English Idioms


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English Idioms

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.