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200+ Idioms With Their Meanings and Sentences



When you learn English idioms and phrases, you will sound more confident especially when you are speaking with native English speakers. If you can't understand the terms, you won't be able to understand the context. 

That is why we have compiled some of the most common English idioms and phrases so that you understand the true meaning.


Common English idioms


Idioms are words or phrases that are not meant to be taken literally and usually have a cultural meaning behind them. Most English idioms you hear offer advice but also contain some basic principles and values. 

You've probably heard some of them, especially on TV shows and movies, and wondered why you can't understand these terms even though you understand the words perfectly. 

It may take some time to learn English idioms and expressions, but there are some that are more common than others that will come in handy if you know them.


Here are 222 Common English idioms:

1. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush: An opportunity in hand, currently, is better than a prospect in the future, because time never repeats itself.

  • I might have got a better offer if I had waited for some more time, but I decided to take the one I had. After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. 

2. A black sheep: Being a disgrace for the family.

  • I have always been the black sheep of my family. Everyone else has responsible jobs while I have chosen to be an artist.

3. A blessing in disguise: A good thing that seemed bad at first.

  • Losing that job turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him as it forced him to plunge into business.

4. A bolt from the blue: A sudden, unexpected event.

  • The withdrawal of recognition for study centres by the University Grants Commission was a bolt from the blue.

5. A cup of joe: This is a nickname for a cup of coffee.

  • I am going to the coffee shop for a cup of joe. 

6. A dime a dozen: Something common.

  • Adventure and traveling based reality shows are now outdated and a dime a dozen. 

7. A left-handed compliment: Saying something insulting in the form of appreciative words.

  • She said my new pants really make my legs look much slimmer. What a left-handed compliment!

8. A penny for your thoughts: Tell me what you're thinking.

  • You seem pretty serious. A penny for your thoughts.

9. A penny saved is a penny earned: Money you save today you can spend later.

  • By doing this work myself, I will save $100, someone has told the truth that a penny saved is a penny earned.

10. A perfect storm: The worst possible situation.

  • The incumbent mayor's re-election campaign is getting underway amidst a perfect storm of allegations and news stories about corruption, tax evasion, and racketeering within the city's government.

11. A picture is worth 1000 words: Better to show than tell.

  • A good presentation should contain more of graphics and less of text, since a picture is worth a thousand words. 

12. A piece of cake: If something is a piece of cake, it’s easy to do.

  • Some parts of cooking are really difficult, but I found that making spaghetti Bolognese is a piece of cake.

13. A slap on the wrist: Just a small punishment.

  • As a mother, I often have to slap on the wrist of my children to show them what they ought not to do.

14. A snowball effect: The aspect of momentum in every event and how they build upon each other.

  • She ignored her debt for so long that now, she's experiencing a snowball effect that threatens to crush her financially. 

15. Ace up (one’s) sleeve: A secret or hidden advantage that you can use when you need it.

  • The defense attorney waited for just the right time to play the ace up her sleeve—a new eye-witness.

16. Actions speak louder than words: Believe what people do and not what they say.

  • Its no use sitting and speaking of success, you have to act on it. Remember actions speak louder than words. 

17. Add insult to injury: To make a bad situation worse.

  • First, the bathroom flooded, and then, to add insult to injury, a tap started leaking.

18. Against the clock: Rushed.

  • The team was working against the clock to finish the project on time.

19. All/Call a spade a spade: Talking frankly.

  • I'm not at all secretive, and I'm pretty good at calling a spade a spade. 

20. An arm and a leg: If something costs an arm and a leg, it costs a lot.

  • College tuitions cost an arm and leg nowadays. 

21. At Sea: Confused.

  • I tried to do well in this class, but I've been at sea since we started.

22. At the 11th Hour: At the last moment.

  • Was shocked that they reached an agreement at the eleventh hour after weeks of squabbling. 

23. Back against the wall: Stuck in a difficult circumstance with no escape.

  • The company has its back against the wall and if the employees do not help out now, it will be bankrupt soon. 

24. Back to square one: Start all over again.

  • If they do not accept our proposal, we will be back to square one.

25. Back to the drawing board: If you go back to the drawing board, you make a fresh start or try another idea because the earlier one didn’t succeed.

  • My experiment was a failure, so I’m back to the drawing board.

26. Barking up the wrong tree: To be mistaken, to be looking for solutions in the wrong place.

  • It was a very sensitive case and yet for over one year the investigators kept barking up the wrong tree.

27. Be glad to see the back of: Happy when someone leaves.

  • Ed has been driving me nuts with requests, so I'll be glad to see the back of him when the construction is done on his office.

28. Be in a Tight Corner: Being in a difficult situation. 

  • I'm going to be in quite a tight corner if this loan isn't approved.

29. Bear a grudge: To continue to feel angry or unfriendly for someone or something because of a particular past incident.

  • Although our disagreement happened months ago, Lily still won't talk to me—clearly, she's bearing a grudge.

30. Beat around the bush: Avoid saying what you mean, usually because it is uncomfortable.

  • Would you pleast stop beating around the bush? Are you leaving the company or not?

31. Beating Around the Bush: To talk about unnecessary things.

  • Would you pleast stop beating around the bush? Are you leaving the company or not?

32. Behind (one’s) back: If you do something behind someone’s back, you do it secretly without their knowledge (used in negative way).

  • Tom will be upset that we already made the decision behind his back. 


33. Bell the cat: To undertake a risky or dangerous task.

  • Someone has to bell the cat and tell the boss we aren't going to come in to work on Saturdays anymore.

34. Be beside yourself: To be feeling so angry, excited etc that you find it difficult to control yourself.

  • The poor girl was almost beside herself. 


35. Better late than never: Better to arrive late than not to come at all.

  • After two weeks, I finally got a return phone call from that company. Better late than never, I guess. 

36. Birds of a feather flock together: People who are alike are often friends (usually used negatively).

  • I knew you and John would get along well, seeing as you both enjoy science fiction so much. Birds of a feather flock together.

37. Bite off more than you can chew: Take on a difficult work that is beyond your capabilities.

  • I bit off more than I could chew when I volunteered to manage three little league teams in one season.

38. Bite the bullet: To get something over with because it is inevitable.

  • I know she's disappointed to have not gotten her dream job, but the sooner she bites the bullet and accepts it, the sooner she can move on.

39. Black and blue: Something bruised.

  • I'm probably going to be black and blue after falling down the steps this morning. 

40. Black out: Faint.

  • I had a black out at the party and do not remember him bringing me home.

41 Blow hot and cold: Alternate inconsistently between moods and actions.

  • The boss has been blowing hot and cold about whether or not we're going through with this project. I wish she would just make a decision.

42. Blow off steam: Experiencing strong feelings like anger or stress.

  • I went on a run to blow off steam after our fight.

43. Boil the ocean: Taking up an almost impossible or overly ambitious project.

  • Oh, Ted's still boiling the ocean trying to find and reassemble that document from the shredded bin. 

44. Bounce (something) off (someone): If you bounce something off someone, you discuss ideas or plan with someone to get their view on it.

  • I bounced the idea of becoming an actress off of my friends before discussing it with my parents.

45. Break a leg: Saying good luck to someone.

  • You all look great in your costumes! Break a leg!

46. Break fresh/new ground: Doing something that has never been done before.

  • The company has been breaking new ground in researching a cure for the deadly disease.

47. Break the bank: To be very expensive.

  • I don't have enough money to go on a vacation right now; I'm afraid it would break the bank.

48. Break the ice: Make people feel more comfortable.

  • Everyone was deathly silent after John went ballistic and left the meeting. I tried breaking the ice with a joke, but it didn't help.

49. Burn your boats/bridges: Doing something that makes it impossible to go back to the original state.

  • She's young, so I don't think she realizes that she'll be burning her boats if she goes to work for their competitor.

50. Bury the hatchet: Ending a quarrel to make peace.

  • After many quarrelling years, the two political parties finally decided to bury the hatchet.

51. By the skin of (your) teeth: To just barely get by or make it.

  • Oh man, my car wouldn't start this morning—I just made it here by the skin of my teeth! 

52. Call a spade a spade: To speak truth even if it’s unpleasant.

  • I know you like Jason, but he's a jerk! I'm sorry, but I have to call a spade a spade.

53. Call it a day: If you call it a day, you stop what you’re doing because you’re tired of it or you’ve not been successful.

  • When we still couldn't find the source of the discrepancy, we decided to call it a day and revisit it tomorrow.

54. Chip off the old block: That a person is similar in behaviour or actions like his parents.

  • Mike's automotive repair skills really rival those of his father. He's a real chip off the old block!

55. Comparing apples to oranges: Comparing two things that cannot be compared.

  • Stop comparing apples to oranges—those two companies you're talking about are completely different.

56. Cost an arm and a leg: Very expensive.

  • I'm sick of paying rent in this town. It's costing me an arm and a leg!

57. Cry for the moon: To ask for something that is rather difficult.

  • Oh, you want a later curfew, huh? Well, you're crying for the moon—11 o'clock is late enough!

58. Crying wolf: To ask for help when you don’t need it.

  • I'm sure there's no real crisis—Janet is always crying wolf so that we'll do her work for her. 


59. Cut corners: Doing something in an easier and least expensive manner.

  • Don't cut corners on this project—it has to be done thoroughly, no matter the cost.

60. Cut no ice: Fail to make an impact.

  • I'm sorry, but that ridiculous rationale cuts no ice with me and will not change my mind. 

61. Cut (somebody) some slack: Don't be so critical.

  • I know I made a mistake, but it’s my first week on the job, so cut me some slack, OK?

62. Cut to the chase: Getting to the important point.

  • I'm a very busy woman, so I need an assistant who can cut to the chase. 


63. Cutting corners: Doing something poorly in order to save time or money.

  • If you cut corners and don't apply a top coat, then your nails probably are going to chip faster.

64. Do (something) at the drop of a hat: Do something without having planned beforehand.

  • We’re expected to just do it at the drop of a hat – no notice or anything. It’s disgraceful. 


65. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: Treat people the same way you want to be treated.

  • I told my son the only way to get along with people is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

66. Don’t cry over spilt milk: Don’t cry over what has happened as it can not be fixed.

  • Don't go crying over spilled milk. We already submitted the report, so we can't fix it now. 

67. Don't count your chickens before they hatch: Don't count on something good happening until it's happened.

  • Why are you begging to drive my car to school tomorrow when you still need to take your license test in the morning? Don't count your chickens before they hatch, babe! 

68. (Don't) cry over spilt milk: There's no reason to complain about something that can't be fixed.

  • Please calm down, you're just crying over spilled milk. We already submitted the report, so we can't fix it now.

69. Don't give up your day job: You're not very good at this.

  • Whenever I see a singer who can't stay in tune, I just want to say, "Don't give up your day job!". 


70. Don't put all your eggs in one basket: What you're doing is too risky.

  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket with your investments. Make sure you diversify your portfolio. 


71. Down for the count: Tired; giving up.

  • With the final votes tallied, the senator's hopes for re-election are down for the count. 

72. Draw first blood: If you draw first blood, you cause the first damage to an opponent in a conflict or contest.

  • I drew first blood in the tournament and quickly dispatched my opponent.

73. Draw the line: To stop before a point where something okay gets not okay.

  • I don't mind my roommate being a bit messy, but leaving dirty dishes for me to clean up is where I draw the line!

74. Driving (one) nuts: To be greatly frustrated or annoyed.

  • That loud beeping noise is driving me nuts. 

75. Easier said than done: Not as easy as it appears to be.

  • I know you're confident in your idea, but starting a company from the ground up is easier said than done.

76. Easy does it: Slow down.

  • Easy does it, guys—you're moving a priceless piece of art!

77. Eat like a horse: Eating too excessively.

  • Kim is staying for dinner, and she eats like a horse, so you better make some extra food.

78. Egg on (your) face: If you’ve egg on your face, you look stupid and face embarrassment because of something you’ve done.

  • Oh man, the boss found out that messed up the budget report, and now I have egg on my face.

79. Every cloud has a silver lining: Bad things one day eventually lead to good things.

  • When I'm going through a hard time, I try to remind myself that every cloud has a silver lining.

80. Face the music: Shikha asked her husband to not run away from the problem and just face the music once!

  • I told you not to try to sneak in, and now that you've been caught, you're just going to have to face the music.

81. Fair and square: Being direct or fair.

  • No, I won that round fair and square—no rematch!

82. Fish out of water: To be out of your comfort zone.

  • When Carla transferred to a new school, she felt like a fish out of water because she didn't know anyone there.

83. Flesh and blood: Referring to someone in family or human nature.

  • She's our flesh and blood, so let's all try to get along with her while she's in town.

84. Forty winks: A short nap.

  • When you have a baby for the first time, you are suddenly forced to learn how to operate on only forty winks at a time.

85. Get a taste of (your) own medicine: Get treated the way you've been treating others (negative).

  • Doug is a bully, but now the whole department has turned against him, so he's getting a taste of his own medicine.

86. Get in Shape: To become strong or fit.

  • Wow, Jim has really gotten in shape lately.

87. Get out of hand: Get out of control.

  • If your party gets out of hand, the neighbors will call the police.

88. Get (something) out of (your) system: To do something so that one no longer has the desire to do it anymore.

  • I got drinking and partying out of my system during college. I'm ready for a quieter life now.

89. Get (your) act together: Get organized and do things effectively.

  • You need to get your act together and finish packing so that we can leave for the airport on time tomorrow morning.

90. Give it a whirl: To give something a try.

  • I don't usually like hot tea, but it's so cold out that I gave it a whirl today.

91. Give (someone) the benefit of the doubt: Trust what someone says.

  • You're my sister! Can't you give me the benefit of the doubt, instead of believing the worst about me right away?

92. Give (someone) the cold shoulder: Ignore someone.

  • She thinks you started that rumor about her—that's why she's been giving you the cold shoulder all day.

93. Go back to the drawing board: Start over.

  • We need to go back to the drawing board on this project. I think it had some fundamental flaws from the start. 

94. Go cold turkey: To quit or stop addictive or dangerous behaviour.

  • I tried quitting smoking for several years, using nicotine patches, gums, and even hypnotherapy. Eventually, I just had to go cold turkey and rely on my own willpower.

95. Go on a wild goose chase: To do something pointless.

  • I can't believe I went on a wild goose chase to find a copy of a book that hasn't even been released yet!

96. Go the extra mile: To make an extra effort.

  • I have to say, our lawyer really went the extra mile in making sure every aspect of our case was watertight.

97. Going out on a limb: Taking a guess.

    • That politician went out on a limb and publicly questioned the views of his party.

98. Good things come to those who wait: To have patience.

  • When investing, it pays to be patient. Remember that good things come to those who wait.

99. Hang in there: Don't give up.

  • I know you're worried, but hang in there—the doctor will call soon.

100. Has bigger fish to fry: Has more important work to do.

  • I want Chris to help me with this project, but he claims he has bigger fish to fry right now.

101. Have the blues: Sad.

  • I don't know what it is, but I find I always have the blues on Sundays.

102. Have (your) heart in (your) mouth: If you’ve your heart in mouth, you’re feeling extremely nervous.

  • I had my heart in my mouth as I waited for the ambulance to arrive.

103. Having an Ace up the sleeve: Have an advantage that is currently being withheld for future purposes. 

  • I have an ace up my sleeve for this race—my stamina. The other runners don't stand a chance!

104. (He has) bigger fish to fry: He has bigger things to take care of than what we are talking about now.

  • It's really not worth my time. I've got bigger fish to fry!

105. Heart misses (skips) a beat: If your heart misses a beat, you feel excited or nervous.

  • My heart missed a beat when I saw that the doctor was calling with the results from the test. 

106. He/be a chip off the old block: The son is like the father.

  • Mike's automotive repair skills really rival those of his father. He's a chip off the old block!

107. Hit the books: Going to study.

  • You better hit the books if you want to pass your exam on Friday.

108. Hit the nail on the head: Get something exactly right.

  • You really hit the nail on the head with that answer—good job.

109. Hit the sack: Go to sleep. 

  • I have to get up early for work tomorrow, so I think I'd better hit the sack.

110. Hold your horses: Telling someone to stop, or to wait.

  • I know you're excited to see the prototype, but you all just need to hold your horses while we get set up.

111. Hook, line and sinker: Doing something or trying to achieve something with thoroughness and passion.

  • The moment I met my wife, I fell for her hook, line, and sinker.

112. Ignorance is bliss: You are better off not knowing some things.

  • Sometimes I just decide to ignore the news for a few days. Ignorance is bliss, I tell you. 

113. In a pickle: To be in a tough spot.

  • We're in a pretty pickle now because the hotel gave our room away.

114. In cold blood: If you do something violent and cruel in cold blood, you do it deliberately and in an unemotional way.

  • This was no crime of passion—he killed them in cold blood, as they slept!

115. In for a penny, in for a pound: That someone is intentionally investing his time or money for a particular project or task.

  • We can't turn in a half-finished report, so we need to stay up all night and get it done. In for a penny, in for a pound.

116. In the fast lane: A life filled with excitement.

  • He always lived his life in the fast lane, and he ended up dying at a very young age. 

117. In the same boat: If two or more persons are in the same boat, they’re in the same difficult situation.

  • My sister failed her driver's test, and I'll be in the same boat if I don't practice parallel parking.

118. It ain't over till the fat lady sings: This isn't over yet.

  • Jeff is watching football with his friends. The team they’re rooting for is losing and some of his friends are saying that there is no chance of a comeback. However, Jeff said to them, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings, they still have time to turn things around”. 


119. It is always darkest before the dawn: Things will get better.

  • Things will get worse before they get better, but it's always darkest before the dawn.

120. (It) takes one to know one: You're just as bad as I am.

  • A: You're a real jerk!
  • B: Yeah, well, it takes one to know one!

121. It's/Be a piece of cake: It's easy.

  • I thought I was going to fail the test, but it turned out to be a piece of cake!

122. It's/Be not rocket science: It's not complicated.

  • Look, all you need to do is reformat the hard drive on your computer. It isn't rocket science! 

123. It's raining cats and dogs: It's raining hard.

  • We wanted to have a barbecue this weekend, but it's been raining cats and dogs since Friday evening. 

124. Jam (on) the brakes: Press brakes of a vehicle suddenly.

  • He jammed on the brakes when he saw the child running into the street.

125. Jump the gun: To act on something promptly before the right time.

  • I probably jumped the gun with announcing our engagement before everyone was there, but I was just too excited.

126. Keep an/one's ear to the ground: Staying informed and updated about everything.

  • I know Kim is keeping her ear to the ground in case word gets out about the promotion.

127. Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs: To destroy something that gives you lot of money to get immediate returns.

  • Firing the programmer who created your most successful app is like killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

128. Kill two birds with one stone: Get two things done with a single action.

  • I might as well kill two birds with one stone and drop off my tax forms while I'm at the mall for the computer part I need.

129. Knee Jerk Reaction: A quick response.

  • No need for the knee jerk reaction week's prior.

130. Left (out) in the cold: Being ignored.

  • Our constituency feels it has really been left in the cold during the debate around this topic.

131. Let (someone) off the hook: To not hold someone responsible for something.

  • At first, Sam was suspected of stealing money from the safe, but he was let off the hook after security camera footage showed it was someone else.

132. Let the cat out of the bag: Give away a secret.

  • How did Mom find out we were planning a surprise party for her? Who let the cat out of the bag?

133. Light at the end of tunnel: Seeing signs of improvement in the future.

  • They are falling deeper into debt, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

134. (Like a) cakewalk: So easy task.

  • I've been running marathons for years now, so this 5K run will be a cakewalk for me.

135. Like a cat on hot tin roof: In an uneasy or nervous state.

  • And then she realised why Lori was behaving like a cat on a hot tin roof.

136. Live and learn: I made a mistake.

  • Well, I'll never try to ride my bike in the snow again—live and learn!

137. Look before you leap: Calculate the risks before advancing towards a possibility.

  • If you deceive your boss now, what do you think will happen if he finds out about it? I mean, look before you leap! 

138. Looking to (your) laurels: Not be lost in your achievements and losing the sight of what is supposed to happen.

  • They're very good players—we'll have to look to our laurels.

139. Lose (your) marbles: To go insane.

  • My poor grandmother started losing her marbles after she had a stroke.

140. Make a long story short: Tell something briefly.

  • Anyway, to make a long story short, I got expelled for writing graffiti on the bathroom stalls. 

141. Make a problem/matters worse: Make a problem worse.

  • Don't let yourself despair; this will only make matters worse. 

142. Make (one’s) blood boil: To make someone extremely angry.

  • The fact that he embezzled money from the company for years just makes my blood boil.

143. Miss the boat/bus: To miss an opportunity. It's too late..

  • If you don't call the recruiter back right away, you're going to miss the boat.

144. No pain, no gain: You have to work for what you want.

  • The road to becoming a doctor is long, hard, and exhausting, not to mention expensive! But no pain, no gain.

145. Not the only fish in the sea: Not the only suitable thing or person one can find.

  • I know you are broken up about Janet leaving you, but she's not the only fish in the sea.

146. Not (your) cup of tea: If you say that someone or something is not your cup of tea, you mean that they’re not the kind of person or thing you like.

  • Thank you for the invitation, but long-distance cycling just is not really my cup of tea. 

147. Notch up: To win or create a record.

  • Tamara notched up yet another sale this afternoon. She's been moving our stock like crazy lately!

148. Old as the hills: Someone very old.

  • Why don't we ever sing new songs? Those hymns are as old as the hills.

149. On cloud nine: Being very happy.

  • Ever since Mary got her promotion at work, she's been on cloud nine. I don't think I've ever seen her happier! 

150. On the ball: Doing a good job.

  • I'm so glad that my assistant is always on the ball because I'm too scatterbrained to manage my schedule on my own.

151. On thin ice: On probation. If you make another mistake, there will be trouble.

  • You're on thin ice, Jefferson. If you come in late one more time, you're fired!

152. Once bitten, twice shy: Afraid of doing something again.

  • I've learned my lesson from dating actors—once bitten, twice shy.

153. Once in a blue moon: Not very often.

  • Peter only comes out for a drink once in blue moon now that he has kids. 

154. Over my dead body: If you say something will happen your dead body, you mean you dislike it and will do everything you can to prevent it.

  • Over my dead body will you drive home after you've been drinking!

155. Palm (something) off: Pass off something as genuine when it is spurious.

  • She tried to palm her old car off on me.

156. Penny wise and Pound foolish: Careful in trivial matters but wasteful or extravagant in large matters.

  • Hospital and you have to miss work, you'll see that you were penny-wise and pound-foolish.

157. Play by (the) ear: To improvise.

  • My sister learned to play the piano by ear when she was a child. 

158. Play (the) devil’s advocate: To argue, just for the sake of it.

  • I'm all for universal health care, but I'll play devil's advocate in asking how the government intends to fund such a massive undertaking.

159. Play (your) cards right: To behave or work in a way that gives you an advantage or improves your odds of success.

  • I'm really hoping Janet will agree to go on a second date, but I'll have to play my cards right tonight! 

160. Pour (out one’s) heart: To express openly.

  • Samantha poured out (her) heart to me last night about how grief-stricken she's been since her father passed away.

161. Pull (someone's) leg: To joke with someone.

  • Don’t worry about what he said. He’s just pulling your leg.

162. Pull yourself together: Calm down.

  • I know its difficult to get over your loss, but try to pull yourself together and get on with life. 

163. Put (something) on ice: To put something on hold.

  • If you don't put that shrimp on ice, we won't be able to eat it later. 

164. Quitting cold turkey: To stop a bad habit immediately.

  • After smoking for so long, I should have never tried to quit cold turkey—the withdrawal symptoms are unbearable. 

165. Rain on (someone’s) parade: To spoil a moment.

  • I hate to rain on your parade, but I think your A in chemistry was actually a clerical error. 

166. Read between the lines: Understanding the real message behind something.

  • He gave a very diplomatic explanation, but if you read between the lines, it seems like he was fired for political reasons.

167. Right off the bat: If you do something right off the bat, you do it immediately.

  • Right off the bat, I could tell th

168. Ring a bell: Sounds familiar.

  • Your description rings a bell, but I don't think I've ever been there myself.

169. Round the bend: Crazy.

  • It's freezing today, and you're not going to wear a coat? Have you gone around the bend?

170. Run around in circles: Putting efforts into something that is not worthwhile result.

  • I tried to get an outline drafted for my thesis, but my ideas were so jumbled in my head that I just kept running round in circles.

171. Saving (something) for a rainy day: Saving money for later.

  • I know you want to buy a new TV with your bonus, but you should really save that money for a rainy day.

172. Scrape the barrel: Making the most of the worst situation or things because you can’t do anything about it.

  • We used to get hundreds of qualified candidates, but lately I feel like we've been scraping the barrel with the applicants we bring in.

173. Sell like hot cakes: Quick sellout.

  • We had to order a second shipment of shirts because they have just been selling like hot cakes!

174. Shoot from the hip: To speak bluntly or rashly without thinking carefully.

  • The boss tends to shoot from the hip, so don't take what he says too personally.

175. Shoot oneself in the foot: To harm one’s own cause inadvertently.

  • I think we shot ourselves in the foot by firing her, because she knew more about the project than anyone else.

176. Slow and steady wins the race: Reliability is more important than speed.

  • Look, I know you're eager to get all this data entered so you can move on to the next stage of the project, but slow and steady wins the race, OK? We'll be much worse off if the data has errors in it than if it takes a little longer to get done.

177. Snug as a bug in a rug: Warm and cosy.

  • My daughters are all snug as a bug in a rug watching a movie together.

178. So far so good: Things are going well so far.

  • A: How's the project going?
  • B: So far, so good. We just need to finalize the user interface.

179. Speak of the devil: The person we were just talking about showed up!

  • A: Hey everyone, sorry I'm late!
  • B: Well, speak of the devil! We were  just speaking talking something funny you were saying the other day.

180. Spill the beans: Give away a secret.

  • We had everything organized for Bruce's surprise party, but Kate accidentally spilled the beans to him at work.

181. Stab (someone) in the back: To betray a close person.

  • The gangster's second in command stabbed him in the back to assume control over the entire criminal organization. 


182. Step up your game: To start performing better.

  • Man, I really need to step up my game if I'm going to play basketball with all these young guys.

183. Straight from the Horse’s mouth: Directly from the person involved.

  • A: Is our test really getting rescheduled?  
  • B: Yep, our teacher was ahead of me in the lunch line, so I heard it straight from the horse's mouth.

184. Swan Song: The last piece of work of an artist before his/her death.

  • Their latest album, the swan song of the legendary rock group, is unfortunately not one of their best.

185. Take a back seat: If you take a back seat, you choose not to be in a position of responsibility or power.

  • Unfortunately, I had the flu last week, so everything else around the house had to take a back seat. 


186. Take a rain check: Postpone a plan.

  • I'm sorry, but I'll take a rain check for dinner this Saturday. Would next weekend work for you?

187. Take it with a grain of salt: Don’t take it too seriously.

    • Kevin said that you can get into the club for free if you wear red, but I'm taking it with a grain of salt.

188. That's the last straw: My patience has run out.

  • I've been a good sport about letting Tom share the credit for my work, but this is the last straw! I'm finally going to expose him for the liar he is.

189. The ball is in your court: It's your decision.

  • Well, they invited you, so the ball is in your court now. Do you want to go out with them or not? 

190. The best of both worlds: An ideal situation.

  • We hope that by forming a bipartisan committee we will be able form a body that represents the best of both worlds. 

191. The best thing since sliced bread: A really good invention.

  • These waterproof jeans are the best thing since sliced bread. I don't have to worry about getting soaked!

192. The devil is in the details: It looks good from a distance, but when you look closer, there are problems.

  • Double check your code—with software, the devil is in the details.

193. The early bird gets the worm: The first people who arrive will get the best stuff.

  • This market could be very lucrative, but I have a feeling it will only be for those who take advantage of it early on. The early bird get the worm, after all.

194. The elephant in the room: The big issue, the problem people are avoiding.

  • The incident has remained something of an elephant in the room within our family. 

195. The pot calling the kettle black: Accusing someone of faults that you yourself have.

  • The senator accused the newspaper of misrepresenting the facts, which many people have pointed out is the pot calling the kettle black.

196. The whole nine yards: Everything, all the way.

  • Wow, Shelly really went the whole nine yards with toppings for the ice cream bar. There's much more than just whipped cream and sprinkles here! 

197. There are other fish in the sea: It's ok to miss this opportunity. Others will arise.

  • I know you are broken up about Janet leaving you, but there are other fish in the sea.

198. There's a method to his madness: He seems crazy but actually he's clever.

  • I know you don't understand my motivation for this decision, but after the dust settles, you'll see that there is a method to my madness.

199. There's no such thing as a free lunch: Nothing is entirely free.

  • Of course, once you're signed up to the free program, you have to pay for all sorts of extra services to make it even worth using. There's no such thing as a free lunch, after all. 

200. Through thick and thin: Through good and bad times.

  • She's always been there for me through thick and thin, so I can't turn my back on her now.

201. Throw caution to the wind: Take a risk.

  • You can't live life completely reserved, you know. You've got to throw caution to the wind every now and then.

203. Time flies when you're having fun: You don't notice how long something lasts when it's fun.

  • Wow, it's midnight already? I feel like we just got here. Time flies when you're having fun!

204. (To be) in the doldrums: To be in a low spirit.

  • I've been in the doldrums ever since my grandfather died last month.

205. (To) bell the cat: To face a risk.

  • Someone has to bell the cat and tell the commissioner that his own started the violence.

206. (To) get bent out of shape: To get upset.

  • You should apologize to Phil before he gets bent out of shape.

207. (To have) sticky fingers: Thief.

  • I think the new cashier we hired has sticky fingers, because money has begun disappearing from the till on the days that he's working.

208. To not see the wood for the trees: To be so involved in trivial matters that you don’t get the important facts.

  • The way he's obsessing over one doorknob when we're renovating the entire house makes me think that he can't see the wood for the trees.

209. Turn a deaf ear: To ignore what someone is saying.

  • The government has been turning a deaf ear to the pleas of its most vulnerable citizens.

210. Twist (someone’s) arm: To convince someone.

  • They had to twist my arm to convince me to start volunteering, but when I finally did, I realized how much I loved it. 

211. Under the weather: Sick.

  • Yeah, I was under the weather last week, but I'm feeling much better now. 

212. Up a creek without a paddle: In an unlucky situation.

  • I have no savings, so if I get fired from my job, I'll be up the creek without a paddle.

213. Up for grabs: Available for everyone.

  • This last piece of cake is up for grabs—who wants it?

214. Up in arms: Being grumpy or angry about something.

  • The whole town is up in arms about the addition of a new shopping center.

215. Wear your heart on your sleeve: Expressing yourself too openly.

  • My father was always very closed off regarding his feelings, so when I had kids, I made a point of wearing my heart on my sleeve with them.

216. (We'll) cross that bridge when we come to it: Let's not talk about that problem right now.

  • The job interview is a week away, so I'm not worried about it yet—I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

217. Wild goose chase: Futile Chase.

  • I've been on a wild goose chase trying to find a bag of Dan's favorite potato chips.

218. Wrap your head around (something): Understand something complicated.

  • Kate is willing to pay full price for an expensive handbag, but I just can't wrap my head around that.

219. You can say that again: That's true, I agree.

  • A: Wow, that exam was brutally difficult.
  • B: You can say that again! It was the hardest test I've ever taken.

220. You can't have your cake and eat it too: You can't have everything.

  • You're never going to save enough money to buy a house if you keep buying expensive crap you don't need. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

221. You can't/Don't judge a book by its cover: This person or thing may look bad, but it's good inside.

  • This report may look dull, but don't judge a book by its cover—I will have you riveted by the facts and figures in no time!

222. Your guess is as good as mine: I do not know.

  • When it comes to the election, your guess is as good as mine as far as who is going to win.

See: 35 collocations and idioms with MAKE

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