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Idioms starting with letter H

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.

  • hail-fellow-well-met
    friendly to everyone; falsely friendly to everyone. (Usually said of males.)
    Yes, he’s friendly, sort of hail-fellowwell-met.
    He’s not a very sincere person. Hail-fellow-well-met— you know the type.
    He’s one of those hail-fellow-well-met people that you don’t quite trust.
  • hail from somewhere
    [for someone] to come originally from somewhere. (Informal.)
    I’m from Edinburgh. Where do you hail from?
    I hail from the Southwest.
  • hair of the dog (that bit one)
    an alcoholic drink taken when one has a hangover. (Informal.)
    Oh, I have a terrible hangover. I need a hair of the dog.
    That’s some hangover you’ve got there, Bob. Here, drink this. It’s a hair of the dog that bit you.
  • hale and hearty
    well and healthy.
    Doesn’t Ann look hale and hearty after the baby’s birth?
    I don’t feel hale and hearty. I’m really tired.
  • hand in glove (with someone)
    very close to someone.
    John is really hand in glove with Sally, although they pretend to be on different sides.
    The teacher and the headmaster work hand in glove.
  • hand it to someone
    give credit to someone, often with some reluctance. (Informal. Often with have to or must.)
    I must hand it to you. You did a fine job.
    We must hand it to Sally. She helped us a lot.
  • handle someone with kid gloves
    to be very careful with a sensitive or touchy person.
    Bill has become so sensitive. You really have to handle him with kid gloves.
    You don’t have to handle me with kid gloves. I can take what you have to tell me.
  • hand-me-down something, such as an article of used clothing, which has been “handed down,” or given, to someone because another person no longer needs it. (Informal.)
    --- Why do I always have to wear my brother’s hand-me-downs? I want some new clothes.
    This is a nice shirt. It doesn’t look like a hand-me-down at all.
  • hand over fist
    [for money and merchandise to be exchanged] very rapidly.
    What a busy day. We took in money hand over fist.
    They were buying things hand over fist.
  • hand over hand
    [moving] one hand after the other (again and again).
    Sally pulled in the rope hand over hand.
    The man climbed the rope hand over hand.
  • hang by a hair and hang by a thread
    to be in an uncertain position; to depend on something very insubstantial. (Informal.)
    Your whole argument is hanging by a thread.
    John hasn’t yet failed geometry, but his fate is hanging by a hair.
  • hang fire
    to delay or wait; to be delayed.
    I think we should hang fire and wait for other information.
    Our plans have to hang fire until we get planning permission.
  • hang in the balance
    to be in an undecided state; to be between two equal possibilities.
    The prisoner stood before the judge, his life hanging in the balance.
    The fate of the entire project is hanging in the balance.
  • hang on by an eyebrow and hang on by one’s eyebrows
    to be just hanging on or just surviving.
    He hasn’t yet failed, but he is just hanging on by an eyebrow.
    The manager is just about to get sacked. She is hanging on by her eyebrows.
  • hang one’s hat up somewhere
    to take up residence somewhere. (Informal.)
    George loves London. He’s decided to buy a f lat and hang his hat up there.
    Bill moves from place to place and never hangs his hat up anywhere.
  • hang on someone’s every word
    to listen carefully and obsequiously to everything someone says.
    He gave a great lecture. We hung on his every word.
    Look at the way John hangs on Mary’s every word. He must be in love with her.
  • hang on to someone’s coat-tails
    to gain good fortune or success through another person’s success, rather than through one’s own
    Bill isn’t very creative, so he hangs on to John’s coat-tails.
    Some people just have to hang on to somebody else’s coat-tails.
  • Hang on to your hat! and Hold on to your hat!
    Prepare for a sudden surprise or shock. (Informal.)
    Are you ready to hear the final score? Hang on to your hat! We won ten–nil!
    Guess who got married. Hold on to your hat!
  • hard-and-fast rule
    a strict rule.
    It’s a hard-and-fast rule that you must be home by midnight.
    You should have your project completed by the end of the month, but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule.
  • hard cash
    cash, not cheques or credit. (Informal.)
    I want to be paid in hard cash, and I want to be paid now!
    No plastic money for me. I want hard cash.
  • hardly have time to breathe
    to be very busy.
    This was such a busy day. I hardly had time to breathe.
    They made him work so hard that he hardly had time to breathe.
  • hard on someone’s heels
    following someone very closely. (Informal.)
    I ran as fast as I could, but the dog was still hard on my heels.
    Here comes Sally, and John is hard on her heels.
  • hard on the heels of something
    soon after something. (Informal.)
    There was a rainstorm hard on the heels of the high winds.
    They had a child hard on the heels of getting married.
  • hark(en) back to something
    (Harken is an old form of hark, which is an old word meaning “listen.”) 1. to have originated as something; to have started out as something.
    The word icebox harks back to the old-fashioned refrigerators which were cooled by ice.
    Our modern breakfast cereals hark back to the porridge and gruel of our ancestors. 2. to remind one of something.
    Seeing a horse and buggy in the park harks back to the time when horses drew milk wagons.
    Sally says it harkens back to the time when everything was delivered by horse-drawn wagon.
  • hate someone’s guts
    to hate someone very much. (Informal.)
    Oh, Bob is terrible. I hate his guts!
    You may hate my guts for saying so, but I think you’re getting grey hairs.
  • haul someone over the coals
    to give someone a severe scolding.
    My mother hauled me over the coals for coming in late last night.
    The manager hauled me over the coals for being late again.
  • have a bee in one’s bonnet
    to have an idea or a thought remain in one’s mind; to have an obsession.
    She has a bee in her bonnet about table manners.
    I had a bee in my bonnet about swimming. I couldn’t stop wanting to go swimming.
  • have a big mouth
    to be a gossiper; to be a person who tells secrets. (Informal.)
    Mary has a big mouth. She told Bob what I was getting him for his birthday.
    You shouldn’t say things like that about people all the time. Everyone will say you have a big mouth.
  • have a bone to pick (with someone)
    to have a matter to discuss with someone; to have something to argue about with someone.
    Look, Bill. I’ve got a bone to pick with you. Where is the money you owe me?
    I had a bone to pick with her, but she was so sweet that I forgot about it.
    Ted and Alice have a bone to pick.
  • have a brush with something
    to have a brief contact with something; to have a brief experience of something, especially with the law. (Sometimes a close brush.)
    Ann had a close brush with the law. She was nearly arrested for speeding.
    When I was younger, I had a brush with death in a car accident, but I recovered.
  • have a case (against someone)
    to have much evidence which can be used against someone in court. (Have can be replaced with build, gather, assemble, etc.)
    Do the police have a case against John?
    No, they don’t have a case.
    They are trying to build a case against him.
    My solicitor is busy assembling a case against the other driver.
  • have a chip on one’s shoulder
    to feel resentful; to bear resentment.
    What are you angry about? You always seem to have a chip on your shoulder.
    John has had a chip on his shoulder about the police ever since he got his speeding ticket.
  • have a down on someone
    to treat someone in an unfair or hostile way; to have hostile feelings towards someone; to resent and oppose someone.
    That teacher’s had a down on me ever since I was expelled from another school.
    The supervisor has a down on anyone who refuses to work overtime.
  • have a familiar ring
    [for a story or an explanation] to sound familiar.
    Your excuse has a familiar ring. Have you done this before?
    This exam paper has a familiar ring. I think it has been copied.
  • have a foot in both camps
    to have an interest in or to support each of two opposing groups of people.
    The shop steward had been promised promotion and so had a foot in both camps during the strike—workers and management.
    Mr. Smith has a foot in both camps in the parents/teachers dispute. He teaches maths, but he has a son at the school.
  • have a go (at something)
    to give something a try. (Informal.)
    I’ve never fished before, but I’d like to have a go at it.
    Great, have a go now. Take my fishing rod and give it a try.
  • have a good command of something
    to know something well.
    Bill has a good command of French.
    Jane has a good command of economic theory.
  • have a good head on one’s shoulders
    to have common sense; to be sensible and intelligent.
    Mary doesn’t do well in school, but she’s got a good head on her shoulders.
    John has a good head on his shoulders and can be depended on to give good advice.
  • have a heart
    to be compassionate; to be generous and forgiving.
    Oh, have a heart! Give me some help!
    If Ann had a heart, she’d have made us feel more welcome.
  • have a heart of gold
    to be generous, sincere, and friendly.
    Mary is such a lovely person. She has a heart of gold.
    You think Tom stole your watch? Impossible! He has a heart of gold.
  • have a heart of stone
    to be cold and unfriendly.
    Sally has a heart of stone. She never even smiles.
    The villain in the play had a heart of stone. He was an ideal villain.
  • have a heart-to-heart (talk)
    to have a sincere and intimate talk.
    I had a heart-to-heart talk with my father before I went off to college.
    I have a problem, John. Let’s sit down and have a heart-to-heart.
  • have a lot going for one
    to have many things working to one’s benefit. (Informal.)
    Jane is so lucky. She has a lot going for her.
    He’s made a mess of his life, even though he had a lot going for him.
  • have a low boiling-point
    to get angry easily. (Informal.)
    Be nice to John. He’s upset and has a low boiling-point.
    Mr. Jones certainly has a low boiling-point. I hardly said anything, and he got angry.
  • have an axe to grind
    to have something to complain about or discuss with someone. (Informal.)
    Tom, I need to talk to you. I have an axe to grind.
    Bill and Bob went into the other room to discuss the matter. They each had an axe to grind.
  • have a near miss
    nearly to crash or collide.
    The planes—flying much too close—had a near miss.
    I had a near miss while driving over here.
  • have an itchy palm and have an itching palm
    to be in need of a tip; to tend to ask for tips. (Informal. As if placing money in the palm would stop its itching. Note the variations in the examples.)
    All the waiters at that restaurant have itchy palms.
    The taxi-driver was troubled by an itching palm. Since he refused to carry my bags, I gave him nothing.
  • have another think coming
    to have to rethink something because one was wrong the first time. (Informal.)
    She’s quite wrong. She’s got another think coming if she wants to walk in here like that.
    You’ve got another think coming if you think you can treat me like that!
  • have an out
    to have an excuse; to have a (literal or figurative) means of escape or avoiding something. (Informal.)
    He’s very clever. No matter what happens, he always has an out.
    I agreed to go to the party, but now I don’t want to go. I wish I had an out.
  • have ants in one’s pants
    to become restless; to fidget. (Informal.)
    Sit still! Have you got ants in your pants?
    The children have ants in their pants. It’s time to go home.
  • have a penchant for doing something
    to have a taste, desire, or inclination for doing something.
    John has a penchant for eating fattening foods.
    Ann has a penchant for buying clothes.
  • have a price on one’s head
    to be wanted by the authorities, who have offered a reward for one’s capture. (Informal.)
    We captured a thief who had a price on his head, and the police gave us the reward.
    The crook was so mean, he turned in his own brother, who had a price on his head.
  • have a say (in something) and have a voice (in something)
    to have a part in making a decision.
    I’d like to have a say in choosing the carpet.
    John wanted to have a voice in deciding on the result also.
    He says he seldom gets to have a say.
  • have a snowball’s chance in hell
    to have no chance at all. (A snowball would melt in hell. Use hell with caution.)
    He has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing the test.
    You don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of her agreeing to marry you.
  • have a soft spot for someone or something
    to be fond of someone or something.
    John has a soft spot for Mary.
    I have a soft spot for the countryside.
  • have a sweet tooth
    to have the desire to eat many sweet foods— especially candy and pastries.
    I have a sweet tooth, and if I don’t watch it, I’ll really get fat.
    John eats sweets all the time. He must have a sweet tooth.
  • have a thin time (of it)
    to experience a difficult or unfortunate time, especially because of a shortage of money.
    Jack had a thin time of it when he was a student. He didn’t have enough to eat.
    The Browns had a thin time of it when the children were small and Mr. Brown was poorly paid.
  • have a word with someone
    to speak to someone, usually privately.
    The manager asked to have a word with me when I was not busy.
    John, could I have a word with you? We need to discuss something.
  • have bats in one’s belfry
    to be slightly crazy.
    Poor old Tom has bats in his belfry.
    Don’t act so silly, John. People will think you have bats in your belfry.
  • have been through the mill
    to have been badly treated; to have suffered hardship or difficulties. (Informal.)
    This has been a rough day. I’ve really been through the mill.
    She’s quite well now, but she’s been really through the mill with her illness.
  • have clean hands
    to be guiltless.
    Don’t look at me. I have clean hands.
    The police took him in, but let him go again because he had clean hands.
  • have egg on one’s face
    to be embarrassed because of an error which is obvious to everyone. (Informal.)
    Bob has egg on his face because he wore jeans to the affair and everyone else wore formal clothing.
    John was completely wrong about the weather for the picnic. It snowed! Now he has egg on his face.
  • have eyes in the back of one’s head
    to seem to be able to sense what is going on beyond one’s vision.
    My teacher seems to have eyes in the back of her head.
    My teacher doesn’t need to have eyes in the back of his head. He watches us very carefully.
  • have feet of clay
    to have a defect of character.
    All human beings have feet of clay. No one is perfect.
    Sally prided herself on her complete honesty. She was nearly fifty before she learned that she, too, had feet of clay.
  • have green fingers
    to have the ability to grow plants well.
    Just look at Mr. Simpson’s garden. He has green fingers.
    My mother has green fingers when it comes to house-plants.
  • have half a mind to do something
    to have almost decided to do something, especially something unpleasant. (Informal.)
    I have half a mind to go off and leave you here.
    The cook had half a mind to serve cold chicken.
  • have (high) hopes of something
    to be expecting something.
    I have hopes of getting there early.
    We have high hopes that John and Mary will have a girl.
  • have it both ways
    to have both of two seemingly incompatible things. (See also want it both ways.)
    John wants the security of marriage and the freedom of being single. He wants to have it both ways.
    John thinks he can have it both ways—the wisdom of age and the vigour of youth.
  • have money to burn
    to have lots of money; to have more money than one needs. (Informal.)
    Look at the way Tom buys things. You’d think he had money to burn.
    If I had money to burn, I’d just put it in the bank.
  • have no business doing something
    to be wrong to do something; to be extremely unwise to do something.
    You have no business bursting in on me like that!
    You have no business spending money like that!
  • have none of something
    to tolerate or endure no amount of something.
    I’ll have none of your talk about leaving school.
    We’ll have none of your gossip.
  • have no staying-power
    to lack endurance; not to be able to last.
    Sally can swim fast for a short distance, but she has no staying-power.
    That horse can race fairly well, but it has no staying-power.
  • have one’s back to the wall
    to be in a defensive position; to be in (financial) difficulties. (Informal.)
    He’ll have to give in. He has his back to the wall.
    How can I bargain when I’ve got my back to the wall?
  • have one’s ear to the ground and keep one’s ear to the ground
    to listen carefully, hoping to get advance warning of something.
    John had his ear to the ground, hoping to find out about new ideas in computers.
    Keep your ear to the ground for news of possible jobs.
  • have one’s feet on the ground and keep one’s feet on the ground
    to be or remain realistic or practical.
    Sally will have no trouble keeping her feet on the ground even when she is famous.
    They are ambitious but have their feet firmly on the ground.
  • have one’s finger in the pie
    to be involved in something.
    I like to have my finger in the pie so I can make sure things go my way.
    As long as John has his finger in the pie, things will happen slowly.
  • have one’s hand in the till
    to be stealing money from a company or an organization. (Informal. The till is a cash box or drawer.)
    Mr. Jones had his hand in the till for years before he was caught.
    I think that the new shop assistant has her hand in the till. There is cash missing every morning.
  • have one’s head in the clouds
    to be unaware of what is going on.
    “Bob, do you have your head in the clouds?” said the teacher.
    She walks around all day with her head in the clouds. She must be in love.
  • have one’s heart in one’s boots
    to be very depressed; to have little or no hope.
    My heart’s in my boots when I think of going back to work.
    Jack’s heart was in his boots when he thought of leaving home.
  • have one’s nose in a book
    to be reading a book; to read books all the time. (Informal.)
    Bob has his nose in a book every time I see him.
    His nose is always in a book. He never gets any exercise.
  • have one’s nose in the air and keep one’s nose in the air
    to be conceited or aloof.
    Mary always seems to have her nose in the air.
    She keeps her nose in the air and never notices him.
  • have one’s wits about one
    to concentrate; to have one’s mind working.
    You have to have your wits about you when you are dealing with John.
    She had to have her wits about her when living in the city. also: keep one’s wits about one to keep one’s mind operating, especially in a time of stress.
    If Jane hadn’t kept her wits about her during the fire, things would have been much worse.
  • have one’s work cut out (for one)
    to have a large and difficult task prepared for one.
    They sure have their work cut out for them, and it’s going to be hard.
    There is a lot for Bob to do. He has his work cut out. also: one’s work is cut out (for one) one’s task is prepared for one; one has a lot of work to do.
    This is a big job. My work is certainly cut out for me.
  • have other fish to fry
    to have other things to do; to have more important things to do. (Informal. Other can be replaced by bigger, better, more important, etc.)
    I don’t have time for your problems. I have other fish to fry.
    I won’t waste time on your question. I have bigger fish to fry.
  • have seen better days
    to be worn or worn out. (Informal.)
    This coat has seen better days. I need a new one.
    Oh, my old legs ache. I’ve seen better days, but everyone has to grow old.
  • have someone in one’s pocket
    to have control over someone. (Informal.)
    Don’t worry about the mayor. She’ll co-operate. I’ve got her in my pocket.
    John will do just what I tell him. I’ve got him and his brother in my pocket.
  • have someone on a string
    to have someone waiting for one’s decision or actions. (Informal.)
    Sally has John on a string. He has asked her to marry him, but she hasn’t replied yet.
    Yes, it sounds as if she has him on a string. also: keep someone on a string to keep someone waiting for a decision.
    Sally kept John on a string for weeks while she made up her mind.
    Please don’t keep me on a string waiting for a final decision.
  • have someone or something on 1.
    [with someone] to kid or deceive someone. (Informal.)
    You can’t be serious. You’re having me on!
    Bob is such a joker. He’s always having someone on. 2. [with something] to have plans for a particular time. (Note the variation with anything in the examples.)
    I can’t get to your party. I have something on.
    I have something on almost every Saturday.
    Mary rarely has anything on during the week.
  • have someone’s hide
    to scold or punish someone. (Informal. Refers to skinning an animal.)
    If you ever do that again, I’ll have your hide.
    He said he’d have my hide if I entered his garage again.
  • have someone under one’s thumb
    to have control over someone; to dominate someone.
    His wife has him under her thumb.
    The younger child has the whole family under his thumb.
  • have something at one’s fingertips
    to have all the knowledge or information one needs; to know something very well, so the knowledge is readily available and can be remembered quickly.
    He has lots of gardening hints at his fingertips.
    They have all the tourist information at their fingertips.
  • have something coming to one
    to deserve punishment for something. (Informal. See also get what is coming to one.)
    Bill broke a window, so he has a reprimand coming to him.
    You’ve got a lot of criticism coming to you.
  • have something hanging over one’s head
    to have something bothering or worrying one; to have a deadline worrying one. (Informal. Also used literally.)
    I keep worrying about being declared redundant. I hate to have something like that hanging over my head.
    I have a history essay hanging over my head. I must write it tonight because it’s due tomorrow.
  • have something in hand
    to be prepared to take action on something.
    I have the matter in hand.
    The management has your complaint in hand.
  • have something in mind
    to be thinking of something; to have an idea or image (of something) in one’s mind.
    I have something in mind for dinner.
    Do you have something in mind for your mother’s birthday?
  • have something in stock
    to have merchandise available and ready for sale.
    Do you have extra-large sizes in stock?
    Of course, we have all sizes and colours in stock.
  • have something in store (for someone)
    to have something planned for one’s future.
    Tom has a large inheritance in store for him when his uncle dies.
    I wish I had something like that in store.
  • have something on file
    to have a written record of something in storage.
    I’m certain I have your letter on file. I’ll check again.
    We have your application on file somewhere.
  • have something on one’s hands
    to be burdened with something.
    I run a record shop. I sometimes have a large number of unwanted records on my hands.
    I have too much time on my hands.
  • have something on the brain
    to be obsessed with something. (Informal.)
    They have good manners on the brain.
    Mary has money on the brain. She wants to earn as much as possible.
  • have something out (with someone)
    to clear the air; to settle a disagreement or a complaint. (Informal.)
    John has been angry with Mary for a week. He finally had it out with her today.
    I’m glad we are having this out today.
  • have something up one’s sleeve
    to have a secret or surprise plan or solution (to a problem). (Refers to cheating at cards by having a card hidden up one’s sleeve.)
    He hasn’t lost yet. He has something up his sleeve.
    The manager has something up her sleeve. She’ll surprise us with it later.
  • have the courage of one’s convictions
    to have enough courage and determination to carry out one’s aims.
    It’s fine to have noble goals in life and to believe in great things. If you don’t have the courage of your convictions, you’ll never succeed.
    Others don’t trust him, but I do. I have the courage of my convictions.
  • have the Midas touch
    to have the ability to be successful, especially the ability to make money easily. (From the name of a legendary king whose touch turned everything to gold.)
    Bob is a merchant banker and really has the Midas touch.
    The povertystricken boy turned out to have the Midas touch and was a millionaire by the time he was twenty-five.
  • have the right of way
    to possess the legal right to occupy a particular space or proceed before others on a public roadway.
    I had a traffic accident yesterday, but it wasn’t my fault. I had the right of way.
    Don’t pull out on to a motorway if you don’t have the right of way.
  • have the time of one’s life
    to have a very good or entertaining time; to have the most exciting time in one’s life. (Informal.)
    What a great party! I had the time of my life.
    We went to Florida last winter and had the time of our lives.
  • have the wherewithal (to do something)
    to have the means to do something, especially money.
    He has good ideas, but he doesn’t have the wherewithal to carry them out.
    I could do a lot if only I had the wherewithal.
  • have to live with something
    to have to endure something.
    I have a slight limp in the leg that I broke last year. The doctor says I’ll have to live with it.
    We don’t like the new carpet in the living-room, but we’ll have to live with it.
  • have too many irons in the fire
    to be doing too many things at once.
    Tom had too many irons in the fire and missed some important deadlines.
    It’s better if you don’t have too many irons in the fire.
  • have turned the corner
    to have passed a critical point in a process.
    The patient has turned the corner. She should begin to show improvement now.
    The project has turned the corner. The rest should be easy.
  • have what it takes
    to have the courage, stamina, or ability (to do something).
    Bill has what it takes. He can swim for miles.
    Tom won’t succeed. He doesn’t have what it takes.
  • head and shoulders above someone or something
    clearly superior to someone. (Often with stand, as in the example.)
    This wine is head and shoulders above that one.
    John stands head and shoulders above the others.
  • head over heels in love (with someone)
    very much in love with someone.
    John is head over heels in love with Mary.
    They are head over heels in love with each other.
    They are head over heels in love.
  • heads will roll
    some people will get into trouble. (Informal. From the use of the guillotine to execute people.)
    When company’s endof-year results are known, heads will roll.
    Heads will roll when the headmaster sees the damaged classroom.
  • heavy going
    difficult to do, understand, or make progress with. (Informal.)
    Jim finds maths heavy going.
    Talking to Mary is heavy going. She has nothing to say.
  • hell for leather
    moving or behaving recklessly. (Informal.)
    They took off after the horse thief, riding hell for leather.
    They ran hell for leather for the train.
  • help oneself
    to take whatever one wants or needs.
    Please have some sweets. Help yourself.
    When you go to a cafeteria, you help yourself to the food.
    Bill helped himself to dessert.
  • hem and haw and hum and haw
    to be uncertain about something; to be evasive; to say “ah” and “eh” when speaking—avoiding saying something meaningful.
    Stop hemming and hawing. I want an answer.
    Don’t just hem and haw. Speak up. We want to hear what you think.
    Stop humming and hawing and say whether you are coming or not.
    Jean hummed and hawed for a long time before deciding to marry Henry.
  • here’s to someone or something
    an expression used as a toast, wishing the best to someone or something.
    Here’s to Jim and Mary! May they be very happy!
    Here’s to your new job!
  • hide one’s face in shame
    to cover one’s face because of shame or embarrassment.
    Mary was so embarrassed. She could only hide her face in shame.
    When Tom broke Ann’s crystal vase, he wanted to hide his face in shame.
  • hide one’s light under a bushel
    to conceal one’s good ideas or talents. (A biblical theme.)
    Jane has some good ideas, but she doesn’t speak very often. She hides her light under a bushel.
    Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Share your gifts with other people.
  • high and mighty
    proud and powerful. (Informal. Especially with be or act.)
    Why does the doctor always have to act so high and mighty?
    If Sally didn’t act so high and mighty, she’d have more friends.
    Don’t be so high and mighty!
  • high-flyer
    a person who is ambitious or who is very likely to be successful. (Informal.)
    Jack was one of the high-flyers of our university year and he is now in the Foreign Office.
    Tom is a high-flyer and has applied for the post of managing director.
  • hit a snag
    to run into a problem. (Informal.)
    We’ve hit a snag with the building project.
    I stopped working on the project when I hit a snag.
  • hit it off
    (with someone) to quickly become good friends with someone. (Informal.)
    Look how John hit it off with Mary.
    Yes, they really hit it off.
  • hit rock bottom
    to reach the lowest or worst point. (Informal.)
    Our profits have hit rock bottom. This is our worst year ever.
    After my life hit rock bottom, I gradually began to feel much better. I knew that if there was going to be any change, it would be for the better.
  • hit (someone) below the belt
    to do something unfair or unsporting to someone. (Informal. From boxing, where a blow below the belt line is not permitted. Also used literally.)
    You really hit me below the belt when you told my sister about my health problems.
    In business, Bill is difficult to deal with. He hits below the belt.
  • hit someone (right) between the eyes
    to become completely apparent; to surprise or impress someone. (Informal. Also with right, as in the examples. Also used literally.)
    Suddenly, it hit me right between the eyes. John and Mary were in love.
    Then—as he was talking—the exact nature of the evil plan hit me between the eyes.
  • hit the bull’s-eye 1.
    to hit the centre area of a circular target.
    The archer hit the bull’s-eye three times in a row.
    I didn’t hit the bull’s-eye even once. 2. to achieve the goal perfectly. (Informal.)
    Your idea really hit the bull’s-eye. Thank you!
    Jill has a lot of insight. She hit the bull’s-eye in her choice of flowers for my mother.
  • Hobson’s choice
    the choice between taking what is offered and getting nothing at all. (From the name of a stable owner in the seventeenth century who offered customers the hire of the horse nearest the door.)
    We didn’t really want that holiday cottage, but it was a case of Hobson’s choice. We booked very late and there was nothing else left.
    If you want a yellow car, it’s Hobson’s choice. The garage has only one.
  • hold forth
    to speak, usually at length. (Informal.)
    The guide held forth about the city.
    I’ve never seen anyone who could hold forth so long.
    The professor held forth about economic theory for nearly an hour.
  • hold no brief for someone or something
    not to care about someone or something; not to support someone or something; to dislike someone or something.
    I hold no brief for people who cheat the company.
    My father says he holds no brief for the new plans.
  • hold one’s fire 1.
    to refrain from shooting (a gun, etc.).
    The sergeant told the soldiers to hold their fire.
    Please hold your fire until I get out of the way. 2. to postpone one’s criticism or commentary. (Informal.)
    Now, now, hold your fire until I’ve had a chance to explain.
    Hold your fire, Bill. You’re too quick to complain.
  • hold one’s own 1.
    to do as well as anyone else.
    I can hold my own in a running race any day.
    She was unable to hold her own, and she had to leave. 2. [for someone] to remain in a stable physical condition.
    Mary is still seriously ill, but she is holding her own.
    We thought Jim was holding his own after the accident, but he died suddenly.
  • hold one’s peace
    to remain silent.
    Bill was unable to hold his peace any longer. “Don’t do it!” he cried.
    Quiet, John. Hold your peace for a little while longer.
  • hold one’s tongue
    to refrain from speaking; to refrain from saying something unpleasant.
    I felt like scolding her, but I held my tongue.
    Hold your tongue, John. You can’t talk to me that way.
  • hold out the olive branch
    to offer to end a dispute and be friendly; to offer reconciliation. (The olive branch is a symbol of peace and reconciliation. A biblical reference.)
    Jill was the first to hold out the olive branch after our argument.
    I always try to hold out the olive branch to someone I have hurt. Life is too short for a person to bear grudges for very long.
  • hold true [for something] to be true;
    [for something] to remain true.
    Does this rule hold true all the time?
    Yes, it holds true no matter what.
  • hold water
    to be able to be proved; to be correct or true. (Usually negative.)
    Jack’s story doesn’t hold water. It sounds too unlikely.
    I don’t think the police’s theory will hold water. The suspect has an alibi.
  • hole-and-corner and hole-in-the-corner
    secretive; secret and dishonourable.
    Jane is tired of the hole-and-corner affair with Tom. She wants him to marry her.
    The wedding was a hole-in-the-corner occasion because the bride’s parents refused to have anything to do with it.
  • holier-than-thou
    excessively pious; acting as though one is more virtuous than other people.
    Jack always adopts a holier-than-thou attitude to other people, but people say he has been in prison.
    Jane used to be holier-than-thou, but she is marrying Tom, who is a crook.
  • home and dry
    having been successful in one’s aims.
    There is the cottage we are looking for. We are home and dry.
    We need £100 to reach our target. Then we are home and dry.
  • hope against hope
    to have hope even when the situation appears to be hopeless.
    We hope against hope that she’ll see the right thing to do and do it.
    There is little point in hoping against hope, except that it makes you feel better.
  • horse of another colour and horse of a different colour
    another matter altogether.
    I was talking about trees, not bushes. Bushes are a horse of another colour.
    Gambling is not the same as investing in the shares market. It’s a horse of a different colour.
  • horse-play
    physically active and frivolous play. (Informal.)
    Stop that horse-play and get to work.
    I won’t tolerate horse-play in my living-room.
  • horse sense
    common sense; practical thinking.
    Jack is no scholar but he has a lot of horse sense.
    Horse sense tells me I should not be involved in that project.
  • hot and bothered
    excited; anxious. (Informal.)
    Now don’t get hot and bothered. Take it easy.
    John is hot and bothered about the tax rate increase.
  • hot on something
    enthusiastic about something; very much interested in something; knowledgeable about something. (Informal.)
    Meg’s hot on animal rights.
    Jean is hot on modern ballet just now.
  • hot under the collar
    very angry. (Informal.)
    The solicitor was really hot under the collar when you told him you lost the contract.
    I get hot under the collar every time I think about it.
  • house-proud
    extremely or excessively concerned about the appearance of one’s house.
    Mrs. Smith is so house-proud that she makes her guests take their shoes off at the front door.
    Mrs. Brown keeps plastic covers over her chairs. She’s much too house-proud.
  • hue and cry
    a loud public protest or opposition.
    There was a hue and cry when the council wanted to build houses in the playingfield.
    The decision to close the local school started a real hue and cry.
  • hush-money
    money paid as a bribe to persuade someone to remain silent and not reveal certain information. (Informal.)
    Bob gave his younger sister hush-money so that she wouldn’t tell Jane that he had gone to the cinema with Sue.
    The crooks paid Fred hush-money to keep their whereabouts secret.
20 January, 2021