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.
to be very obvious. (Informal.)--- Bob is so tall that he sticks out like a sore thumb in a crowd.
The house next door needs painting. It sticks out like a sore thumb.
tail wagging the doga situation where a small or minor part is controlling the whole thing.
John was just employed yesterday, and today he’s bossing everyone around. It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Why is this minor matter being given so much importance? It’s the tail wagging the dog!
take a leaf out of someone’s bookto behave or to do something in the way that someone else would; to use someone as an example.
Take a leaf out of your brother’s book and work hard.
Eventually June took a leaf out of her friend’s book and started dressing smartly.
take a stab at somethingto make a try at something, sometimes without much hope of success. (Informal. Also with have.)
I don’t know if I can do it, but I’ll take a stab at it.
Come on, Mary. Take a stab at catching a fish. You might end up liking fishing.
Would you like to have a stab at this problem?
take leave of one’s sensesto become irrational.
What are you doing? Have you taken leave of your senses?
What a terrible situation! It’s enough to make one take leave of one’s senses.
take one’s medicineto accept the punishment or the bad fortune which one deserves.
I know I did wrong, and I know I have to take my medicine.
Billy knew he was going to be punished, and he didn’t want to take his medicine.
take someone down a peg (or two)to reprimand someone who is acting in too arrogant a way. (Informal.)
The teacher’s scolding took Bob down a peg or two.
He was so rude that someone was bound to take him down a peg.
take someone to taskto scold or reprimand someone.
The teacher took John to task for his bad behaviour.
I lost a big contract, and the managing director took me to task in front of everyone.
take someone under one’s wingto take over and care for a person.
John wasn’t doing well at school until an older pupil took him under her wing.
I took the new workers under my wing, and they learned the job in no time.
take something as readto assume something or regard something as being understood and accepted without reading it out, stating it, or checking it.
Can we take the minutes of the meeting as read, or should I read them?
I think we can take their agreement as read, but I’ll check with them if you like.
take something in one’s strideto accept something as natural or expected.
The argument surprised him, but he took it in his stride.
It was a very rude remark, but Mary took it in her stride.
take something lying downto endure something unpleasant without fighting back.
He insulted me publicly. You don’t expect me to take that lying down, do you?
I’m not the kind of person who’ll take something like that lying down.
take something on the chinto experience and endure a blow stoically. (Informal.)
The bad news was a real shock, but John took it on the chin.
The worst luck comes my way, but I always end up taking it on the chin.
take something to heartto take something very seriously.
John took the criticism to heart and made an honest effort to improve.
I know Bob said a lot of cruel things to you, but he was angry. You shouldn’t take those things to heart.
take the rough with the smoothto accept the bad things along with the good things.
We all have disappointments. You have to learn to take the rough with the smooth.
There are good days and bad days, but every day you take the rough with the smooth. That’s life.
take the wind out of someone’s sailsto put an end to someone’s boasting or arrogance and make the person feel embarrassed; to take an advantage away from someone. (Informal.)
John was bragging about how much money he earned until he learned that most of us make more. That took the wind out of his sails.
Learning that one has been totally wrong about something can really take the wind out of one’s sails.
take the words (right) out of one’s mouth[for someone else] to say what you were going to say.
John said exactly what I was going to say. He took the words out of my mouth.
I agree with you. You took the words right out of my mouth.
take up the cudgels on behalf of someone or somethingto support or defend someone or something.
We’ll have to take up the cudgels on behalf of Jim or he’ll lose the debate.
Meg has taken up the cudgels on behalf of an environmental movement.
talking-shopa place or meeting where things are discussed, but action may or may not be taken. (Informal.)
Many people think the City Chambers is just a talking-shop.
The firm’s board meeting is always just a talking-shop. The chairman makes all the decisions himself.
talk nineteento the dozen to talk a lot, usually quickly. (Informal.)
The old friends talk nineteen to the dozen when they meet once a year.
You won’t get Jean to stop chattering. She always talks nineteen to the dozen.
talk of the townthe subject of gossip; someone or something that everyone is talking about.
Joan’s argument with the town council is the talk of the town.
Fred’s father is the talk of the town since the police arrested him.
talk through one’s hatto talk nonsense. (Informal.)
John doesn’t know anything about gardening. He’s just talking through his hat.
Jean said that the Smiths are emigrating, but she’s talking through her hat.
talk until one is blue in the faceto talk until one is exhausted. (Informal.)
I talked until I was blue in the face, but I couldn’t change her mind.
She had to talk until she was blue in the face to convince him.
tarred with the same brushhaving the same faults or bad points as someone else.
Jack and his brother are tarred with the same brush. They’re both crooks.
The Smith children are tarred with the same brush. They’re all lazy.
teach one’s grandmother to suck eggsto try to tell or show someone more knowledgeable or experienced than oneself how to do something.
Don’t suggest showing Mary how to knit. It will be teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. She’s an expert.
Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs. Jack has been playing tennis for years.
That’s silly. Tell it to the marines.
I don’t care how good you think your reason is. Tell that to the marines!
tell tales out of schoolto tell secrets or spread rumours. (Does not refer only to schoolchildren.)
I wish that John would keep quiet. He’s telling tales out of school again.
If you tell tales out of school a lot, people won’t know when to believe you.
thank one’s lucky starsto be thankful for one’s luck. (Informal.)
You can thank your lucky stars that I was there to help you.
I thank my lucky stars that I studied the right things for the test.
thick and fastin large numbers or amounts and at a rapid rate.
The enemy soldiers came thick and fast.
New problems seem to come thick and fast.
thick-skinnednot easily upset or hurt; insensitive.
Tom won’t worry about your insults. He’s completely thick-skinned.
Jane’s so thick-skinned she didn’t realize Fred was being rude to her.
thin end of the wedgea minor or unimportant event or act that is the first stage in something more serious or unfortunate.
If you let Pam stay for a few days, it will be the thin end of the wedge. She’ll stay for ages.
The boss thinks that if he gives his secretary a rise, it will be the thin end of the wedge and all the staff will demand the same.
thin on the groundfew in number; rare.
Jobs in that area are thin on the ground.
Butterflies are thin on the ground here now.
thin-skinnedeasily upset or hurt; sensitive.
You’ll have to handle Mary’s mother carefully. She’s very thin-skinned.
Jane weeps easily when people tease her. She’s too thin-skinned.
through hell and high waterthrough all sorts of severe difficulties. (Informal.)
I came through hell and high water to get to this meeting. Why don’t you start on time?
You’ll have to go through hell and high water to accomplish your goal, but it’ll be worth it.
through thick and thinthrough good times and bad times. (Informal.)
We’ve been together through thick and thin and we won’t desert
Over the years, we went through thick and thin and enjoyed every minute of it.
throw a fitto become very angry; to put on a display of anger.
Sally threw a fit when I showed up without the things she asked me to buy.
My dad threw a fit when I got home three hours late.
throw a party (for someone)to give or hold a party for someone.
Mary was leaving town, so we threw a party for her.
Do you know a place where we could throw a party?
throw a spanner in the worksto cause problems for someone’s plans. (Informal.)
I don’t want to throw a spanner in the works, but have you checked your plans with a solicitor?
When John refused to help us, he really threw a spanner in the works.
throw caution to the windsto become very careless.
Jane, who is usually quite cautious, threw caution to the winds and went windsurfing.
I don’t mind taking a little chance now and then, but I’m not the type of person who throws caution to the winds.
throw down the gauntletto challenge (someone) to an argument or (figurative) combat.
When Bob challenged my conclusions, he threw down the gauntlet. I was ready for an argument.
Frowning at Bob is the same as throwing down the gauntlet. He loves to get into a fight about anything.
throw good money after badto waste additional money after wasting money once.
I bought a used car and then had to spend £300 on repairs. That was throwing good money after bad.
The Browns are always throwing good money after bad. They bought a plot of land which turned out to be swamp, and then had to pay to have it filled in.
throw in one’s handto give up or abandon a course of action. (From a player giving up in a card-game.)
I got tired of the tennis competition and threw in my hand.
John spent only one year at university and then threw in his hand.
throw the book at someoneto charge someone with, or convict someone of, as many crimes as possible; to reprimand or punish someone severely.
I made the police officer angry, so he took me to the station and threw the book at me.
The judge threatened to throw the book at me if I didn’t stop insulting the police officer.
thumb a lift and hitch a liftto get a lift from a passing motorist; to make a sign with one’s thumb that indicates to passing drivers that one is asking for a lift.
My car broke down on the motorway, and I had to thumb a lift to get back to town.
Sometimes it’s dangerous to hitch a lift with a stranger.
thumb one’s nose at someone or somethingto make a rude gesture of disgust—touching the end of one’s nose with one’s thumb— at someone or something. (Both literal and figurative uses.)
The tramp thumbed his nose at the lady and walked away.
You can’t just thumb your nose at people who give you trouble. You’ve got to learn to get along with them.
tickle someone’s fancyto interest someone; to attract someone. (Informal.)
I have an interesting proposal here which I think will tickle your fancy.
The idea of dancing doesn’t exactly tickle my fancy.
tick overto move along at a quiet, even pace, without either stopping or going quickly. (Informal. From an engine ticking over.)
The firm didn’t make large profits, but it’s ticking over.
We must try to keep our finances ticking over until the recession ends.
tied to one’s mother’s apron-stringsdominated by one’s mother; dependent on one’s mother.
Tom is still tied to his mother’s apronstrings.
Isn’t he a little old to be tied to his mother’s apron-strings?
tie someone in knotsto make someone confused or upset. (Informal.)
The speaker tied herself in knots trying to explain her difficult subject in simple language.
I was trying to be tactful, but I just tied myself in knots.
tie the knotto get married. (Informal.)
Well, I hear that you and John are going to tie the knot.
My parents tied the knot almost forty years ago.
tighten one’s beltto manage to spend less money. (Informal.)
Things are beginning to cost more and more. It looks as though we’ll all have to tighten our belts.
Times are hard, and prices are high. I can tighten my belt for only so long.
till the cows come homefor a very long time. (Cows are returned to the barn at the end of the day. Informal.)
We could discuss this until the cows come home and still reach no decisions.
He could drink beer until the cows come home.
time out of mindfor a very long time; longer than anyone can remember.
There has been a church in the village time out of mind.
The Smith family have lived in that house time out of mind.
tip someone the winkto give someone privileged or useful information in a secret or private manner. (Informal.)
John tipped Mary the wink that there was a vacancy in his department.
Jack got his new house at a good price. A friend tipped him the wink that it was going on the market.
tip the scales at somethingto weigh some amount.
Tom tips the scales at nearly 14 stone.
I’ll be glad when I tip the scales at a few pounds less.
toe the lineto do what one is expected or required to do; to follow the rules. (Informal.)
You’ll get ahead, Sally. Don’t worry. Just toe the line, and everything will be okay.
John finally got the sack. He just couldn’t learn to toe the line.
Ann made a tongue-in-cheek remark to John, and he got angry because he thought she was serious.
The play seemed very serious at first, but then everyone saw that it was tongue-in-cheek, and the audience began laughing.
to the bitterend to the very end. (Originally nautical. This originally had nothing to do with bitterness.)
I kept trying to the bitter end.
It took me a long time to get through college, but I worked hard at it all the way to the bitter end.
to the letterexactly as instructed; exactly as written.
I didn’t make an error. I followed your instructions to the letter.
We didn’t prepare the recipe to the letter, but the cake still turned out very well.
touch-and-govery uncertain or critical.
Things were touch-andgo at the office until a new manager was employed.
Jane had a serious operation, and everything was touch-and-go for several hours.
touch a sore spot and touch a sore pointto refer to a sensitive matter which will upset someone. (Also used literally.)
I seem to have touched a sore spot. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.
When you talk to him, avoid talking about money. It’s best not to touch a sore point if possible.
touch wooda phrase said to cancel out imaginary bad luck.
My stereo has never given me any trouble—touch wood.
We plan to be in London by tomorrow evening—touch wood.
trade on somethingto use a fact or a situation to one’s advantage.
Tom was able to trade on the fact that he had once been in the army.
John traded on his poor eyesight to get a seat closer to the stage.
true to one’s wordkeeping one’s promise.
True to his word, Tom appeared at exactly eight o’clock.
We’ll soon know if Jane is true to her word. We’ll see if she does what she promised.
try it onto behave in a bold, disobedient, or unlawful manner to discover whether such behaviour will be allowed. (Informal.)
Tony knew he wouldn’t get away with working only four days a week. He was just trying it on by asking the boss.
The children really try it on when their mother’s out.
try one’s wingsto try to do something one has recently become qualified to do. (Like a young bird uses its wings to try to fly.)
John just got his driver’s licence and wants to borrow the car to try his wings.
I learned to skin-dive, and I want to go to the seaside to try my wings.
try someone’s patienceto do something annoying which may cause someone to lose patience; to cause someone to be annoyed.
Stop whistling. You’re trying my patience. Very soon I’m going to lose my temper.
Some pupils think it’s fun to try the teacher’s patience.
tuck into somethingto eat something with hunger and enjoyment. (Informal.)
The children really tucked into the icecream.
Jean would like to have tucked into the cream cakes, but she’s on a strict diet.
tumble to something suddenly to understand or realize something. (Informal.)--- I suddenly tumbled to the reason for his behaviour.
When will Meg tumble to the fact that her husband is dishonest?
turn a blind eye to someone or somethingto ignore something and pretend you do not see it.
The usherette turned a blind eye to the little boy who sneaked into the theatre.
How can you turn a blind eye to all those starving children?
turn someone’s headto make someone conceited.
John’s compliments really turned Sally’s head.
Victory in the competition is bound to turn Tom’s head. He’ll think he’s too good for us.
turn something to good accountto use something in such a way that it is to one’s advantage; to make good use of a situation, experience, etc.
Pam turned her illness to good account and did a lot of reading.
Many people turn their retirement to good account and take up interesting hobbies.
turn something to one’s advantageto make an advantage for oneself out of something (which might otherwise be a disadvantage).
Sally found a way to turn the problem to her advantage.
The icecream shop manager was able to turn the hot weather to her advantage.
turn the other cheekto choose not to respond to abuse or to an insult.
When Bob got angry with Mary and shouted at her, she just turned the other cheek.
Usually I turn the other cheek when someone is rude to me.
turn the tables (on someone)to cause a reversal in someone’s plans; to reverse a situation and put someone in a different position, especially in a less advantageous position.
I went to Jane’s house to help get ready for a surprise party for Bob. It turned out that the surprise party was for me! Jane really turned the tables on me!
Turning the tables like that requires a lot of planning and a lot of secrecy.
turn the tideto cause a reversal in the direction of events; to cause a reversal in public opinion.
It looked as though the team was going to lose, but near the end of the game, our star player turned the tide by scoring a goal.
At first, people were opposed to our plan. After a lot of discussion, we were able to turn the tide and get them to agree with us.
turn turtleto turn upside down.
The boat turned turtle, and everyone got soaked.
The car ran off the road and turned turtle in the ditch.
turn up trumpsto do the right or required thing, often unexpectedly or at the last minute. (Informal.)
I thought our team would let us down, but they turned up trumps in the second half of the match.
two a penny and ten a pennyvery common; easily obtained and therefore cheap.
People with qualifications like yours are two a penny. You should take another training course.
Flats to rent here are no longer two a penny.