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Idioms in English Language

21st March 2019 CHALLA 6 Comments


Idioms in English Language


Idioms in the English Language

Every language has its own peculiar native expressions which seem to be difficult to the non-native speakers. These expressions in the English Language are otherwise called idioms which normally have figurative meaning but not literal meaning.  The words used to frame the idiomatic expressions do not mean exactly.  One has to try to find out the hidden meaning of these words which is very quite interesting.

Here is a list of Idioms in the English Language, more than 330, commonly used and those appeared in different competitive examinations which will be highly useful to all the enthusiastic learners.



A  bird’s eye view a view from a very high place which allows you to see a large area
A barking dog seldom bites   a person who readily threatens other people does not often take action
A bed of roses    easy option
A blessing in disguise  something that seems bad or unlucky at first, but results in something good happening later
A bolt from the blue  a sudden and unexpected event
A bone of contention something that people argue for a long time
A bosom friend a very close friend
A bull in a china shop  an extremely rough or dangerous person in a place where gentleness is a must
A cash cow  a product or service that makes much money
A cat in gloves catches no mice  if you are too careful and polite you may not get what you want
A cat nap  a short period of sleep; a brief nap
A chip on your shoulder an angry attitude from someone who feels unfairly treated
A cock and bull story a story or an explanation which is obviously not true
A copycat someone who copies another person`s work etc.
A couch potato a lazy and inactive person; especially, one who spends a great deal of time watching television
A cuckoo in the nest someone in a group of people but not liked by them
A dark horse  a candidate who is little known to the general public
A dime a dozen     very common and of no particular value
A doubting Thomas           a skeptic who needs physical or personal evidence in order to believe something
A drop in the bucket a very small part of something big or whole
A fish out of water anyone in an awkward
A flash in the pan  a sudden success that ends quickly and is unlikely to happen again
A fraidy-cat/ A scaredy-cat someone who is afraid of something (usually used by children)
A gentleman at large     an unreliable person
A horse of a different color  a very different thing or issue
A hot potato  a controversial subject
A knuckle sandwich  a punch to the face, especially to the mouth
A leopard can‚Äôt change his spots¬†¬†¬† people can’t change their basic nature
A litmus Test a method that helps to know if something is correct
A lone wolf  an animal or person that generally lives or spends time alone instead of with a group
A man of straw      a weak person
A mare’s nest     a false invention
A piece of cake  something is very easy to do
A recipe for disaster  something very likely to have unpleasant consequences
A red-letter day an important day
A scapegoat  a person who is blamed for something that someone else has done
A slap on the wrist  a small punishment when a more severe punishment is deserved
A white elephant a useless possession which is extremely expensive to keep
A white-collar worker    a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work
A wolf in sheep`s clothing a person pretends to be harmless but is actually dangerous or bad
Achilles’ heel a small problem or weakness in a person or system that can result in failure
Add fuel to the fire  to make a problem worse; to say or do something that makes a bad situation worse
Add insult to injury  to make a bad situation even worse, especially by treating someone very badly
Advanced in years                                     old; elderly
Alpha and omega both the beginning and the end
An acid test       a severe or crucial test
Ants in one’s pants  to be unable to sit still, due to anxiety, excess energy, or impatience
Apple of someone’s eye                         someone’s favourite person or thing
Arm and a leg very expensive or costly
As clean as a hound’s tooth¬† very clean
As conceited as a barber’s cat very conceited, vain
As crooked as a dog’s hind leg¬† dishonest
As fat as a pig  very fat
As quiet as a mouse  very quiet, shy
As sick as a dog  very sick
As strong as a horse/ox  very strong
As weak as a kitten weak, sickly
Ask for the moon to ask for too much
At a snail’s pace very slowly
At an arm’s length to keep at a distance
At daggers drawn bitterly hostile;  almost ready to fight
At death’s door                                      near death
At first blush at first sight
At home comfortable
At one‚Äôs wit’s end in a state where one does not know what to do
At sea confused and lost
At sixes and sevens              in a disordered/disorganized manner, chaotic
At someone’s beck and call to be always ready to serve
At the drop of a hat without hesitation or good reason
At the eleventh hour be too late

Idioms in the English Language – B

Back the wrong horse to support someone weak
Back up to support and sustain
Backseat driver  a person who gives unwanted advice or criticism, esp. to the driver of a car
Bad egg  a troublesome person
Bag and Baggage with all one’s belongings
Baker’s dozen        thirteen
The ball is in your court it is up to you to make the next decision
Barking up the wrong tree to make a wrong assumption about something
Be all ears  to be very keen to hear what someone is going to tell you
Be as clear as mud to be impossible to understand
Be in a tight corner in a very difficult situation
Be in seventh heaven to feel extremely happy
Be on cloud nine be extremely happy
Be on the edge to be nervous or worried about something.
Beat around the bush avoiding the main topic
Beat one’s brain out to work hard
Beat the drum to publicly show your support for something or someone
Beauty is in the eye
of the beholder 
everyone has different preferences for what is attractive
Bee in one’ bonnet idea  preoccupied or obsessed with an idea
Behind the eight ball  in a difficult situation; in a very unfavorable position
Better to be the head of
a dog than the tail of a lion
 it is better to be the leader of a small group than a follower of a bigger one
Between a rock and a hard place being faced with two difficulties
Between the devil and
the deep blue sea            
between two equally difficult or unacceptable choices
Between Scylla and Charybdis the choice between two unpleasant alternatives
Big cheese an important person
Birthday suit  naked
Bite off more than one can chew to do more than one’s ability
Bite the bullet  to endure an unpleasant and unavoidable situation
Bite your tongue to stop yourself from saying something that might upset or annoy someone
Black and blue full of bruises
Black and white  absolute terms
Black sheep of the family worst member; a good for nothing fellow
Blow one’s own horn/trumpet to tell everyone proudly about one’s achievements
Blood is thicker than water     the family bond is closer than anything else
Body and soul   entirely
Born with a silver
spoon in mouth 
born into a wealthy family
Bouncing off the walls  acting in a very uncontrolled and exciting way
Bread and butter source of income
Break the ice to make people who have not met before feel more relaxed with each other
Build a castle in the air  to have hopes and dreams that are unlikely to become real
Burn a hole in one’s pocket to spend money quickly
Burn one‚Äôs fingers means to suffer consequences of one’s actions, especially in a financial context
Burn the candle at both ends  to work extremely or excessively hard; to work too hard for good health or peace of mind
Burn the midnight oil             to work late into the night
Burst your bubble to ruin someone’s happy moment
Bury my head in the sand  to ignore a problem or an unpleasant situation and hope that it will disappear
Bury the hatchet end the quarrel and make peace
Butterflies in stomach                                to feel very nervous and restless
Buy a pig in a poke  to buy something without looking inside first
By hook or  by crook by fair or foul means
By leaps and bounds speedily

Idioms in the English Language – C


Call a spade a spade speak frankly and directly
Call names  to use unpleasant words to describe someone in order to insult or upset them
Can’t judge a book by its cover cannot judge something primarily on appearance
Cast pearls before swine  to offer something valuable or good to someone who does not know its value
Cat burglar a burglar who enters a building by climbing a wall etc.
Cat gets one`s tongue one cannot speak because of shyness
Change horses in midstream to change plans
Chew the fat / chew the rag  to talk with someone in an informal and friendly way
Class clown  a student who tries to make other students laugh
Cold-blooded  without emotion or feeling; dispassionate; cruel
Cold fish an unfriendly person who does not share his/her feelings
Come off with flying colors be highly successful
Couch potato    a person who watches a lot of television and does not have an active life
Cross a bridge before one
comes to it
to worry excessively about something before it happens
Crunch time a critical period
Cry over split milk it is useless to worry about things that already happened and can’t be changed
Cry wolf to give a false alarm, to warn of a danger that is not there
Cut corners to save time, money, or energy by doing things quickly and not as carefully as one should
Cut the mustard to be good enough to do something
Cut your cloth according to your cloth live within your income
Idioms in the English Language – D
Dances to the tune to always do what someone tells you to do
Day in and day out       continuously, constantly
Devil may care                        Worry-free or carefree attitude; reckless
Devil’s advocate    one who argues against something just for the sake of arguing, without actually being committed to the views
Die in harness die while in service
Dog and pony show  an event that is designed to impress people in order to make them buy something or invest money
Don’t count your chickens before
they are hatched
don’t make plans for something that might not happen
Don’t judge a book by its cover¬†¬† one shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket do not put all your resources in one basket (in one place or thing)
Donkey’s years¬† a very long time
Dragging its feet delaying in decision
Drink like a fish  to drink too much alcohol
Dropping like flies to fall down ill or to die in large numbers
Idioms in the English Language – E
Easy as pie / easy as ABC  extremely easy
Eat humble pie  to admit that you were wrong
Eat like a horse  to eat a lot
Eat my hat used to say that something will not happen or cannot be true
Eat your words  to admit that something you said before was wrong
End on smoke to bear no result
Every cloud has a silver lining to be optimistic even in difficult times
Every dog has his day  everyone will have good luck or success at some point in their lives

Idioms in the English Language – F


Fabian policy       the policy of delaying decisions
Face the music to accept punishment for something you have done
Fall on your own sword to be cheated by someone you trust
Far and wide   everywhere
Feather in one’s cap something that you achieve and proud of
Feel a bit under the weather feeling slightly ill
Feel one’s oats  to be very active and energetic
Fight like cats and dogs  to argue and fight violently
Find your feet  to become familiar with and confident in a new situation
Fire and fury    fearful penalties
Fingers and thumbs be clumsy or awkward in one’s actions
Fish out of water someone being in a situation that they are unfamiliar or unsuited for
Fit as a fiddle to be in perfect health
Flog/Beat a dead horse
or beat a dead dog 
to waste effort on something when there is no chance of succeeding
Fool’s paradise a false sense of happiness or success
Fortune smiles on somebody to be lucky and advantageous for somebody
Foul play cheating
From rags to riches      to go from very poor to wealthy
French kiss¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† a kiss involving the insertion of the tongue into the partner’s mouth
French leave absent without permission
Full steam ahead with as much speed or energy as possible

Idioms in the English Language – G


Get a raw deal not treated equally
Get hitched get married
Get off the hook free from all obligations
Give the benefit of the doubt believe someone’s statement without proof
Go bananas to express great excitement about something in an exuberant manner
Go to the dogs  it is not as good as it was in the past; to become bad.
Go under the hammer that is sold in an auction
Good Samaritan   someone who helps people in trouble
Good wine needs no bush there is no need to advertise something good
The grass is always greener
on the other side
others always have it better
Grease someone’s palm¬† to secretly give someone money in order to persuade them to do something for you
Greased lightning very fast or quick

Idioms in the English Language – H


Hail-fellow-well-met someone whose behavior is hearty, friendly and congenial
Halcyon days a time when there are peace and happiness in the land
Hard pill to swallow something that is difficult to accept
Haughty and naughty   arrogant and naughty
Have an axe to grind    to have a dispute with someone
Have an egg on the face be embarrassed
Have clean hands be guiltless
Head is in the clouds   have unrealistic, impractical ideas
Head over heels falling deeply in love with another person
Hear it on the grapevine to hear rumours
the heart is in their boots     they feel very sad, disappointed, worried, etc
Hit the bull’s-eye  to reach or focus on the main point of something
Hit the nail on the head do or say something exactly right
Hit the roof  suddenly become very angry
Hit the sack to go to bed
Hive of activity  a place full of activity; very busy place
Hold one`s horses  to wait, to be patient
Hoping against hope without hope; hopelessly
Hornet’s nest    raise controversy
Horse around  to play around (in a rough way)
Horse sense  common sense, practical thinking
hot potato     a  difficult problem to deal with
Hot under the collar  angry, resentful, or embarrassed

Idioms in the English Language – I


In a pig`s eye  unlikely, not so, never.
In dribs and drabs in small amounts at a time
In high spirits very happy
In the blues low spirited
In the same boat   in the same situation; having the same problem
In the doghouse  in disgrace or very unpopular, in trouble
In the heat of the moment overwhelmed by what is happening in the moment
In the red losing money; being in debt
In vain   useless, without the desired result
Ins and outs   full detail

Idioms in the English Language – J


Jack of all trades, master of none a person who can do many things but is not an expert in any of them
Jaws of death being in a dangerous situation
Jump down somebody’s throat  to react angrily to something that someone says or does
Jump on the bandwagon join a popular trend or activity
Idioms in the English Language – K
Keep something at bay keep something away
Keep your eyes peeled to be watchful
Kick the bucket die
Kill the goose that lays the
golden egg 
to destroy the thing that brings you profit or success
Kill time pass time aimlessly
Kill two birds with one stone to accomplish two different things at the same time
Know the ropes having a familiarity
Know your socks off to be taken by surprise

Idioms in the English Language – L


Last straw the final problem in a series of problems
Lead a dog`s life  to lead a miserable life
Let the cat out of the bag  to reveal facts previously hidden
Lion’s share the majority of something
Lock the barn door after
the horse is gone 
to try to deal with something after it is too late
Lovey-dovey kissing and hugging
Idioms in the English Language – M
Mad as a wet hen  extremely angry
Maiden speech                          a person’s first speech
Make (both) ends meet  to have just enough money to buy the things that you need
Make a silk purse out
of a sow’s ear¬†
to make something good out of something that is bad quality
Make hay while
the sun shines                     
take advantage of all opportunities
Milk and water weak
Miss the boat missing one’s chance
Monkey around with
(someone or something) 
to waste effort on something when there is no chance of succeeding
Monkey business  wasting time, or effort, on some foolish project
Monkey see, monkey do  someone copies something that someone else does
Much ado about nothing              a lot of fuss about something which is not important
Mumbo jumbo  confusing language or pointless speech
Idioms in the English Language – N
Nip in the bud destroy in the early stage
No ifs, ands, or buts finishing a task without excuses or doubts
Not a spark of decency no manners
Not enough room
to swing a cat
 very little or no space
Not hurt a fly  not cause harm to anyone, be kind and gentle
Not one’s cup of tea  not what one likes or is interested in
Not playing with a full deck someone who lacks intelligence
Idioms in the English Language – O
On cloud nine having strong feelings
On the ball understands the situation well
Once in a blue moon something that happens very rarely
One’s tail between one`s legs¬† with a feeling of being embarrassed or ashamed especially because one has been defeated
Idioms in the English Language – P
Pain in the neck someone or something that is very annoying
Piggybank  a small bank (sometimes in the shape of a pig) for saving money
Put a sock in it asking someone to be quiet; stop talking
Put on ice postpone
Put wool over other
people’s eye
to deceive someone into thinking well of them
Idioms in the English Language – R
Raid of one’s own shadow                 easily frightened; always frightened, timid, or suspicious
Rain cats and dogs  to rain very heavily
Rank and File ordinary people
Rat race  a rushed and confusing way of living that does not seem to have a purpose
Read between the lines    understand the hidden meaning
Rule of thumb general rule
Idioms in the English Language – S
Scapegoat    a person who is blamed for something that someone else has done
Sealed with a kiss also
sealed with a loving kiss,
SWAK or SWALK (acronym)
written and sent with love and care
See eye to eye two or more people agree on something
Separate the sheep
from the goats 
to divide people into two groups
crocodile tears 
an insincere show of sorrow
Shot in the dark an attempt that has little chance for success
Silver screen the movie industry
Sit on the fence doesn’t want to choose or make a decision
Sitting duck    a person or thing with no protection against an attack or other source of danger
Smell a rat  to be suspicious of someone or something, to feel that something is wrong
Spin a yarn  tell a long and farfetched story
Steal someone‚Äôs thunder win praise for oneself by pre-empting someone else’s attempt to impress
Stir up a hornet’s nest  to create big trouble
Straight from the
horse`s mouth 
directly from a reliable source
Idioms in the English Language – T
Take the bull by the horns  to deal with a difficult situation in a very direct way
Take to one’s heels run away
Talk through one’s hat to talk about something without understanding what one is talking about
Tall story  a long story that is hard to believe
Taste of your own medicine an attack in the same manner in which one attacks others
There is more than one
way to skin a cat 
there is more than one way to do something
Throw in the towel giving up; to surrender
To be in the doldrums                  to be in low spirits
To bell the cat to face the risk
To build castles in the air make imaginary schemes
To pour oil on troubled waters               to calm or settle a tense situation
To sit on the fence to remain neutral
Top dog  the most important person in an organization
Turn a deaf ear pay no attention; ignore what one says
Turn tail  to run away from trouble or danger
Idioms in the English Language – U
Up in arms angry
Idioms in the English Language – W
When the cat’s away
the mice will play 
people will naturally take advantage of the absence of someone in authority to do as they like
White elephant useless possession
White lie a harmless lie
Whole nine yards everything
Wild goose chase a foolish and hopeless search for something unattainable
Work like a dog  to work very hard
Wouldn’t be caught dead someone dislikes something very much
Idioms in the English Language – Y
Yellow-bellied    a coward
Yeoman’s service¬†¬†¬†¬† to serve in an exemplary manner; useful help in need
Yes-man    someone who always agrees with people in authority
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink¬† you can offer something to someone, like good advice, but you cannot make them take it
You can’t hide elephants in mouseholes some issues/problems/challenges cannot be hidden/concealed but have to be faced and dealt with
You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs¬†¬† in order to achieve something or make progress, there are often losers in the process
You can’t teach old
dog new tricks 
it is difficult for older people to learn new things
You reap what you sow          you eventually have to face up to the consequences of your actions
Young Turk a young person who is rebellious and difficult to control in a company, team or organization
Idioms in the English Language – Z
Zip your lip     to say nothing or stop talking



How to read long words in English

The Reduplicatives in English

One word substitutions in English

Wedding Anniversaries

Mania Words in English

List of Common Phobias in English

Binomials in English

Blend words in English

Figures of Speech in English

Palindromes in the English Language

Pangrams in the English Language

Spoonerisms in the English Language

Vowel Words in English


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