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!
What is an Idiom?
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.
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