Learn useful Body Parts Idioms in English with meaning and examples.
List of common Body Parts Idioms in English.
You can jump to any section of this lesson:
- 1 Bare-Bones
- 2 Be a Bundle of Nerves
- 3 Bend over Backwards
- 4 Birthday Suit
- 5 Bite One’s Tongue
- 6 Blood Is Thicker Than Water
- 7 Brain Drain
- 8 Breathe Easier (Easy)
- 9 Tongue-in-Cheek
- 10 Built Like a Brick Shit-House
- 11 Bust a Gut (Laughing)
- 12 Bust Someone’s Balls
- 13 Bust Someone’s Chops
- 14 Don’t Hold Your Breath
- 15 Eat, Sleep, and Breathe (Something)
- 16 Elbow Grease
- 17 Fit as a Fiddle
- 18 Forty Winks
- 19 Get Blood from a Stone
- 20 Get in Shape
- 21 Get on One’s Nerves
- 22 Get One’s Ass In Gear
- 23 Go Behind Someone’s Back
- 24 Gut feeling
- 25 Gut Reaction
- 26 Have a Stick Up One’s Ass
- 27 Have One’s Back Against the Wall
- 28 Have Skin in the Game
- 29 Joined at the hip
- 30 Jump Down Someone’s Throat
- 31 Knee-Jerk Reaction
- 32 Lose One’s Nerve
- 33 No-Brainer
- 34 Not Know Your Ass (UK: Arse) from Your Elbow
- 35 On the Blink
- 36 On the Nod
- 37 On the Rag
- 38 On Your Toes
- 39 Pick Someone’s Brain(s)
- 40 Pop Someone’s Cherry
- 41 A Hair’s Breadth
- 42 Put Muscle Behind
- 43 Put One’s Back Into Something
- 44 Rub Elbows (with)
- 45 Shanks’ Pony; Shanks’ Mare
- 46 Skeleton in One’s Closet
- 47 Skeleton in the Cupboard
- 48 Slap on the Wrist
- 49 Smell Blood (in the Water)
- 50 Tear One’s Hair out
- 51 To Have Butterflies in One’s Stomach
- 52 To Piss Into the Wind
- 53 To Work One’s Arse Off
- 54 Toe the Line (Mark)
- 55 Up The Wazoo
- 56 Vertically Challenged
- 57 Week at the knees
- 58 Work One’s Tail (Butt) Off
- 59 Zip It
- 60 Zonk Out
- Meaning: Simplest, stripped-down
- Example: One way to be able to afford a car is to buy a bare-bones model-options like heated seats add a lot to the price.
Be a Bundle of Nerves
- Meaning: Be extremely nervous
- Example: I was a bundle of nerves before my exam, but I calmed down once we got the questions and started to work.
Bend over Backwards
- Meaning: To take great care to accommodate someone or do something right
- Example: I’ve bent over backwards to please you. But it never seems to be good enough.
- Meaning: Nakedness
- Example: There I was, in my birthday suit, when the doorbell rang.
Bite One’s Tongue
- Meaning: Remain silent even though one has a strong desire to say something
- Example: When Sheila started talking about the failure of the sales campaign, I had to bite my tongue—it failed because the materials she was responsible for weren’t ready!
Blood Is Thicker Than Water
- Meaning: Family relationships take precedence over others
- Example: My uncle will help us. He and I have had some disagreements, but blood is thicker than water.
- Meaning: Departure of talented, well-educated individuals from a place
- Example: Venezuela is experiencing a brain drain right now, with many professionals leaving for other countries because of bad conditions at home.
Useful Body Parts Idioms in English | Image 1
Breathe Easier (Easy)
- Meaning: Feel (more) secure after a period of difficulty
- Example: I think we can breathe easier now that we’ve met the sales quota. The district manager will begin worrying about other offices.
Note: This idiom is common even though it’s grammatically incorrect. No one would say “breathe more easily.”
- Meaning: Said ironically; not meant to be taken seriously
- Example: The satirist’s essay was tongue-in-cheek, but many people took it seriously.
Built Like a Brick Shit-House
- Meaning: Strong, well-built, heavy (said of a person)
- Example: Have John help carry those boxes; he’s built like a brick shit-house.
Note: You can also say “built like a brick house” to avoid the obscenity “shit.”
Bust a Gut (Laughing)
- Meaning: Laugh uncontrollably
- Example: When Jack showed up at the party in a clown suit, I thought I was going to bust a gut laughing.
Bust Someone’s Balls
- Meaning: To verbally harass or tease someone
- Example: Hey, I told the boss you were looking for a new job. -”Really? How could you do that? – I didn’t. I’m just busting your balls.
Note: Outside the USA, “bust one’s balls” may also be used to mean “work hard.”
Bust Someone’s Chops
- Meaning: Verbally torment someone
- Example: People keep busting my chops over the embarrassing speech I made at the dinner. I wish they’d just forget it.
Don’t Hold Your Breath
- Meaning: Don’t expect what’s under discussion to happen soon.
- Example: We’ll eventually get raises, but don’t hold your breath.
Eat, Sleep, and Breathe (Something)
- Meaning: To have a strong passion for something; to think about it constantly
- Example: Joe eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball. Don’t even bother talking to him about anything else.
- Meaning: Hard physical effort
- Example: Painting your house takes some elbow grease – You have to scrape the old paint off first. But it’s cheaper than having it done.
Fit as a Fiddle
- Meaning: In very good health
- Example: Three months ago Eamon seemed to be at death’s door, but now he’s fit as a fiddle. What happened?
Note: This is rather old-fashioned, but still used and understood.
- Meaning: A short nap
- Example: If you’re on a long drive, it’s helpful to stop and take forty winks every few hours if you can.
Get Blood from a Stone
- Meaning: Try to perform a futile or impossible task
- Example: The court can fine me $1,000 if it wants to, but you can’t get blood from a stone.
Note: This expression is used in the negative: you can’t get blood from a stone.
Get in Shape
- Meaning: Exercise in order to improve one’s physical condition
- Example: I’ve got to get in shape. All I do is sit and watch television. I’m gaining weight.
Get on One’s Nerves
- Meaning: Tax someone’s patience, irritate someone
- Example: Bob won’t stop talking about last night’s game. He’s really getting on my nerves.
Note: A stronger form, “on one’s last nerve,” also exists.
Get One’s Ass In Gear
- Meaning: Get moving, begin working on something
- Example: OK, let me get my ass in gear, and I’ll meet you at the coffee shop in an hour.
Note: A less crude version is “get one’s rear in gear.”
Go Behind Someone’s Back
- Meaning: To conceal one’s actions from someone
- Example: Barbara went behind my back and went out with George. I’m really mad at her.
Useful Body Parts Idioms in English | Image 2
- Meaning: A sense or impression that your subconscious has about a person or situation
- Example: Jennifer’s mother had a gut feeling thatsomething was wrong when her daughter wasn’t home by 10o’clock.
- Meaning: An immediate feeling based on instinct
- Example: My gut reaction was that the new Tesla would fail, but it’s selling well.
Have a Stick Up One’s Ass
- Meaning: Be very rigid
- Example: I don’t see why Jared has a stick up his ass about the schedule-”we’ve always changed it to suit our needs in the past.
Note: This is crude.
Have One’s Back Against the Wall
- Meaning: Have few choices, be cornered
- Example: I’m really sorry I had to lay Jason off, but my back was against the wall—if I didn’t, the company would have shut down our whole division.
Have Skin in the Game
- Meaning: Be risking something in an undertaking
- Example: I don’t have any skin in the game, so you can trust my opinion. I’m just trying to say what I think is best for you.
Note: This expression is American.
Joined at the hip
- Meaning: To be exceptionally close to someone
- Example: Amy and her boss were joined at the hip; you never saw one without the other.
Jump Down Someone’s Throat
- Meaning: Strongly attack someone verbally
- Example: All I did was suggest that we might want to think about replacing Don, and Helen jumped down my throat.
- Meaning: An immediate strong reaction to something; a reaction without consideration or thought
- Example: When I talk about going out with guys, my dad has a knee-jerk negative reaction. I wish he’d think about it and realize I’m old enough.
Lose One’s Nerve
- Meaning: To become frightened and abandon one’s goals
- Example: I was going to ask Jennifer out, but at the last minute I lost my nerve.
- Meaning: A decision that’s easy to make; a problem that’s easy to solve
- Example: I like my current job, but the new place is offering me so much money that changing jobs was a no-brainer.
Not Know Your Ass (UK: Arse) from Your Elbow
- Meaning: Be stupid, ignorant
- Example: I wouldn’t assign that project to Ed, if I were you. He doesn’t know his ass from his elbow.
- Meaning: Not working, intermittently not working
- Example: The computer’s on the blink, and we have work piling up!
Note: An American equivalent is “on the fritz.
On the Nod
- Meaning: Without a formal vote
- Example: The president wants us to make the decision on the nod, but I think we should vote on it.
On the Rag
- Meaning: Menstruating
- Example: Gina is very cranky today. Wonder if she’s on the rag.
Note: This has a rude, insulting flavor.
On Your Toes
- Meaning: Alert
- Example: The district manager is going to be visiting today, but we don’t know when. Be on your toes.
Pick Someone’s Brain(s)
- Meaning: Get information from someone well-informed (about a particular topic)
- Example: Could I come by tomorrow? I’d like to pick your brains about selling on eBay. I know you’ve made a lot of money that way.
Pop Someone’s Cherry
- Meaning: To break the hymen; to lose one’s virginity. Often used as a metaphor.
- Example: The girl I went out with last night is a virgin! I think I’ll be popping her cherry soon.
Note: This is crude.
A Hair’s Breadth
- Meaning: A very small distance or amount
- Example: He came within a hair’s breadth of setting a new world record, but he got very tired in the last kilometer of the race.
Put Muscle Behind
- Meaning: Exert one’s power in support of something; support something vigorously
- Example: The president said he would put muscle behind the campaign for reduced carbon emissions.
Put One’s Back Into Something
- Meaning: Put forth a strong effort, typically physical
- Example: You’ll be able to open the valve, but you’ll have to put your back into it.
Rub Elbows (with)
- Meaning: Mingle with; meet in a group; socialize with
- Example: Come to the party with me. It’ll give you a chance to rub elbows with people who are already studying in the program.
Shanks’ Pony; Shanks’ Mare
- Meaning: The feet as a means of travel
- Example: We could go by Shanks’ pony, or we could take a cab. Which do you prefer?
Note: This is old and rather rare.
Skeleton in One’s Closet
- Meaning: A secret from one’s past; an embarrassing secret
- Example: The politician turned out to have skeletons in her closet that cost her the election.
Note: A USA equivalent is “skeleton in the closet.”
Skeleton in the Cupboard
- Meaning: A secret from one’s past; an embarrassing secret
- Example: We all have a few skeletons in the cupboard that we wouldn’t like to see revealed.
Slap on the Wrist
- Meaning: A minor punishment, especially one for a serious crime
- Example: The mayor’s son was arrested for dealing drugs, but he got just a slap on the wrist.
Smell Blood (in the Water)
- Meaning: Sense weakness or vulnerability; be ready to attack
- Example: The opposition party smelled blood after the president was hit with corruption charges.
Tear One’s Hair out
- Meaning: Be extremely worried or frustrated.
- Example: I’ve been tearing my hair out, wondering how we’re going to be able to make this month’s rent payment, and all you do is sit there and watch television. Why don’t you try to get a job?
To Have Butterflies in One’s Stomach
- Meaning: Nervousness, anxiety, especially in advance of an important event
- Example: I have butterflies in my stomach because I have to give a big speech.
To Piss Into the Wind
- Meaning: Engage in an activity that’s so futile as to be a complete waste of time “
- Example: Don’t waste your time trying to talk to Wanda about her spending habits. You’re pissing into the wind.
Note: This is slightly crude.
To Work One’s Arse Off
- Meaning: Word very hard
- Example: We worked our arses off to finish the project and the boss didn’t even say thank you.
Note: In the USA, “work one’s ass off” is used.
Toe the Line (Mark)
- Meaning: To follow regulations or moral principles closely
- Example: During my freshman year I was pretty willd, but now I toe the line, and I haven’t been in trouble.
Note: Walk the line is an American variant.
Up The Wazoo
- Meaning: Abundantly, to an excessive degree
- Example: I’ve got parts up the wazoo here, but I don’t have enough tools to assemble them.
Note: This is very informal and slightly obscene; the “wazoo” is the anus.
- Meaning: A short person.
- Example: I may be vertically challenged, but watch out for me on the basketball court – I can jump!
Note: This has a humorous flavor.
Week at the knees
- Meaning: To feel emotion so strongly that it makes you feel unstable on your feet.
- Example: The thought of kissing him made me go weak at the knees.
Work One’s Tail (Butt) Off
- Meaning: Work very hard
- Example: You’ll have to work your tail off first semester, but Cornell is a very good school.
Note: These are used euphemistically-”they are more polite than “work your ass off.”
- Meaning: Be quiet
- Example: OK, I’ll tell you the secret about Cynthia, but zip it!
- Meaning: To fall asleep quickly and deeply
- Example: I’ve been here since 6 a.m. I have to go home and zonk out.
Note: This is rare. “Crash” would be a more common alternative.