Idioms A-Z

A hot potato

Speak of an issue (mostly current) which many people are talking about and which is usually disputed

A penny for your thoughts

A way of asking what someone is thinking

Actions speak louder than words

People’s intentions can be judged better by what they do than what they say.

Add insult to injury

To further a loss with mockery or indignity; to worsen an unfavourable situation.

An arm and a leg

Very expensive or costly. A large amount of money.

At the drop of a hat

Meaning: without any hesitation; instantly.

Back to the drawing board

When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.

Ball is in your court

It is up to you to make the next decision or step

Barking up the wrong tree

Looking in the wrong place. Accusing the wrong person

Be glad to see the back of

Be happy when a person leaves.

Beat around the bush

Avoiding the main topic. Not speaking directly about the issue.

Best of both worlds

All the advantages.

Best thing since sliced bread

A good invention or innovation. A good idea or plan.

Bite off more than you can chew

To take on a task that is way too big.

Blessing in disguise

Something good that isn’t recognised at first.

Burn the midnight oil

To work late into the night, alluding to the time before electric lighting.

Can’t judge a book by its cover

Cannot judge something primarily on appearance..

Costs an arm and a leg

This idiom is used when something is very expensive.

Cross that bridge when you come to it

Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary, not before.

Cry over spilt milk

When you complain about a loss from the past.

Curiosity killed the cat

Being Inquisitive can lead you into an unpleasant situation.

Cut corners

When something is done badly to save money.

Cut the mustard

To succeed; to come up to expectations; adequate enough to compete or participate

Devil’s Advocate

To present a counter argument

Don’t count your chickens before the eggs have hatched

This idiom is used to express “Don’t make plans for something that might not happen”.

Don’t give up your day job

You are not very good at something. You could definitely not do it professionally.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Do not put all your resources in one possibility.

Drastic times call for drastic measures

When you are extremely desperate you need to take radical actions.

Elvis has left the building

The show has come to an end. It’s all over.

Every cloud has a silver lining

Be optimistic, even difficult times will lead to better days.

Far cry from

Very different from.

Feel a bit under the weather

Feeling slightly ill.

Give the benefit of the doubt

Believe someone’s statement, without proof.

Hear it on the grapevine

This idiom means ‘to hear rumors’ about something or someone.

Hit the nail on the head

Do or say something exactly right

Hit the sack / sheets / hay

To go to bed.

In the heat of the moment

To say or do something without thinking it through because you are overwhelmed by what is happening in the moment.

It takes two to tango

Actions or communications need more than one person

Jump on the bandwagon

Join a popular trend or activity.

Keep something at bay

To stop something from happening. To manage a situation to prevent it from getting worse.

Kill two birds with one stone

This idiom means, to accomplish two different things at the same time.

Last straw

The final problem in a series of problems.

Let sleeping dogs lie

Meaning – do not disturb a situation as it is – since it would result in trouble or complications.

Let the cat out of the bag

To share information that was previously concealed

Make a long story short

Come to the point – leave out details

Method in my madness

An assertion that, despite one’s approach seeming random, there actually is structure to it.

Miss the boat

This idiom is used to say that someone missed his or her chance

Not a spark of decency

No manners

Not playing with a full deck

Someone who lacks intelligence.

Off one’s rocker

Crazy, demented, out of one’s mind, in a confused or befuddled state of mind, senile.

On the ball

When someone is active, attentive and aware and handling a situation well.

Once in a blue moon

Happens very rarely.

Picture paints a thousand words

A visual presentation is far more descriptive than words.

Piece of cake

A job, task or other activity that is easy or simple.

Put wool over other people’s eyes

This means to deceive someone into thinking well of them.

See eye to eye

This idiom is used to say that two (or more people) agree on something.

Sit on the fence

This is used when someone does not want to choose or make a decision.

Speak of the devil!

This expression is used when the person you have just been talking about arrives.

Steal someone’s thunder

To take credit for something someone else did.

Take with a grain of salt

This means not to take what someone says too seriously.

Taste of your own medicine

Means that something happens to you, or is done to you, that you have done to someone else

To hear something straight from the horse’s mouth

To hear something from the authoritative source.

Whole nine yards

Everything. All of it.

Wouldn’t be caught dead

Would never like to do something

Your guess is as good as mine

To have no idea, do not know the answer to a question