Life Idioms

Idioms are a fascinating part of the English language, often reflecting cultural quirks and providing insight into the values, humor, and history of English-speaking societies. When we talk about life idioms, we’re discussing those phrases that encapsulate big life truths or everyday experiences in a few catchy words. These phrases can range from the wisdom of centuries past to the whimsy of modern life.

Subpages of Life Idioms

What Are Life Idioms?

Idioms are phrases where the words together have a meaning that is different from the dictionary definitions of individual words. In our conversations, we often use idioms that are related to life experiences. These life idioms encapsulate larger life lessons or common human experiences in a few words, making them a significant part of our everyday language.

56 Life Idioms in English: Useful Idioms About Life

These expressions convey complex ideas succinctly and are used internationally, though they can vary between cultures.

Our use of life idioms adds color to our language and can convey our thoughts more vividly. It’s also important to note that idioms can be confusing for non-native speakers because the phrases’ meanings often can’t be inferred from the words themselves. Therefore, we need to understand the context in which these idioms are used to grasp their true meaning.

List of Life Idioms

Idioms Meaning and Example Sentence
A life of its own When something takes on the characteristics of being independent.

Example: The rumor took on a life of its own within hours.

A matter of life and death A situation of extreme importance.

Example: For the firefighters, every call they respond to is a matter of life and death.

Breathe new life into To revitalize or reinvigorate something.

Example: The new investment really helped to breathe new life into the old theater.

Facts of life The truths about human existence, especially regarding sexual reproduction and the realities of life.

Example: It’s time we talk to our son about the facts of life.

For dear life Desperate or very hard to maintain or continue.

Example: During the storm, we held onto the railing for dear life.

Get a life A rude way to tell someone to stop interfering with other people’s things and start doing something interesting.

Example: Stop worrying about what I do and get a life!

Life and limb Referring to the risk of bodily harm or death.

Example: Firefighters risk life and limb every day to save others.

Life and soul To be the most lively and entertaining person at an event.

Example: She was the life and soul of the party.

Life in the fast lane A lifestyle that is full of activity and excitement, often including spending a lot of money.

Example: Ever since he won the lottery, he’s been living life in the fast lane.

Life’s too short Used to suggest that it is not worth wasting time doing something unenjoyable or being unhappy.

Example: I decided to quit my job because life’s too short to be in

That’s life Used to express acceptance of a situation, implying that it is typical of the ups and downs of life.

Example: We missed the bus, but that’s life; we’ll catch the next one.

Walk of life A person’s occupation or position within society.

Example: People from all walks of life attended the concert.

Not on your life Absolutely not; used to refuse a request or suggestion very emphatically.

Example: Would I date him again? Not on your life!

A dog’s life A very unhappy and difficult life.

Example: Ever since he lost his job, he’s been leading a dog’s life.

Life goes on Life continues even after a setback or tragedy.

Example: Despite the sadness of the funeral, life goes on.

Life in your years The quality and experiences of your life, rather than the number of years you’ve lived.

Example: It’s not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.

Life of Riley A carefree and comfortable lifestyle.

Example: Ever since she retired, she’s been living the life of Riley.

Life’s a bitch Life is full of difficulties and challenges.

Example: I got laid off again. Well, life’s a bitch.

Life’s a breeze Life is easy and carefree.

Example: Ever since he paid off his debts, life’s a breeze.

Spice of life Variety makes life interesting.

Example: I love trying new activities; it’s the spice of life.

Time of your life An extremely enjoyable experience.

Example: At the carnival, the kids had the time of their life

Life’s not all beer and skittles Life is not always pleasurable and easy.

Example: You have to work hard to succeed; life’s not all beer and skittles.

The prime of life The time in life when one is at their peak, either physically, intellectually, or both.

Example: At 50, she’s in the prime of life and thriving.

Kiss of life The act of giving resuscitation, especially mouth-to-mouth.

Example: He was unconscious, but the paramedic gave him the kiss of life.

Lead a charmed life To have a life where one experiences unusually good fortune or luck.

Example: Despite the risks he takes, he seems to lead a charmed life.

Shelf life The length of time for which an item remains usable, sellable, or valid.

Example: This bread has a shelf life of five days.

Life Idioms by Topics

Personal Growth and Learning

Turn over a new leaf

  • To make a fresh start or change one’s behavior for the better.
  • Example: After failing his exams last semester, he decided to turn over a new leaf and study harder.

Hit the books

  • To begin studying in a serious manner.
  • Example: Finals are next week, so it’s time to hit the books.

Learn the ropes

  • To learn the basics of something.
  • Example: It took her a few months to learn the ropes at her new job.

A steep learning curve

  • A situation in which someone has to learn a lot in a short period of time.
  • Example: Adjusting to the new software involved a steep learning curve.

Go back to the drawing board

  • To start over and rethink something from the beginning.
  • Example: Our marketing strategy didn’t work, so we have to go back to the drawing board.

Uncover additional details: Knowledge Idioms

Relationships and Social Interaction

Burn bridges

  • To destroy one’s path, connections, or opportunities.
  • Example: Be careful not to burn bridges with your old colleagues when you leave your job.

Mend fences

  • To improve or repair a relationship that has been damaged.
  • Example: After their argument, both were willing to mend fences over a coffee.

Rub shoulders with

  • To mix socially with people, often those of higher social status.
  • Example: At the gala, I had the chance to rub shoulders with several celebrities.

Break the ice

  • To relieve tension or get a conversation going in a social setting.
  • Example: He told a funny anecdote to break the ice.

Wear your heart on your sleeve

  • To openly show your emotions or feelings.
  • Example: She always wears her heart on her sleeve, so you know when she’s upset.

Learn more: Family Idioms

Overcoming Challenges

Face the music

  • To confront the consequences of one’s actions.
  • Example: After making a costly error, the manager knew he had to face the music with his team.

Bite the bullet

  • To endure a painful or otherwise unpleasant situation that is seen as unavoidable.
  • Example: The time has come to bite the bullet and have that difficult conversation with my roommate.

Ride out the storm

  • To endure a period of hardship or controversy.
  • Example: The company is just trying to ride out the storm until the economy improves.

Against the odds

  • To achieve something despite very low probability of success.
  • Example: She managed to finish the marathon against the odds, even after spraining her ankle.

Up against the wall

  • To be in a very difficult situation with limited options.
  • Example: With deadlines approaching and resources dwindling, we are really up against the wall.

Find more insights: Problems & Difficulties Idioms

Success and Achievement

On cloud nine

  • To be extremely happy or satisfied.
  • Example: He’s been on cloud nine ever since he found out he’s going to be a father.

Hit the jackpot

  • To have great success, especially by winning a lot of money or by luck.
  • Example: They hit the jackpot with their new product line; it’s selling like hotcakes.

Knock it out of the park

  • To do something exceptionally well.
  • Example: She really knocked it out of the park with her graduation speech.

The world is your oyster

  • You have the ability to go anywhere or do anything.
  • Example: Now that you’ve graduated from such a prestigious university, the world is your oyster.

Go the extra mile

  • To do more than what is expected of you.
  • Example: He went the extra mile for the client by working overtime to meet the deadline.

Continue exploring: Happy Idioms

Life’s Uncertainties and Risks

Roll the dice

  • To take a risk where the outcome is uncertain.
  • Example: Starting a business can be like rolling the dice, but she was ready to take that chance.

In the lap of the gods

  • Something that is beyond your control and is determined by fate or chance.
  • Example: Whether we’ll get the contract is now in the lap of the gods; we’ve done all we can.

Throw caution to the wind

  • To take a risk without worrying about the negative consequences.
  • Example: He decided to throw caution to the wind and invest in the innovative but risky startup.

A leap in the dark

  • An action taken without full knowledge of its consequences.
  • Example: Leaving her job to travel the world was a leap in the dark, but she had never felt more alive.

Cross your fingers

  • To hope that something happens the way you want it to.
  • Example: I’m crossing my fingers that I get the job; I should hear back this week.

Play it by ear

  • To decide how to deal with a situation as it develops rather than planning ahead.
  • Example: We don’t have a set plan for our road trip; we’re just going to play it by ear.

Seek more information: Idioms for Making Decisions

Time and Life’s Progression

Time flies

  • Time seems to pass very quickly.
  • Example: Can you believe it’s already been ten years since graduation? Time flies.

Down the road

  • In the future; later on.
  • Example: We’re not sure if we want children, but we’ll think about it more down the road.

Against the clock

  • Rushed and short on time.
  • Example: We were working against the clock to get the project finished by the deadline.

In the long run

  • Over an extended period of time; eventually.
  • Example: Studying harder may be tough now, but it will pay off in the long run.

A race against time

  • A situation in which you have to hurry to do something before a particular time.
  • Example: Getting the shelter built before the storm hits is a race against time.

Dig deeper: Time Idioms