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English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions

Success - Failure

(Idioms page 7 : pyrrhic victory  →  spanner in the works)

pyrrhic victory A victory that is obtained at a tremendous cost, or causes such a great loss that it is not worth winning, is called a Pyrrhic victory.
It was a Pyrrhic victory.  The shop owner won the lawsuit but went bankrupt because of the legal expenses involved.
rags to riches If a person goes from rags to riches, they start off being very poor and become very rich and successful.
By renovating old houses in the right places, he went from rags to riches.
riding high Someone who is riding high is enjoying a period of success or popularity.
He's been riding high since the success of his last film.
rise to the occasion If you rise to the occasion, you manage to do something successfully in difficult circumstances.
When her boss broke his leg, Julie had to represent the company at the congress, and she rose to the occasion extremely well.
run rings around If you show much more skill or ability than your opponent, you run rings (or circles) around them.
In a quiz show on TV yesterday, a teenage girl ran rings around the other contestants.
sail through If you sail through something, for example a test or an exam, you succeed in doing it without difficulty.
The English test was no problem for Pedro. He sailed through it.
save the day If you find a solution to a serious problem, and ensure the success of something that was expected to fail, you save the day.
The dog ate the apple pie I had made for my guests, but my sister saved the day by making one of her speedy desserts!
sink or swim If someone has to sink or swim, they have to do something alone, and their success or failure depends entirely on their own efforts.
The sink-or-swim attitude in the company can be very difficult for young recruits.
sky's the limit To say the sky's the limit means that there is no limit to the possibility of success or progress for someone or something.
"How successful do you think the project will be?"
"Who knows ... the sky's the limit!"
slam dunk A basketball term which means that success or victory will be easily achieved.
"Our lawyer will win the case easily. It's a slam dunk."
smash hit A very successful performance in music, films, theatre, etc. is called a smash hit.
The film 'Titanic' was a smash hit all over the world.
snatch victory from the jaws of defeat If you manage to win something such as a match or a contest, when you are on the verge of losing, you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
With a last-minute goal, the team snatched victory form the jaws of defeat.
spread oneself too thin If you spread yourself too thin, you do too many things at the same time and can't do any of them well.
Don't spread yourself too thin or you'll get nowhere.
throw a spanner in the works If someone or something throws a spanner (or a wrench) in the works, they do something that causes problems and prevents the success of a plan or event.
The two companies were keen to sign the agreement before anything happened to throw a spanner in the works.
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