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Idioms starting with letter N


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.

  • nail in someone’s or something’s coffin
    something which will harm or destroy someone or something.
    Every word of criticism that Bob said about the firm was a nail in his coffin. I knew the boss would sack him.
    Losing the export order was the final nail in the company’s coffin.
  • nail one’s colours to the mast
    to commit oneself to a particular course of action or to a particular point of view. (A ship’s flag—its colours—could not be lowered to indicate surrender when it was nailed to the mast.)
    Fred nailed his colours to the mast by publicly declaring for strike action.
    Mary really believes in socialism, but she refuses to nail her colours to the mast and join the Labour Party.
  • naked eye
    the human eye, unassisted by optics such as a telescope, microscope, or spectacles.
    I can’t see the bird’s markings with the naked eye.
    The scientist could see nothing in the liquid with the naked eye, but with the aid of a microscope, she identified the bacteria.
  • name of the game
    the goal or purpose; the important or central thing. (Informal.)
    The name of the game is sell. You must sell, sell, sell if you want to make a living.
    Around here, the name of the game is look out for yourself.
  • near the bone and near the knuckle (Informal.) 1.
    coming too close to mentioning something which should not be mentioned, for example because it might hurt or offend someone.
    Jack’s remark about prisons was a bit near the bone. Jane’s father is on trial just now.
    Mike’s speech about traffic safety was near the knuckle. Joan—who just had a serious car crash—was in the first row of the audience. 2. rather indecent.
    The comedian’s jokes were a bit near the bone.
    Uncle Fred’s stories are always near the knuckle.
  • neck and neck
    exactly even, especially in a race or a contest. (Informal.)
    John and Tom finished the race neck and neck.
    Mary and Ann were neck and neck in the spelling contest.
  • needs must
    if it is absolutely necessary for something to be done, then it must be done.
    I don’t want to sell the car, but needs must. I can’t afford to run it.
    Needs must. Mary’ll have to go out to work now that her husband’s died.
  • neither fish nor fowl
    not any recognizable thing.
    The car that they drove up in was neither fish nor fowl. It must have been made out of spare parts.
    This proposal is neither fish nor fowl. I can’t tell what you’re proposing.
  • neither hide nor hair
    no sign or indication (of someone or something).
    We could find neither hide nor hair of him. I don’t know where he is.
    I could see neither hide nor hair of the children.
  • never fear do not worry; have confidence.
    --- I’ll be there on time—
    I’ll help you, never fear.
  • never had it so good
    [have] never had so much good fortune. (Informal.)
    No, I’m not complaining. I’ve never had it so good.
    Mary is pleased with her new job. She’s never had it so good.
  • never in one’s life
    not in one’s experience.
    Never in my life have I been so insulted!
    He said that he had never in his life seen such an ugly painting.
  • never mind
    forget it; pay no more attention (to something).
    I wanted to talk to you, but never mind. It wasn’t important.
    Never mind. I’m sorry to bother you.
  • new lease of life
    a renewed and revitalized outlook on life.
    Getting the offer of employment gave James a new lease of life.
    When I got out of the hospital, I felt I had a new lease of life.
  • new one on someone
    something one has not heard before and that one is not ready to believe. (Informal. The someone is often me.)
    Jack’s poverty is a new one on me. He always seems to have plenty of money.
    The firm’s difficulties are a new one on me. I thought that they were doing very well.
  • night on the town
    a night of celebrating (at one or more places in a town). (Informal.)
    Did you enjoy your night on the town?
    After we got the contract signed, we celebrated with a night on the town.
  • night-owl
    someone who usually stays up very late. (Informal.)
    Ann’s a real night-owl. She never goes to bed before 2 a.m. and sleeps until midday.
    Jack’s a night-owl and is at his best after midnight.
  • nine days’ wonder
    something that is of interest to people only for a short time.
    Don’t worry about the story about you in the newspaper. It’ll be a nine days’ wonder and then people will forget.
    The elopement of Jack and Ann was a nine days’ wonder. Now people never mention it.
  • nine-to-five job
    a job with regular and normal hours.
    I wouldn’t want a nine-to-five job. I like the freedom I have as my own employer.
    I used to work night-shifts, but now I have a nine-to-five job.
  • nip something in the bud
    to put an end to something at an early stage.
    John is getting into bad habits, and it’s best to nip them in the bud.
    There was trouble in the classroom, but the teacher nipped it in the bud.
  • nobody’s fool
    a sensible and wise person who is not easily deceived.
    Mary’s nobody’s fool. She knows Jack would try to cheat her.
    Ann looks as though she’s not very bright, but she’s nobody’s fool.
  • no hard feelings
    no anger or resentment. (Informal. No can be replaced with any.)
    I hope you don’t have any hard feelings.
    No, I have no hard feelings.
  • no holds barred
    with no restraints. (Informal. From wrestling.)
    I intend to argue it out with Mary, no holds barred.
    When Ann negotiates a contract, she goes in with no holds barred and comes out with a good contract.
  • no ifs or buts about it
    absolutely no discussion, dissension, or doubt about something.
    I want you there exactly at eight, no ifs or buts about it.
    This is the best television set available for the money, no ifs or buts about it.
  • no love lost between someone and someone else and no love lost between people
    no friendship wasted between someone and someone else (because they are enemies).
    Ever since their big argument, there has been no love lost between Tom and Bill.
    You can tell by the way that Jane is acting towards Ann that there is no love lost between them.
  • none the wiser
    not knowing any more.
    I was none the wiser about the project after the lecture. It was a complete waste of time.
    Ann tried to explain the situation tactfully to Jack, but in the end, he was none the wiser.
  • none the worse for wear
    no worse because of use or effort.
    I lent my car to John. When I got it back, it was none the worse for wear.
    I had a hard day today, but I’m none the worse for wear.
  • none too something
    not very; not at all.
    The towels in the bathroom were none too clean.
    It was none too warm in their house.
  • no skin off someone’s nose
    no difficulty for someone; no concern of someone.
    It’s no skin off my nose if she wants to act that way.
    She said it was no skin off her nose if we wanted to sell the house.
  • no sooner said than done
    done quickly and obediently. (Informal.)
    When Sally asked for someone to open the window, it was no sooner said than done.
    As Jane opened the window, she said, “No sooner said than done.”
  • no spring chicken
    not young (any more). (Informal.)
    I don’t get around very well any more. I’m no spring chicken, you know.
    Even though John is no spring chicken, he still plays tennis twice a week.
  • Not a bit (of it).
    Not at all.
    Am I unhappy? Not a bit.
    She said she was not disappointed. Not a bit, in fact.
    You needn’t apologize— not a bit of it.
  • not able to call one’s time one’s own
    too busy; so busy as not to be in charge of one’s own schedule. (Informal. Not able to is often expressed as can’t.)
    It’s been so busy around here that I haven’t been able to call my time my own.
    She can’t call her time her own these days.
  • not able to see the wood for the trees
    allowing many details of a problem to obscure the problem as a whole. (Not able to is often expressed as can’t.)
    The solution is obvious. You missed it because you can’t see the wood for the trees.
    She suddenly realized that she hadn’t been able to see the wood for the trees.
  • not able to wait 1.
    too anxious to wait; excited (about something in the future). (Not able to is often expressed as can’t.)
    I’m so excited. I can’t wait.
    Billy couldn’t wait for his birthday. 2. to have to go to the toilet urgently. (Informal.)
    Mum, I can’t wait.
    Driver, stop the bus! My little boy can’t wait.
  • not born yesterday
    experienced; knowledgeable in the ways of the world. (Informal.)
    I know what’s going on. I wasn’t born yesterday.
    Sally knows the score. She wasn’t born yesterday.
  • not breathe a word (about someone or something)
    to keep a secret about someone or something.
    Don’t worry. I won’t breathe a word about it.
    Please don’t breathe a word about Bob and his problems.
  • not breathe a word (of something)
    not to tell something (to anyone).
    Don’t worry. I won’t breathe a word of it.
    Tom won’t breathe a word.
  • not by a long shot
    not by a great amount; not at all.
    Did I win the race? Not by a long shot.
    Not by a long shot did she complete the task.
  • not for the world and not for anything in the world; not for love nor money
    not for anything (no matter what its value).
    I won’t do it for love nor money.
    He said he wouldn’t do it—not for the world.
    She said no, not for anything in the world.
  • not give someone the time of day
    to ignore someone (usually out of dislike). (Informal.)
    Mary won’t speak to Sally. She won’t give her the time of day.
    I couldn’t get an appointment with Mr. Smith. He wouldn’t even give me the time of day.
  • not half bad
    okay; pretty good. (Informal.)
    Say, this roast beef isn’t half bad.
    Well, Sally! You’re not half bad!
  • not have a care in the world
    free and casual; unworried and carefree.
    I really feel good today—as if I didn’t have a care in the world.
    Ann always acts as though she doesn’t have a care in the world.
  • nothing but skin and bones and all skin and bones
    very thin or emaciated. (Informal.)
    Bill has lost so much weight. He’s nothing but skin and bones.
    That old horse is all skin and bones. I won’t ride it.
  • nothing of the kind
    no; absolutely not.
    I didn’t insult him—nothing of the kind!
    Were we rude? Nothing of the kind!
  • nothing short of something
    more or less the same as something bad; as bad as something.
    His behaviour was nothing short of criminal.
    Climbing those mountains alone is nothing short of suicide.
  • nothing to it
    it is easy; no difficulty involved.
    Driving a car is easy. There’s nothing to it.
    Geometry is fun to learn. There’s nothing to it.
  • nothing to write home about
    nothing exciting or interesting. (Informal.)
    I’ve been busy, but nothing to write home about.
    I had a dull week—nothing to write home about.
  • not hold water
    to make no sense; to be illogical. (Said of ideas or arguments. Like a vessel or container that leaks, the idea has flaws or “holes” in it.)
    Your argument doesn’t hold water.
    This scheme won’t work because it won’t hold water.
  • not in the same league as someone or something
    not nearly as good as someone or something.
    John isn’t in the same league as Bob and his friends. He is not nearly as talented.
    This house isn’t in the same league as our old one.
  • not know someone from Adam
    not to know someone at all.
    I wouldn’t recognize John if I saw him. I don’t know him from Adam.
    What does she look like? I don’t know her from Adam.
  • not lift a finger (to help someone)
    to do nothing to help someone.
    They wouldn’t lift a finger to help us.
    Can you imagine that they wouldn’t lift a finger?
  • not long for this world
    about to die.
    Our dog is nearly twelve years old and not long for this world.
    I’m so tired. I think I’m not long for this world.
  • not move a muscle
    to remain perfectly motionless.
    Be quiet. Sit there and don’t move a muscle.
    I was so tired I couldn’t move a muscle.
  • not open one’s mouth and not utter a word
    not to say anything at all; not to tell something (to anyone).
    Don’t worry, I’ll keep your secret. I won’t even open my mouth.
    Have no fear. I won’t utter a word.
    I don’t know how they found out. I didn’t even open my mouth.
  • no trespassing
    do not enter. (Usually seen on a sign. Not usually spoken.)
    The sign on the tree said “No Trespassing.” So we didn’t go in.
    The angry farmer chased us out of the field, shouting, “Get out! Don’t you see the No Trespassing sign?”
  • not see further than the end of one’s nose
    not to care about what is not actually present or obvious; not to care about the future or about what is happening elsewhere or to other people.
    Mary can’t see further than the end of her nose. She doesn’t care about what will happen to the environment in the future, as long as she’s comfortable now.
    Jack’s been accused of not seeing further than the end of his nose. He refuses to expand the firm and look for new markets.
  • not set foot somewhere
    not to go somewhere.
    I wouldn’t set foot in John’s room. I’m very angry with him.
    He never set foot here.
  • not show one’s face
    not to appear (somewhere).
    After what she said, she had better not show her face around here again.
    If I don’t say I’m sorry, I’ll never be able to show my face again.
  • not sleep a wink
    not to sleep at all. (Informal.)
    I couldn’t sleep a wink last night.
    Ann hasn’t been able to sleep a wink for a week.
  • not someone’s cup of tea
    not something one likes or prefers. (Informal.)
    Playing cards isn’t her cup of tea.
    Sorry, that’s not my cup of tea.
  • not take no for an answer
    not to accept someone’s refusal. (A polite way of being insistent.)
    Now, you must drop over and see us tomorrow. We won’t take no for an answer.
    I had to go. They just wouldn’t take no for an answer.
  • not to darken someone’s door and never darken my door again
    to go away and not come back.
    The heroine of the drama told the villain not to darken her door again.
    She touched the back of her hand to her forehead and said, “Get out and never darken my door again!”
  • not up to scratch
    not adequate. (Informal.)
    Sorry, your essay isn’t up to scratch. Please do it over again.
    The performance was not up to scratch.
  • not worth a penny and not worth a candle
    worthless. (Informal.)
    This land is all swampy. It’s not worth a penny.
    This vase is not worth a candle.
  • no two ways about it
    no choice about it; no other interpretation of it. (Informal.)
    You have to go to the doctor whether you like it or not. There’s no two ways about it.
    This letter means you’re in trouble with the Inland Revenue. There’s no two ways about it.
  • null and void
    cancelled; worthless.
    I tore the contract up, and the entire agreement became null and void.
    The judge declared the whole business null and void.
  • nuts and bolts (of something)
    the basic facts about something; the practical details of something.
    Tom knows all about the nuts and bolts of the chemical process.
    Ann is familiar with the nuts and bolts of public relations.
WORD OF THE DAY
20 October, 2020