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Idioms starting with letter F


What are idioms?

Idioms are phrases or expressions which are commonly used in everyday conversation, mostly by native speakers of English. The meaning of the idioms might not be that straight forward for new English speaker, however having good command of it will certainly helps to make your English sound more fluent.

The metaphorical nature of idioms makes conversation more interesting and flows in certain situation. You've probably heard some of them even though you don't fully understand the words. Let us help you increase your idioms knowledge by browsing through our extensive collection of idioms alphabetically.

  • face the music
    to receive punishment; to accept the unpleasant results of one’s actions. (Informal.)
    Mary broke a dining-room window and had to face the music when her father got home.
    After failing a maths test, Tom had to go home and face the music.
  • face value
    outward appearance; what something first appears to be. (From the value printed on the “face” of a coin or banknote.)
    Don’t just accept her offer at face value. Think of the implications.
    Joan tends to take people at face value, and so she is always getting hurt.
  • fair crack of the whip
    a fair share of something; a fair opportunity of doing something.
    He doesn’t want to do all the overtime. He only wants a fair crack of the whip.
    They were supposed to share the driving equally, but James refused to give Ann a fair crack of the whip.
  • fair do’s
    fair and just treatment [done to someone]. (Informal.)
    It’s hardly fair do’s to treat her like that.
    It’s not a question of fair do’s. He treats everyone in the same way. also: Fair do’s! Be fair!; Be reasonable!
    Fair do’s! You said you would lend me your bike if I took your books home.
    I know I said I’d baby-sit tonight, but fair do’s—I hate to work late.
  • fair game
    someone or something that it is quite permissible to attack.
    I don’t like seeing articles exposing people’s private lives, but politicians are fair game.
    Journalists always regard film-stars as fair game.
  • fall about
    to laugh heartily. (Informal.)
    We fell about at the antics of the clown.
    The audience were falling about during the last act of the comedy.
  • fall apart at the seams
    to break into pieces; to fall apart.
    This old car is about ready to fall apart at the seams.
    The plan won’t succeed. It’s falling apart at the seams already.
  • fall between two stools
    to come somewhere between two possibilities and so fail to meet the requirements of either.
    The material is not suitable for an academic book, and it is not suitable for a popular one either. It falls between two stools.
    He tries to be both teacher and friend, but falls between two stools.
  • fall by the wayside
    to give up and quit before the end (of something); not to succeed. (As if one became exhausted and couldn’t finish a foot-race.)
    John fell by the wayside and didn’t finish college.
    Many people start out to train for a career in medicine, but some of them fall by the wayside.
  • fall down on the job
    to fail to do something properly; to fail to do one’s job adequately. (Informal.)
    The team kept losing because the coach was falling down on the job.
    Tom was sacked because he fell down on the job.
  • fall foul of someone or something
    to do something that annoys or offends someone or something; to do something that is contrary to the rules.
    He has fallen foul of the police more than once.
    The political activists fell foul of the authorities.
    I hope I don’t fall foul of your sister. She doesn’t like me.
    John fell foul of the law.
  • fall from grace
    to cease to be held in favour, especially because of some wrong or foolish action.
    He was the teacher’s prize pupil until he fell from grace by failing the history exam.
    Mary was the favourite grandchild until she fell from grace by running away from home.
  • fall into line
    to conform.
    If you are going to work here, you will have to fall into line.
    He likes to do as he pleases. He hates having to fall into line.
  • fancy someone’s chances
    to have confidence in someone’s [including one’s own] ability to be successful. (Informal.)
    We all think she will refuse to go out with him, but he certainly fancies his chances.
    The other contestants are so talented that I don’t fancy his chances at all.
  • far cry from something
    a thing which is very different from something else.
    What you did was a far cry from what you said you were going to do.
    The song they played was a far cry from what I call music.
  • feast one’s eyes (on someone or something)
    to look at someone or something with pleasure, envy, or admiration.
    Just feast your eyes on that beautiful juicy steak!
    Yes, feast your eyes. You won’t see one like that again for a long time.
  • feather in one’s cap
    an honour; something of which one can be proud.
    Getting a new client was really a feather in my cap.
    It was certainly a feather in the journalist’s cap to get an interview with the president.
  • feather one’s (own) nest
    to use power and prestige selfishly to provide for oneself, often immorally or illegally.
    The mayor seemed to be helping people, but was really feathering her own nest.
    The building contractor used a lot of public money to feather his nest.
  • feel fit
    to feel well and healthy.
    If you want to feel fit, you must eat the proper food and get enough rest.
    I hope I still feel fit when I get old.
  • feel it beneath one (to do something)
    to feel that one would be humbling oneself or reducing one’s status to do something.
    Tom feels it beneath him to scrub the floor.
    Ann feels it beneath her to carry her own luggage.
    I would do it, but I feel it beneath me.
  • feel like a million dollars
    to feel well and healthy, both physically and mentally.
    A quick swim in the morning makes me feel like a million dollars.
    What a beautiful day! It makes you feel like a million dollars.
  • feel like a new person
    to feel refreshed and renewed, especially after getting well or getting dressed up.
    I bought a new suit, and now I feel like a new person.
    Bob felt like a new person when he got out of the hospital.
  • feel something in one’s bones
    to sense something; to have an intuition about something. (Informal.)
    The train will be late. I feel it in my bones.
    I failed the test. I feel it in my bones.
  • fiddle while Rome burns
    to do nothing or something trivial while something disastrous happens. (From a legend that the emperor Nero played the lyre while Rome was burning.)
    The Opposition doesn’t seem to be doing anything to stop this terrible parliamentary bill. It’s fiddling while Rome burns.
    The doctor should have sent for an ambulance right away instead of examining her. He was just fiddling while Rome burned.
  • fighting chance
    a good possibility of success, especially if every effort is made.
    They have at least a fighting chance of winning the race.
    The patient could die, but he has a fighting chance since the operation.
  • fight shy of something
    to avoid something; to keep from doing something.
    She fought shy of borrowing money from her father, but had to in the end.
    He’s always fought shy of marrying.
  • fill someone’s shoes
    to take the place of some other person and perform satisfactorily in that role. (As if you were wearing the other person’s shoes.)
    I don’t know how we’ll be able to do without you. No one can fill your shoes.
    It’ll be difficult to fill Jane’s shoes. She did her job very well.
  • fill the bill
    to be exactly the thing that is needed.
    Ah, this steak is great. It really fills the bill.
    This new pair of shoes fills the bill nicely.
  • find it in one’s heart to do something
    to have the courage or compassion to do something; to persuade oneself to do something.
    She couldn’t find it in her heart to refuse to come home to him.
    Could you really find it in your heart to send her away?
  • find one’s feet
    to become used to a new situation or experience.
    She was lonely at first when she left home, but she is finding her feet now.
    It takes time to learn the office routine, but you will gradually find your feet.
  • find one’s own level
    to find the position or rank to which one is best suited. (As water “seeks its own level.”)
    You cannot force junior staff to be ambitious. They will all find their own level.
    The new pupil is happier in the lower class. It was just a question of letting her find her own level.
  • find one’s tongue
    to be able to talk. (Informal.)
    Tom was speechless for a moment. Then he found his tongue.
    Ann was unable to find her tongue. She sat there in silence.
  • fine kettle of fish and pretty kettle of fish
    a real mess; an unsatisfactory situation.
    The dog has eaten the steak we were going to have for dinner. This is a fine kettle of fish!
    This is a pretty kettle of fish. It’s below freezing outside, and the boiler won’t work.
  • fine state of affairs
    an unpleasant state of affairs.
    This is a fine state of affairs, and it’s all your fault.
    What a fine state of affairs you’ve got us into.
  • fish for compliments
    to try to get someone to pay you a compliment. (Informal.)
    When she showed me her new dress, I could tell that she was fishing for a compliment.
    Tom was certainly fishing for compliments when he modelled his new haircut for his friends.
  • fish in troubled waters
    to involve oneself in a difficult, confused, or dangerous situation, especially with a view to gaining an advantage.
    Frank is fishing in troubled waters by buying more shares in that firm. They are supposed to be in financial difficulties.
    The firm could make more money by selling armaments abroad, but they would be fishing in troubled waters.
  • fit for a king
    splendid; of a very high standard.
    What a delicious meal. It was fit for a king.
    Our room at the hotel was fit for a king.
  • fit someone in(to something)
    to succeed with difficulty in putting someone into a schedule.
    The doctor is busy, but I can try to fit you into the appointment book.
    Yes, here’s a free appointment. I can fit you in.
  • fix someone up (with something)
    to arrange to provide someone with something. (Informal.)
    We fixed John up with a room for the night.
    The usher fixed us up with seats at the front of the theatre.
    We thanked the usher for fixing us up.
  • flash in the pan
    something that draws a lot of attention for a very brief time. (Informal.)
    I’m afraid that my success as a painter was just a flash in the pan.
    Tom had hoped to be a singer, but his career was only a flash in the pan.
  • flea in one’s ear
    a severe scolding. (Informal.)
    I got a flea in my ear when I tried to give Pat some advice.
    Margaret was only trying to help the old lady, but she came away with a flea in her ear.
  • flesh and blood 1.
    a living human body, especially with reference to its natural limitations; a human being.
    This cold weather is more than flesh and blood can stand.
    Carrying £300 is beyond mere flesh and blood. 2. one’s own relations; one’s own kin.
    That’s no way to treat one’s own flesh and blood.
    I want to leave my money to my own flesh and blood.
  • flight of fancy
    an idea or suggestion that is out of touch with reality or possibility.
    What is the point in indulging in flights of fancy about foreign holidays when you cannot even afford the rent?
    We are tired of her flights of fancy about marrying a millionaire.
  • flog a dead horse
    to try to continue discussing or arousing interest in something that already has been fully discussed or that is no longer of interest.
    Stop arguing! You have won your point. You are just flogging a dead horse.
    There’s no point in putting job-sharing on the agenda. We’ve already voted against it four times. Why flog a dead horse?
  • fly a kite
    to spread rumours or suggestions about something, such as a new project, in order to find out people’s attitudes to it.
    The government is flying a kite with these stories of a new airport.
    No official proposal has been made about redundancies. The management is flying a kite by dropping hints.
  • fly-by-night
    irresponsible; untrustworthy. (Refers to a person who sneaks away secretly in the night.)
    The carpenter we employed was a fly-by-night worker who did a very bad job of work.
    You shouldn’t deal with a fly-by-night merchant.
  • flying visit
    a very short, often unexpected visit.
    She paid us a flying visit before leaving town.
    Very few people saw her in the office. It was just a flying visit.
  • fly in the face of someone or something
    to disregard, defy, or show disrespect for someone or something.
    John loves to fly in the face of tradition.
    Ann made it a practice to fly in the face of standard procedures.
  • fly in the ointment
    a small, unpleasant matter which spoils something; a drawback.
    We enjoyed the play, but the fly in the ointment was not being able to find our car afterwards.
    It sounds like a good idea, but there must be a fly in the ointment somewhere.
  • foam at the mouth
    to be very angry. (Informal. Related to a “mad dog”—a dog with rabies—which foams at the mouth.)
    Bob was furious—foaming at the mouth. I’ve never seen anyone so angry.
    Bill foamed at the mouth in sheer rage.
  • follow one’s heart
    to act according to one’s feelings; to obey one’s sympathetic or compassionate inclinations.
    I couldn’t decide what to do, so I just followed my heart.
    I trust that you will follow your heart in this matter.
  • follow one’s nose 1.
    to go straight ahead, the direction in which one’s nose is pointing. (Informal.)
    The town that you want is straight ahead on this motorway. Just follow your nose.
    The chief’s office is right around the corner. Turn left and follow your nose. 2. to follow a smell to its source. (Informal.)
    The kitchen is at the back of the building. Just follow your nose.
    There was a bad smell in the basement—probably a dead mouse. I followed my nose until I found it.
  • follow suit
    to follow in the same pattern; to follow someone else’s example. (From card-games.)
    Mary went to work for a bank, and Jane followed suit. Now they are both head cashiers.
    The Smiths went out to dinner, but the Browns didn’t follow suit. They ate at home.
  • food for thought
    something to think about.
    I don’t like your idea very much, but it’s food for thought.
    Your lecture was very good. It contained much food for thought.
  • fool’s paradise
    a condition of apparent happiness that is based on false assumptions and will not last. (Treated as a place grammatically.)
    They think they can live on love alone, but they are living in a fool’s paradise.
    The inhabitants of the island feel politically secure, but they are living in a fool’s paradise. They could be invaded at any time.
  • fools rush in (where angels fear to tread)
    people with little experience or knowledge often get involved in difficult or delicate situations which wiser people would avoid.
    I wouldn’t ask Jean about her divorce, but Kate did. Fools rush in, as they say.
    Only the newest member of the committee questioned the chairman’s decision. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
  • foot the bill
    to pay the bill; to pay (for something).
    Let’s go out and eat. I’ll foot the bill.
    If the insurance firm goes bankrupt, don’t worry. The government will foot the bill.
  • forbidden fruit
    someone or something that one finds attractive or desirable partly because the person or thing is unobtainable. (From the fruit in the garden of Eden that was forbidden to Adam by God.)
    Jim is in love with his sister-in-law only because she’s forbidden fruit.
    The boy watches that programme only when his parents are out. It’s forbidden fruit.
  • force someone’s hand
    to force one to do something that one is unwilling to do or sooner than one wants to do it. (Refers to a handful of cards in card-playing.)
    We didn’t know what she was doing until Tom forced her hand.
    The committee didn’t want to reveal their plans so soon, but we forced their hand.
  • for days on end
    for many days without a break.
    We kept on travelling for days on end.
    Doctor, I’ve had this pain for days on end.
  • forget oneself
    to forget one’s manners or training. (Said in formal situations in reference to bad table manners or bad taste.)
    Sorry, Mother, I forgot myself. I didn’t mean to use a swear-word.
    John, we are going out to dinner tonight. Please don’t forget yourself and gulp down your food.
  • forgive and forget
    to forgive someone (for something) and forget that it ever happened.
    I’m sorry we quarrelled, John. Let’s forgive and forget. What do you say?
    It was nothing. We’ll just have to forgive and forget.
  • for the record
    so that (one’s own version of) the facts will be known; so there will be a record of a particular fact.
    I’d like to say—for the record—that at no time have I ever accepted a bribe from anyone.
    For the record, I’ve never been able to get anything done around city hall without bribing someone.
  • foul one’s own nest
    to harm one’s own interests; to bring disadvantage upon oneself.
    He tried to discredit a fellow MP with the prime minister, but just succeeded in fouling his own nest.
    The boss really dislikes Mary. She certainly fouled her own nest when she spread those rumours about him.
  • foul play
    illegal activity; a criminal act.
    The police investigating the death suspect foul play.
    Foul play cannot be ruled out.
  • free and easy
    casual.
    John is so free and easy. How can anyone be so relaxed?
    Now, take it easy. Just act free and easy. No one will know you’re nervous.
    I used to like living here, but it’s fresh fields and pastures new for me now.
    Peter has decided to leave teaching. He’s looking for fresh fields and pastures new.
    It’s all very well to seek pastures new, but think of the unemployment situation.
  • from pillar to post
    from one place to another or to a series of other places.
    My father was in the army, and we moved from pillar to post, year after year.
    I went from pillar to post trying to find a telephone.
  • from rags to riches
    from poverty to wealth.
    The princess used to be quite poor. She certainly moved from rags to riches when she married.
    When I inherited the money, I went from rags to riches.
  • from stem to stern
    from one end to another. (Refers to the front and back ends of a ship. Also used literally in reference to ships.)
    Now, I have to clean the house from stem to stern.
    I polished my car carefully from stem to stern.
  • from the word go
    from the beginning. (Informal.)
    I knew about the problem from the word go.
    She was doing badly in the class from the word go.
  • from the year dot and since the year dot
    for a very long time; since very far back in time. (Informal.)
    Mr. Jones worked there from the year dot.
    I’ve known Mike since the year dot.
  • full of oneself
    conceited; self-important.
    Mary’s very unpopular because she’s so full of herself.
    She doesn’t care about other people’s feelings. She’s too full of herself.
  • full of the devil
    always making mischief. (Informal.)
    Tom is a lot of fun, but he’s certainly full of the devil.
    I’ve never seen a child get into so much mischief. He’s really full of the devil.
  • full steam ahead
    forward at the greatest speed possible; with as much energy and enthusiasm as possible. (From an instruction given on a steamship.)
    It will have to be full steam ahead for everybody if the factory gets this order.
    It’s going to be full steam ahead for me this year. I take my final exams.
  • fun and games 1.
    playing around; someone’s lively behaviour. (Informal.)
    All right, Bill, the fun and games are over. It’s time to get down to work.
    I’m tired of your fun and games. Go away and read a book. 2. difficulties; trouble.
    There will be fun and games when her father sees the broken window.
    There will be fun and games if the children are home late.
WORD OF THE DAY
20 October, 2020