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Popular English Idioms

What are Idioms?

An idiom is a common phrase which means something different from its literal meaning.

Here are some popular idioms, their meaning and examples.

As mentioned idioms can be random when they are translated literally, making it difficult to create a connection between the idiom and their meanings. Here we have grouped together idioms into some common themes.


1. Animals


LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE

Meaning - Don't talk about a bad situation that most people have forgotten about.

Example - Ben, let sleeping dogs lie. Don't ask your boss if he's upset about you coming in late if he hasn't mentioned anything to you.


UNTIL THE COWS COME HOME

Meaning - For a very long time.

Example - We could talk about this problem until the cows come home, but it wouldn't solve anything.


SNUG AS A BUG IN A RUG

Meaning - To be warm and cosy.

Example - Sarah looked as snug as a bug in a rug wrapped up in that blanket.


KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE

Meaning - To complete two tasks at once with a single action.

Example - I killed two birds with one stone, I listened to my English podcast while I walked to the shop.


GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW

Meaning - To be well organised.

Example - Wouldn't it be nice to get your ducks in a row and not have to search for the paperwork every time you need it.


HOLD YOUR HORSES

Meaning - Slow down, wait.

Example - Hold your horses, it's raining outside, we should go on the walk when the rain has stopped.


BULL IN A CHINA SHOP

Meaning - A clumsy person.

Example - When Sarah knocked the water over her Mum said she was like a bull in a china shop.


LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE

Meaning - Don't talk about a bad situation that most people have forgotten about.

Example - Ben, let sleeping dogs lie. Don't ask your boss if he's upset about you coming in late if he hasn't mentioned anything to you.


RAINING CATS AND DOGS

Meaning - Raining heavily.

Example - I didn't go out earlier because it was raining cats and dogs.



2. Food


A PIECE OF CAKE

Meaning - A task or job that is easy to complete.

Example - The English test was a piece of cake.


BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD

Meaning - A good invention or idea.

Example - Have you checked out this new app? I think its the best thing since sliced bread.


APPLE OF YOUR EYE

Meaning - Something or someone that you love above all others.

Example - Emma was his first child and the apple of this eye.


COOL AS A CUCUMBER

Meaning - To remain calm under pressure.

Example - Ben is always as cool as a cucumber and never worries about exams.


IN A NUTSHELL

Meaning - To describe something briefly/using a few words.

Example - In a nutshell, it was a good day.


3. Body Parts


HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD

Meaning - To do or say exactly the right thing.

Example - Jack hit the nail on the head when he said it would be quicker to get the train.


KEEP YOUR CHIN UP

Meaning - To stay positive during a difficult situation.

Example - Keep your chin up and remember that this won't last forever.


COST AN ARM AND A LEG

Meaning - Something that is very expensive.

Example - I bought a new car last week. It cost an arm and a leg.


TO GET COLD FEET

Meaning - To suddenly become too afraid to do something.

Example - I was going to try bungee jumping but I got cold feet.


4. Weather


ON CLOUD NINE

Meaning - To be extremely happy.

Example - Mark was on cloud nine after passing his English exam.


CATCH SOME RAYS

Meaning - To get some sunshine, tan in the sun.

Example - Let's go on a walk and catch some rays while the sun is out.


COME RAIN OR SHINE

Meaning - Whatever happens.

Example - Come rain or shine, we will finish this project tomorrow.


5. Other popular idioms


A WALK IN THE PARK

Meaning - Something very easy to do.

Example - Question: How was your exam, was it difficult? Answer: No. It was a walk in the park because I studied for it.


BLOW OFF STEAM

Meaning - To do or say something that helps you to get rid of strong feelings or energy.

Example - Sarah goes running on an evening to let off steam.


A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

Meaning - What are you thinking about?

Example - Noticing that Sarah looked sad, Emma asked: "a penny for your thoughts?"


PUT A SOCK IN IT

Meaning - Be quiet.

Example - Will you put a sock in it? I'm trying to study here.


GET YOUR WIRES CROSSED

Meaning - To misunderstand someone.

Example - Emma got her wires crossed, I told her to email Ben but she emailed Bill.


THE POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK

Meaning - To criticise someone for a fault you have yourself.

Example - You are unhappy because I don't wash the dishes, talk about the pot calling the kettle black.


HIT THE BOOKS

Meaning - To study, especially for a test or exam.

Example - I've done no work for the test, I really need to hit the books.


DROP IN THE OCEAN

Meaning - A small amount compared to the amount needed.

Example - Banning plastic bags is just a small drop in the ocean, it won't solve our plastic problem.


ALL DRESSES UP WITH NOWHERE TO GO

Meaning - Getting ready for something and then it never happened.

Example - She was waiting for him but he never showed up. As usual, she was all dresses up with nowhere to go.


THROW IN THE TOWEL

Meaning - To give up or quit.

Example - Even though learning English can be hard at times, never throw in the towel.


OUT OF THE BLUE

Meaning - Suddenly and unexpectedly.

Example - One day, out of the blue, she announced she was leaving.


DROP IN THE OCEAN

Meaning - A small amount compared to the amount needed.

Example - Banning plastic bags is just a small drop in the ocean, it won't solve our plastic problem.


BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW

Meaning - To try to do more than you are able to.

Example - I think I bit off more than I could chew when I agreed to redecorate the house by myself.


HIT THE SACK

Meaning - Go to bed.

Example - I need to hit the sack I've got an early start tomorrow.


GET THE BALL ROLLING

Meaning - To start something.

Example - Let's get the ball rolling and email English in Manchester about lessons.






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