Law and Politics Idioms

We all use language to communicate our thoughts, emotions, and perspectives, and idioms are one of the most colorful parts of the English language. They hold the essence of cultural experiences and collective understanding, often condensing complex ideas into simple, memorable phrases. Idioms about law and politics especially offer us a peek into the attitudes and humor surrounding these serious and influential fields.

List of Idioms about Law and Politics

Caught Red-Handed Open-and-Shut Case
Five-Finger Discount Take the Fifth
Foul Play Throw The Book At
Get Off Scot Free Blue Light Special
(Caught) Bang to Rights Stick It to the Man
Above The Law Waka-Jumping
Act Of Congress Think Tank
All Rights Reserved (The) Cavalry
Bail Out Pin Someone Down
Ball and Chain Scorched Earth (Tactics, Policy, etc.)
Letter of the Law Shot Across the Bow
Up in Arms Weekend Warrior

Idioms about Law and Politics with Meaning and Example

Crime Idioms 

Caught Red-Handed

  • Meaning: To be caught in the act of doing something wrong or illegal.
  • Example: The thief was caught red-handed as he was leaving the house with the stolen goods.

Five-Finger Discount

  • Meaning: A tongue-in-cheek expression for shoplifting—stealing merchandise from a store.
  • Example: He joked about taking a five-finger discount when he forgot his wallet, but he would never actually steal.

Foul Play

  • Meaning: Dishonest behavior; cheating or criminal violence or activity.
  • Example: The detectives haven’t ruled out foul play in the businessman’s mysterious disappearance.

Get Off Scot-Free

  • Meaning: To escape punishment or consequences completely.
  • Example: Despite the evidence against him, the suspect got off scot-free due to a technicality.

Law Idioms

(Caught) Bang to Rights

  • Meaning: (British slang) Caught in the act of doing something wrong, with no possibility of denial.
  • Example: They had him bang to rights with the stolen goods still in his possession.

Above The Law

  • Meaning: Not subject to the laws of a society; immune to legal consequences.
  • Example: The corrupt official acted as if he was above the law.

Act Of Congress

  • Meaning: Something that is very difficult to achieve, often due to bureaucracy.
  • Example: Getting all the necessary permits for the event was like an act of Congress.

All Rights Reserved

  • Meaning: A statement indicating that the creator of a work retains all legal rights to it, often used in copyright statements.
  • Example: The book’s copyright page stated “All rights reserved,” prohibiting unauthorized reproduction.

Bail Out

  • Meaning: To rescue someone from a difficult situation, often financial difficulties.
  • Example: The government decided to bail out the struggling bank to prevent an economic collapse.

Ball and Chain

  • Meaning: Something that restricts one’s freedom or is a burden.
  • Example: His mortgage felt like a ball and chain, keeping him tied to a job he didn’t like.

Letter of the Law

  • Meaning: The exact wording of a legal statute, as opposed to the spirit or intent behind it.
  • Example: He may have followed the letter of the law, but he certainly violated its spirit.

Open-and-Shut Case

  • Meaning: A legal case or problem that is easy to resolve or decide because the facts are clear.
  • Example: The evidence was so overwhelming that the prosecutor considered it an open-and-shut case.

Take the Fifth

  • Meaning: To refuse to answer a question, especially in a legal setting, by invoking the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against self-incrimination.
  • Example: When asked about his involvement in the scandal, he chose to take the Fifth.

idioms about Law and Politics

Police Idioms

  • Throw The Book At
  • Meaning: To punish or reprimand someone as severely as possible; to impose the maximum penalty.
  • Example: The judge decided to throw the book at the repeat offender, giving him the longest sentence possible.
  • Blue Light Special
  • Meaning: A temporary sale or discount in retail stores, originally used by Kmart for in-store specials announced over the intercom.
  • Example: I got this blender for half off during a blue light special.

Politics Idioms

Stick It to the Man

  • Meaning: To resist or fight against authority figures or the establishment.
  • Example: By starting her own company, she found a way to stick it to the man and take control of her career.


  • Meaning: (New Zealand slang) When a politician switches from one party to another, or becomes independent, especially if it affects the balance of power.
  • Example: The party was in turmoil after the MP’s waka-jumping threatened their majority in Parliament.

Think Tank

  • Meaning: An organization or group of experts researching and advising on issues of society, science, technology, industry, or business.
  • Example: He was invited to join a think tank that focuses on environmental policy.

idioms about Law and Politics

War Idioms & Expressions

(The) Cavalry

  • Meaning: Help that arrives just in time to save the day, often when the situation seems hopeless.
  • Example: We were struggling to meet the deadline until the cavalry arrived in the form of extra staff.

Pin Someone Down

  • Meaning: To force someone to give a clear statement or make a firm decision.
  • Example: The reporter tried to pin the politician down on his stance regarding the environmental policy, but he was very evasive.

Scorched Earth (Tactics, Policy, etc.)

  • Meaning: A strategy that involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area.
  • Example: The retreating army employed scorched earth tactics, burning crops and poisoning wells to hinder the enemy’s progress.

Shot Across the Bow

  • Meaning: A warning or a statement to show that serious action may follow if there is no change in behavior.
  • Example: The CEO’s announcement to the press was a shot across the bow to the competition.

Up in Arms

  • Meaning: To be very angry; to protest strongly or prepare for conflict.
  • Example: The entire community was up in arms over the proposed closure of the local hospital.

Weekend Warrior

  • Meaning: A person who participates in an activity only in their spare time, particularly military reservists who train on weekends.
  • Example: He’s a weekend warrior, spending his Saturdays and Sundays mountain biking and rock climbing.