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English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions

Alphabetical lists of English idioms with their meaning and an example.


The lists below show the first and last idiom on each page:

  • Alphabetical idioms - lists A :
    • list A1 :  abbreviated piece of nothing → (hold all the) aces
    • list A2 :  achilles heel → alarm bells
    • list A3 :  all along → all the rage
    • list A4 :  all sizzle and no steak → apple of your eye
    • list A5 :  (upset the) applecart → at all costs
    • list A6 :  at this stage of the game → (have an) axe to grind
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists B :
    • list B1 :  (leave someone holding the) baby  →  in bad shape
    • list B2 :  badger someone →  whole new ball game
    • list B3 :  ballpark figure  →  battle lines are drawn
    • list B4 :  battle of wills  →  beat a dead horse
    • list B5 :  beat a hasty retreat  →  before your very eyes
    • list B6 :  beggar can't be choosers  →  beside yourself
    • list B7 :  best bet  →  beyond any reasonable doubt
    • list B8 :  beyond one's wildest dreams →  bite the bullet
    • list B9 :  bite the dust → blamestorming
    • list B10 : blank cheque  →  blow away the cobwebs
    • list B11 : blow a fuse  →  above board
    • list B12 : in the same boat   →  bored to tears
    • list B13 : born with silver spoon in your mouth  →  all brawn no brain
    • list B14 : know which side your bread is buttered  →  a breeze
    • list B15 : bricks and mortar/bricks and clicks  →   pass the buck
    • list B16 : kick the bucket  →  burning question
    • list B17 : bury your head in the sand  →  by degrees
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists C :
    • list C1 :  (in) cahoots with  →  burn the candle at both ends 
    • list C2 :  (paddle one's own) canoe  → carrot and stick 
    • list C3 :  carry the can  →  fat cat
    • list C4 :  cat nap  →  catch as catch can
    • list C5 :  caught in the crossfire  →  change the face of
    • list C6 :  change of heart  →  chicken out
    • list C7 :  chickens come home to roost  →  chips are down
    • list C8 :  (as useful as a) chocolate teapot  →  clip someone's wings
    • list C9 :   clock in/out  →  cold calls
    • list C10 : cold turkey  →  come to grips
    • list C11 : come to a head  →  common ground
    • list C12 : common knowledge  →  couch potato
    • list C13 : cough up  →  cream of the crop
    • list C14 : cream rises to the top  →  at cross purposes
    • list C15 : cross the Rubicon  →  a cut above
    • list C16 : cut both ways  →  cut it fine
    • list C17 : cut it out  →   cutting edge
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists D :
    • list D1 :  dab hand at something → dead in the water
    • list D2 :  dead loss  →  (like a) deer caught in the headlights
    • list D3 :  (by) degrees → dice are loaded
    • list D4 :  dice with death → disappear into thin air
    • list D5 :  disaster written all over → dog-eat-dog
    • list D6 :  dog and pony show → (in the) doghouse
    • list D7 :  (in the) doldrums → down in the mouth
    • list D8 :  down payment  →  dressed to kill
    • list D9 :  dressed up to the nines  →  dry (or dummy) run
    • list D10 :sitting duck → dying for
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists E :
    • list E1 :  eager beaver →  eat crow
    • list E2 :  eat dirt → (walk on) eggshells
    • list E3 :  ego trip  →  even keel
    • list E4 :  even the score  →  eagle eyes
    • list E5 :  eyes in the back of your head  →  eyes on stalks
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists F :
    • list F1 :   face like a bulldog  → facts speak for themselves
    • list F2 :   fair and square → fall on deaf ears
    • list F3 :   fall on sword → fat cat
    • list F4 :   fat chance → feet of clay
    • list F5 :   (back on your) feet → (play second) fiddle
    • list F6 :   fiddling while Rome burns → finger in every pie
    • list F7 :   put a finger on →  in the first place
    • list F8 :   (of the) first water  →  fit for purpose
    • list F9 :    fit to be tied → fly-by-night
    • list F10 :  fly by seat of one's pants → (on a) fool's errand
    • list F11 :  fool's paradise  →  forewarned is forearmed
    • list F12 :  forty winks → freudian slip)
    • list F13 :  friends in high places → fur coat
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists G :
    • list G1 :  gab of the gab →  get cracking
    • list G2 :  get down to brass tacks → get off the hook
    • list G3 :  get on your high horse →  get your skates on
    • list G4 :  get to bottom → give run-around
    • list G5 :  give the shirt off one's back  → go against the tide
    • list G6 :  go all out → go hand in hand
    • list G7 :  go haywire  →  go postal
    • list G8 :  go to hell in a handcart   →  gone with the wind
    • list G9 :  good as gold →green fingers
    • list G10 : green light → gutter press
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists H :
    • list H1 :  (old) habits die hard →  half a mind
    • list H2 :  hammer home → hands tied
    • list H3 :  (wash your) hands of → happy as Larry
    • list H4 :  happy-go-lucky→ have you gone out of your mind?
    • list H5 :  have kittens → hear through grapevine
    • list H6 :  heart's content → heebie jeebies
    • list H7 :  hell broke loose → hidden agenda
    • list H8 :  high and dry → hit panic button
    • list H9 :  hit the road  → (not) hold water
    • list H10 : holier-than-thou  →  horns of a dilemma
    • list H11 : horse of a different colour → (not give) house room
    • list H12 : (on the) house → hustle and bustle
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists I :
    • list I1 : break the ice → in essence
    • list I2 : in the first place → in retrospect
    • list I3 : in safe hands → be an item
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists J :
    • list J1 : jack of all trades → jump the gun
    • list J2 : jump for joy → just the ticket
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists K :
    • list K1 : kangaroo court → keep your nose to the grindstone
    • list K2 : keep your options open → kick yourself
    • list K3 : a kickback → kowtow to someone
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists L :
    • list L1 : labour of love  → laugh all the way
    • list L2 : laugh off → leave high and dry
    • list L3 : leave no stone unturned → let bygones be bygones
    • list L4 : let me bounce this off you  →  keep a lid on
    • list L5 : lie in → see in new light
    • list L6 : (shed) light → lipstick on a pig
    • list L7 : live beyond your means → (a) load off your mind
    • list L8 : loan shark → look the picture of health)
    • list L9 : look a sight → at a loss
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists M :
    • list M1 : mad as a hatter →make an exhibition of
    • list M2 : make flesh crawl → make nothing of
    • list M3 : (can't) make an omelette → (find your) match
    • list M4 : matter of time → middle of nowhere
    • list M5 : (smack dab in the) middle → mind your Ps and Qs
    • list M6 : (in one's) mind's eye → money for old rope
    • list M7 : money doesn't grow → (once in blue) moon
    • list M8 : reach for the moon → move heaven and earth
    • list M9 : move in the same circles → my way or the highway
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists N :
    • list N1 : nailing jelly to the wall → nest egg
    • list N2 : never a dull moment → night owl
    • list N3 : nine-day wonder→ no hard feelings
    • list N4 : no holds barred → not give the time of day
    • list N5 : not in the same league → nuts and bolts
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists O :
    • list O1 : odds and ends  → can't make an omelette
    • list O2 : on the cards  → one good turn
    • list O3 : one hand washes the other → open secret
    • list O4 : open-and-shut case → out on a limb
    • list O5 : out to lunch → over and done with
    • list O6 : over the hill → world is your oyster
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists P :
    • list P1 :  put through paces → paper tiger
    • list P2 :  paper trail → not a patch on
    • list P3 :  pay dearly for → penny drops
    • list P4 :  in for a penny → no picnic)
    • list P5 :  picture of health → pillar to post
    • list P6 :  (at a) pinch → play with fire
    • list P7 :  play footsie → pleased as punch
    • list P8 :  pluck out of the air→ politically correct
    • list P9 :  pop one's clogs → pour one's heart out
    • list P10 : power behind the throne → (a) proper do
    • list P11 : proud as a peacock → push one's luck
    • list P12 : if push comes to shove → put one's house in order
    • list P13 : put in one's place  → Pyrrhic victory
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists Q :
    • list Q :  quaking in one's boots  →  quiet as a mouse
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists R :
    • list R1 :  race against time → rake in the money
    • list R2 :  ram down someone's  throat  → rear its ugly head
    • list R3 :  recharge one's batteries → refresh someone's memory
    • list R4 :  regain one's composure →  (a) rip-off
    • list R5 :  ripple effect → (when in) Rome do as the Romans
    • list R6 :  (go through the) roof   →  (bend the) rules
    • list R7 :  run down → (in a) rut
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists S :
    • list S1 :  (get the) sack  → (in the) same boat
    • list S2 :  (by the) same token  → scales fall from your eyes
    • list S3 :  scarce as hen's teeth → sea legs
    • list S4 :  seal of approval → seen better days
    • list S5 :  sell down the river  → settle a score
    • list S6 :  shake like a leaf → ship has sailed
    • list S7 :  ships that pass in the night  → short end of the stick
    • list S8 :  short fuse → shrug something off
    • list S9 :  shut the stable door when horse ...  → simplicity itself
    • list S10 : since time immemorial → skeleton staff
    • list S11 : skin a cat  →  slice of the cake
    • list S12 : sling mud  →  (a) smash hit
    • list S13 : smoke like a chimney → sneak preview
    • list S14 : (not to be) sneezed at → spanner in the works
    • list S15 : (go) spare → spin a yarn
    • list S16 : spinach cinema  →  (no) spring chicken
    • list S17 : (on the) spur of the moment  → starter marriage
    • list S18 : state of the art → step on someone's toes
    • list S19 : step out of line → sticky fingers
    • list S20 : (on a) sticky wicket  →  (a) storm is brewing
    • list S21 : (a) storm in a teacup  →  stretch the truth
    • list S22 : (in) strict confidence → stubborn as a mule
    • list S23 : stuck in time warp → sweet nothings
    • list S24 : sweet tooth → (all) systems go
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists T :
    • list T1 :  tail wagging the dog → take with a grain of salt
    • list T2 :  take the law into your own hands → take the rough with the smooth
    • list T3 :  take shape → take stock
    • list T4 :  take to the cleaners → (run a) taut ship
    • list T5 :  (not for all the) tea in China  → text-walking
    • list T6 :  thank one's lucky stars   -  thick as thieves
    • list T7 :  through thick and thin → thrilled to bits
    • list T8 :  (at each other's) throats →  (rule of) thumb
    • list T9 :  (all) thumbs → time after time
    • list T10 : (for the) time being → toing and froing
    • list T11 : token gesture  →  toot your own horn
    • list T12 : (fight) tooth and nail → toy with an idea
    • list T13 : trade secret  → tunnel vision
    • list T14 : turkeys voting for Christmas → (in the) twinkling of an eye
    • list T15 : twist someone's arm  →  put two and two together
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists U :
    • list U1 :  ugly as sin → up in arms
    • list U2 :  up in the air → useful as chocolate teapot
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists V :
    • list V1 :  vanish into thin air  →  vote with one's feet
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists W :
    • list W1 :  on the wagon  → walk a tightrope
    • list W2 :  walking on air  →  wax lyrical
    • list W3 :  ways and means → wet blanket
    • list W4 :  whale of a time→ white lie
    • list W5 :  whiz kid →  get wind of)
    • list W6 :  (know) which way wind blows  →  wise after the event
    • list W7 :  wise up to → can't see the wood for the trees
    • list W8 :  touch wood → work like a charm
    • list W9 :  work to rule → best of both worlds
    • list W10 :worlds apart  →  written all over your face
  • Alphabetical idioms - lists X-Y-Z :
    • list X-Y-Z : xerox subsidy  →  zero tolerance



See also : Idioms by theme


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