Your Ad Here
Do you want to promote your school or business? Advertise on ESL Expat. Read more >>

 

Your Ad Here
Do you want to promote your school or business? Advertise on ESL Expat. Read more >>

 

English Idioms and Phrases: A List with Meanings & Examples

This page features a complete list of common English idioms and phrases for language learners and teachers. The meanings for each expression are provided, along with example sentences to clarify the meanings in context.

Here are some of the key features of the list of expressions:

Search for Idioms, Phrases, Slang, and Expressions

Use the search box to find the expression that you are looking for. The list will adjust to the phrases that you enter in the box.

You can also change the number of expressions that appear on the page. Simply select “show entries” at the top of the table to suit your preferences.

Customize Your Own List

Since the list is in table format, it provides you with a variety of other options:

  • Save your sorted list as a PDF with the expressions that you want.
  • Copy and paste the information into a spreadsheet on your computer.
  • Edit the spreadsheet to create customized idiom activities for your students.
  • Create your own example sentences using the expressions.
  • Print the content and create matching exercises to test understanding.
  • Keep the content on your computer for future reference.

 

New Idiom Themes: Download Worksheets, Games, and Printable PDFs

Check out the new sections and lists devoted to unique idiom themes.

For each theme category, you can download free PDFs, including idiom worksheets for ESL students and fun idiom games for the classroom.

More themes are coming soon!

Search the complete list of idioms and phrases in the table below…

English Idioms and Phrases

Searchable List of 407 Common English Idioms and Phrases

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

*Updated: January 4, 2019

Idiom / PhraseMeaningExample SentenceTheme
a breezeeasyRiding a tricycle is such a breeze.weather
a dime a dozencommon and available anywhereCorrupt cops are a dime a dozen in this city.money
a field daya very enjoyable timeMy children had a field day at the carnival.geography
a hell of a timea difficult (or exciting) experienceHer grandmother had a hell of a time trying to connect to the internet.time
a little bird told mesomeone told me a secretA little bird told me that you're getting a divorce.animals
a lot on my platevery busyI've got a lot on my plate tonight. I don't think I won't finish until midnight.food
a matter of timewhen something is inevitableIt's only a matter of time until they find a cure for cancer.time
a penny for your thoughtsask for adviceCould I have a penny for your thoughts? I don't know how to solve this problem.money
a whale of a timean exciting experienceThe family had a whale of a time at the theme park.time, animals
about timesaid to convey impatienceI've been waiting for you for an hour. It's about time you arrived!time
ace in the holea hidden strength or advantageThey'll win the game since their rookie goalkeeper is an ace in the hole.sports
Achilles heelsomeone's weaknessVodka is his Achilles heel. He only loses his composure when he drinks it.body
actions speak louder than wordsjudge what someone does rather than what they sayHe said he was faithful, but he always comes home late at night. His actions certainly speak louder than words.
add insult to injuryworsen an unfavorable situationShe added insult to injury by picking her little brother's ice cream off the dirty floor and sticking it in his mouth.body
ahead of timeearlier than the deadlineFinish your work ahead of time so you can enjoy your hobbies.time
all earslisten carefullyJane asked if I was paying attention. I told her, "I'm all ears!"body
all the ragepopularThose new shoes are all the rage these days.
all thumbsclumsyI'm all thumbs today. I keep dropping my phone!body
an arm and a legvery expensiveThat new car costs an arm and a leg.body, money
ants in your pantsanxious or nervousFrank had ants in his pants before taking his exam.animals, clothing
apple of my eyean adored personMy precious daughter is the apple of my eye.food, body, love
around the clockwithout stoppingThe pharmacy is open around the clock. It never closes.time
as white as a sheetvery fearful or anxiousWalter went as white as a sheet when he saw Hank get shot.colors
ask outask someone on a dateBobby asked her out, but she decided to stay home and do laundry.love
at the drop of a hatinstantlyAt the drop of a hat, I called my sister when I heard she was pregnant!clothing
back to the drawing boardbegin something all over againIt was back to the drawing board after the team failed to make the playoffs.
bad egga troublesome personBart is the bad egg of the class. He is always throwing paper airplanes.food
ball is in your courtthe decision is up to youWe offered him an extra million dollars. The ball is in his court if he wants to sign the contract.sports
bark up the wrong treelook in the wrong place or falsely accuseHe asked me if I broke his laptop. I said he was barking up the wrong tree.animals
basket caseerratic or panickyShe became such a basket case when she discovered her ex was at the party.
be an itembe a coupleApparently, Tiffany and Tim are an item. I always see them together.love
be nuts aboutreally enjoyShe is nuts about her new boyfriend.food, love
beast of burdensomeone carries others problemsI will never be your beast of burden. You have got to deal with your own problems.animals
beat a dead horsedwell on a topic beyond resolutionI told you several times that I won't do it. Don't beat a dead horse!animals
beat around the bushavoid talking about something specificallyStop beating around the bush! Get to the point already!
beat the clockfinish something before the deadlineThe paperwork was piled high, but she manages to beat the clock and finish it all.time
beauty is in the eye of the beholdereveryone has different preferences for what is attractiveElla likes guys with big beards. Her girlfriends say to her that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.love
beet redembarrassed or angryDarren went beet red when he saw the scratch on his car.colors, food
best of both worldsenjoy two different opportunitiesJoe got the best of both worlds when he married Amy who was his best friend and a supermodel.
better late than neverdoing something late is better than not doing itYou finally visited the dentist. Better late than never!time
bide your timerelax and take your time doing somethingBide your time and take a look through the restaurant menu. There are no other customers.time
big cheesean important personWhere is the director? I want to talk to the big cheese.food
birthday suitnakedYou should try sleeping with your birthday suit on. It's much more comfortable.clothing
bite off more than one can chewtake on more responsibility than what is manageableHe was multitasking and getting stressed, so I told him not to bite off more than he could chew.food
bite the bulletto endure an unpleasant and unavoidable situationRebecca hated her job, but she bit the bullet and completed her contract.
bite the dustdie or failThe hunter fired his gun and the deer bit the dust.
bitter pillsomething unpleasant that must be acceptedAwarding the trophy to her enemy was a bitter pill to swallow.food
black and bluehurt physically or mentallyBoth during and after the relationship, I felt so black and blue.colors
black and whiteabsolute termsThe contract that you signed is in black and white. You must agree to the terms.colors
black holesome place or situation in which things are lostNever take hard drugs. It's a black hole you can't escape from.colors
black marketillegal marketplaceA lot of fake cigarettes are sold in the black market.colors
black outlose consciousnessShe knocked her head on the floor and blacked out!colors
black sheepunaccepted group memberTom was the black sheep of the family and preferred to do things on his own.colors, animals
black tie eventformal eventMost big award's ceremonies are black tie events.colors, clothing
blind datedating someone you have never metI don't like blind dates because I want to know what she looks like first.love
blue-collarmanual laborHe got a blue-collar job working as a mechanic.colors, clothing
born with a silver spoonfrom a rich familySara was born with a silver spoon, but she became a drug addict.colors, food, money
born yesterdayinexperiencedWere you born yesterday? You have to pay your credit card quickly to avoid serious debt.time
borrowed timean uncertain length of time that may end suddenlyEveryone is living off of borrowed time. Enjoy every day as if it is your last.time
bread and butternecessities or main pointsTell me the bread and butter of the article and explain the general idea of it.food
bread and buttersource of incomeDesigning websites is his bread and butter.food, money
break a leggood luckBefore the final exam, the teacher told his students to break a leg.body
break the bankgo bankruptShe broke the bank after buying the Ferrari.
break the icedoing something first in a social settingLet me break the ice and buy everyone a drink.weather
bring home the baconearn incomeMy mother has to bring home the bacon for the family because my dad is unemployed.food
bring home the baconearn moneyLouie brings home the bacon while his wife takes care of the kids.food, money
Bronx cheersarcastic applauseMy girlfriend gave me the Bronx cheer when I finally remembered her birthday.sports
buckle downwork hardLet's buckle down and finish the assignment.clothing
burn a hole in my pocketspend too much moneyI burned a hole in my pocket overpaying on insurance.clothing, money
burn the midnight oilwork late into the nightThe student burned the midnight oil in order to pass the test.
bust my chopssay something insultingShe always busts my chops about my low salary.body
butter someone upbe really nice to someoneYou had better butter me up if you want a raise in salary.food
by a landslideby a large marginThe Predators lost by a landslide in game 5. The Penguins beat them by 6 goals!geography
by the seat of your pantsachieve instinctively or quicklyThat was impressive. You did your graduation speech by the seat of your pants without any preparation.clothing
by the skin of my teethbarely or narrowlyI finished the test by the skin of my teeth just before the bell rang.body
call it a dayfinish workLet's call it a day. It's time to go home.
call the shotsmake the decisionsThe new coach is calling the shots.sports
calm before the storma peaceful period before mayhemThe teacher is enjoying the calm before the storm. All of the students will arrive soon.weather
cash in the chipsselling somethingHe cashed in the chips and went on a world tour.
cat got your tonguesaid when someone doesn't speakWhat's wrong? Cat got your tongue? You haven't said a word since we arrived.animals
cat napa short sleepMy father always takes a cat nap after work.animals
catch you latersee you laterI have to go home now. Catch you later!time
caught with your pants downunpreparedDon't get caught with your pants down at a red light. Be ready to drive when it turns green.clothing
chase rainbowsattempt something that will never be achievedYou're chasing rainbows if you think you're going to be a rock star.weather
cheap as chipsvery inexpensiveThis cup of coffee was only 50 cents. Cheap as chips!food
cheapskatea frugal personHe's such a cheapskate. He never buys anything for his girlfriend.sports, money
chicken outavoid doing something because of fearMary was going to go skydiving, but she chickened out.animals
chink in one's armorvulnerable areaBob was a great teacher, but the chink in his armor was his fear of public speaking.
chip indonate money or timeWhy don't you chip in and support the refugees?sports
clam upbecome quietTom always clams up when you ask him about his ex-girlfriend.animals
cold feetbeing nervous or anxious before a big eventShe got cold feet before the wedding.body
commit Harry Carrycommit suicideUnfortunately, some of the world's greatest singers committed Harry Carry.
cook the booksdishonest accountingLet's cook the books so we can avoid paying higher taxes.food, money
copycatsomeone who copies anotherYou're such a copycat! Do your own work!animals
couch potatolazy personDon't be such a couch potato and do some work for once!food
cream of the cropthe bestThe team has the cream of the crop of draft picks. They will probably win the cup soon.food
crocodile tearsfake tearsHer little daughter always cries crocodile tears to get whatever she wants.animals
crunch timea critical periodCrunch time in most sports comes down to the final few minutes of a game.time
cry over spilled milkget upset over something insignificant or about something irreversibleI know you forgot your phone, but there is no need to cry over spilt milk. You can live without it for an hour.food
cry your heart outcry a lotHe cried his heart out when his dog died.body
cup of joecup of coffeeLet's get a cup of joe at Starbucks.food
curtainsfinished, the endI knew it was curtains for their marriage when they signed the prenuptial agreement.
cut cornersreduce spendingThe family had to cut corners in order to put food on the table.money
cut the cheesefartWho cut the cheese? It smells awful in here.food
cut the mustardmeet expectationsGeorge's work ethic didn't cut the mustard, so he got fired.food
cut the rugdanceI love this song! Let's go on the dance floor and cut the rug!
dig deeplook hard for information or try hardWalt had to dig deep to find a solution to the chemistry problem.geography
dirt cheapvery inexpensiveMy clothes are dirt cheap, but they still look fashionable.geography
do timego to prisonFranky has to do time for all those crimes that he was convicted of.time
dog daysvery hot daysThe dog days of summer are really humid and uncomfortable.animals
don't count chickens before they hatchdon't plan for something that may not happenZoe bought the dress, before anyone asked her to the prom. I told her not to count her chickens before they hatch.animals
double datingtwo couples dating at the same timeMy friend always goes on double dates and likes getting attention from both guys.love
double takelook a second timeWhen she walked by in those heels, all the guys did a double take.
down timerelaxing timeYou need to have some down time after a long day at work.time
down to earthnatural personalityAlexander is very wealthy, but he is still down to earth.geography
down to the wireto the endThe game is coming down to the wire and nobody has scored.sports
dress to killdress in glamorous clothesShe is always dressed to kill when she goes to the bar.clothing
drink like a fishdrink a lotNorm drinks like a fish when he goes to the pub.food, animals
drive someone crazymake someone annoyed or feel madly in loveShe drives me crazy. I don't know if I should buy her another diamond or get a divorce.love
drop like fliesdye or give up quicklyThe other candidates dropped like flies at the end of the election.animals
eager beaversomeone who is excited about somethingShe's such an eager beaver when checking updates on Instagram.animals
early birdsomeone who likes to wake up earlySara is such an early bird. She gets up before the sun rises.animals
easier said than doneeasier to speak words than to perform actionsThe government low tax policy is easier said than done.
easy come, easy gosomething that happens easily can just as easily be taken away
eat like a horseeat a lotYou eat like a horse. There is nothing left at the buttet.food, animals
egg someone onto urge or provoke someoneThe hockey player tried to egg his opponent on by dropping his gloves.food
elephant in the rooma sensitive unaddressed issueThe couple's money problem was an elephant in the room. They never talk about finances.animals
every cloud has a silver liningbe optimisticShe got fired but found a better job she. Every cloud has a silver lining.colors, weather
every nook and crannyeveryone possible placeI looked in every nook and cranny, but I couldn't find what I was looking for.
everything but the kitchen sinkalmost everything imaginableThe team threw everything but the kitchen sink at the goalie, but they couldn't score a goal.
face the musicdeal with unpleasant consequencesThe man confessed to the crime and faced the music in prison.body
fair-weather frienda person who is only a friend in good timesI try to avoid fair-weather friends. They aren't very sincere.weather
fat chanceunlikelyIt's a fat chance that the war will end this year.
feel bluefeel sadBarbara felt blue after breaking up with her boyfriend.colors
fine-tooth combin detailThe detective analyzed the crime scene with a fine-tooth comb.
fishystrange or suspiciousSomething fishy is going on. He takes his wedding ring off when he leaves.animals
fit as a fiddlegood physical healthLook at those abs! You are as fit as a fiddle!body
fit like a glovefit perfectlyThose jeans fit her like a glove.clothing
flesh and bloodfamilyI can't fire my brother. He's my own flesh and blood.body
foot the billpay for somethingI'll foot the bill and pay for everyone's meal at the restaurant.money, body
freeze your buns offbe very coldYou will freeze your buns off in Antarctica.food, body
front runnerfavorite to winThe stallion is the front runner. He'll be hard to beat.sports
full of beansenergeticThe elementary students are always full of beans.food
get a head startstart before othersDon always gets a head start and wakes up at dawn.sports, body
get a second windhave new energy after an attemptI was exhausted after 3 kilometers of running, but I got a second wind after I passed the beach.sports, weather
get bent out of shapeget upsetThe waiter got so bent out of shape when the customer tipped him a penny.body
get hitchedget marriedWe got hitched last month. Didn't you get the wedding invitation?love
get into the full swingbe comfortable doing something after some timeIt took her a month to get into the full swing of things. Now she is the best employee.sports
get something off my chestreveal or confess somethingI felt better getting it off my chest by confessing that I stole the money.body
get the bootget firedBob got the boot last week. He needs to find a new job.clothing
get wind of somethingoverhear something about someone or something (often gossip)Sherry got wind that her ex-boyfriend was coming to the same bar, so she went home.weather
get with the timesto get up-to-date with the modern eraTime to get with the times and buy an electric car.time
give a cold shoulderto deny or ignoreShe gave him a cold shoulder when he asked for her phone number.body
give a hand or lend a handhelp someoneCan you give me a hand with lifting this laundry machine?body
give a hard timetease or bother someoneStop giving your little brother a hard time and help him with his homework.time
give it your best shottry your hardestI know the homework is difficult but give it your best shot.sports
give no quarter (none asked)give no mercyThe student asked to take the test again, but the teacher gave no quarter.money
give someone a fair shakegive someone a chanceHe never got a fair shake. He got fired after a week.sports
give someone a run for their moneytry hard to defeat another personConnor is going to give Floyd a run for his money.sports, money
give the green lightgive permissionShe gave her son the green light to join the police academy.colors
glutton for punishmentsomeone who always takes on unpleasant tasksDebby is such a glutton for punishment. I think she enjoys being in bad relationships.
go downhillget progressively worseHis health started to go downhill when he started smoking again.geography
go Dutchsplit the billThe couple always likes to go Dutch and share their living expenses.
go overboarddo more than neededDon't go overboard or you'll get stressed out. Just do one page.
go steadydate each otherI asked her to go steady, but she dated Joe instead.love
go to bat for someonedefend someoneHis colleague went to bat for her and testified on her behalf.sports
go with the flowgo along with what everyone else does without conflictNancy just goes with the flow at her work and doesn't cause any interference.geography
golden opportunitya good chance for achievementHe had a golden opportunity to win the game on the penalty shot.colors
grass is always greener on the other sideothers always have it betterWhenever she complains about her hometown, I remind her that the grass is always greener on the other side.colors
gravy trainhigh pay for minimal workGovernment workers ride the gravy train while sitting at their desks doing nothing.food, transport, money
green thumbtalent for gardeningYour flowers live so long because of your green thumb.colors, body
grey areavague or unclearThe store's return policy is such a grey area. I don't understand their rules.colors
handle with kid gloveshandle delicatelyPlease handle those wine glasses with kid gloves.clothing
hang in therebe patient and stay optimisticI told Joe to hang in there when I found out that his wife was sick again.
hard nut to crackdifficult to understand or persuadeThe criminal was a tough nut to crack. He never revealed any of his accomplices.food
hat trickthree goals by one playerRonaldo scored several hat tricks last season.clothing, sports
have a blasthave a good timeWe all had a blast at the party!
have a bun in the ovenbe pregnantMary has a bun in the oven so she can't drink alcohol.food
have a card up your sleevehave a secret planYou had a card up your sleeve and you won the match by distracting the goalkeeper.clothing
have a cowget upsetDon't have a cow! It's not like I scratched the car on purpose!animals
have eyes in the back of your headperceptiveYou must have eyes in the back of your head. You always know what your boyfriend is doing when he's away.body
have the hots forto be attracted to someoneMary had the hots for George, so she wrote him a love letter.love
have the upper handhave a better chance of winningThe experienced boxer has the upper hand.sports, body
have your cake and eat it toowant more than you needFrank is married but he also wants to date other women. He wants to have his cake and eat it too.food
have your head in the cloudsto be unaware or obliviousYou always have your head in the clouds. Do you have any idea what's happening?body, geography, weather
head over heelsto be deeply in loveSarah was head over heels for her new boyfriend.body, clothing, love
heard it through the grapevinehear a rumorI heard it through the grapevine that you were getting nose surgery.food
heart goes out tofeel sympathyMy heart goes out to Sara. She spent years fighting cancer.love
high timethe right time to accomplish somethingIt's high time to solve this budget problem.time
hit a snagface a sudden problemWe've hit a snag. I don't think we can finish it on time now.sports
hit below the beltdo something that is unfairYou hit me below the belt when you said that lie about me.sports, body
hit the nail on the headto be precisely accurate or correctI couldn't have said it better myself. You really hit the nail on the head.
hit the roadleaveWhen the bell rang, the teacher told the students to hit the road.transport, geography
hit the sack / sheets / haygo to sleepI'm so tired. It's time to hit the sack.
hold all the acesexpected to winThe home team holds all the aces. I don't think the other team will win.sports
hold your horseswait and be patientHold your horses! I'll be ready in a minute.animals
holy cowthat is surprisingHoly cow! Did she really dye her hair blue?animals
horse aroundplay roughlyStop horsing around kids. You're in the library.animals
hot potatoa controversial subjectTrump's last Tweet was a hot potato in the news.food
hot shot or big shotvery confident or successful personAll the hot shots in New York live on the Upper East Side.sports
I betI think soI bet she's going to arrive late to work again.money
in a nutshellto sum upIn a nutshell, she is sick because she drank too much last night.food
in no timevery quicklyIt's so easy. I will be finished the assignment in no time.time
in over your headtrying something that is much too difficult for one's abilityYou're in over your head. You can't beat the computer at chess.body
in the blackprofitableFacebook has been in the black ever since the company went public.colors
in the dog housein troubleThe coach won't let me play. I'm in the dog house.animals
in the long runin the long termShe hates doing homework but in the long run it will make her successful.time
in the nick of timejust in timeHe caught the train in the nick of time just before it departed.time
it takes two to tangoit takes more than one personThere is now way she robbed the store alone. It takes two to tango. Someone helped her break in.numbers
joined at the hipinseparableJane and Joe are joined at the hip.love
jump shipescapeThe employees all jumped ship when they heard the company was going bankrupt.transport
jump the gunbegin too soonIf you jump the gun then you may make a mistake. Go at your own pace.sports
just what the doctor ordereddesirable resultIt's going to be sunny all weekend. Just what the doctor ordered!
keep an eye onwatch carefully or take care ofPlease keep an eye on the kettle. It will boil soon.body
keep something zipped upkeep something a secretHe tried to keep the affair zipped up, but his friend told his wife what happened.clothing
keep your chin upstay positiveKeep your chin up. You will win the next game.body
keep your head above watertry not to fall behindIt's hard to keep your head above water when you are already down by 3 goals.body, geography
keep your lips sealedpromise to keep a secretYou must keep your lips sealed about your affair.body
keep your shirt onstay calmKeep your shirt on and try to relax. The plane will land soon.clothing
kick the bucketdieI hope I can travel the world before I kick the bucket.
kill timepass time aimlesslyMost people kill time by swiping through their iPhone apps.time
kill two birds with one stoneaccomplish two things at onceWhy not kill two birds with one stone and brush your teeth in the shower?animals, numbers
kitty cornerdiagonally across fromStarbucks is kitty corner to the gas station.animals
know by heartmemorizeSteve knows all of the computer code by heart.body
know which way the wind blowsknow the end resultNobody knows which way the wind will blow. Just try to be positive.weather
learn the ropeslearn new thingsI spend the whole morning learning the ropes for the job.sports
leave at the altardecide not to marry at the last minuteHer fiance left her at the altar and moved to Fiji.love
let the cat out of the bagreveal a secretDon't let the cat out of the bag about the birthday party.animals
let your hair downrelax and have funYou should let your hair down on Saturday night and go dancing.body
level playing fieldequal chanceThe team leveled the playing field after the penalty kick.sports
lion's sharethe majority of somethingYou took the lion's share of the money. All I got was a couple pennies.animals, money
live from hand to mouthlive on very little moneyDuring the depression, we had to live from hand to mouth.money, body
long shotdifficult thing to accomplishIt will be a long shot to finish in the top three positions.sports
lose itlose controlIf you forget to tip the waiter again, he is going to completely lose it.
love is blindlove makes someone blind to their partner's imperfectionsLove is certainly blind. Tom is very attracted to a girl who eats on the toilet.love
love ratsomeone who cheats on their partnerHank is such a love rat. This is the tenth girl I've seen him with this week.love
lovey-doveykissing and huggingKate really hates it when couples are lovey-dovey in public.love
make a mountain out of a molehillto overemphasize small problemsThe car only got a tiny dent. You're making a mountain out of a molehill.geography
make from scratchmake with original ingredientsMy wife made me a delicious omelet from scratch.food
make lovesexFrank wanted to make love in the tent, but his wife wanted a hotel room.love
make my blood boilmake very angryDonald makes my blood boil when he talks.body
make the cutchosen to be part of a groupI don't think I made the cut. Other people will probably get hired instead.sports
make up for lost timeto catch up with something after disregarding it for a long timeLet's make up for lost time and hang out all week.time
method to my madnesshaving a purpose despite some disorganizationI know my desk is a mess, but there is a method to my madness. It makes everything easier to access.
monkey see, monkey dosilly people copy each otherMonkey see, monkey do. Your brother spilt ketchup on his shirt too.animals
my cup of teasomething enjoyableMusicals aren't my cup of tea. I prefer regular movies.food
neck and neckvery closeThe race cars were neck and neck until the end.sports, body
neck of the woodsnearby locationThe restaurant is in my neck of the woods.body, geography
nest eggsaved moneyShe has a huge nest egg, so she doesn't have to work anymore.animals, money
nice lettucenice hairDonald used to have really nice lettuce when he was younger, but now he is bald.food, body
no love lostmutual dislikeThere is no love lost between Donald and Hillary.love
no sweatno problemSara said it would be no sweat to finish the assignment on time.sports
not playing with a full decklower mental abilityGeorge isn't playing with a full deck. He forgot to wear his socks.sports
not up to parnot good enoughIf you're not up to par by the end of the month, you're fired.sports
off one's rockercrazyJanet is licking food off the floor. She must be off her rocker.
off the cuffimprovisedThe groom made did wedding speech off the cuff.clothing
off the hookescape obligationThe boss let him off the hook and said he didn't have to work today.
old handexperienced personPeter is an old hand when analyzing the stock market.body
on a silver platterwhole-heatedly or easilyHe was offered the new job on a silver platter, but he didn't take it.colors, food
on cloud ninevery happyElizabeth was on cloud nine when she put on the diamond ring.love, weather
on my watchduring my time on dutyI told the workers that they couldn't sleep on my watch. They can sleep when they get home.time
on the ballready and ableI'm on the ball today. I finished everything before lunch.sports
on the cansitting on the toiletMy uncle always looks sings songs on the can.sports
on the mendrestore or recoverTheir relationship is now on the mend after going to counseling.love
on the rocks (1)with iceCould I have a whisky on the rocks?food
on the rocks (2)a romantic relationship near the endTheir relationship is on the rocks. They'll probably break up soon.love
once in a blue moonrarelyThe truck driver visits his kids once in a blue moon.geography
out in left fieldstrange or unconventionalHis response was so way out in left field that everyone couldn't stop laughing.sports
out of my leaguenot as good as someone elseShe's way out of my league. There's no way she'll go out with me.sports
out of the bluesuddenlyHer ex-boyfriend called her out of the blue during her honeymoon.sports, colors
out of the woodsclear of a dangerous situationThe Lakers aren't out of the woods yet. They still have to play one more quarter.
out to lunchcrazy or distracted or confusedThat guy is so out to lunch. He is difficult to get business done with.geography, food
over my dead bodyto do anything to prevent something from happeningMy son wanted to get a face tattoo, but I told him over my dead body.body
over the hillold ageMy boss is over the hill, but he still doesn't want to retire.body
paint the town redhave funIt's finally the weekend! Let's paint the town red!geography
pat on the backgive recognitionYou deserve a pat on the back for fixing the furnace.body
pay a king's ransompay a lot of moneyThe team had to pay a king's ransom for the superstar.
penny pinchera frugal personVictor is such a penny pincher. He never buys anything for anyone.
piece of cakevery easyThe final exam was a piece of cake.body
pig outeat a lotLast night, I pigged out on a bag of potato chips.food, animals
piss in my cornflakesto annoy out of spiteShe always pisses in my cornflakes because of what I did to her last year.animals
pitch blackvery darkYou should always sleep in a room that is pitch black.colors
play second fiddleplay a secondary roleThe new intern always plays second fiddle to his colleagues.numbers
play something by earlet things occur without a rigid planLet's play it by ear and see what happens tonight.body
plenty of other fish in the seathere are many other available partnersDon't worry. You'll find another girl. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.animals
pop the questionask someone to get marriedHe popped her the big question during their vacation.love
pot calling the kettle blackto hypocritically criticizeDonald says the news is fake but that's like the pot calling the kettle black.love
pour money down the drainwaste moneyBetting on an injured horse is like pouring money down the drain.
pressed for timehaving limited time availableThe doctor was really pressed for time, so he misdiagnosed the illness.time
pull up your sockstry hardGood job. You pulled your socks up, studied all day, and aced the test.colors, food
pull your legtease or joke aroundI'm just pulling your leg. Don't take it too seriously.clothing
pull yourself togethercalm downYou need to pull yourself together and stop screaming at me in public.body
puppy loveteenager romantic loveIt was just puppy love during high school but they broke up in university.love, animals
pushing up daisiesdieYou'll be pushing up daisies if you don't quit smoking.
put a sock in itstop talkingPut a sock in it and listen to the teacher!flowers
put all of the eggs in one basketrely on one thingHe dedicated all of his time to baseball. If he puts all of his eggs in one basket, he may not have an alternative career to rely on.clothing
put in my two centsgive my opinionCan I put in my two cents? I have something important to say.
put on icepostponeLet's put this problem on ice and get back to it tomorrow.
put your money where your mouth isstop talking and start acting upon somethingYou should put your money where your mouth is and start your new business idea.body, money
put your thinking cap onconcentrateYou put your thinking cap on and created a brilliant ad for the new product.clothing
put yourself in my shoessympathizePut yourself in the my shoes, then you will understand why I did it.clothing
question of timean inevitability or eventualityIt's only a question of time until all cars drive themselves.time
rags to richesgoing from being poor to wealthyJake went from rags to riches after he won the lottery.clothing, money
rain on someone else's paradeinfringe on someone's happinessStop raining on my parade whenever you get miserable.weather
raining cats and dogsraining heavilyIt's raining cats and dogs. Remember your umbrella.weather, animals
raise a white flagsurrenderI decided to raise a white flag and stop arguing with my wife.animals, colors
rat racecompetitive struggleI escaped the rat race in the office and moved to Hawaii.animals
ray of hopea slight chance that something positive will occurShe still had a ray of hope that she would get into medical school.weather
red herringsomething that draws attention away from an important topicThe President's gambling addiction was just a red herring for the pipeline problems.animals, colors
red taperules which hinder progressThere is a lot of red tape involved with starting a business.colors, animals
red-letter dayan important dayMy graduation was a red-letter day for my parents.colors
ride my coattailsdo nothing and let others do all the workShe has been riding my coattails all year and I don't get any credit for my effort.clothing
right as rainfeeling very well or fitAfter a walk through the park, I feel as right as rain. My mind feels clear.weather
ring a bellcause recollection or somethingThat song rings a bell, but I still can't remember the singer's name.
rise and shinewake up or get out of bedRise and shine! Breakfast is ready!
roll out the red carpetgreet someone with great respectThey rolled out the red carpet during the President's inauguration.colors
roll up your sleeveswork hardYou rolled up your sleeves and got the job done.clothing
rub the wrong wayannoyThat guy really rubs me the wrong way. I can't stand being around him.
rule of thumbgeneral ruleAs a rule of thumb, you should get 8 hours of sleep per night.body
run a tight shipbe strictThe director runs a tight ship. He never lets his employees leave early.body
save for a rainy daysave money in case something unfortunate happensYou should save for a rainy day. You could get injured or become unemployed.weather, money
screw the poochfailCarl really screwed the pooch on the exam. He's the only one who failed.animals
see eye to eyeagreeMy wife and eye don't see eye to eye. We're getting a divorce.body
see redto be enragedBobby saw red when his brother broke his phone.colors
serve timespend time in prisonChuck served time in prison so it is difficult for him to get hired.time
settle a scoreget evenIt's time to settle the score. I'm sick of losing against these guys.sports
shake it offrecoverDon't worry about the poor test result. Shake it off and try again.
ship has saileda lost opportunityJack was thinking of marrying Jane but that ship has sailed. She married Zack instead.time
shoot the breezechitchatLet's grab lunch and shoot the breeze.weather
shooting fish in a barreleasy or not challengingFor my brilliant little brother, setting up the Wifi connection is like shooting fish in a barrel.animals
shot in the darkguessIt was a shot in the dark, but her answer was correct.animals
silver screenthe movie industryAngelina always wanted to star on the silver screen.colors
simmer downcalm downThe kids have been screaming all day. Tell them to simmer down.
six of one and half a dozen of the otherequivalent alternativesThe bus and subway arrive at the same time. It's six of one and half a dozen of the other.numbers
skate on thin icedo something riskyHe was skating on thin ice when he insulted the boss.sports, weather
sleep with the fishesdieBefore pulling the trigger, he told the gangster to sleep with the fishes.animals
smart cookiean intelligent personGeorge is one smart cookie. He got 100 percent on all his tests.food
smell a ratsuspect deceptionI smell rat. I know I left my wallet on my desk, but it's gone.animals
snowed underhaving too much work to doI'm really snowed under now. Can I do the report tomorrow?weather
so and sorefering to someone's nameI was talking to so and so yesterday and she said the concert was amazing.animals
spice things upmake more excitingSara spiced up her room by hanging paintings on the walls.food
spill the beansreveal a secretWho spilt the beans about my brother's surprise birthday party?food
start the ball rollingstart somethingLet's get the ball rolling and start with some ice breakers.sports
steal someone's thunderto take credit for someone else's achievementSome companies steal another's thunder and ignore copyright laws.weather
step up to the platetake responsibilityYuna is going to step up to the plate and admit that her team's decision was wrong.sports
stick your neck outhelp someone despite possible consequences for oneselfYou should stick your neck out for your teammate.body
stick-in-the-muda dull or unadventurous personJerry is such stick-in-the-mud. He never wants to go out with his friends.body
storm in a teacupmake a small problem bigger than it isDon't make a storm in a teacup. We can go to another restaurant that doesn't require reservations.weather
storm is brewingan indication that something bad could occurA feel like a storm is brewing and the stock market is about to crash.weather
straight from the horse's mouthdirectly from the sourceThe boss said we're bankrupt. The news came straight from the horse's mouth.animals, body
sweet toothlove sweet thingsSuzie has a sweet tooth. She always eats ice cream after dinner.food
take a raincheckreschedule at another timeCan I take a raincheck? I don't have time to hang out tonight.weather
take my hat off to someonehonor someoneI take my hat off to Frank. He was the best singer of the century.clothing
take no prisonersruthlessly agressiveTo be successful in business, you need to take no prisoners and beat the competition.
take the bull by the hornsbe brave and face a challengeIf you want to be rich, take the bull by the horns and work harder.animals
take the cakeespecially good or outstandingHis slapshot definitely takes the cake. It's the best in the league!food
take the wind out of my sailsto feel deflatedYou really took the wind out of my sails when you laughed at my new invention.food, weather
take with a grain of saltdon't believe it is completely accurateI always take whatever I read in the news with a grain of salt.food
talk a blue streaktalk a lotWomen who are close friends can talk a blue streak on the phone.colors
the big timea situation involving fame or successThe actress was ready for the big time when she was nominated for the award.time
the birds and the beessex educationI remember learning about the birds and the bees in middle school.animals
the eleventh hourlast chance to do somethingJust before the deadline, the student submitted the assignment at the eleventh hour.time, numbers
the home stretchnear the endWe're on the home stretch now. We'll be there in a few minutes.
the lion's sharethe majorityShe was upset because her sister got the lion's share of the inheritance.animals, money
the tip of the iceberga small part of a bigger problemThe tax evasion was just the tip of the iceberg. The company has committed countless other crimes.
the whole nine yardseverythingWe covered the whole nine yards in the meeting. There's nothing left to do.geography, numbers
thick in the headstupid or foolishTommy is so thick in the head. He keeps licking the wall.body
third time's a charmthe third time is usually successfulI tried unlocking the door twice already. I hope the third time's a charm.time, numbers
through thick and thinin good and bad timesHe loved his wife through thick and thin.
throw caution to the windto let go of all responsibilities and have funLet's throw caution to the wind, quit our jobs, and go on vacation!
throw in the towelgive upRocky never threw in the towel during his fighting career.love
throw it in herhave sex with herYou should throw it in her. I think she really wants you.love
throw the baby out with the bath waterremoving something good while trying to remove something badKeep writing your novel. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Most of what you have written is great.
throw under the bussacrifice someone as a scapegoatThe player threw the goaltender under the bus saying he was the reason they lost the game.transportation
tick for tackretaliationThe team lost the first game, but won the second. Tick for tack.
tie the knotget marriedAre you ever going to tie the knot? You aren't getting any younger.love
time fliestime goes very fastOur vacation is over already? Time flies!time
time is moneytime is valuableWe can't wait here all day. Time is money!time, money
time of your lifean enjoyable time of your lifeDid you have the time of your life when you were a teenager?time
time to runtime to leaveIt's time to run. I need to go an pick up my kids from school.time
time will tellthe outcome will soon be knownOnly time will tell what happens to the human race.time
to be off basenot making a fair statementMandy was off base when she said that I needed a hair transplant to get the acting role.sports
to fancy someoneto think someone is very attractiveDo you fancy Molly? She likes you too.love
tongue in cheeknot meaning what one is sayingWhen I said to fly to Hawaii, I was speaking tongue in cheek. I didn't actually think you would book a ticket!body
true colorsactual character or personalityI saw her true colors when she donated to the local charity.colors
two-timecheat or betrayHis girlfriend was two-timing him by sleeping with the plumber.numbers, time
under my thumbunder my controlMick said the girl was under his thumb. She was the sweetest pet in the world.body
under the tableconcealed or by secretWe should keep this under the table until we know it's safe to tell everyone.
under the weatherfeel sickSorry, I can't come to work today. I'm feeling a bit under the weather.weather
until the cows come homefor a long timeShe can watch Netflix until the cows come home.animals, time
up the creekin troubleIf I don't wash the dishes tonight, I'll be up the creek. Mom said to wash them two days ago.geography
walk out on someoneto end a relationshipMy girlfriend walked out on me, so I drank a bottle of vodka.love
wash my hands of somethingstop dealing with a problemI'm washing my hands of his troubled past and moving on with life.body
water off a duck's backa harmful remark that has no effect on someoneShe insulted me but I didn't care. It was like water off a duck's back.body, animals
water under the bridgea past problem that no longer affects the presentHe cheated on her 10 years ago, but that is water under the bridge now.
wear the pantsbe in chargeShe wears the pants in the family. Her husband stays home and sleeps all day.clothing
wear your heart on your sleeveshow emotions openlyYou always wear heart on your sleeve and give annual donations to charity.clothing
when it rains, it poursmany misfortunes often occur all at onceLast week, my dog died and I broke my leg. When it rains, it pours.weather
whisper sweet nothingsto say romantic things to someoneSue likes it when I whisper sweet nothings in her ear in bed.love
white elephantuseless possessionMy old DVD player is a white elephant. I only watch Netflix now.colors, clothing
white liea harmless lieShe told her boss a white lie when she said she had a doctor's appointment.colors
white-collaroffice laborMost white-collar workers don't get much sunshine.clothing, colors
wild goose chaselengthy undertaking that accomplishes littleMaking the playoffs is now a wild goose chase. The team should focus on player development.animals
win hands downeasy victoryThe team one hands down because their opponents had three red cards.sports, body
yellow-belliedcowardlyDon't be so yellow-bellied. It's only a small spider!colors, body
you betabsolutely or "of course"Marge told Bart to take out the trash. He said, "Sure, mom. You bet!"colors, body
you can say that againthat is definitely true"This movie is so boring," she said. "You can say that again," her friend replied with a yawn.

Suggest New Idioms and Phrases

If you have any expressions or idiom themes that you would like to see, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

The idiom tables will be updated regularly with new content.

Your ideas could be added to the lists in the next update.

View our English Idioms and Phrases Playlist on YouTube:

More Idiom Resources Online for Teachers and Students:

Leave a Comment

  Subscribe  
Notify of