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.
labour of lovea task which is either unpaid or poorly paid and which one does simply for one’s own satisfaction or pleasure or to please someone whom one likes or loves.
Jane made no money out of the biography she wrote. She was writing about the life of a friend, and the book was a labour of love.
Mary hates knitting, but she made a sweater for her boyfriend. What a labour of love!
lady-killera man who likes to flirt and make love to women, and who is popular with them.
Fred used to be a real lady-killer, but now women laugh at him.
Jack’s wife doesn’t know that he’s a ladykiller who goes out with other women.
lag behind (someone or something)to fall behind someone or something; to linger behind someone or something.
John always lags behind the person marching in front of him.
“Don’t lag behind!” shouted the leader.
lame ducksomeone or something that is helpless, useless, or inefficient.
Jack is always having to help his brother, who is a lame duck.
The best firms will survive, but the lame ducks will not.
land a blow (somewhere)to strike someone or something with the hand or fist.
Bill landed a blow on Tom’s chin.
When Bill wasn’t looking, Tom landed a blow.
land of Nodsleep. (Humorous. From the fact that people sometimes nod when they are falling asleep. This is a pun, because the land of Nod is also the name of a place referred to in the Bible.)
The baby is in the land of Nod.
Look at the clock! It’s time we were all in the land of Nod.
land on one’s feet and land on both feetto recover satisfactorily from a trying situation or a setback. (Informal.)
Her first year was terrible, but she landed on both feet.
It’s going to be a hard day. I only hope I land on my feet.
last but not leastlast in sequence, but not last in importance. (Often said in introductions.)
The speaker said, “And now, last but not least, I’d like to present Bill Smith, who will give us some final words.”
And last but not least, here is the owner of the firm.
last-ditch efforta final effort; the last possible attempt.
I made one last-ditch effort to get her to stay.
It was a last-ditch effort. I didn’t expect it to work.
late in lifewhen one is old.
She injured her hip running. She’s taken to exercising rather late in life.
Isn’t it rather late in life to buy a house?
late in the dayfar on in a project or activity; too late in a project or activity for action, decisions, etc., to be taken.
It was a bit late in the day for him to apologize.
It’s late in the day to change the plans.
laugh something out of courtto dismiss something as ridiculous.
The committee laughed the suggestion out of court.
Jack’s request for a large salary increase was laughed out of court.
laugh up one’s sleeveto laugh secretly; to laugh quietly to oneself. (Informal.)
Jane looked very serious, but I knew she was laughing up her sleeve.
They pretended to admire her singing voice, but they were laughing up their sleeves at her. She screeches.
law unto oneselfone who makes one’s own laws or rules; one who sets one’s own standards of behaviour.
You can’t get Bill to follow the rules. He’s a law unto himself.
Jane is a law unto herself. She’s totally unwilling to co-operate.
lay about oneto strike at people and things in all directions around one; to hit everyone and everything near one.
When the police tried to capture the robber, he laid about him wildly.
In trying to escape, the prisoner laid about him and injured several people.
lay down the law 1.to state firmly what the rules are (for something).
Before the meeting, the managing director laid down the law. We all knew exactly what to do.
The way she laid down the law means that I’ll remember her rules. 2. to express one’s opinions with force.
When the teacher caught us, he really laid down the law.
Poor Bob. He really got it when his mother laid down the law.
lay something on the lineto speak very firmly and directly about something.
She was very angry. She laid it on the line, and we had no doubt about what she meant.
All right, you lot! I’m going to lay it on the line. Don’t ever do that again if you know what’s good for you.
lead a dog’s lifeto lead a miserable life.
Poor Jane really leads a dog’s life.
I’ve been working so hard. I’m tired of leading a dog’s life.
lead someone by the noseto force someone to go somewhere (with you); to lead someone by coercion. (Informal.)
John had to lead Tom by the nose to get him to the opera.
I’ll go, but you’ll have to lead me by the nose.
lead someone (on) a merry chase and lead someone (on) a merry danceto lead someone in a purposeless pursuit.
What a waste of time. You really led me on a merry chase.
Jane led Bill a merry dance trying to find an antique lamp.
lead someone to believe somethingto imply something to someone; to cause someone to believe something untrue, without lying.
But you led me to believe that this watch was guaranteed!
Did you lead her to believe that she was employed as a cook?
lead someone to do somethingto cause someone to do something.
This agent led me to purchase a worthless piece of land.
My illness led me to resign.
lead someone up the garden pathto deceive someone.
Now, be honest with me. Don’t lead me up the garden path.
That swindler really led her up the garden path.
learn something by heartto learn something so well that it can be written or recited without thinking; to memorize something.
The director told me to learn my speech by heart.
I had to go over it many times before I learned it by heart. also: know something by heart to know something perfectly; to have memorized something perfectly.
I know my speech by heart.
I went over and over it until I knew it by heart.
learn something by roteto learn something without giving any thought to what is being learned.
I learned history by rote, and then I couldn’t pass the examination, which required me to think.
If you learn things by rote, you’ll never understand them.
learn the ropesto learn how to do something; to learn how to work something. (Informal.)
I’ll be able to do my job very well as soon as I learn the ropes.
John is very slow to learn the ropes.
leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth[for something] to leave a bad feeling or memory with someone. (Informal.)
The whole business about the missing money left a bad taste in his mouth.
It was a very nice affair, but something about it left a bad taste in my mouth.
leave no stone unturnedto search in all possible places. (As if one might find something under a rock.)
Don’t worry. We’ll find your stolen car. We’ll leave no stone unturned.
In searching for a nice place to live, we left no stone unturned.
leave oneself wide open for something and leave oneself wide open to somethingto invite criticism or joking about oneself; to fail to protect oneself from criticism or ridicule.
Yes, that was a harsh remark, Jane, but you left yourself wide open to it.
I can’t complain about your joke. I left myself wide open for it.
leave someone holding the babyto leave someone with the responsibility for something, especially something difficult or unpleasant, often when it was originally someone else’s responsibility. (Informal. Note passive use in the examples.)
We all promised to look after the house when the owner was away, but I was left holding the baby on my own.
It was her brother who promised to finish the work, and it was he who then left her holding the baby.
leave someone in the lurchto leave someone waiting on or anticipating your actions.
Where were you, John? You really left me in the lurch.
I didn’t mean to leave you in the lurch. I thought we had cancelled our meeting.
leave word (with someone)to leave a message with someone (who will pass the message on to someone else).
If you decide to go to the convention, please leave word with my secretary.
Leave word before you go.
I left word with your brother. Didn’t he give you the message?
left, right, and centreeverywhere; to an excessive extent. (Informal.)
John lent money left, right, and centre.
Mary spent her money on clothes, left, right, and centre.
lend (someone) a handto give someone some help, not necessarily with the hands.
Could you lend me a hand with this piano? I need to move it across the room.
Could you lend a hand with this maths problem?
I’d be happy to lend a hand.
less than pleaseddispleased.
We were less than pleased to learn of your comments.
Bill was less than pleased at the outcome of the election.
let off steam and blow off steamto release excess energy or anger. (Informal.)
Whenever John gets a little angry, he blows off steam by jogging.
Don’t worry about John. He’s just letting off steam. He won’t sack you.
let one’s hair down and let down one’s hairto become less formal and more intimate, and to begin to speak frankly. (Informal.)
Come on, Jane, let your hair down and tell me all about it.
I have a problem. Do you mind if I let down my hair?
let someone have itto strike someone or attack someone verbally. (Informal.)
I really let Tom have it. I told him he had better not do that again if he knows what’s good for him.
Bob let John have it— right on the chin.
let someone off (the hook)to release someone from a responsibility. (Informal.)
Please let me off the hook for Saturday. I have other plans.
Okay, I’ll let you off.
let something rideto allow something to continue or remain as it is. (Informal.)
It isn’t the best plan, but we’ll let it ride.
I disagree with you, but I’ll let it ride.
let something slideto neglect something. (Informal.)
John let his lessons slide.
Jane doesn’t let her work slide.
let something slip (out)to tell a secret by accident.
I didn’t let it slip out on purpose. It was an accident.
John let the plans slip when he was talking to Bill.
let the cat out of the bag and spill the beansto reveal a secret or a surprise by accident. (Informal.)
When Bill glanced at the door, he let the cat out of the bag. We knew then that he was expecting someone to arrive.
We are planning a surprise party for Jane. Don’t let the cat out of the bag.
It’s a secret. Try not to spill the beans.
let the chance slip byto lose the opportunity (to do something).
When I was younger, I wanted to become a doctor, but I let the chance slip by.
Don’t let the chance slip by. Do it now!
let the grass grow under one’s feetto do nothing; to stand still.
Mary doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet. She’s always busy.
Bob is too lazy. He’s letting the grass grow under his feet.
let well alone and leave well aloneto leave things as they are (and not try to improve them).
There isn’t much more you can accomplish here. Why don’t you just let well alone?
This is as good as I can do. I’ll stop and leave well alone.
lick one’s lipsto show eagerness or pleasure about a future event. (Informal. From the habit of people licking their lips when they are about to enjoy eating something.)
The children licked their lips at the sight of the cake.
The author’s readers were licking their lips in anticipation of her new novel.
The journalist was licking his lips when he went off to interview the disgraced politician.
lick something into shape and whip something into shapeto put something into good condition, usually with difficulty. (Informal.)
I have to lick this report into shape this morning.
Let’s all lend a hand and whip this house into shape. It’s a mess.
lie down on the jobto do one’s job poorly or not at all. (Informal.)
Tom was sacked because he was lying down on the job.
The telephonist was not answering the phone. She was lying down on the job.
lie through one’s teethto lie boldly. (Informal.)
I knew she was lying through her teeth, but I didn’t want to say so just then.
I’m not lying through my teeth! I never do!
life (and soul) of the partythe type of person who is lively and helps make a party fun and exciting.
Bill is always the life and soul of the party. Be sure to invite him.
Bob isn’t exactly the life of the party, but he’s polite.
like a bolt out of the bluesuddenly and without warning. (Refers to a bolt of lightning coming out of a clear blue sky.)
The news came to us like a bolt out of the blue.
Like a bolt out of the blue, the managing director came and sacked us all.
like a fish out of waterawkward; in a foreign or unaccustomed environment.
At a formal dance, John is like a fish out of water.
Mary was like a fish out of water at the bowling tournament.
like a sitting duck and like sitting ducksunguarded; unsuspecting and unaware.
He was waiting there like a sitting duck—a perfect target for a mugger.
The soldiers were standing at the top of the hill like sitting ducks. It’s a wonder they weren’t all killed.
like looking for a needle in a haystackengaged in a hopeless search.
Trying to find a white dog in the snow is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
I tried to find my lost contact lens on the beach, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
like one of the familyas if someone (or a pet) were a member of one’s family. (Informal.)
We treat our dog like one of the family.
We are very happy to have you stay with us, Bill. I hope you don’t mind if we treat you like one of the family.
likes of someonethe type of person that someone is; anyone like someone. (Informal. Almost always in a negative sense.)
I don’t like Bob. I wouldn’t do anything for the likes of him.
Nobody wants the likes of him around.
like water off a duck’s backwithout any apparent effect.
Insults rolled off John like water off a duck’s back.
There’s no point in scolding the children. It’s like water off a duck’s back.
lion’s share (of something)the larger share of something.
The elder boy always takes the lion’s share of the food.
Jim was supposed to divide the cake in two equal pieces, but he took the lion’s share.
listen to reasonto yield to a reasonable argument; to take the reasonable course.
Please listen to reason, and don’t do something you’ll regret.
She got into trouble because she wouldn’t listen to reason and was always late.
live and let livenot to interfere with other people’s business or preferences.
I don’t care what they do! Live and let live, I always say.
Your parents are strict. Mine prefer to live and let live.
live by one’s witsto survive by being clever.
When you’re in the kind of business I’m in, you have to live by your wits.
John was orphaned at the age of ten and grew up living by his wits.
live from hand to mouthto live in poor circumstances; to be able to get only what one needs for the present and not save for the future. (Informal.)
When both my parents were out of work, we lived from hand to mouth.
We lived from hand to mouth during the war. Things were very difficult.
live in an ivory towerto be aloof or separated from the realities of living. (Live can be replaced by certain other expressions meaning to dwell or spend time, as in the examples.)
If you didn’t spend so much time in your ivory tower, you’d know what people really think!
Many professors are said to live in ivory towers. They don’t know what the real world is like.
live off the fat of the landto live in a very affluent or luxurious way. (Biblical.)
If I had a million pounds, I’d invest it and live off the fat of the land.
Jean married a wealthy man and lived off the fat of the land.
live on borrowed timeto live longer than circumstances warrant; to live longer than expected; to remain in a situation longer than circumstances warrant.
John has a terminal disease. He’s living on borrowed time.
The student’s living on borrowed time. If he doesn’t pass this exam, he will be asked to go.
load off one’s mindrelief from something which has been worrying one. (Informal.)
It will be a load off Jane’s mind when her mother leaves hospital.
You aren’t going to like what I’m going to say, but it will be a load off my mind.
lock horns (with someone)to get into an argument with someone. (Informal.)
Let’s settle this peacefully. I don’t want to lock horns with your lawyer.
The judge doesn’t want to lock horns either.
lock, stock, and barreleverything.
We had to move everything out of the house—lock, stock, and barrel.
We lost everything—lock, stock, and barrel—in the fire.
look as if butter wouldn’t melt in one’s mouthto appear to be very innocent, respectable, honest, etc.
Sally looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but she is going out with a married man.
The child looks as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, but he bullies the other children.
look daggers at someoneto give someone an unpleasant or nasty look.
Tom must have been angry with Ann from the way he was looking daggers at her.
Don’t you dare look daggers at me! I haven’t done anything.
look forward to somethingto anticipate something with pleasure.
I’m really looking forward to your visit next week.
We all look forward to your new book on gardening.
look like a million dollarsto look very good.
Oh, Sally, you look like a million dollars.
Your new hair-do looks like a million dollars.
look like the cat that swallowed the canary and look like the cat that swallowed the creamto appear self-satisfied, as if one had just had a great success.
After the meeting John looked like the cat that swallowed the canary. I knew he must have been a success.
What happened? You look like the cat that swallowed the canary.
Jean must have won. She looks like the cat that swallowed the cream.
look the other wayto ignore (something) on purpose.
John could have prevented the problem, but he looked the other way.
By looking the other way, he actually made the problem worse.
look to one’s laurelsto take care not to lower or diminish one’s reputation or position, especially in relation to that of someone else potentially better.
With the arrival of the new member of the football team, James will have to look to his laurels to remain the highest scorer.
The older members of the team will have to look to their laurels when young people join.
look up to someoneto view someone with respect and admiration.
Bill really looks up to his father.
Everyone in the class looked up to the teacher.
loom largeto be of great importance, especially when referring to a possible problem, danger, or threat.
The exams were looming large.
Eviction was looming large when the students could not pay their rent.
lord it over someoneto dominate someone; to direct and control someone.
Mr. Smith seems to lord it over his wife.
The old man lords it over everyone in the office.
lose faceto lose status; to become less respectable.
John is more afraid of losing face than losing money.
Things will go better if you can explain to him where he was wrong without making him lose face.
lose heartto lose one’s courage or confidence.
Now, don’t lose heart. Keep trying.
What a disappointment! It’s enough to make one lose heart.
lose one’s gripto lose control (over something).
I can’t seem to run things like I used to. I’m losing my grip.
They replaced the board of directors because it was losing its grip.
lose one’s reasonto lose one’s power of reasoning, possibly in anger.
I was so confused that I almost lost my reason.
Bob seems to have lost his reason when he struck John.
lose one’s temperto become angry.
Please don’t lose your temper. It’s not good for you.
I’m sorry that I lost my temper.
lose one’s train of thoughtto forget what one was talking or thinking about.
Excuse me, I lost my train of thought. What was I talking about?
You made the speaker lose her train of thought.
lost in thoughtbusy thinking.
I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you said. I was lost in thought.
Bill—lost in thought as always—went into the wrong room.
lost on someonehaving no effect on someone; wasted on someone. (Informal.)
The joke was lost on Jean. She didn’t understand it.
The humour of the situation was lost on Mary. She was too upset to see it.
love at first sightlove established when two people first see one another.
Bill was standing at the door when Ann opened it. It was love at first sight.
It was love at first sight when they met, but it didn’t last long.
lovely weather for ducksrainy weather.
It’s raining and it’s lovely weather for ducks.
I don’t like this weather, but it’s lovely weather for ducks.
lower one’s sightsto set one’s goals or aims lower.
Even though you get frustrated, don’t lower your sights.
I shouldn’t lower my sights. If I work hard, I can do what I want.
lower one’s voiceto speak more softly.
Please lower your voice, or you’ll disturb the people who are working.
He wouldn’t lower his voice, so everyone heard what he said.
lucky dipa situation in which one is given no choice in what one is given, what happens, etc. (From the name of a fairground sideshow in which children choose a parcel at random from a tub of bran.)
The allocation of jobs is a lucky dip. You can’t choose.
Which coach you go back to school on is a lucky dip.