Idiom Examples: 300+ Popular Examples of Idioms in English

Are you searching for popular idiom examples in the English language? English can be pretty difficult to learn. Literal English is hard enough, but once idioms and other figurative language are included, it can seem downright impossible. Luckily, there are guides like this one to help! Following are some idiom examples with their meanings you can use in your daily conversation. Let’s get the ball rolling!

Idiom Examples

What Are Idioms?

An idiom is a phrase that generally has little or nothing to do with the words that are in the phrase. For example, “raining cats and dogs” has nothing to do with either cats or dogs. There are many, many different idioms, but we’re going to focus on some of the more common ones used in the English language.

Native English speakers, or of any language for that matter, naturally inherit the knowledge to know what idioms mean because they have the benefit of hearing them every day as they grow up. However, when you are learning English as a secondary language and it is not your native tongue, idioms and other forms of figurative language can be extremely difficult to understand. Understanding them, however, is an essential part of being able to communicate effectively with those around you and for them to communicate effectively with you.

Common Examples of Idioms

The following are examples of common idioms. They are formatted with an example of the idiom being used in a sentence followed by a translation of the sentence into more literal and simple English. Feel free to refer to this list as often as necessary!

  • My being late was a blessing in disguise. – My being late seemed like a bad thing, but it turned out to be a good thing.
  • Dramatic TV shows are a dime a dozen. – Dramatic TV shows are very easy to find.
  • To add insult to injury, after my car broke down, it started pouring on me! – To make a bad situation even worse, after my car broke down, I got rained on.
  • I can’t just make you a costume at the drop of a hat. – I can’t just make you a costume with no notice or sufficient time.
  • Don’t beat around the bush. Just tell me the bad news. – Don’t avoid saying what you mean or what needs to be said.
  • The apology was better late than never. – The apology was late, but it’s better than never having an apology.
  • This situation is putting me between a rock and a hard place. – This situation is making me choose between two bad options.
  • Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. – Be careful not to take on more (work, stress, or challenge) than you’re able to handle at one time.
  • It’s time to bite the bullet. – It’s time to get this unpleasant thing done.
  • Be careful not to burn any bridges. – Be careful not to damage any relationships or opportunities beyond repair.
  • I made it by the skin of my teeth. – I barely made it.
  • Close but no cigar. – That was almost right, but it wasn’t quite right and you shouldn’t celebrate.
  • That computer costs an arm and a leg! – That computer is very expensive.
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. – Don’t assume you have something if it isn’t yet guaranteed.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. – Don’t judge a person or thing based on its appearance rather than based on what’s inside or what they’re really like.
  • Are we going to talk about the elephant in the room? – Are we going to talk about the obvious thing that we need to talk about but nobody has mentioned?
  • He didn’t come in to work today because he was feeling under the weather. – He didn’t come in to work today because he was feeling sick.
  • Her doctor said she was fit as a fiddle. – Her doctor said she was healthy and in good physical condition.
  • I wish he would get a taste of his own medicine. – I wish he would get the same poor treatment that he gives others.
  • It’s important to get your act together before you’re the one in charge. – It’s important to behave well and accomplish things as you’re supposed to before you’re in charge.
  • I was going to go to sleep, but I got a second wind, so I am cleaning the kitchen instead. – I was going to go to sleep, but I went from being sleepy to having extra energy, so I am cleaning the kitchen instead.
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. – You can’t have two good, conflicting things at the same time.
  • I’m going to hit the hay. – I’m going to go to sleep.
  • You really hit the nail on the head with that comment. – You were really accurate or insightful in what you said with that comment.
  • I thought I would kill two birds with one stone. – I thought I would accomplish two things with a single gesture, action, or task.
  • Who let the cat out of the bag? – Who shared the secret before it was ready to be shared?
  • I know you were tired, so I’ll let you off the hook. – I know you were tired, so I’ll let you use an excuse and avoid holding this against you.
  • I was afraid I wouldn’t remember how to do it, but it was like riding a bike. – I was afraid I wouldn’t remember how to do it, but once I started, it was automatic and I didn’t have to think about it.
  • That task was a piece of cake. – That task was very easy.
  • Are you pulling my leg? – Are you playing a prank on me or joking with me?
  • It’s raining cats and dogs. – It’s raining very heavily.
  • Speak of the devil. – The person we were talking about is now here or is suddenly visible.
  • It really stole my thunder when Robert won that award after I did. – When Robert won that newer or more important award, it really took the focus off my own achievements.
  • It takes two to tango. – It takes two people choosing the same thing or working together to accomplish the referenced event.
  • That was the last straw. – That was the last difficult thing I could handle before being out of patience or ability to cope.
  • I’ll be by your side through thick and thin. – I’ll be by your side whether things are easy or hard.
  • You’re really throwing caution to the wind. – You’re really not trying to be cautious at all.
  • They’re really two peas in a pod. – They’re so similar (usually in behavior or preferences) that they’re practically the same.
  • Cordelia got sent on a wild goose chase. – Cordelia got sent on an errand that was pointless or led nowhere.

Idiom Examples | Pictures

Idiom Examples: List of Common Idioms and How They Used in SentencesPin

Idiom Examples: List of Common Idioms and How They Used in SentencesPin

Idiom Examples (by Categories)

List of idioms categorized by different topics with meaning and example sentences.

Health Idioms Examples

List of health idiom example sentences with idiom meaning.

  • My grandfather was as pale as a ghost (extremely pale) when he entered the hospital. 
  • The sales manager was at death’s door (very near death) after his heart attack.
  • My mother is back on her feet (healthy again) after being sick for two weeks.
  • I have been feeling on top of the world (feel very healthy) since I quit my job.
  • I’m going under the knife (undergo surgery) next month to try to solve my knee problems. Hope it helps!
  • My colleague was looking a little green around the gills (sick) when he came to work today.
  • My uncle is very sick and has one foot in the grave (near death).
  • Did you have a good vacation? – Not really. I was sick as a dog (extremely ill) the whole time.
  • My boss has been under the weather (not feeling well) all week and has not come to work during that time.

Clothes Idioms Examples

List of clothing idiom example sentences with idiom meaning.

  • A few years ago Uggs were all the rage (very fashionable), but now you don’t see them so much.
  • Jacob is unpredictable. He won’t leave the office for weeks, but then he’ll take off for New York at the drop of a hat (suddenly).
  • Wait until you try the new Yamaha scooters. They’ll knock your socks off! (amaze you)
  • The carmaker’s sales declined because many consumers found their designs old hat (old-fashioned).

Sports Idioms Examples

List of sport idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • ballpark figure (a rough estimate) for the cost of the new stadium would be $150,000,000.
  • Francesca hit it out of the park (succeed brilliantly) with her speech today. It was fabulous.
  • Madrid won most of our matches during the season, but we kicked ass (defeat badly) in the playoffs.
  • I’ll call you back in an hour. The speaker is almost finished, and I’m on deck (next).
  • I thought I was totally exhausted after mile nine of the race. But then I got my second wind (renewed energy).
  •  I’ve helped him as much as I can in that class. Now he’s going to have to sink or swim (fail or succeed).
  • Maybe you could take a hike (go away) while we discuss salaries.
  • After losing his queen, the chess player threw in the towel (give up) and resigned.
  • Our competitor’s model dominates the market, so ours is facing tough sledding (difficult progress).

Music Idioms Examples

List of music idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • Can you guys please be quiet? Your chin music (meaningless talk) is distracting me from my work.
  • News of the new president was music to my ears (good to hear) – she’s terrific.
  • You may say you’re in love with your boyfriend, but you’ll be singing a different tune (change your opinion) when you find out what he’s been up to.
  • If you think you can get a ticket for under $200 at Christmastime, you’re whistling Dixie (unrealistically optimistic).

Time Idioms Examples

List of time idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • The restaurant is open around the clock (at all times).
  • Blackberry phones used to be extremely popular, but now many people think they’re behind the times (old-fashioned).
  • The boxer is ready to call time (end) on his long career.
  • You all look tired. Let’s call it a day (stop working).
  • Teamwork and training will carry the day (successful).
  • Your days are numbered (will die soon) if you keep driving while drunk.
  •  I’d buy that car in a New York minute (very quickly) if I had the money.
  • I had a beautiful family, a nice home, and lots of money. And then, in the blink of an eye (instantaneously), it was all gone.
  • Kevin says he was completely in the dark (unaware) about the CEO’s plans to sell the company.
  • We were going to leave without you, but you got here just in the nick of time (just in time).
  • I’m glad you dropped by! It’s been a month of Sundays (a long time) since I saw you last.
  • When I said I would move to New York, she offered me the job on the spot (immediately).
  • Once in a blue moon (very rarely) you see the Aurora here, but it’s not like farther north.
  • I don’t want to live in the city, but I enjoy visiting once in a while (occasionally).
  • We should seize the day (take an opportunity) while prices are low. That won’t last forever.
  • Take your time (don’t hurry) on the exam. You don’t get a bonus for finishing quickly.
  • If you have problems, call me twenty-four seven (at any time); it doesn’t matter if I’m sleeping.
  • Our holiday party is such a bore. Year in, year out (annually without change) the owner makes the same dumb jokes.

Number Idioms Examples

List of number idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • I have a million and one (many) ideas.
  • He got home from the party all in one piece (safely).
  • The project failed, we’re back to square one (back to the start).
  • I’ve been in seventh heaven (extremely happy) ever since I got engaged!
  • You don’t have to do this totally by the book (follow instructions exactly).
  • I can’t drive, I had one too many (drink too much alcohol).
  • Never in a million years (absolutely never) did I think that I would actually win the lottery!
  • Nine times out of ten (almost always) your first choice turns out to be the right one.
  • I wouldn’t want a nine-to-five job (a routine job).
  • When my mom bought me a computer, I was on cloud nine (very happy).
  • put in my two cents (say your opinion) at the meeting.
  • Ten to one (very likely) I’m going to win.
  • I can try, but completing the whole ad campaign by the end of the month is a tall order (a difficult task).
  • The runner was far ahead for most of the race, but at the end she won only by a whisker (a very short distance).

Travel & Transport Idioms Examples

List of travel idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • I’m not really part of your group. If I come to the party I’ll just be a fifth wheel (a superfluous person).
  • We better hit the road (leave) before traffic get seven worse.
  • New Year’s Eve is just around the corner (occurring soon). Have you made party plans yet?
  • My brother just spent a lot of money on really questionable stocks. I think he’s off his trolley (insane).
  • I’ll eat dinner on the fly (while traveling) and meet you at 8.
  •  It’s too late for you to ask her to marry you – she’s involved with someone else now. That ship has sailed (that opportunity has passed).

Car & Driving Idioms Examples

List of car idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • Higher coal prices put the brakes on (slow down) industrial activities in the second quarter.
  • I’m late for my best friend’s wedding. Put the pedal to the metal! (drive as fast as possible)
  • After work I drove home hell for leather (very fast), but I still missed my daughter’s birthday party.
  • It will take time to get the final cost, but a quick-and-dirty (approximate) estimate would be $45,000.
  • I’ll have the order done quick as a flash (very fast) – probably by the time you get back to your office.

Technology Idioms Examples

List of technology idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • Sure, come into the office, and we can get the documents you need chop chop (Quickly).
  • We’re going to pull the plug on (terminate) our operation in Taiwan. It’s just not succeeding.
  • Passing this quiz will be like shooting fish in a barrel (very easy). I’ve studied a lot.
  • Jim is a straight arrow (an honest, trustworthy person).

Home Idioms Examples

List of home idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • I’ve locked the door. They’re as safe as houses (very safe).
  • She said he’s out of the house of correction (prison).
  • After struggling with my homework, I finally threw in the towel (give up) and went to bed.
  • That’s a worthless investment. He’s throwing his money down the drain (waste money).
  • When I found out Tom crashed my car, I hit the roof (become very angry).
  • Jeff smokes like a chimney (smoke a lot). I worry about his health.
  • His diet went out the window (disappear) during the holidays.
  • Please come in and make yourself at home (make yourself comfortable).
  • Cutting-edge (innovative) musical styles often originate in Britain.
  • There are just a few difficulties to iron out (resolve), and then we’ll be ready to sign the contract.

Plant Idioms Examples

List of plant idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • You’re going to jump down from that ledge? Are you out of your gourd? (crazy)
  • Life isn’t always going to be a bed of roses (comfortable situation). You have to learn to deal with adversity.
  • There are a few problems with the new website, but they don’t amount to a hill of beans (unimportant). We did it!
  • As anyone who has experienced a hurricane knows, Mother Nature (the natural world) can be a frightening force.
  • I’ll be pushing up daisies (dead) before my daughter decides to get married.
  • I heard through the grapevine (via gossip) that Ivan and Amber are going out. Is it true?
  • Two years ago we had the field to ourselves with this project. Now there are too many competitors to shake a stick at (a large number).

Weather Idioms Examples

List of weather idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • It’ll be a cold day in July (never happen) when our team wins the championship. We’re terrible.
  • If you think I’m going to climb that rickety ladder, you’re all wet! (completely mistaken!)
  • I stayed up all night studying for that exam, and then it turned out to be a breeze! (very easy!)
  • Come hell or high water (no matter what happens), we will be in New York for the meeting tomorrow morning.
  • I listen to the music every day, come rain or shine (do regularly).
  • Let’s come back soon before the heavens open! (start to rain heavily)
  •  I made a huge mistake. I stayed up all night studying, and I was in a fog (confused) when it came time to start the exam.
  • Old Man Winter (Winter) is hanging around this year-it’s the middle of March, and we still have a lot of snow.
  • Cindy was on cloud nine (extremely happy) after her boyfriend proposed to her.
  • It’s been raining cats and dogs (rain heavily) all day. I’m afraid the roof is going to leak.
  • Once again, John is right as rain (absolutely correct). We should sell the Chicago office building.
  •  I’m sorry to rain on your parade (spoil someone’s plans), but the park is closed tomorrow, so we can’t have our picnic there.
  • Let’s go out and soak up some sun (enjoy the sun).
  •  If you keep asking him about his ex-girlfriend, you’ll be on thin ice (in a risky situation).
  • Tom stole cameras when he worked here. I’ll hire him back when hell freezes over (never).

Appearance Idioms Examples

List of appearance idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • She’s no spring chicken (young), but she’s still very good looking.
  • She’s a dead ringer (similar in appearance) for her older sister.
  • When Samantha was in her teens she looked ordinary, but in her early 20s she turned into a real knockout! (an extremely beautiful woman).
  • Let me just put my face on (apply cosmetics), and I’ll meet you at the restaurant in 15 minutes.

People Idioms Examples

List of people idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • He never made a will, to the best of my knowledge (as far as you know).
  • Don’t lend her money. I trust her about as far as I can throw (only slightly) her.
  • My grandmother is 92 years old, but she’s still sharp as a tack (mentally agile).
  • I’d tell you if you were going around the bend (crazy).

Daily Routines Idioms Examples

List of daily activities idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • OK, I’ll come to the party Friday. But Saturday it’ll be time to hit the books (study).
  • I have to get up at 5 tomorrow morning. It’s time to hit the hay (go to bed).
  • I’ll be out of town this weekend, but I’ll be in touch (in contact) when I get back Sunday night.
  • Social media are great for finding old friends with whom you’ve lost touch (fall out of contact).
  • You’re playing with fire (very risky) if you keep driving that car-the floor under the seat is almost completely rusted out.
  • The name Susan Thompson rings a bell (sound familiar). I think she worked here-let me look it up.

 Social Life Idioms Examples

List of social life idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • I was just making a suggestion. Don’t get all bent out of shape (become angry) out it.
  •  I’d better work late at the office – my husband is on the warpath (very angry) because I put a big scratch in his new car.
  • Sophia acted like she was my friend. But then she stabbed me in the back (betray) and went out with my boyfriend.
  • Bob is a 110-proof (very strong) Conservative – I’ve never seen him vote for a Labor candidate.
  • The beer market used to be controlled by large companies, but now many small firms are producing the amber nectar (beer).
  • Don’t bother Joseph when he’s in his cups (drunk) – he’s very irritable.
  • Give me a beer. I’m having one for the road (a final drink before leaving).
  • I just finished my last exam. Let’s go out and paint the town red! (go out drinking and partying).
  • You’ve been out in the sun for two hours. Come on in and wet your whistle! (drink something).
  • The new engine design is our ace in the hole (a hidden advantage) – but we have to keep it secret from our competitors.
  • I don’t think a recession is in the cards (likely) this year. Consumer confidence is very strong.
  • I’m going to roll the dice on (take a risk) the plant renovation. If the market collapses we’ll be in trouble, but I think it’s needed.
  •  I like to go out to the bars with John-he’s a real babe magnet (a man to whom women are attracted), so I get to meet lots of women too.

Happy Idioms Examples

List of happy idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • I always have so much fun when Katie’s around—she’s a barrel of laughs! (funny).
  • You look full of the joys of spring (very happy, full of energy) this morning.
  • The kids really had a ball (have a very enjoyable time) at the birthday party—they won’t stop talking about it!
  • We had a whale of a time (enjoy very much) on holiday.
  • Come on, Jim, this is a party! Let your hair down (relax and enjoy) and go a little wild!
  • The circus was more fun than a barrel of monkeys (a very good time).
  •  It’s nice to slow down at the week-end and take it easy (relax).

Crazy Idioms Examples

List of crazy idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • I think he’ll blow his top (lose his temper) when you give him the news.
  • When I saw the look on Sarah’s face, I just know she’d blow up (explode).
  • July will go ape (wild excitement or anger) if she ever hears about it.
  • Mom will freak out (a wildly irrational reaction) when she found out we broke her vase!
  • My parents went totally ballistic (fly into a rage) when they found out I’d wrecked the car!
  • She went berserk (go crazy) and strangled her cat.
  •  I’ll end up going bananas (irrational or crazy) if I have to work in this cubicle for one more day!
  • My parents are going to go mental (extremely angry) if they find out we had a party here!
  • The noise caused all the neighbors to go nuts (become crazy).
  • My parents are going to hit the roof (very angry) if they find out we had a party here!

Love Idioms Examples

List of love idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  •  I didn’t know Chris and Sue were an item (having a romantic relationship). They didn’t even look at each other at dinner.
  • Have you heard? Sophia  and Joseph have split up (end a relationship).
  •  I think I’m falling in love (start feeling love) with my best friend. What should I do?
  • Don’t be angry! Yes, I was talking to that other girl, but you know you’re my main squeeze!( committed romantic partner).
  • An old flame (a former boyfriend or girlfriend) has come back into my life. I’m seeing her tomorrow night.
  • When are you and Jenny going to tie the knot (get married)? – This year, but we haven’t set a date yet.

Feeling Idioms Examples

List of emotion idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • Yoga pants are all the rage (very much in fashion) in North America right now, but in two years probably nobody will be wearing them.
  • Sure, you can invest a little money, but don’t get carried away (overly enthusiastic) – people lose lots of money on the stock market.
  • John’s suggestions in the meeting were ridiculous. Sometimes I think he’s not playing with a full deck (stupid).
  • Sorry I was so quiet during the meeting. I’ve been out of sorts (slightly ill ) all day.
  • Have you heard Dmitri is going to try to climb Mt. Rinjani in the rainy season? He must be off his rocker (crazy, insane).
  • John is on the ball (competent, alert). I think we can leave the office under his supervision for a few days.
  • Gerald used to be one of the most logical people I know. Now he’s mad as a hatter (mentally ill).
  • You’ve been down in the dumps (depressed) all week. Let’s go to the football game – that’ll cheer you up.
  • Fans are cock-a-hoop (excited) about the team’s acquisition of the new striker.

Food Idioms Examples

List of food idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • The problem of how to motivate employees can be a tough nut to crack (a difficult problem) sometimes.
  • Fred had egg on his face (embarrassed) after claiming he could climb the tree but then having to give up.
  • James will tell you all about his adventures in Africa, but take it with a grain of salt (be skeptical).
  • My new girlfriend is very intelligent. That she’s beautiful is just icing on the cake! (a bonus).
  • I can’t help you with your presentation right now. I have bigger fish to fry (have more important things to do).
  • I just have a lot on my plate (a lot to do) right now while I’m finishing up my degree and doing this huge project for work.
  • I wouldn’t go out with him for all the tea in China! (great wealth).
  • James is a bad egg (not to be trusted). Don’t trust him.
  • Have you tried the new iPhone? It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread (an innovative development).
  • My husband may not be the world’s most glamorous guy, but he brings home the bacon (earn money for the family).
  • Amazon started out as a bookseller, but now they offer everything from soup to nuts (everything).
  • We went to Mark’s Midtown for lunch. I had a grilled chicken sandwich, and it really hit the spot (very satisfying).
  • You should apply to the university now. There are lots of reasons, but in a nutshell, it will end up costing
  • I’m really in a pickle (in need of help). I spent all the money I had saved, and I have no way to pay next semester’s tuition bill.
  • The kids are always nutty as fruitcakes (crazy) when they’ve had something sugary to eat.
  • I’ve already done the difficult parts – finishing the presentation tonight will be a piece of cake (easily done).
  • Nothing tastes better than fresh cinnamon rolls, served piping hot (very hot).
  • Sam is rotten to the core (entirely evil). He steals, he lies, he’s violent. I’m glad he’s in prison.
  • The new Honda is expected to sell like hotcakes (sold very quickly) after it’s released.
  • We’re wasting our time on small potatoes (unimportant). Let’s get to the big news that made us have this meeting.
  • We had planned this to be a surprise party for you, but Jason spilled the beans (reveal a secret).
  • Our principal was a little lady, but she was one tough cookie! (a very determined person).

Fruit Idioms Examples

List of fruit idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • You only get a bite at the cherry (good opportunity) in life.
  • Her cheeks were as red as a cherry (very red).
  • Baseball is as American as apple pie (typically American).
  • Tom is really a bad apple (a trouble making or dishonest person).
  • Only the top banana (boss, leader) can make a decision of that magnitude.
  • Sarah’s surprise party went pear-shaped (fail) once she accidentally found out about it.
  • Do whatever you want, I do not give a fig (not care).

Dog Idioms Examples

List of dog idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • Every man and his dog (many people) wanted to interview me after I on the race.
  • Those two fight like cat and dog (continually arguing with each other), so please don’t put them together on the project.
  • I’ll be right back-I’ve got to go see a man about a dog (go to the bathroom).
  • This has always been a nice hotel, but it’s going to the dogs (become disordered).
  • At first my marriage was all puppies and rainbows (perfect), but then reality set in.
  • I try to be strict with my daughter, but when she looks at me with those puppy dog eyes (a begging look), I buy her candy.

Cat Idioms Examples

List of cat idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • I’m going to try to squeeze in a cat nap (short sleep during the day) before my next shift starts, or else I’ll be feeling sluggish for the entire evening.
  • Who will bell the cat (a difficult or impossible task) and take on the job of reducing corruption in this country?
  • She’s waiting for the doctor to call with her test results, so she’s been like a cat on a hot tin roof all day (extremely nervous).
  • Inside, there is no room to swing a cat (very small), and everything you see is the most basic junk.

Animal Idioms Examples

List of animals idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • Talk to Jon. He’s the big fish (important person) in the organization. He can help you get things done.
  • Picking out this item or that for criticism seems unsportsmanlike, like shooting fish in a barrel (very easy).
  • That’s just a fish story (a big lie). Don’t try to fool me.
  • This game will be the quarterback’s swan song (a final appearance) – he’s retiring after this season.
  •  I was sick as a parrot (very disappointed) after Man United lost last night. 
  • I almost didn’t go on stage and perform tonight because I had butterflies in my stomach (nervous).
  • I think this is a wild goose chase (an impossible task).  This library doesn’t have the books we need.
  • Glen is a lone wolf (not social) and seldom joins in the activities of the neightbourhood.
  • When we got married, we were both poor as a church mouse (very poor) and we had to live with my husband’s parents.
  • What happened when I asked for comments? Crickets (silence). So I assume you’re all satisfied with the proposal.
  • My eagle-eyed (sharp vision) sister spotted the car in the parking lot before anyone else did.
  • You’d better pay him more, or one day you’ll come to the office and find that he flew the coop (left).
  • I’m afraid that if we don’t reduce staff, we’ll go belly up (go bankrupt) within a year.
  • If you want to reach the island with the treasure, you’ve got to swim with sharks (take a major risk) for a while.
  • You’re only 22-the world is your oyster (have many opportunities).  Don’t feel you have to get married now.
  • It may be very crowded in there. I’ll go and take a gander (take a look), and then I’ll send you a text message.
  • If you wait for Jeb to finish his part of the project, you’ll be waiting till the cows come home (a long time).
  • Sure, I’ll go out with Cynthia again. When pigs fly (never).

Family Idioms Examples

List of family idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • I have a bun in the oven (pregnant) again! Sophia will have a baby sister.
  • Children will be admitted to the concert, but sorry, no babes in arms (a baby being carried).
  • After learning to drive a stick shift, driving with an automatic transmission is child’s play (a very easy task).
  • The poor baby has a face only a mother could love (a very ugly face).
  • Big Brother (Government) seems to grow more and more powerful as data about individuals is accumulated on social networks.
  • Just enter the update code, register the new software, and Bob’s your uncle (you’re almost finished).
  • When you go on a trip, it’s important to buy souvenirs for your kith and kin (family) back home.
  • Just watch. Getting her to go out with me will be like taking candy from a baby (very easy).
  • I bought a ring, and I’m ready to pop the question (propose marriage) to Sophia.
  • They hadn’t planned to get married, but Sophia found out she was up the duff (pregnant).

Body Idioms Examples

List of body idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • You shouldn’t buy a new car until you’ve paid off the debt from your student loan. Use your head! (think).
  • It’s too bad you didn’t get the job, but keep your chin up (cheer up) – another one will come along.
  • OK, I’ll tell you the secret about Cynthia, but zip your lip about it! (be quiet).
  • The presentation will begin at 8 on the nose (precisely). Don’t miss it.
  • The team was all eyes and ears (attentive) as the coach explained the challenges ahead.
  • I don’t see eye to eye (agree) with Frances on the workflow, but she’s the boss.
  • I know John is bad for me, but when I get a look at his baby blues (blue eyes) I can’t resist him.
  • Why did you delete the file I was working on? I’m all ears (Listening willingly).
  • Lend an ear (Listen), and I’ll tell you what people said at the meeting yesterday.
  • This is especially used in hypothetical situations. If Joe asked me, I’d marry him in a heart beat! ( immediately).
  • I like to keep my vocabulary at hand (nearby).
  • Are there enough people on hand (available) to hold a meeting?
  • Employee absenteeism has gotten out of hand (out of control).
  • She’ll give you the name of a place to stay – she knows the area like the back of her hand (very well).
  • Could you lend me a hand (help) with this piano?
  • Tom was hands-down (obviously) the best student at the university.
  • Shareholders pointed the finger at (blame) the board of directors for the losses, and voted most of them out.
  • The exam’s at two. Will you keep your fingers crossed (wish for good luck) for me?
  • We agreed we’d meet at the mall at 3. But you left me cooling my heels (wait) for two whole hours.
  • Don’t trust Jack around your expensive glassware – he’s all thumbs (clumsy).
  • It really pleased me that the boss gave me a thumbs-up (approval) on my presentation.
  • I worry about my son. He’s smart enough to succeed, but he doesn’t have the fire in the belly (strong ambition).
  • There I was, in my birthday suit (nakedness), when the doorbell rang.
  • Three months ago Jack seemed to be at death’s door, but now he’s fit as a fiddle (in very good health) What happened?
  • If you’re on a long drive, it’s helpful to stop and take forty winks (a short nap) every few hours if you can.

Business Idioms Examples

List of business idiom examples with idiom meaning.

  • At first I wasn’t ready to accept your offer for the house. But you drive a hard bargain (negotiate effectively).
  • Jennifer’s presentation was on point (well done) – concise, relevant, and accurate.
  • The election is up for grabs (available).  Everything is still very chancy.
  • The salary increase is still up in the air (not yet decided) – the boss favors it, but she hasn’t gotten approval from her superiors.
  • Sophia is in hot water (in trouble) with her department manager after she blew that sales presentation.
  • I’ll be burning the midnight oil (working late ) tonight, but I guarantee I’ll finish the paper before class tomorrow at 9.
  • I’ve been out of work (unemployed) since December. Hope I find a new job soon!

Examples of Idioms | Images

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Why Learn Idiom Examples?

The Importance of Idioms

You might be wondering why we choose to complicate things by using idioms at all. Wouldn’t it just be easier to say what we literally mean? Well, yes, it might be easier but it would also be a little boring. Using idioms is a way of expressing ourselves figuratively instead of literally. It’s a way to express meaning on a more relatable and deeper level. When we hear idioms or read idioms we are able to use our imagination more to really understand the meaning that the person is trying to get across to us. It’s almost like we understand their meaning even more.

Take the “Over the moon” example from earlier. The person could just say that they are “really happy” about whatever it is that is making them happy. But by using the idiom and expressing themselves figuratively, we understand what they mean and it carries with it a little more meaning than the literal version of what they are trying to say. Essentially, we can form an image in our mind of this person being so overjoyed that they could jump over the moon with happiness. If that isn’t more meaningful than someone saying “I’m really happy”, then we don’t know what is.

Idioms are important because they allow people to express themselves in a more open and creative way. It allows the speaker or the writer to get a point across to somebody in a way that might not always be clear initially, but in the context of what they are saying makes perfect sense. They can be really good as a short way of expressing a more complicated idea. “Over the moon” is much easier than saying “I’m really happy, I could jump for joy and land on the moon”. Most people know what “Over the moon” means anyway, so it communicates the meaning clearly and quickly.

Why Use Idioms in Everyday Conversations?

In short, because it would be difficult not to. We all know certain sayings or phrases from growing up, and that is exactly what an idiom is. Idioms can be universally understood, locally understood in your country/town/city/street, or even be understood just within your own family. Idioms are sewed into the fabric of the English language, wherever you’re speaking it. They are useful in everyday conversations because they get the meaning across without having to say very much at all. You save time, your meaning is clear in a figurative sense (even when it is not literally understood), and then you can move on to the next part of your conversation.

We use idioms in everyday conversations because they are phrases and sayings that are easily understood and quick to say. It makes sense to make use of this figurative way of conveying your message or getting your point across.

Learn more with common American idioms, and British phrases and sayings.

How and When to Use Idioms in Writing

Unfortunately, it isn’t always acceptable to use idioms in writing. If, for example, you are writing something that is going to be placed on the internet for a potential worldwide audience, idioms might become confusing. You have to understand that idioms might be unique to you in some sense, and that others might struggle to understand what you are saying. With idioms, context is everything. People who are learning English as a second language won’t be familiar with the quirky sayings and phrases that idioms represent, and sometimes even for people who have English as a first language might never have come across the particular idiom you are using. So, try to avoid idioms if you think your meaning might become unclear for your audience.

Idioms are also seen as quite an informal way of writing, so you should avoid using them for anything that needs to be formal in tone. Writing to a company that has just appointed you as their new Communications Manager for example, might not be the best time to tell them that you are “Over the moon” and that the task might be a “tall order” but you’re certain that you can “move the needle” and have everything ready “on the dot”. If those idioms confused you, don’t worry, they were supposed to… The point is, that meaning can get lost easily, and in formal or professional writing you should always aim to be as clear as possible.

That being said, if you are writing something that can be informal in tone and you know that the audience is going to understand your meaning because it’s commonly used in your local area or the meaning is easily deduced through context, then you absolutely should make use of idioms in writing! They are an excellent way of communicating an idea, and they will mean more to an individual who understands it than if you simply said everything literally.

Idioms are a very useful thing to understand in day to day life, and using them yourself now that you better understand them could save you time, express your meaning more clearly, and help people feel more connected to what you are saying or writing!

Last Updated on May 20, 2023

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