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Idioms starting with letter O

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.

  • odd man out
    an unusual or atypical person or thing.
    I’m odd man out because I’m not wearing a tie.
    You had better learn to work a computer unless you want to be odd man out.
  • odour of sanctity and air of sanctity
    an atmosphere of excessive holiness or piety. (Derogatory.)
    I hate their house. There’s such an odour of sanctity, with Bibles and holy pictures everywhere.
    People are nervous of Jane’s air of sanctity. She’s always praying for people or doing good works and never has any fun.
  • off-centre
    not exactly in the centre or middle.
    The arrow hit the target a little off-centre.
    The picture hanging over the chair is a little off-centre.
  • off colour
    not very well; slightly ill.
    Mary is a bit off colour after the long journey.
    Fred went to the doctor when he was feeling off colour.
  • off the beaten track
    in an unfamiliar place; on a route which is not often travelled.
    Their home is in a quiet neighbourhood, off the beaten track.
    We like to stop there and admire the scenery. It’s off the beaten track, but it’s worth the trip.
  • of the first water
    of the finest quality.
    This is a very fine pearl— a pearl of the first water.
    Tom is a musician of the first water.
  • of the old school
    holding attitudes and ideas that were popular and important in the past, but are no longer considered relevant or in line with modern trends.
    Grammar was not taught much in my son’s school, but fortunately he had a teacher of the old school.
    Aunt Jane is of the old school. She never goes out without wearing a hat and gloves.
  • old enough to be someone’s mother and old enough to be someone’s father
    as old as someone’s parents. (Usually a way of saying that one person is much older than the other, especially when the difference in age is considered inappropriate.)
    You can’t go out with Bill. He’s old enough to be your father!
    He married a woman who is old enough to be his mother.
  • old hand at doing something
    someone who is experienced at doing something. (Informal.)
    I’m an old hand at fixing clocks.
    With four children, he’s an old hand at changing nappies.
  • on active duty
    in battle or ready to go into battle. (Military.)
    The soldier was on active duty for ten months.
    That was a long time to be on active duty.
  • on a first-name basis (with someone) and on first-name terms (with someone)
    knowing someone very well; good friends with someone. (Refers to using a person’s given name rather than a surname or title.)
    I’m on a first-name basis with John.
    John and I are on first-name terms.
  • on a fool’s errand
    involved in a useless journey or task.
    Bill went for an interview, but he was on a fool’s errand. The job had already been filled.
    I was sent on a fool’s errand to buy some flowers. I knew the shop would be shut by then.
  • on all fours
    on one’s hands and knees.
    I dropped a contact lens and spent an hour on all fours looking for it.
    The baby can walk, but is on all fours most of the time.
  • on a par with someone or something
    equal to someone or something.
    Your effort is simply not on a par with what’s expected from you.
    John’s work is not on a par with Bob’s.
  • on average
    generally; usually.
    On average, you can expect about a 10 percent failure.
    On average, we see about ten people a day.
  • on behalf of someone and on someone’s behalf
    [doing something] as someone’s agent; [doing something] in place of someone; for the benefit of someone.
    I’m writing on behalf of Mr. Smith, who has applied for a position with your company.
    I’m calling on behalf of my client, who wishes to complain about your actions.
    I’m acting on your behalf.
  • once and for all
    finally and irreversibly.
    I want to get this problem settled once and for all.
    I told him once and for all that he has to start studying.
  • once in a blue moon
    very rarely.
    I seldom go to the cinema— maybe once in a blue moon.
    I don’t go into the city except once in a blue moon.
  • once-in-a-lifetime chance
    a chance that will never occur again in one’s lifetime.
    This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Don’t miss it.
    She offered me a once-in-a-lifetime chance, but I turned it down.
  • once in a while
    I go to see a film once in a while.
    Once in a while we have lamb, but not very often.
  • once upon a time
    once in the past. (A formula used to begin a fairy-tale.)
    Once upon a time, there were three bears.
    Once upon a time, I had a puppy of my own.
  • on cloud nine
    very happy. (Informal.)
    When I got my promotion, I was on cloud nine.
    When the cheque came, I was on cloud nine for days.
  • one for the record (books)
    a record-breaking act.
    What a dive! That’s one for the record books.
    I’ve never heard such a funny joke. That’s really one for the record.
  • one in a thousand and one in a hundred; one in a million unique;
    one of a very few.
    He’s a great friend. He’s one in a million.
    Mary’s one in a hundred—such a hard worker.
  • one’s days are numbered
    [for someone] to face death, dismissal, or ruin. (Informal.)
    If I don’t get this contract, my days are numbered at this firm.
    His days as a member of the club are numbered.
    Uncle Tom has a terminal disease. His days are numbered.
  • one’s eyes are bigger than one’s stomach
    [for one] to take more food than one can eat. (Informal.)
    I can’t eat all this. I’m afraid that my eyes were bigger than my stomach when I ordered.
    Try to take less food. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach at every meal. also: have eyes bigger than one’s stomach to have a desire for more food than one could possibly eat.
    I know I have eyes bigger than my stomach, so I won’t take a lot of food.
  • one’s old stamping-ground
    the place where one was raised or where one has spent a lot of time. (Informal.)
    Ann should know about that place. It’s near her old stamping-ground.
    I can’t wait to get back to my old stamping-ground and see old friends.
  • one’s way of life
    one’s life-style; one’s pattern of living.
    That kind of thing just doesn’t fit into my way of life.
    Children change one’s way of life.
  • one’s words stick in one’s throat
    one finds it difficult to speak because of emotion.
    My words stick in my throat whenever I try to say something kind or tender.
    I wanted to apologize, but the words stuck in my throat.
  • one-up (on someone)
    ahead of someone; with an advantage over someone. (Informal.)
    Tom is one-up on Sally because he got a job and she didn’t.
    Yes, it sounds like Tom is one-up.
  • on holiday
    away, having a holiday; on holiday.
    Where are you going on holiday this year?
    I’ll be away on holiday for three weeks.
  • only have eyes for someone
    to be loyal to only one person, in the context of romance; to be interested in only one person.
    Oh, Jane! I only have eyes for you!
    Don’t waste any time on Tom. He only has eyes for Ann.
  • on one’s feet 1.
    standing up.
    Get on your feet. They are playing the national anthem.
    I’ve been on my feet all day, and they hurt. 2. in improving health, especially after an illness.
    I hope to be back on my feet next week.
    I can help out as soon as I’m back on my feet.
  • on one’s guard
    cautious; watchful.
    Be on your guard. There are pickpockets around here.
    You had better be on your guard.
  • on one’s honour
    on one’s solemn oath; promised sincerely.
    On my honour, I’ll be there on time.
    He promised on his honour that he’d pay me back next week.
  • on one’s mind
    occupying one’s thoughts; currently being thought about.
    You’ve been on my mind all day.
    Do you have something on your mind? You look so serious.
  • on one’s (own) head be it
    one must take the responsibility for one’s actions.
    On your head be it if you set fire to the house.
    James insisted on going to the party uninvited. On his head be it if the host is annoyed.
  • on one’s toes
    alert. (Informal.)
    You have to be on your toes if you want to be in this business.
    My job keeps me on my toes.
  • on order
    ordered with delivery expected.
    Your car is on order. It’ll be here in a few weeks.
    I don’t have the part in stock, but it’s on order.
  • on record
    recorded for future reference.
    We had the coldest winter on record last year.
    This is the fastest race on record.
  • on sale and for sale
    offered for sale; able to be bought.
    There are antiques on sale at the market.
    There is a wide range of fruit for sale.
  • on second thoughts
    having given something more thought; having reconsidered something.
    On second thoughts, maybe you should sell your house and move into a flat.
    On second thoughts, let’s not go to a film.
  • on the air
    broadcasting (a radio or television programme).
    The radio station came back on the air shortly after the storm.
    We were on the air for two hours.
  • on the alert (for someone or something)
    watchful and attentive for someone or something.
    Be on the alert for pickpockets.
    You should be on the alert when you cross the street in heavy traffic.
  • on the cards
    in the future. (Informal.)
    Well, what do you think is on the cards for tomorrow?
    I asked the managing director if there was a rise on the cards for me.
  • on the dot
    exactly right; in exactly the right place; at exactly the right time. (Informal.)
    That’s it! You’re right on the dot.
    He got here at one o’clock on the dot.
  • on the eve of something
    just before something, possibly the evening before something.
    John decided to leave college on the eve of his graduation.
    The team held a party on the eve of the tournament.
  • on the face of it
    superficially; from the way it looks.
    This looks like a serious problem on the face of it. It probably is minor, however.
    On the face of it, it seems worthless.
  • on the horns of a dilemma
    having to decide between two things, people, etc.
    Mary found herself on the horns of a dilemma. She didn’t know which dress to choose.
    I make up my mind easily. I’m not on the horns of a dilemma very often.
  • on the loose
    running around free. (Informal.)
    Look out! There is a bear on the loose from the zoo.
    Most young people enjoy being on the loose when they go to college.
  • on the mend
    getting well; healing. (Informal.)
    My cold was terrible, but I’m on the mend now.
    What you need is some hot chicken soup. Then you’ll really be on the mend.
  • on the off-chance
    because of a slight possibility that something may happen, might be the case, etc.; just in case.
    I went to the theatre on the off-chance that there were tickets for the show left.
    We didn’t think we would get into the football ground, but we went on the off-chance.
  • on the sly
    slyly or sneakily. (Informal.)
    He was seeing Mrs. Smith on the sly.
    She was supposed to be losing weight, but she was eating chocolate on the sly.
  • on the spot
    (Informal.) 1. at exactly the right place; in the place where one is needed.
    Fortunately the ambulance men were on the spot when the accident happened at the football match.
    I expect the police to be on the spot when and where trouble arises. 2. at once; then and there.
    She liked the house so much that she bought it on the spot.
    He was fined on the spot for parking illegally.
  • on the spur of the moment
    suddenly; spontaneously.
    We decided to go on the spur of the moment.
    I went on holiday on the spur of the moment.
  • on the strength of something
    because of the support of something, such as a promise or evidence; owing to something.
    On the strength of your comment, I decided to give John another chance.
    On the strength of my neighbour’s testimony, my case was dismissed.
  • on the tip of one’s tongue
    about to be said; almost remembered.
    I have his name right on the tip of my tongue. I’ll think of it in a second.
    John had the answer on the tip of his tongue, but Ann said it first.
  • on tiptoe
    standing or walking on the front part of the feet (the balls of the feet) with no weight put on the heels. (This is done to gain height or to walk quietly.)
    I had to stand on tiptoe to see over the fence.
    I came in late and walked on tiptoe so I wouldn’t wake anybody up.
  • open a can of worms
    to uncover a set of problems or complications; to create unnecessary complications. (Informal.)
    If you start asking questions about the firm’s accounts, you’ll open a can of worms.
    How about clearing up this mess before you open up a new can of worms?
  • open-and-shut case
    something, usually a law-case or problem, that is simple and straightforward without complications.
    The murder trial was an open-and-shut case. The defendant was caught with the murder weapon.
    Jack’s death was an open-and-shut case of suicide. He left a suicide note.
  • open book
    someone or something that is easy to understand.
    Jane’s an open book. I always know what she is going to do next.
    The council’s intentions are an open book. They want to save money.
  • open fire (on someone)
    to start (doing something, such as asking questions or criticizing). (Informal. Also used literally.)
    The reporters opened fire on the mayor.
    When the reporters opened fire, the film-star was smiling, but not for long.
    The soldiers opened fire on the villagers.
  • open one’s heart (to someone)
    to reveal one’s most private thoughts to someone.
    I always open my heart to my wife when I have a problem.
    It’s a good idea to open your heart every now and then.
  • open Pandora’s box
    to uncover a lot of unsuspected problems.
    When I asked Jane about her problems, I didn’t know I had opened Pandora’s box.
    You should be cautious with people who are upset. You don’t want to open Pandora’s box.
  • open season for something
    unrestricted hunting of a particular game animal.
    It’s always open season for rabbits around here.
    Is it ever open season for deer?
  • open secret
    something which is supposed to be secret, but which is known to a great many people.
    Their engagement is an open secret. Only their friends are supposed to know, but in fact, the whole town knows.
    It’s an open secret that Fred’s looking for a new job.
  • open the door to something
    to permit or allow something to become a possibility. (Also used literally.)
    Your policy opens the door to cheating.
    Your statement opens the door to John’s candidacy.
  • order of the day
    something necessary or usual at a certain time.
    Warm clothes are the order of the day when camping in the winter.
    Going to bed early was the order of the day when we were young.
  • other way round
    the reverse; the opposite.
    No, it won’t fit that way. Try it the other way round.
    It doesn’t make any sense like that. It belongs the other way round.
  • out of kilter
    out of working order; malfunctioning. (Informal.)
    My furnace is out of kilter. I have to call someone to fix it.
    This computer is out of kilter. It doesn’t work.
  • out of line 1.
    improper; inappropriate.
    I’m afraid that your behaviour was quite out of line. I do not wish to speak further about this matter.
    Bill, that remark was out of line. Please be more respectful. 2. See the following entry.
  • out of line (with something) 1.
    not properly lined up in a line of things.
    One of those books on the shelf is out of line with the others. Please fix it.
    The files are out of line also. 2. unreasonable when compared with something else; not fitting with what is usual.
    The cost of this meal is out of line with what other restaurants charge.
    Your request is out of line with company policy.
  • out of luck
    without good luck; having bad fortune. (Informal.)
    If you wanted some icecream, you’re out of luck.
    I was out of luck. I got there too late to get a seat.
  • out of necessity
    because of necessity; because it was necessary.
    I bought this hat out of necessity. I needed one, and this was all there was.
    We sold our car out of necessity.
  • out of one’s mind
    silly and senseless; crazy; irrational.
    Why did you do that? You must be out of your mind!
    Good grief, Tom! You’re out of your mind!
  • out of order 1.
    not in the correct order.
    This book is out of order. Please put it in the right place on the shelf.
    You’re out of order, John. Please get in the queue after Jane. 2. not following correct procedure.
    My question was declared out of order by the president.
    Ann inquired, “Isn’t a motion to table the question out of order at this time?”
  • out of place 1.
    not in the usual or proper place.
    The salt was out of place in the cupboard, so I couldn’t find it.
    Billy, you’re out of place. Please sit next to Tom. 2. improper and impertinent.
    That kind of behaviour is out of place in church.
    Your rude remark is quite out of place.
  • out-of-pocket expenses
    the actual amount of money spent. (Refers to the money one person pays while doing something on someone else’s behalf. One is usually paid back this money.)
    My out-of-pocket expenses for the party were nearly £175.
    My employer usually pays all out-of-pocket expenses for a business trip.
  • out of practice
    performing poorly because of a lack of practice.
    I used to be able to play the piano extremely well, but now I’m out of practice.
    The players lost the game because they were out of practice.
  • out of print
    no longer available for sale. (Said of a book or periodical.)
    The book you want is out of print, but perhaps I can find a used copy for you.
    It was published nearly ten years ago, so it’s probably out of print.
  • out of season 1.
    not now available for sale.
    Sorry, oysters are out of season. We don’t have any.
    Watermelon is out of season in the winter. 2. not now legally able to be hunted or caught.
    Are salmon out of season?
    I caught a trout out of season and had to pay a fine.
  • out of service
    not now operating.
    Both lifts are out of service, so I had to use the stairs.
    The toilet is temporarily out of service.
  • out of sorts
    not feeling well; cross and irritable.
    I’ve been out of sorts for a day or two. I think I’m coming down with flu.
    The baby is out of sorts. Maybe she’s cutting a tooth.
  • out of stock
    not immediately available in a shop; [for goods] to be temporarily unavailable.
    Those items are out of stock, but a new supply will be delivered on Thursday.
    I’m sorry, but the red ones are out of stock. Would a blue one do?
  • out of the blue
    suddenly; without warning.
    Then, out of the blue, he told me he was leaving.
    Mary appeared on my doorstep out of the blue.
  • out of the corner of one’s eye
    [seeing something] at a glance; glimpsing (something).
    I saw someone do it out of the corner of my eye. It might have been Jane who did it.
    I only saw the accident out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know who is at fault.
  • out of the frying-pan into the fire
    from a bad situation to a worse situation.
    When I tried to argue about my fine for a traffic violation, the judge charged me with contempt of court. I really went out of the frying-pan into the fire.
    I got deeply in debt. Then I really got out of the frying-pan into the fire when I lost my job.
  • out of the question
    not possible; not permitted.
    I’m sorry, but leaving early is out of the question.
    You can’t go to France this spring. We can’t afford it. It’s out of the question.
  • out of the running
    no longer being considered; eliminated from a contest.
    After the first part of the diving competition, three of our team were out of the running.
    After the scandal was made public, I was no longer in the running. I pulled out of the election.
  • out of the swim of things
    not in the middle of activity; not involved in things. (Informal.)
    While I had my cold, I was out of the swim of things.
    I’ve been out of the swim of things for a few weeks. Please bring me up to date.
  • out of the woods
    past a critical phase; no longer at risk. (Informal.)
    When the patient got out of the woods, everyone relaxed.
    I can give you a better prediction for your future health when you are out of the woods.
  • out of thin air
    out of nowhere; out of nothing. (Informal.)
    Suddenly—out of thin air—the messenger appeared.
    You just made that up out of thin air.
  • out of this world
    wonderful; extraordinary.
    This pie is just out of this world.
    Look at you! How lovely you look—simply out of this world.
  • out of turn
    not at the proper time; not in the proper order.
    We were permitted to be served out of turn, because we had to leave early.
    Bill tried to register out of turn and was sent away.
  • out of work
    unemployed, temporarily or permanently.
    How long have you been out of work?
    My brother has been out of work for nearly a year.
  • out on a limb
    [in or into a situation of] doing something differently from the way others do it, and thus taking a chance or a risk. (Often with go.)
    She really went out on a limb when she gave him permission to leave early.
    As the only one who supported the plan, Bill was out on a limb.
  • out on parole
    out of jail but still under police supervision.
    Bob got out on parole after serving only a few years of his sentence.
    He was out on parole because of good behaviour.
  • over and done with
    I’m glad that’s over and done with.
    Now that I have college over and done with, I can find a job.
  • over my dead body
    not if I can stop you; you’ll have to kill me first (so that I won’t stop you).
    You’ll sell this house over my dead body!
    You want to leave college? Over my dead body!
  • over the hill
    over age; too old to do something. (Informal.)
    Now that Mary’s forty, she thinks she’s over the hill.
    My grandfather was over eighty before he felt he was over the hill.
  • over the hump
    over the difficult part. (Informal.)
    This is a difficult project, but we’re over the hump now.
    I’m half-way through— over the hump—and it looks as though I may finish after all.
  • over the odds
    more than one would expect to pay. (From betting in horse-racing.)
    We had to pay over the odds for a house in the area where we wanted to live.
    It’s a nice car, but the owner’s asking well over the odds for it.
  • over the top
    exaggerated; excessive. (Informal.)
    Her reaction to my statement was a bit over the top. She hugged me.
    Everyone thought her behaviour was over the top. also: go over the top to do something in an exaggerated or excessive way; to overreact.
    Jane really went over the top with the dinner she prepared for us. It took her hours to prepare.
    Uncle Jack went completely over the top when he bought my baby’s present. It must have been incredibly expensive.
20 January, 2021