont show your appreciation to them. If you take the plunge, you decide to do something or commit yourself even though you know there is an element of riskTake forty winks involved. If you take 40 winks, you have a short sleep. Take the rough with the smoothTake it on the chin People say that you have to take the rough with the smooth, meaning that you have to be prepared to accept the If you take something on the chin, something bad happens to disadvantages as well of the advantages of something. you and you take it directly without fuss. Take to your heelsTake no prisoners If you take to your heels, you run away. If people take no prisoners, they do things in a very aggressive way, without considering any harm they might do Take up the torch to achieve their objectives. If you take up the torch, you take on a challenge orTake someone down a peg responsibility, usually when someone else retires, or leaves an organisation, etc. If someone is taken down a peg (or taken down a peg or two), they lose status in the eyes of others because of something Take your breath away they have done wrong or badly. If something takes your breath away, it astonishes orTake someone for a ride surprises you. If you are taken for a ride, you are deceived by someone. Take your eye off the ballTake someone to the woodshed
  • 106. If someone takes their eye off the ball, they dont concentrate A person who is excessively or extremely talkative can talk on something important that they should be looking at. the hind legs off a donkey.Take your hat off to somebody Talk turkey If you take your hat off to someone, you acknowledge that When people talk turkey, they discuss something frankly. they have done something exceptional or otherwise deserve your respect. Talking to a brick wallTaken as read If you talk to someone and they do not listen to you, it is like talking to a brick wall. If something can be taken as read, it is so definite that its not necessary to talk about it. Tall drink of waterTale of the tape Someone who is very tall and slender is a tall drink of water. (A tall glass of water is also used.) This idiom is used when comparing things, especially in sports; it comes from boxing where the fighters would be Tall order measured with a tape measure before a fight. Something that is likely to be hard to achieve or fulfil is a tallTalk a blue streak order. (USA) If someone talks a blue streak, they speak quickly and Tall story at length. (Talk up a blue streak is also used.) A tall story is one that is untrue and unbelievable.Talk a glass eye to sleep Tally ho! Someone who could talk a glass eye to sleep is very boring and repetitive. (UK) This is an exclamation used for encouragement before doing something difficult or dangerous.Talk is cheap Tar baby Its easy to talk about something but harder to actually do it. A tar baby is a problem that gets worse when people try toTalk nineteen to the dozen sort it out. If someone talks very quickly, they talk nineteen to the dozen. Taste bloodTalk of the town If someone has tasted blood, they have achieved something and are encouraged to think that victory is within their grasp. When everybody is talking about particular people and events, they are he talk of the town. Taste of your own medicineTalk out of the back of your head If you give someone a taste of their own medicine, you do something bad to someone that they have done to you to If someone is talking out of the back of their head, they are teach them a lesson. talking rubbish. Teach your grandmother to suck eggsTalk out of your hat When people say dont teach your grandmother to suck eggs, If someone is talking out of their hat, theyre talking utter they mean that people shouldnt try to teach someone who rubbish, especially if compounded with total ignorance of the has experience or is an expert in that area. subject on which they are pontificating. (Talk through your hat is also used.) Teachers petTalk shop The teachers favorite pupil is the teachers pet, especially if disliked by the other pupils. If you talk shop, you talk about work matters, especially if you do this outside work. Tear your hair outTalk the hind legs off a donkey If someone is tearing their hair out, they are extremely worried or agitated about something.
  • 107. Tears before bedtime The phrase The be all and end all means that a something is the final, or ultimate outcome or result of a situation or event. (UK) This idiom is used when something seems certain to go wrong or cause trouble. The bigger they are, the harder they fallTeeny-weeny This idiom means that the more powerful have more to lose, so when they suffer something bad, it is worse for them. If something is teensy-weensy, it is very small indeed.(Teeny-weeny and teensie-weensie are also used.) The common wealTeething problems If something is done for the common weal, it is done in the interests and for the benefit of the majority or the general (UK) The problems that a project has when it is starting are public. the teething problems. The grass is always greenerTell them where the dog died This idiom means that what other people have or do looks (USA) If you tell them where the dog died, you strongly and preferable to our life. The complete phrase is The grass is sharply correct someone. always greener on the other side of the fence.Tempest in a teapot The line forms on the right If people exaggerate the seriousness of a situation or problem, Somethings meaning is becoming clear when the line forms they are making a tempest in a teapot. on the right.Ten a penny The more the merrier (UK) If something is ten a penny, it is very common. ("Two a The more the merrier means that the greater the quantity or penny" is also used.) the bigger the number of something, the happier the speaker will be.Test the waters The Mountie always gets his man If you test the waters, or test the water, you experiment to see how successful or acceptable something is before (Canada) The Mounties are the Royal Canadian Mounted implementing it. Police and they have a reputation for catching criminals they are after.That is the way the cookie crumbles The penny dropped "Thats the way the cookie crumbles" means that things dont always turn out the way we want. When the penny drops, someone belatedly understands something that everyone else has long since understood.That ship has sailed The plot thickens A particular opportunity has passed you by when that ship has sailed. When the plot thickens, a situation become more complicated and difficult.Thats all she wrote The rough and tumble (USA) This idiom is used to show that something has ended and there is nothing more to say about something. The rough and tumble refers to areas of life like business, sports, politics, etc, where competition is hard and peopleThe apple does not fall far from the tree will take any advantage that they can. Offspring grow up to be like their parents. The sands of timeThe balls in your court The sands of time is an idiom meaning that time runs out either through something reaching an end or through a If somebody says this to you, they mean that its up to you to persons death. It comes from the sand used in hourglasses, decide or take the next step. an ancient way of measuring time.The be all and end all The short straw
  • 108. If you take the short straw, you lose a selection process, A rake is a garden tool with a long, thin, wooden handle, so which means that you have to do something unpleasant. someone very thin is thin as a rake.The sun might rise in the west Thin blue line When people say this, they mean that they dont expect (UK) The thin blue line is a term for the police, suggesting something to happen. that they stand between an ordered society and potential chaos. (Police uniforms are blue.)The whole shooting match Thin end of the wedge Everything, the entire object, or all the related parts. The thin end of the wedge is something small and seeminglyThe world and his wife unimportant that will lead to something much bigger and more serious. If the world and his wife were somewhere, then huge numbers of people were present. Thin lineTheir bark is worse than their bite If theres a thin line between things, its hard to distinguish them- theres a thin line between love and hate. If someones bark is worse than their bite, they get angry and shout and make threats, but dont actually do anything. Thin-skinnedThere are many ways to skin a cat If somebody is thin-skinned, they are very sensitive to any sort of criticism. This is an expression meaning there are many different ways of doing the same thing. Think outside the boxTheres never a road without a turning If you think outside the box, you think in an imaginative and creative way. No situation in life stays the same forever. Think the world ofTheres no such thing as a free lunch To hold something or someone in very high esteem. To love This idiom means that you dont get things for free, so if or admire immensely. something appears to be free, theres a catch and youll have to pay in some way. Third degreeTheres the rub If someone is given the third degree, they are put under a great deal of pressure and intimidation to force them to tell The meaning of this idiom is thats the problem. the truth about something.Thick and fast Third rail If things are happening thick and fast, they are happening so The third rail of something is dangerous to alter or change. fast they seemed to be joined together. Originally, the third rail is the one carrying the electricity for a train.Thick as mince Third times the charm (UK) If someone is as thick as mince, they are very stupid indeed. This is used when the third time one tries something, one achieves a successful outcome.Thick as thieves Thorn in your side If people are thick as thieves, they are very close friends who have no secrets from each other. A thorn in your side is someone or something that causes trouble or makes life difficult for you.Thick-skinned Those who live by the sword die by the sword If a person is thick-skinned, they are not affected by criticism. This means that violent people will be treated violentlyThin as a rake themselves.
  • 109. Three sheets in the wind Throw someone in at the deep end (UK) Someone who is three sheets in the wind is very drunk. If you are thrown in at the deep end, you have to deal with (Three sheets to the wind is also used. Seven sheets is an serious issues the moment you start something like a job, alternative number used.) instead of having time to acquire experience.Three sheets to the wind Throw someone to the wolves If someone is three sheets to the wind, they are drunk. If someone is thrown to the wolves, they are abandoned and have to face trouble without any support.Thrilled to bits Throw someone under the bus If you are thrilled to bits, you are extremely pleased or excited about something. To throw someone under the bus is to get the person in trouble either by placing blame on that person or not standingThrough the ceiling up for him. If prices go through the ceiling, they rise very quickly. Throw the baby out with the bath waterThrough the floor If you get rid of useful things when discarding inessential things, you throw the baby out with the bath water. If prices go, or fall, through the floor, they fall very quickly. Throw the book at someoneThrough thick and thin If you throw the book at someone, you punish them as If someone supports you through thick and thin, they support severely as possible. you during good times and bad. Throw your hat in the ringThrow a curve If someone throws their hat in the ring, they announce that (USA) If you throw someone a curve, you surprise them with they want to take part in a competition or contest. Toss your something they find difficult to deal with. (Throw a hat in the ring is an alternative. curveball is also used.) Throw your toys out of the pramThrow a sickie To make an angry protest against a relatively minor problem, If you pretend to be ill to take a day off work or school, you in the process embarrassing the protester. The analogy is with throw a sickie. a baby who throws toys out of the pram in order to get their parent to pay attention to them. The implication in the idiomThrow caution to the wind is that the protester is acting like a baby. When people throw caution to the wind, they take a great risk. Throw your weight aroundThrow down the gauntlet If someone throws their weight around, they use their Throw down the gauntlet is to issue a challenge to somebody. authority or force of personality to get what they want in the face of opposition.Throw in the towel Thumb your nose at If you throw in the towel, you admit that you are defeated or cannot do something. If you thumb your nose at something, you reject it or scorn it.Throw pearls to the pigs Thumbs down & thumbs up Someone that throws pearls to pigs is giving someone else If something gets the thumbs up, it gets approval, while the something they dont deserve or appreciate. (Throw pearls thumbs down means disapproval. before pigs and Cast pearls before swine are also used.) Tickle your fancyThrow someone a line If something tickles your fancy, it appeals to you and you If someone throws you a line, they give you help when you want to try it or have it. are in serious difficulties. Tickled pink
  • 110. If you are very pleased about something, you are tickled pink. Time does sailTidy desk, tidy mind This idioms means that time passes by unnoticed. A cluttered or disorganised environment will affect your Time flies clarity of thought. Organised surroundings and affairs will allow for clearer thought organisation. This idiom means that time moves quickly and often unnoticed.Tie the knot Time is on my side When people tie the knot, they get married. If time is on your side, you have the luxury of not having toTied to your mothers apron strings worry about how long something will take. Describes a child (often a boy) who is so used to his mothers Time of your life care that he (or she) cannot do anything on his (or her) own. If youre having the time of your life, you are enjoyingTight rein yourself very much indeed. If things or people are kept on a tight rein, they are given Time-honoured practice very little freedom or controlled carefully. A time-honoured practice is a traditional way of doingTight ship something that has become almost universally accepted as the most appropriate or suitable way. If you run a tight ship, you control something strictly and dont allow people much freedom of action. Tip of the icebergTighten your belt The tip of the iceberg is the part of a problem that can be seen, with far more serious problems lying underneath. If you have to tighten your belt, you have to economise. Tipping pointTill the cows come home Small changes may have little effect until they build up to This idioms means for a very long time. (Until the cows critical mass, then the next small change may suddenly come home is also used.) change everything. this is the tipping point.Till the pips squeak Tired and emotional If someone will do something till the pips squeak, they will (UK) This idiom is a euphemism used to mean drunk, do it to the limit, even though it will make other people suffer. especially when talking about politicians.Till youre blue in the face Tit for tat If you do something till youre blue in the face, you do it If someone responds to an insult by being rude back, its tit repeatedly without achieving the desired result until youre for tat- repaying something negative the same way. incredibly frustrated. To a faultTilt at windmills If something does something to a fault, they do it excessively. A person who tilts at windmills, tries to do things that will So someone who is generous to a fault is too generous. never work in practice. To a manTime and again If a group of people does, believes, thinks, etc, something to If something happens time and again, it happens repeatedly. a man, then they all do it. (Time and time again is also used.) To a TTime and tide wait for no man If something is done to a T, it is done perfectly. This is used as a way of suggestion that people should act without delay. To all intents and purposes
  • 111. This means in all the most important ways. When there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians, there are two many managers and not enough workers toTo be dog cheap work efficiently. If somethings dog cheap, it is very cheap indeed. Too many cooks spoil the brothTo cut a long story short This means that where there are too many people trying to do something, they make a mess of it. This idiom is used as a way of shortening a story by getting to to the end or the point. Too many irons in the fireTo err is human, to forgive divine This means juggling too many projects at once and somethings bound to fail; when a smith had too many irons This idiom is used when someone has done something wrong, in his fire, he couldnt effectively keep track of all of them. suggesting that they should be forgiven. Toot you own hornTo have the courage of your convictions If someone toot their own horn, they like to boast about their If you have the courage of your convictions, you are brave achievements. enough to do what you feel is right, despite any pressure for you to do something different. Top dogTo little avail The most important or influential person is the top dog. If something is to little avail, it means that, despite great Top notch efforts, something ended in failure, but taking comfort from the knowledge that nothing else could have been done to If something is top notch, its excellent, of the highest quality avert or avoid the result. or standard.To the end of time Touch and go To the end of time is an extravagant way of saying forever. If something is touch and go, the result is uncertain and could be good or bad.Toe the line Touch base If someone toes the line, they follow and respect the rules and regulations. If you touch base with someone, you contact them.Tomorrows another day Touch wood This means that things might turn out better or that there This idiom is used to wish for good luck. (Knock on wood is might be another opportunity in the future. also used.)Tongue in cheek Touch-and-go If something is tongue in cheek, it isnt serious or meant to be If something is touch-and-go, it is very uncertain; if someone taken seriously. is ill and may well die, then it is touch-and-go.Too big for your boots Tough as old boots If someone is too big for their boots, they are conceited and Something or someone that is as tough as old boots is strong have an exaggerated sense of their own importance. and resilient.Too big for your britches Tough cookie If someone is too big for their britches, they are conceited A tough cookie is a person who will do everything necessary and have an exaggerated sense of their own importance. to achieve what they want.Too many chiefs and not enough Indians Tough luck Tough luck is bad luck.
  • 112. Tough nut to crack Truth will out If something is a tough nut to crack, it is difficult to find the Truth will out means that, given time, the facts of a case will answer or solution. When used about a person, it means that emerge no matter how people might try to conceal them. it is difficult to get them to do or allow what you want. Hard nut to crack is an alternative. Tug at the heartstringsTough row to hoe f something tugs at the heartstrings, it makes you feel sad or sympathetic towards it. (USA) A tough row to hoe is a situation that is difficult to handle. (A hard row to hoe is an alternative form.) Turf warTrade barbs If people or organisations are fighting for control of something, it is a turf war. If people trade barbs, they insult or attack each other. Turn a blind eyeTraffucked When people turn a blind eye, they deliberately ignore If you are traffucked, you are stuck in heavy traffic and get something, especially if people are doing something wrong. where you need to be. Turn a deaf earTrain of thought If someone turns a deaf ear to you, they dont listen to you. A train of thought is a sequence of thoughts, especially when you are talking to someone and you forget what you were Turn a new leaf going to say. If someone turns a new leaf, they change their behaviour andTread on someones toes stop doing wrong or bad things. If you tread on someones toes, you upset them, especially if Turn the corner you do something that they should be in charge of. To get over a bad run. When a loss making venture ceases toTread the boards make losses, it has "turned the corner". When someone treads the boards, they perform on stage in a Turn the crack theatre. (Scot) If you turn the crack, you change the subject of aTread water conversation. If someone is treading water, they are making no progress. Turn the other cheekTried and tested If you turn the other cheek, you are humble and do not retaliate or get outwardly angry when someone offends or If a method has been tried and tested, it is known to work or hurts you, in fact, you give them the opportunity to re-offend be effective because it has been successfully used long instead and compound their unpleasantness. enough to be trusted. Turn the tablesTrue blue If circumstances change completely, giving an advantage to A person who is true blue is loyal and dependable, someone those who seemed to be losing, the tables are turned. who can be relied on in all circumstances. Turn up like a bad pennyTrue colours If someone turns up like a bad penny, they go somewhere If someone shows their true colours, they show themselves as where they are not wanted. they really are. (True colors is the American spelling.) Turn up ones toes to the daisiesTrump card If someone has turned up their toes to the daisies, it means A trump card is a resource or strategy that is held back for that the person died. use at a crucial time when it will beat rivals or opponents. Turn water into wine
  • 113. If someone turns water into wine, they transform something Two-faced bad into something excellent. Someone who is two-faced will say one thing to your faceTurn your nose up and another when youre not there. If someone turns their nose up at something, they reject it or ~U~ look odwn on it because they dont think it is good enough for them. U-turnTurn-up for the books If a government changes its position radically on an issue, especially when they have promised not to do so, this is a U- A turn-up for the books is an unexpected or surprising event. turn.Twenty-four seven Ugly as a stick Twenty-four seven or 24/7 means all the time, coming from (USA) If someone is as ugly as a stick, they are very ugly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. indeed.Twinkling of an eye Ugly duckling If something happens in the twinkling of an eye, it happens An ugly duckling is a child who shows little promise, but very quickly. who develops later into a real talent or beauty.Twist someones arm Uncalled for If you twist someones arm, you put pressure on them to try If someone does something bad and unnecessary without to make them do what you want them to do. consideration for anothers feelings, what they do is uncalledTwisting in the wind for. If you are twisting in the wind, you are without help or Uncharted waters support - you are on your own. If youre in uncharted waters, you are in a situation that isTwo cents unfamiliar to you, that you have no experience of and dont know what might happen. (Unchartered waters is an If you add or throw in your two cents, you give your opinion incorrect form that is a common mistake.) on an issue. Uncle SamTwo heads are better than one (USA) Uncle Sam is the government of the USA. When two people work together more things get accomplished. Under a cloudTwo left feet If someone is suspected of having done something wrong, they are under a cloud. A person with two left feet cant dance. Under a flag of convenienceTwo peas in a pod If a ship sails under a flag of convenience, it is registered in a If things or people are like two peas in a pod, they look very country where taxes, etc, are lower than in the country it similar or are always together. comes from, so if someone does something under a flag of convenience, they attempt to avoid regulations and taxes by aTwo sides of the same coin similar means. If two things are two sides of the same coin, there is much Under false colours difference between them. If someone does something under false colours/colors, theyTwo-edged sword pretend to be something they are not in order to deceive people so that they can succeed. If someone uses an argument that could both help them and harm them, then they are using a two-edged sword sword; it Under fire cuts both ways.
  • 114. If someone is being attacked and cricitised heavily, they are Unwavering loyalty does not question or doubt the person or under fire. issue and supports them completely.Under lock and key Up a river without a paddle If something is under lock and key, it is stored very securely. If you up a river without a paddle, you are in an unfortunate situation, unprepared and with none of the resources toUnder someones heel remedy the matter. If you are under someones heel, they have complete control Up for grabs over you. If something is up for grabs, it is available and whoever isUnder the radar first or is successful will get it. If something slips under the radar, it isnt detected or noticed. Up in the airUnder the table If a matter is up in the air, no decision has been made and there is uncertainty about it. Bribes or illegal payments are often described as money under the table. Up sticksUnder the weather (UK) If you up sticks, you leave somewhere, usually permanently and without warning- he upped sticks and went If you are feeling a bit ill, sad or lack energy, you are under to work abroad. the weather. Up the anteUnder the wire If you up the ante, you increase the importance or value of (USA) If a person does something under the wire, they do it something, especially where theres an element of risk as the at the last possible moment. term comes from gambling, where it means to increase the stake (the amount of money bet).Under your belt Up the creek If you have something under your belt, you have already achieved or experienced it and it will probably be of benefit If someone or something is up the creek, they are in real to you in the future. trouble. Up the creek without a paddle is an alternative, and up shit creek (without a paddle) is a ruder form.Under your breath Up the duff If you say something under your breath, you whisper or say it very quietly. (UK) If a woman is up the duff, shes pregnant.Under your nose Up the spout If something happens right in front of you, especially if it is (UK) If something has gone up the spout, it has gone wrong surprising or audacious, it happens under your nose. or been ruined.Under your skin Up the stick If someone gets under your skin, they really annoy you. (UK) If a woman is up the stick, shes pregnant.Under your thumb Up the wall Someone who is manipulated or controlled by another person If someone goes up the wall, they get very angry. is under his or her thumb. Up the wooden hillUneasy lies the head that wears the crown When you go up the wooden hill, you go up the stairs to bed. This means that people with serious responsibilities have a heavy burden. Up to scratchUnwavering loyalty
  • 115. If something doesnt come up to scratch, it doesnt meet the This idiom is used to describe a person who appears gentle, standard required or expected. but is determined and inflexible underneath. (Iron fist in a velvet glove is the full form.)Up to snuff Vent your spleen If something isnt up to snuff, it doesnt meet the standard expected. If someone vents their spleen, they release all their anger about something.Up to speed Vicar of Bray If you bring someone up to speed, you update them on something. (UK) A person who changes their beliefs and principles to stay popular with people above them is a Vicar of BrayUp to the eyes Vicious circle You you are up to your eyes in something, you are deeply involved or to have too much of something like work. (Up A vicious circle is a sequence of events that make each other the neck, up to the eyeballs and up to the ears are also worse- someone drinks because they are unhappy at work, used.) then loses their job... Vicious cycle is also used.Up to the neck Virgin territory If someones in something up to the neck, they are very If something is virgin territory, it hasnt been explored before. involved in it, especially when its something wrong. Volte-faceUp to your eyes If you do a volte-face on something, you make a sudden and When youve got too much work to do, youre up to your eyes complete change in your stance or position over an issue. in it. ~W~Up to your neck Wag the dog If someone is very involved in something, they are up to their neck in it, especially if it is something bad or immoral. To wag the dog means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to somethingUp with the lark else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant If you get up very early, youre up with the lark. event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue.TheUpper crust expression comes from the saying that a dog is smarter than its tail, but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would wag The upper crust are the upper classes and the establishment. the dog. The expression wag the dog was elaborately used as theme of the movie. Wag the Dog, a 1997 film starringUpper hand Robert de Niro and Dustin Hoffman, produced and directed by Barry Levinson. If you have the upper hand, you have the advantage. Waiting in the wingsUpset the apple cart If someone is waiting in the wings, or in the wings, they are If you upset the apple cart, you cause trouble and upset in the background, but nearby, ready to act on short notice. people. Wake up and smell the coffee~V~ When someone doesnt realise what is really happening or isVale of tears not paying enough attention to events around them, you can tell them to wake up and smell the coffee. This vale of tears is the world and the suffering that life brings. Wake-up callVelvet glove A wake-up call is a warning of a threat or a challenge, especially when it means that people will have to change their behaviour to meet it.
  • 116. Walk a fine line A war of words is a bitter argument between people or organisations, etc. If you have to walk a fine line, you have to be very careful not to annoy or anger people or groups that are competing. Warm and fuzzy (Walk a thin line is an alternative.) Meaning the feeling evoked as though you were enclosed in aWalk a mile in my shoes warm and fuzzy blanket. This idiom means that you should try to understand someone Warm the cockles of your heart before criticizing them. If something warms the cockles of your heart, it makes youWalk a tightrope feel happy. If you walk a tightrope, you have to be very careful not to Warpath annoy or anger people who could become enemies. If someone is on the warpath, they are very angry aboutWalk in the park something and will do anything to get things sorted the way they want. An undertaking that is easy is a walk in the park. The opposite is also true - "no walk in the park". Warts and allWalk on eggshells If you like someone warts and all, you like them with all their faults. If you have to walk on eggshells when with someone, you have to be very careful because they get angry or offended Wash your hands of something very easily.(Walk on eggs is also used.) If you wash your hands of something, you disassociateWalk the green mile yourself and accept no responsibility for what will happen. Someone or something that is walking the green mile is Waste not, want not heading towards the inevitable. If you dont waste things, you are less likely to end upWalk the plank lacking. If someone walks the plank, they are going toward their own Waste of skin destruction or downfall If a person is referred to as a waste of skin, it means he isWalking on air not worth very much. If you are walking on air, you are so happy that you feel as if Watch grass grow you could float. If something is like watching grass grow, it is really boring.Walking on broken glass Watch your six When a person is punished for something. e.g. She had me walking on broken glass. (USA) This idiom means that you should look behind you for dangers coming that you cant see.Wallflower Watching paint dry A woman politician given an unimportant government position so that the government can pretend it takes women If something is like watching paint dry, it is really boring. seriously is a wallflower. Water off a ducks backWar chest If criticism or something similar is like water off a ducks A war chest is a fund that can be used to finance a campaign back to somebody, they arent affected by it in the slightest. like and election or for use in emergencies or unexpected times of difficulty. Water over the damWar of words (USA) If something has happened and cannot be changed, it is water over the dam.
  • 117. Water under the bridge Wet behind the ears If something belongs to the past and isnt important or Someone who is wet behind the ears is either very young or troubling any more, it is water under the bridge. inexperienced.Watering hole Wet blanket (UK) A watering hole is a pub. A wet blanket is someone who tries to spoil other peoples fun.Watery grave Wet your whistle If someone has gone to a watery grave, they have drowned. If you are thirsty and have an alcoholic drink, you wet yourWeak at the knees whistle. "Whet your whistle" is also used. If people go weak at the knees, they have a powerful Whale of a time emotional reaction to something and feel that they might fall over. If you have a whale of a time, you really enjoy yourself.Wear sackcloth and ashes What can sorry do? If someone displays their grief or contrition publicly, they This means that it is not enough to apologise. wear sackcloth and ashes. What can you expect from a hog but a grunt?Wear your heart on your sleeve (USA) This means that you cant expect people to behave in a Someone who wears their heart on their sleeve shows their way that is not in their character- a hog is a pig, so an emotions and feelings publicly. unrefined person cant be expected to behave in a refined way.Weather a storm What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? If you weather a storm, you get through a crisis or hard times. This idiom is often used when someone says something irrelevant to the topic being discussed.Wedge politics What goes around comes around (USA) In wedge politics, one party uses an issue that they hope will divide members of a different party to create This saying means that of people do bad things to other conflict and weaken it. people, bad things will happen to them.Weight off your shoulders What goes around, comes around If something is a weight off your shoulders, you have The good or bad you do to others is requited. relieved yourself of a burden, normally a something that has been troubling you or worrying you. What will be will beWell-heeled The expression what will be will be is used to describe the notion that fate will decide the outcome of a course of events, Someone who is well-heeled is rich. even if action is taken to try to alter it.Well-oiled Whats cooking? If someone is well-oiled, they have drunk a lot. When you ask whats cooking it means you want to know whats happening.Well-oiled machine Whats good for the goose is good for the gander Something that functions very well is a well-oiled machine. This idiom means that the sexes should be treated the sameWere you born in a barn? way and not be subjected to different standards. If someone asks you this, it means that you forgot to close the Whats up? door when you came in. This can be used to ask Whats wrong? or How are you?.
  • 118. Whats your poison? If something whets your appetite, it interests you and makes you want more of it. This is a way of asking someone what they would like to drink, especially alcohol. Which came first the chicken or the egg?Whats your take on that? This idiomatic expression is used when it is not clear who or what caused something. This idiom is way of asking someone for their opinion and ideas. While the cats away, the mouse will playWhatever floats your boat People whose behaviour is strictly controlled go over the top when the authority is not around, which is why most When people say this, they mean that you should do teenagers have parties when their parents have gone on whatever makes you happy. holiday. The parents are the scary authority figures, but the cats away and the kids are the mice partying and enjoyingWheels fall off their freedom. When the wheels fall off something, it goes wrong or fails. Whistle for it (Wheels come off is an alternative.) If someone says that you can whistle for something, they areWhen hell freezes over determined to ensure that you dont get it. An impossible or very unlikely situation or event Whistle-stop tourWhen in Rome, do as the Romans A whistle-stop tour is when someone visits a number of places quickly, not stopping for long. This idiom means that when you are visiting a different place or culture, you should try to follow their customs and Whistling Dixie practices. (USA) If someone is whistling Dixie, they talk about thingsWhen it rains, it pours in a more positive way than the reality. This idiom means that when things go wrong, a lot of things Whistling in the dark go wrong at the same time. If someone is whistling in the dark, they believe in a positiveWhen pigs fly result, even though everybody else is sure it will not happen. Meaning you will not get something when you want it or Whistling past the graveyard someone doesnt want something for you. say you are selling an item and some one doesnt want it. they might say Ill buy (USA) If someone is whistling past the graveyard, they are it when pigs fly. it just means you will never get someone to trying to remain cheerful in difficult circumstances. say yes to you when you ask for something. (Whistling past the cemetery is also used.)Where the rubber meets the road White as a sheet (USA) Where the rubber meets the road is the most important A bad shock can make somebody go as white as a sheet. point for something, the moment of truth. An athlete can train all day, but the race is where the rubber meets the road and White as snow theyll know how good they really are. If something or someone is as white as snow, they are perfectWhere theres a will, theres a way or completely uncorrupted and honest. This idiom means that if people really want to do something, White elephant they will manage to find a way of doing it. A white elephant is an expensive burden; something thatWhere theres smoke, theres fire costs far too much money to run, like the Millennium Dome in the UK. When there is an indication or sign of something bad, usually the indication is correct. White featherWhet your appetite If someone shows a white feather, they are cowards.
  • 119. White lie If you give someone a wide berth, you keep yourself well away from them because they are dangerous. If you tell a white lie, you lie in order not to hurt someones feelings. Wide of the markWhite-bread If something is wide of the mark, it is inaccurate or incorrect. If something is white-bread, it is very ordinary, safe and Wild goose chase boring. A wild goose chase is a waste of time- time spent trying to doWho wears the pants? something unsuccessfully. (USA) The person who wears the pants in a relationship is Will never fly the dominant person who controls things. If an idea or project, etc, will never fly, it has no chance ofWho wears the trousers? succeeding. (UK) The person who wears the trousers in a relationship is Will-o-the-wisp the dominant person who controls things. Something that deceives by its appearance is a will-o‟-the-Who will ring the bell? wisp; it looks good, but turns out to be a disappointment. Who will ring the bell? asks who will assume the Win by a nose responsibility to help us out of a difficult situation. If somebody wins by a nose, they only just beat the others.Whole ball of wax Window dressing (USA) The whole ball of wax is everything. If something is done to pretend to be dealing with an issue orWhole kit and caboodle problem, rather than actually dealing with it, it is window dressing. The whole kit and caboodle means everything required or involved in something. (Kaboodle is an alternative spelling.) Window to the soulWhole new ball game Eyes are sometimes referred to as the window to the soul. If somethings a whole new ball game, it is completely new Wing and a prayer or different. If you do something on a wing and a prayer, you try to doWhole nine yards something and hope youll succeed even though you have very little chance of success. The whole nine yards means means everything that is necessary or required for something. Winner takes allWhole shebang If everything goes to the winner, as in an election, the winner takes all. The whole shebang includes every aspect of something. Wipe the floor withWhy buy the cow when you can get the milk for free (UK) If you wipe the floor with someone, you destroy the This idiom is usually used to refer to men who dont want to arguments or defeat them easily. get married, when they can get all the benefits of marriage without getting married. Wipe the smile of someones faceWhy keep a dog and bark yourself? If you wipe the smile of someones face, you do something to make someone feel less pleased with themselves. Theres no need to do something yourself when you have somebody to do it for you, usually trivial matters. With a heavy handWide berth If someone does something with a heavy hand, they do it in a strict way, exerting a lot of control.
  • 120. With child If words fail you, you cant find the words to express what you are trying to say. (UK) If a womans with child, shes pregnant. Work like a dogWith flying colours (colors) If you work like a dog, you work very hard. If you pass something with flying colours (colors), you pass easily, with a very high mark or grade. Work your fingers to the boneWith friends like that, who needs enemies? If you work your fingers to the bone, you work extremely hard on something. This expression is used when people behave badly or treat someone badly that they are supposed to be friends with. Work your socks offWither on the vine If you work your socks off, you work very hard. If something withers on the vine, it fails to get the intended Work your tail off result, doesnt come to fruition. If you work your tail off, you work extremely hard.Within a whisker World at your feet If you come within a whisker of doing something, you very nearly manage to do it but dont succeed. If everything is going well and the future looks full of opportunity, you have the world at your feet.Without a hitch World is your oyster If something happens without a hitch, nothing at all goes wrong. When the world is your oyster, you are getting everything you want from life.Woe betide you Worm information This is used to wish that bad things will happen to someone, usually because of their bad behaviour. If you worm information out of somebody, you persuade them to tell you something they wanted to keep from you.Woe is me Worms eye view This means that you are sad or in a difficult situation. Its archaic, but still used. A worms eye view of something is the view from below, either physically or socially.Wolf in sheeps clothing Worse for wear A wolf in sheeps clothing is something dangerous that looks quite safe and innocent. If somethings worse for wear, it has been used for a long time and, consequently, isnt in very good condition. AWood for the trees person whos worse for wear is drunk or high on drugs and looking rough. (UK) If someone cant see the wood for the trees, they get so caught up in small details that they fail to understand the Worse things happen at sea bigger picture. This idiomatic expression is used as a way of telling someoneWord of mouth not to worry so much about their problems. If something becomes known by word of mouth, it is because Worth a shot people are talking about it, not through publicity, etc. If something is worth a shot, it is worth trying as there isWord of the law some chance of success. The word of the law means that the law is interpreted in an Worth your salt absolutely literal way which goes against the ideas that the lawmakers had wished to implement. Someone who is worth their salt deserves respect.Words fail me Wouldnt touch it with a bargepole
  • 121. (UK) If you wouldnt touch something with a bargepole, you If something is x-rated, it is not suitable for children. would not consider being involved under any circumstances. (In American English, people say they wouldnt touch it with ~Y~ a ten-foot pole) Yah boo sucksWouldnt touch it with a ten-foot pole Yah boo & yah boo sucks can be used to show that you have (USA) If you wouldnt touch something with a ten-foot pole, no sympathy with someone. you would not consider being involved under any circumstances. (In British English, people say they wouldnt Yank my chain touch it with a bargepole) If some one says this to another person (i.e. stop yanking myWrap yourself in the flag chain) it means for the other person to leave the person who said it alone and to stop bothering them. If someone wraps themselves in the flag, they pretend to be doing something for patriotic reasons or out of loyalty, but Yellow press their real motives are selfish. (Drape yourself in the flag is an alternative form of this idiom) The yellow press is a term for the popular and sensationalist newspapers.Wrench in the works Yellow streak (USA) If someone puts or throws a wrench, or monkey wrench, in the works, they ruin a plan. In British English, If someone has a yellow streak, they are cowardly about spanner is used instead of wrench. something.Writ large Yellow-bellied If something is writ large, it is emphasized or highlighted. A yellow-bellied person is a coward.Writing on the wall Yen If the writings on the wall for something, it is doomed to fail. If you have a yen to do something, you have a desire to do it.Written all over your face Yes-man If someone has done something wrong or secret, but cannot Someone who always agrees with people in authority is a hide it in their expression, it is written all over their face. yes-man.Wrong end of the stick Yesterdays man or Yesterdays woman If someone has got the wrong end of the stick, they have Someone, especially a politician or celebrity, whose career is misunderstood what someone has said to them. over or on the decline is yesterdays man or woman.Wrong foot You are what you eat If you start something on the wrong foot, you start badly. This is used to emphasise the importance of a good diet as a key to good health.~X~ You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegarX factor This means that it is easier to persuade people if you use The dangers for people in the military that civilians do not polite arguments and flattery than if you are confrontational. face, for which they receive payment, are known as the X You can choose your friends, but you cant choose your family factor. Some things you can choose, but others you cannot, so youX marks the spot have to try to make the best of what you have where you This is used to say where something is located or hidden. have no choice.X-rated You can lead a horse to water, but you cant make it drink
  • 122. This idiom means you can offer something to someone, like You said it! good advice, but you cannot make them take it. Used to say you agree completely with something just said.You can say that again You scratch my back and Ill scratch yours If you want to agree strongly with what someone has said, you can say You can say that again as a way of doing so. This idiom means that if you do something for me, Ill return the favour.You cant have cake and the topping, too You what? (USA) This idiom means that you cant have everything the way you want it, especially if your desires are contradictory. This is a very colloquial way of expressing surprise or disbelief at something you have heard. It can also be used toYou cant have your cake and eat it ask someone to say something again. This idiom means that you cant have things both ways. For Youre toast example, you cant have very low taxes and a high standard of state care. If someone tells you that you are toast, you are in a lot of trouble.You cant make a silk purse out of a sows ear Youve got rocks in your head If something isnt very good to start with, you cant do much to improve it. (USA) Someone who has acted with a lack of intelligence has rocks in their head.You cant make an omelette without breaking eggs Youve made your bed- youll have to lie in it This idiom means that in order to achieve something or make progress, there are often losers in the process. This means that someone will have to live with the consequences of their own actions.You cant take it with you Young blood Enjoy life, enjoy what you have and dont worry about not having a lot, especially money...because once youre dead, Young people with new ideas and fresh approaches are you cant take it with you. For some, it means to use up all young blood. you have before you die because its no use to you afterwards. Young TurkYou cant unring a bell A Young Turk is a young person who is rebellious and This means that once something has been done, you have to difficult to control in a company, team or organisation. live with the consequences as it cant be undone. Your belly button is bigger than your stomachYou could have knocked me down with a feather If your belly button is bigger than your stomach, you take on This idiom is used to mean that the person was very shocked more responsibilities than you can handle. or surprised. Your callYou do not get a dog and bark yourself If something is your call, it is up to you to make a decision on (UK) If there is someone in a lower position who can or the matter. should do a task, then you shouldnt do it. Your name is mudYou get what you pay for If someones name is mud, then they have a bad reputation. Something that is very low in price is not usually of very good quality. Your sins will find you outYou reap what you sow This idiom means that things you do wrong will become known. This means that if you do bad things to people, bad things will happen to you, or good things if you do good things. It ~Z~ is normally used when someone has done something bad. Zero hour
  • 123. The time when something important is to begin is zero hour.Zero tolerance If the police have a zero tolerance policy, they will not overlook any crime, no matter how small or trivial.Zigged before you zagged If you did things in the wrong order, you zigged before you zagged.Zip it This is used to tell someone to be quiet.Zip your lip If someone tells you to zip your lip, they want to to shut up or keep quiet about something. (Zip it is also used.)