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Idioms starting with letter I

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.

  • ill at ease
    uneasy; anxious.
    I feel ill at ease about the interview.
    You look ill at ease. Do relax.
  • ill-gotten gains
    money or other possessions acquired in a dishonest or illegal fashion.
    Fred cheated at cards and is now living on his ill-gotten gains.
    Mary is also enjoying her ill-gotten gains. She deceived an old lady into leaving money to her in her will.
  • in a bad mood
    sad; depressed; cross; with low spirits.
    He’s in a bad mood. He may shout at you.
    Please try to cheer me up. I’m in a bad mood.
  • in a bad way
    in a critical or bad state. (Can refer to health, finances, mood, etc.)
    Mr. Smith is in a bad way. He may have to go to hospital.
    My bank account is in a bad way. It needs some help from a millionaire.
    My life is in a bad way, and I’m depressed about it.
  • in a dead heat
    [finishing a race] at exactly the same time; tied.
    The two horses finished the race in a dead heat.
    They ended the contest in a dead heat.
  • in a fix
    in a bad situation. (Informal. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    I really got myself into a fix. I owe a lot of money on my car.
    John is in a fix because he lost his wallet.
    John certainly has got into a fix.
  • in a flash
    quickly; immediately.
    I’ll be there in a flash.
    It happened in a flash. Suddenly my wallet was gone.
  • in a huff
    in an angry or offended manner or state. (Informal. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    He heard what we had to say, then left in a huff.
    She came in a huff and ordered us to bring her something to eat.
    She gets into a huff very easily.
  • in a jam
    in a tight or difficult situation. (In can be replaced with into to show movement towards or into the state described by a jam. Especially get into.)
    I’m in a jam. I owe a lot of money.
    Whenever I get into a jam, I ask my supervisor for help.
  • in a jiffy
    very fast; very soon. (Informal.)
    Just wait a minute. I’ll be there in a jiffy.
    I’ll be finished in a jiffy.
  • in all one’s born days
    ever; in all one’s life.
    I’ve never been so angry in all my born days.
    Have you ever heard such a thing in all your born days?
  • in all probability
    very likely; almost certainly.
    He’ll be here on time in all probability.
    In all probability, they’ll finish the work today.
  • in a mad rush
    in a hurry.
    I ran around all day today in a mad rush looking for a present for Bill.
    Why are you always in such a mad rush?
  • in a nutshell
    in a few words; briefly; concisely.
    I don’t have time for the whole explanation. Please give it to me in a nutshell.
    Well, in a nutshell, we have to work late.
  • in a (pretty) pickle
    in a mess; in trouble. (Informal. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    John has got himself into a pickle. He has two dates for the party.
    Now we are in a pretty pickle. We are out of petrol.
  • in a quandary
    uncertain about what to do; confused. (In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    Mary was in a quandary about which college to go to.
    I couldn’t decide what to do. I was in such a quandary.
    I got myself into a quandary about where to go on holiday.
  • in arrears
    overdue; late, especially in reference to bills and money.
    This bill is three months in arrears. It must be paid immediately.
    I was in arrears on my car payments, so the bank threatened to take my car away.
  • in a sense
    in a way.
    In a sense, cars make life better.
    But, in a sense, they also make life worse.
  • in a split second
    in an instant.
    The lightning struck, and in a split second the house burst into flames.
    Just wait. I’ll be there in a split second.
  • in a stage whisper
    in a loud whisper which everyone can hear.
    John said in a stage whisper, “This play is boring.”
    “When do we eat?” asked Billy in a stage whisper.
  • in a stew (about someone or something)
    upset or bothered about someone or something. (Informal. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    I’m in such a stew about my dog. She ran away last night.
    Now, now. Don’t be in a stew. She’ll be back when she gets hungry.
    I hate to get into a stew worrying about my children.
  • in a (tight) spot
    caught in a problem; in a jam. (Informal. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    Look, John, I’m in a tight spot. Can you lend me £20?
    I’m in a spot too. I need £300.
    He’s always getting into a tight spot financially.
  • in at the kill
    present at the end of some activity, usually an activity with negative results. (Literally, present when a hunted animal is put to death. Informal when used about any other activity.)
    I went to the final hearing on the proposed ring-road. I knew it would be shouted down strongly, and I wanted to be in at the kill.
    The judge will sentence the criminal today, and I’m going to be in at the kill.
  • in black and white
    official, in writing or printing. (Said of something, such as an agreement or a statement, which has been recorded in writing. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    I have it in black and white that I’m entitled to three weeks’ holiday each year.
    It says right here in black and white that oak trees produce acorns.
    Please put the agreement into black and white.
  • in broad daylight
    publicly visible in the daytime.
    The thief stole the car in broad daylight.
    There they were, selling drugs in broad daylight.
  • inch along (something)
    to move slowly along something little by little.
    The cat inched along the carpet towards the mouse.
    Traffic was inching along.
  • in clover
    with good fortune; in a very good situation, especially financially. (Informal.)
    If I get this contract, I’ll be in clover for the rest of my life.
    I have very little money saved, so when I retire I won’t exactly be in clover.
  • in deep water
    in a dangerous or vulnerable situation; in a serious situation; in trouble. (As if one were swimming in or had fallen into water which is over one’s head. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    John is having trouble with his wife. He’s in deep water.
    Bill is in deep water in the algebra class. He’s almost failing.
    He really got himself into deep water when he ran away from school.
  • in dribs and drabs
    in small irregular quantities. (In can be replaced with by.)
    The cheques for the charity are coming in in dribs and drabs.
    The members of the orchestra arrived by dribs and drabs.
  • in fear and trembling
    with anxiety or fear; with dread.
    In fear and trembling, I went into the room to take the exam.
    The witness left the courtroom in fear and trembling.
  • in fine feather
    in good humour; in good health. (In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    Hello, John. You appear to be in fine feather.
    Of course I’m in fine feather. I get lots of sleep.
    Good food and lots of sleep put me into fine feather.
  • in force
    in a very large group.
    The entire group arrived in force.
    The mosquitoes will attack in force this evening.
  • in full swing
    in progress; operating or running without restraint. (Informal. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    We can’t leave now! The party is in full swing.
    Our programme to help the starving people is in full swing. You should see results soon.
    Just wait until our project gets into full swing.
  • in high gear
    (In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.) 1. [for a machine, such as a car] to be set in its highest gear, giving the greatest speed.
    When my car is in high gear, it goes very fast.
    You can’t start out in high gear. You must work up through the low ones.
    You don’t go into high gear soon enough. 2. very fast and active. (Informal.)
    When Jane is in high gear, she’s a superb athlete.
    When Jane changed into high gear, I knew she’d win the race.
  • in (just) a second
    in a very short period of time.
    I’ll be there in a second.
    I’ll be with you in just a second. I’m on the telephone.
  • in league (with someone)
    in co-operation with someone; in a conspiracy with someone.
    The mayor is in league with the Council Treasurer. They are misusing public money.
    Those two have been in league for years.
  • in less than no time
    very quickly.
    I’ll be there in less than no time.
    Don’t worry. This won’t take long. It’ll be over in less than no time.
  • in lieu of something
    in place of something; instead of something. (The word lieu occurs only in this phrase.)
    They gave me roast beef in lieu of steak.
    We gave money to charity in lieu of sending flowers to the funeral.
  • in luck
    fortunate; lucky.
    You want a red one? You’re in luck. There is one red one left.
    I had an accident, but I was in luck. It was not serious.
  • in mint condition
    in perfect condition. (Refers to the perfect state of a coin which has just been minted. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    This is a fine car. It runs well and is in mint condition.
    We found a first edition in mint condition and decided to buy it.
    We put our house into mint condition before we sold it.
  • in name only
    nominally; not actual, only by terminology.
    The president is head of the country in name only.
    Mr. Smith is the managing director of the Smith Company in name only. Mrs. Smith handles all the business affairs.
  • in no mood to do something
    not to feel like doing something; to wish not to do something.
    I’m in no mood to cook dinner tonight.
    Mother is in no mood to put up with our arguing.
  • in one ear and out the other
    [for something to be] ignored; [for something to be] unheard or unheeded. (Informal. In can be replaced with into. See the explanation at in a jam and the examples below.)
    Everything I say to you goes into one ear and out the other!
    Bill just doesn’t pay attention. Everything is in one ear and out the other.
  • in one’s book
    in one’s opinion. (Informal.)
    He’s okay in my book.
    In my book, this is the best that money can buy.
  • in one’s cups
    She doesn’t make much sense when she’s in her cups.
    The speaker—who was in his cups—could hardly be understood.
  • in one’s mind’s eye
    in one’s mind. (Refers to visualizing something in one’s mind.)
    In my mind’s eye, I can see trouble ahead.
    In her mind’s eye, she could see a beautiful building beside the river. She decided to design such a building.
  • in one’s opinion
    according to one’s belief or judgement.
    In my opinion, that is a very ugly picture.
    That isn’t a good idea in my opinion.
  • in one’s (own) backyard
    (figuratively) very close to one. (Informal.)
    That kind of thing is quite rare. Imagine it happening right in your backyard.
    You always think of something like that happening to someone else. You never expect to find it in your own backyard.
  • in one’s own time
    not while one is at work.
    My employer made me write the report in my own time. That’s not fair.
    Please make your personal telephone calls in your own time.
  • in one’s right mind
    sane; rational and sensible. (Often in the negative. See also out of one’s mind.)
    That was a stupid thing to do. You’re not in your right mind.
    You can’t be in your right mind! That sounds crazy!
  • in one’s second childhood
    being interested in things or people which normally interest children.
    My father bought himself a toy train, and my mother said he was in his second childhood.
    Whenever I go to the river and throw stones, I feel as though I’m in my second childhood.
  • in one’s spare time
    in one’s leisure time; in the time not reserved for doing something else.
    I write novels in my spare time.
    I’ll try to paint the house in my spare time.
  • in other words
    said in another, simpler way.
    Cease! Desist! In other words, stop!
    Our cash flow is negative, and our assets are worthless. In other words, we are broke.
  • in over one’s head
    with more difficulties than one can manage. (Informal.)
    Calculus is very hard for me. I’m in over my head.
    Ann is too busy. She’s really in over her head.
  • in part
    partly; to a lesser degree or extent.
    I was not there, in part because of my disagreement about the purpose of the meeting, but I also had a previous appointment.
    I hope to win, in part because I want the prize money.
  • in place
    in the proper place or location.
    Everything was in place for the ceremony.
    It’s good to see everything in place again.
  • in plain English
    in simple, clear, and straightforward language. (In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    That’s too confusing. Please say it again in plain English.
    Tell me again in plain English.
    Please put it into plain English.
  • in progress
    happening now; taking place at this time.
    You can’t go into that room. There is a meeting in progress.
    Please tell me about the work you have in progress.
  • in Queer Street
    in a difficult situation, especially because of lack of money. (Informal.)
    We’re in Queer Street. We’ve no money to pay the rent.
    No wonder Jack’s in Queer Street. He spends more than he earns.
  • in rags
    in worn-out and torn clothing.
    The beggars were in rags.
    I think the new casual fashions make you look as though you’re in rags.
  • in seventh heaven
    in a very happy state.
    Ann was really in seventh heaven when she got a car of her own.
    I’d be in seventh heaven if I had a million pounds.
    Have you ever seen ducks walking in single file?
    No, do they usually walk single file?
    Please march in single file.
    Please get into single file.
  • in stock
    readily available, as with goods in a shop.
    I’m sorry, I don’t have that in stock. I’ll have to order it for you.
    We have all our Christmas merchandise in stock now.
  • instrumental in doing something
    playing an important part in doing something.
    John was instrumental in getting the contract to build the new building.
    Our MP was instrumental in defeating the proposal.
  • in the air
    everywhere; all about. (Also used literally.)
    There is such a feeling of joy in the air.
    We felt a sense of tension in the air.
  • in the altogether and in the buff; in the raw; in one’s birthday suit
    naked; nude. (Informal.)
    We often went swimming in the altogether down at the lake.
    The museum has a painting of some ladies in the buff.
    Bill says he sleeps in the raw.
    It’s too cold in here to sleep in your birthday suit.
  • in the balance
    in an undecided state.
    He is waiting for the operation. His life is in the balance.
    With his fortune in the balance, John rolled the dice.
  • in the best of health
    very healthy.
    Bill is in the best of health. He eats well and exercises.
    I haven’t been in the best of health. I think I have the flu.
  • in the blood and in one’s blood
    built into one’s personality or character.
    John’s a great runner. It’s in his blood.
    The whole family is very athletic. It’s in the blood.
  • in the dark (about someone or something)
    uninformed about someone or something; ignorant about someone or something.
    I’m in the dark about who is in charge around here.
    I can’t imagine why they are keeping me in the dark.
    You won’t be in the dark long. I’m in charge.
    She’s in the dark about how this machine works.
  • in the doghouse
    in trouble; in (someone’s) disfavour. (Informal.)
    I’m really in the doghouse. I was late for an appointment.
    I hate being in the doghouse all the time. I don’t know why I can’t stay out of trouble.
  • in the doldrums
    sluggish; inactive; in low spirits.
    He’s usually in the doldrums in the winter.
    I had some bad news yesterday which put me in the doldrums.
  • in the family
    restricted to one’s own family, as with private or embarrassing information. (Especially with keep.)
    Don’t tell anyone else about the bankruptcy. Please keep it in the family.
    He told only his brother because he wanted it to remain in the family.
  • in the family way
    pregnant. (Informal.)
    I’ve heard that Mrs. Smith is in the family way.
    Our daughter is in the family way.
  • in the flesh
    really present; in person.
    I’ve heard that the Queen will be here in the flesh.
    Is she really here? In the flesh?
    The old man wanted to see the Pope in the flesh.
  • in the lap of luxury
    in luxurious surroundings.
    John lives in the lap of luxury because his family is very wealthy.
    When I retire, I’d like to live in the lap of luxury.
  • in the light of something
    because of certain knowledge; considering something. (As if knowledge or information shed light on something.)
    In the light of what you have told us, I think we must abandon the project.
    In the light of the shop assistant’s rudeness, we didn’t return to that shop.
  • in the limelight
    at the centre of attention. (In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below. Limelight is an obsolete form of spotlight, and the word occurs only in this phrase.)
    John will do almost anything to get himself into the limelight.
    All elected officials spend a lot of time in the limelight.
  • in the line of duty
    as part of one’s expected (military, police, or other) duties.
    When soldiers fight people in a war, it’s in the line of duty.
    Police officers have to do things they may not like in the line of duty.
  • in the long run
    over a long period of time; ultimately.
    We’d be better off in the long run buying a car instead of hiring one.
    In the long run, we’d be happier in the South.
  • in the market (for something)
    wanting to buy something.
    I’m in the market for a video recorder.
    If you have a boat for sale, we’re in the market.
  • in the middle of nowhere
    in a very remote place. (Informal. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    We found a nice place to eat, but it’s out in the middle of nowhere.
    To get to my house, you have to drive into the middle of nowhere.
  • in the money
    wealthy. (Informal.)
    John is really in the money. He’s worth millions.
    If I am ever in the money, I’ll be generous to others.
  • in the near future
    in the time immediately ahead.
    I don’t plan to go to Florida in the near future.
    What do you intend to do in the near future?
  • in the nick of time
    just in time; at the last possible instant; just before it is too late.
    The doctor arrived in the nick of time. The patient’s life was saved.
    I reached the airport in the nick of time.
  • in the offing
    happening at some time in the future.
    There is a big investigation in the offing, but I don’t know when.
    It’s hard to tell what’s in the offing if you don’t keep track of things.
  • in the pink (of condition) and in the peak of condition
    in very good health; in very good condition, physically and emotionally. (Informal. In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    The garden is lovely. All the flowers are in the pink of condition.
    Jane has to exercise hard to get into the peak of condition.
    She’s been ill, but she’s in the pink now.
  • in the public eye
    publicly; visible to all; conspicuous. (In can be replaced with into. See comment at in a jam and the examples below.)
    Elected officials find themselves constantly in the public eye.
    The mayor made it a practice to get into the public eye as much as possible.
  • in the same boat
    in the same situation; having the same problem.
    “I’m broke. Can you lend me twenty pounds?” “Sorry. I’m in the same boat.”
    Jane and Mary are both in the same boat. They both have been called to the boss’s office.
  • in the same breath
    [stated or said] almost at the same time.
    He told me I was lazy, but then in the same breath he said I was doing a good job of work.
    The teacher said that the pupils were working hard and, in the same breath, that they were not working hard enough.
  • in the soup
    in a bad situation. (Informal.)
    Now I’m really in the soup. I broke Mrs. Franklin’s window.
    The child’s always in the soup. He attracts trouble.
  • in the swim (of things)
    fully involved in or participating in events or happenings. (The in can be replaced with into. See the explanation at in a jam and the examples below.)
    I’ve been ill, but soon I’ll be back in the swim of things.
    He can’t wait to grow up and get into the swim of things.
    Mary loves to be in the swim socially.
  • in the wind
    about to happen. (Also used literally.)
    There are some major changes in the wind. Expect these changes to happen soon.
    There is something in the wind. We’ll find out what it is soon.
  • in thing (to do)
    the fashionable thing to do. (Informal. In this phrase, the word in is always stressed.)
    Eating low-fat food is the in thing to do.
    Bob is very old-fashioned. He never does the in thing.
  • in this day and age
    presently; currently; nowadays.
    You don’t expect people to be polite in this day and age.
    Young people don’t care for their parents in this day and age.
  • into the bargain
    in addition to what was agreed on.
    I bought a car, and they threw a trailer into the bargain.
    When I bought the house, I asked the seller to include the furniture into the bargain.
  • in turn 1.
    one at a time in sequence.
    Each of us can read the book in turn.
    We cut the hair of every child in turn. 2. in return (for doing something).
    I took Sally out to lunch, and she took me out in turn.
    They invited us to their house in turn.
  • in two shakes of a lamb’s tail
    in a very short time.
    Jane returned in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.
    Fred was able to solve the problem in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.
  • in vain
    for no purpose; with no success.
    They rushed her to the hospital, but they did it in vain.
    We tried in vain to get her there on time.
    They tried and tried, but their efforts were in vain.
  • iron hand in a velvet glove
    a strong, ruthless type of control that gives the appearance of being gentle and liberal.
    In that family, it is a case of the iron hand in a velvet glove. The father looks gentle and loving, but he is a tyrant.
    It is a case of the iron hand in a velvet glove in that country. The president pretends to be liberal, but his people have little freedom.
20 January, 2021