Idioms

A

Actions speak louder than words – what you do is more important than what you say, or what you promise to do.
Ex: You said that you’d do your share of the housework. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

Add insult to injury – 1) to hurt someone’s feelings after doing him harm.

Ex: He added insult to injury when he called the man a rat after he had already beaten him.

2) to make bad trouble worse.

Ex: We started on a picnic, and  first  it rained, then to add  insult to injury,  the car broke down.

Against One’s Better Judgment – if we do something against our better judgment, then we don’t believe it’s a right thing to do.
Ex: I let my son drive my car against my better judgment.

Apple of discord – something that causes unhappiness due to envy or contention.

Ex: They are attracted to the same person and that is the apple of discord between them.

Autumn years – refers to later years of someone’s life, usually retired ones.

Ex: He spent his autumn years enjoying his grandchildren.

B

Back of one’s hand – something we are familiar with, a place we know very well.
Ex: Of course I won’t get lost. I know this place like a back of my hand.

Be a good hand at (doing) something – to be talented, gifted or skilled in some activity.

Ex: Florian is a good hand at gardening.

Be a poor hand at (doing) something – to be untalented or clumsy in some activity.

Ex: He is a poor hand at table tennis so the children don’t like to play with him.

Be all fingers and thumbs – to be clumsy with your hands.

Ex: Mary could never be a nurse. She’s all fingers and thumbs.

Be/feel under the weather – if someone is under the weather, it means that they are feeling ill or unwell.
Ex: I won’t be able to come to work today. I feel under the weather. I’m afraid it might be the flu.

Be in hot water – be in trouble.
Ex: Our company is in hot water because they don’t have enough money to pay off the employees’ salaries.

Be in the black – to make a profit.
Ex: We are making a great year so our accounts are in the black.

Be in the red – to not being profitable or operating at a loss.
Ex: We owe so much money that our accounts are in the red.

Be in two minds – to be unable to decide.
Ex: I’m in two minds about moving abroad. It could be a good experience but I’m not sure.

Below the belt – if something is below the belt, then we are talking about unacceptable behavior.
Ex: He told her that she was stupid which she felt as a hit below the belt.

Bet on the wrong horse – to support a wrong person.
Ex: I doubt that our candidate would win. We bet on the wrong horse.

Big girl’s blouse – used to insult a person who other people believe is behaving in a weak manner.
Ex: ‘I can’t help you carrying these books’ ‘Oh, please stop being such a big girl’s blouse.’

Birds of a Feather – refers to people similar in character.
Ex: They are so very much alike. They’re birds of a feather.

Burn the candle at both ends – to exhaust yourself by too much work;

Ex: Mary burnt the candle at both ends by working too  hard.

Burn your bridges – to do something that cannot be changed in the future, to end up your relations with a person or organization.

Ex: Don’t burn your bridges. Try and stay in touch with your ex-colleagues by all means. 

Burn your fingers – to have unpleasant result from an action; it usually refers to losing money.

Ex: Many companies burned their fingers on these shares.

C

Call it a day! – to say that the work is over for the day.

Ex: I think we worked enough today. Let’s call it a day!

Carry a torch for someone – to be secretly in love with someone.
Ex: Kate’s never noticed that Nathan has been carrying the torch for her all these years.

Chicken feed – an amount of money that is too small to be significant.
Ex: It’s a nice job but the salary is chicken feed.

Copycat – a person who imitates someone, usually refers to children’s behavior.

Ex: Look, our little daughter is imitating Lady Gaga! She’s such a copycat!

Cost an arm and a leg – to be extremely expensive.
Ex: The fur coat cost her an arm and a leg.

Cross your fingers! (Keep your fingers crossed!) – hoping the things will happen the way we want them to.
Ex: I’m having a driving test in the morning so cross your fingers.

Cry Wolf – to complain about something when nothing is really wrong.

Ex: You shouldn’t cry wolf, as no one will come when needed.

D

Dab Hand – an expert at certain activity.
Ex: Juliet is a dab hand at knitting.

Dark Horse – someone we know very little about.
Ex: Sheila is a dark horse. Did you know that she paints beautifully?

E

(An) Earful – Refers to reprimands, criticism and unwanted suggestions.
Ex: I was given an earful for lack of attention from my Math teacher.

Earn a fortune – to earn a lot of money
Ex: He made a fortune on the stock market.

Every cloud has a silver lining – there is hope in the most difficult situations.
Ex: I’m sorry to hear that your job search is going bad. But don’t despair, every cloud has a silver lining.

F

Face the music – to except the consequences of our doings.
Ex: After the last night’s accident, Tim will have to face the music and tell his mum about the broken car.

(A) far cry from – totally different from

Ex: Sydney was a far cry from the small town she grew up in.

Feel the pinch – to have financial problems because you are not earning as much as you used to earn.
Ex: When his parents lost their jobs they began to feel the pinch.

Fender Bender – minor traffic accident.
Ex: Sorry I’m late. There was a fender bender on the road.

G

Get your fingers burnt – to suffer loss as the result of doing something risky
Ex: He got his fingers burnt in foreign markets.

Gloves are off – a situation which includes a serious dispute or even fight in order to achieve something.
Ex: I have been a friendly person so far, but now the gloves are off!

Go Dutch – share expenses (meal, drink) equally.

Ex: You don’t have to pay for me. Let’s go Dutch!

Golden opportunity – an excellent opportunity that is unlikely to be repeated.
Ex: This is a golden opportunity we must appreciate.

H

Hard up – not having enough money.
Ex: I’m hard up these days.

Have deep pockets – to have a lot of money
Ex: This company has deep pockets.

Head in the clouds – not being present due to daydreaming.
Ex: The teacher was talking, but Tom didn’t listen as his head was in the clouds.

Hit close to home be too personal.

Ex: I felt insulted as her remarks were too close to home.

Hit the nail on the head – to do the right thing, be right about something.

Ex: He never talks much, but whenever he does, he hits the nail on the head.

Hit the roof – to suddenly become very angry.

Ex: When my dad saw the broken window, he hit the roof.

Hit the town – go out and have fun.

Ex: It’s Saturday, we’re going to hit the town tonight

Hunky-dory – OK, fine, alright, doing well
Ex: I’m doing fine. Everything is hunky-dory.

I

J

Jump at the chance – to quickly and unexpectedly get a lucky opportunity.
Ex: When the band singer became ill, Bob jumped at the chance and became famous.

K

Keep it under your hat – to keep something a secret.
Ex: I’ve heard that Paul is having an affair, but keep it under your hat.

Keep the wolf from the door – to have just enough money to buy basic necessities.
Ex: He works two jobs to help keep the wolf from the door.

Kill two birds with one stone – to solve more issues with a single decision or action.
Ex: I think I’ll kill two birds with one stone if I visit my uncle while I’m in London on business.

L

Let the cat out of the bag – to reveal a secret.
Ex: You shouldn’t let the cat out of the bag and tell everyone about the party. It was supposed to be a secret.

Lucky guess – happening by chance.
Ex: I didn’t know the answer. It was just a lucky guess.

M

N

(In the) nick of time – Just in time or in the last possible minute.
Ex: I caught the train in the nick of time.

O

Old chestnut – old story or a joke which is no longer interesting.

Ex: I can’t bear listening that grandpa’s old chestnut story again.

P

Put a sock in it! – An impolite way of telling someone to be quiet.
Can’t you stop talking! Put a sock in it!

Q

R

Raining cats and dogs – expressive idiom giving the impression of heavy rain.

Ex: It was raining cats and dogs last night.

(A) Rough diamond – a person with great potential but lack of refinement.
Ex: Paul is intelligent and hard-working man, but he lacks sophistication, he’s a rough diamond.

S

Shrinking Violet – very shy person.
Ex: My sister is no longer a shrinking violet. When she wants something, she says it out loud.

Sleep on it – to wait and think about things before making decision.

Ex: I have to sleep on it and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.

Social butterfly – outgoing, probably a bit shallow and careless person who socializes with all social groups; usually lives to party.
Ex: His sister’s going from party to party, without single worry in the world. She’s such a social butterfly.

Steal someone’s thunder – take the credit for someone else’s work.
Ex: Sally stole my thunder when she told everyone that she made the cake all by herself, although we made it together.

(A) stroke of good luck – something good that happens when you least expect it.
Ex: I opened the book on exactly the same page by a stroke of good luck.

T

Take each day as it comes – dealing with things as they happen, and not have any    plans or worry about the future; live from day to day.

Ex: I’ve been through much lately, but I learned to take each day as it comes.

Take it with a grain (pinch) of salt iIf you take something someone says with a grain (pinch) of salt, then you probably think it’s a lie or exaggerated story.
Ex: We always take information on the Internet with a pinch od salt as they are not always true.

(Be) tied to your mother’s/wife’s apron strings – refers to people who are not capable of making decision independently or without their mother or wife.
Ex: He is 45 years old but he’s still tied to his mother’s apron strings.

Tighten your belt – to reduce the amount of money that you normally spend.
Ex: We’ve had to tighten our belts since my wife lost her job.

Turn a blind eye – pretend not to notice something.
Ex: The government is turning a blind eye to the victims of violence

Turn a deaf ear – refuse to listen or respond, ignore.
Ex: We shouldn’t turn a deaf ear to the cries of homeless people and refugees.

Turn over a new leaf – start all over again.

Ex: Lisa turned over a new leaf and no longer smokes.

Twist of fate – a change in a sequence of events.
Ex: By a twist of fate, they met again in New York.

U

V

W

Wet Blanket  – person who spoils other people’s fun.
Ex: I don’t want to be a wet blanket but could you please turn the music down!

Worrywart – person who worries too much, usually without need to.
Ex: Sally is such a worrywart. She’s always worrying about something!

X

Y

You can’t judge a book by its cover – we can’t judge on someone’s character only by their appearance.

Ex: That man wears simple clothes and drives a cheap car but I’ve heard that he’s one of the wealthiest men in the country. You can’t judge ba book by its cover!

Z

 

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