Browse Idioms Alphabetically

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Idioms starting with letter W

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.

  • waiting in the wings
    ready or prepared to do something, especially to take over someone else’s job or position. (From waiting at the side of the stage to go on.)
    Mr. Smith retires as manager next year, and Mr. Jones is just waiting in the wings.
    Jane was waiting in the wings, hoping that a member of the hockey team would drop out and she would get a place on the team.
  • walk a tightrope
    to be in a situation where one must be very cautious.
    I’ve been walking a tightrope all day trying to please both bosses. I need to relax.
    Our business is about to fail. We’ve been walking a tightrope for three months, trying to control our cash flow.
  • walk on air
    to be very happy; to be euphoric.
    Ann was walking on air when she got the job.
    On the last day of school, all the children are walking on air.
  • walk on eggs
    to be very cautious. (Informal. Never used literally.)
    The manager is very hard to deal with. You really have to walk on eggs.
    I’ve been walking on eggs ever since I started working here. There’s a very large staff turnover.
  • walls have ears
    we may be overheard.
    Let’s not discuss this matter here. Walls have ears, you know.
    Shhh. Walls have ears. Someone may be listening.
  • want it both ways
    to want to have both of two seemingly incompatible things; to want to have it both ways.
    John wants it both ways. He can’t have it both ways.
    You like marriage and you like freedom. You want it both ways.
  • warm the cockles of someone’s heart
    to make someone feel pleased and happy.
    It warms the cockles of my heart to hear you say that.
    Hearing that old song again warmed the cockles of her heart.
  • warts and all
    including all the faults and disadvantages.
    Jim has many faults, but Jean loves him, warts and all.
    The place where we went on holiday had some very run-down parts, but we liked it, warts and all.
  • water under the bridge
    [something] past and forgotten.
    Please don’t worry about it any more. It’s all water under the bridge.
    I can’t change the past. It’s water under the bridge.
  • wear more than one hat
    to have more than one set of responsibilities; to hold more than one office.
    The mayor is also the police chief. She wears more than one hat.
    I have too much to do to wear more than one hat.
  • wear out one’s welcome
    to stay too long (at an event to which one has been invited); to visit somewhere too often.
    Tom visited the Smiths so often that he wore out his welcome.
    At about midnight, I decided that I had worn out my welcome, so I went home.
  • weep buckets
    to weep a great many tears. (Informal.)
    The girls wept buckets at the sad film.
    Mary wept buckets when her dog died.
  • weigh one’s words
    to consider one’s own words carefully when speaking.
    I always weigh my words when I speak in public.
    John was weighing his words carefully because he didn’t want to be misunderstood.
  • weigh on someone’s mind
    [for a worrying matter] to be constantly in a person’s thoughts; [for something] to be bothering someone’s thinking.
    This problem has been weighing on my mind for many days now.
    I hate to have things weighing on my mind. I can’t sleep when I’m worried.
  • well up in something
    having a great deal of knowledge about something.
    Jane’s husband is well up in computers.
    Joan’s well up in car maintenance. She took lessons at night-school.
  • wheeling and dealing
    taking part in clever but sometimes dishonest or immoral business deals.
    John loves wheeling and dealing in the money markets.
    Jack’s got tired of all the wheeling and dealing of big business and retired to run a pub in the country.
  • wheels within wheels
    circumstances, often secret or personal, which all have an effect on each other and lead to a complicated, confusing situation.
    This is not a staightforward matter of choosing the best person for the job. There are wheels within wheels and one of the applicants is the boss’s son-in-law.
    I don’t know why Jane was accepted by the college and Mary wasn’t. There must have been wheels within wheels, because Mary has better qualifications.
  • when the time is ripe
    at exactly the right time.
    I’ll tell her the good news when the time is ripe.
    When the time is ripe, I’ll bring up the subject again.
  • whistle for something
    to expect or look for something with no hope of getting it. (Informal.)
    I’m afraid you’ll have to whistle for it if you want to borrow money. I don’t have any.
    Jane’s father told her to whistle for it when she asked him to buy her a car.
  • white elephant
    something which is useless and which is either a nuisance or expensive to keep up. (From the gift of a white elephant by the Kings of Siam to courtiers who displeased them, knowing the cost of the upkeep would ruin them.)
    Bob’s father-in-law has given him an old Rolls-Royce, but it’s a real white elephant. He has no place to park it and can’t afford the petrol for it.
    Those antique vases Aunt Mary gave me are white elephants. They’re ugly and take ages to clean.
  • whole (bang) shooting match
    the whole lot. (Informal.)
    They didn’t even sort through the books. They just threw out the whole shooting match.
    All these tables are damaged. Take the whole bang shooting match away and replace them.
  • win the day and carry the day
    to be successful; to win a competition, argument, etc. (Originally meaning to win a battle.)
    Our team didn’t play well at first, but we won the day in the end.
    Hard work carried the day, and James passed his exams.
  • win through
    to succeed.
    After many setbacks, we won through in the end.
    The rescuers had difficulty reaching the injured climber, but they won through.
  • wise after the event
    knowledgeable of how a situation should have been dealt with only after it has passed.
    I know now I should have agreed to help him, but that’s being wise after the event. At the time I thought he was just being lazy.
    Jack now realizes that he shouldn’t have married Mary when they had nothing in common, but he didn’t see it at the time. He’s now wise after the event.
  • wish someone joy of something
    to express the hope that someone will enjoy having or doing something, usually while being glad that one does not have to have it or do it.
    I wish you joy of that old car. I had one just like it and spent a fortune on repairs for it.
    Mary wished us joy of going to Nepal on holiday. She preferred somewhere more comfortable.
  • with all one’s heart and soul
    very sincerely.
    Oh Bill, I love you with all my heart and soul, and I always will!
    She thanked us with all her heart and soul for the gift.
  • wither on the vine
    [for something] to decline or fade away at an early stage of development. (Also used literally in reference to grapes or other fruit.)
    You have a great plan, Tom. Let’s keep it alive. Don’t let it wither on the vine.
    The whole project withered on the vine when the contract was cancelled.
  • with every other breath
    [saying something] repeatedly or continually.
    Bob was out in the garden raking leaves and cursing with every other breath.
    The child was so grateful that she was thanking me with every other breath.
  • with flying colours
    easily and excellently.
    John passed his geometry test with flying colours.
    Sally qualified for the race with flying colours.
  • within an inch of doing something
    very close to doing something.
    I came within an inch of losing my job.
    Bob came within an inch of hitting Mike across the face.
  • within an inch of one’s life
    very close to death.
    When Mary was seriously ill in the hospital, she came within an inch of her life.
    The thug beat up the old man to within an inch of his life.
  • within hailing distance
    close enough to hear someone call out.
    When the boat came within hailing distance, I asked if I could borrow some petrol.
    We weren’t within hailing distance, so I couldn’t hear what you said to me.
  • without batting an eye
    without showing surprise or emotion; without blinking an eye.
    I knew I had insulted her, and she turned to me and asked me to leave without batting an eye.
    The child can tell lies without batting an eye.
  • without rhyme or reason
    without purpose, order, or reason. (See variations in the examples.)
    The teacher said my report was disorganized. My paragraphs seemed to be without rhyme or reason.
    Everything you do seems to be without rhyme or reason.
    This procedure seems to have no rhyme or reason.
  • with the best will in the world
    however much one wishes to do something, or however hard one tries to do something.
    With the best will in the world, Jack won’t be able to help Mary get the job.
    With the best will in the world, they won’t finish the job in time.
  • woe betide someone someone
    will regret something very much.
    Woe betide John if he’s late. Mary will be angry.
    Woe betide the students if they don’t work harder. They will be asked to leave college.
  • won’t hold water
    to be inadequate, insubstantial, or ill-conceived. (Informal.)
    Sorry, your ideas won’t hold water. Nice try, though.
    The solicitor’s case wouldn’t hold water, so the defendant was released.
  • work one’s fingers
    to the bone to work very hard.
    I worked my fingers to the bone so you children could have everything you needed. Now look at the way you treat me!
    I spent the day working my fingers to the bone, and now I want to relax.
  • worn to a shadow
    exhausted and thin, often from overwork.
    Working all day and looking after the children in the evening has left Pam worn to a shadow.
    Ruth’s worn to a shadow worrying about her son, who’s very ill.
  • Worse luck!
    Unfortunately!; The worst thing has happened!
    I have an exam tomorrow, worse luck!
    We ran out of money on holiday, worse luck!
  • wrongfoot someone
    to take someone by surprise, placing the person in a difficult situation.
    The chairman of the committee wrongfooted his opponents by calling a meeting when most of them were on holiday and had no time to prepare for it.
    The teacher wrongfooted the class by giving the test a day early.
20 January, 2021