80+ People Idioms: Useful Phrases and Sayings about People

People idioms are a fascinating aspect of the English language. They are phrases or expressions that use figurative language to describe a person’s character, behavior, or appearance. These idioms are a great way to add color and personality to your language, and they are commonly used in everyday conversation.

List of People Idioms and Saying

Not Know Jack The Real McCoy
No Names, No Pack Drill Any Tom, Dick or Harry
Rob Peter to Pay Paul On the Fritz
Jack of All Trades Even Steven
(Between) Buckley’s and Nunn (Not a) Spring Chicken
All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go All Fur Coat And No Knickers
Beauty Is Only Skin Deep Clean Up Nicely
Dead ringer Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Knockout Put one’s Face On
Amateur Hour As Far as I Can Throw (someone)
Bag of Tricks Beat Someone To The Draw
Drop the Ball Find One’s Voice
Green as Grass Lose One’s Touch
Not Cut Out for (Something) Sharp as A Tack
Full Fathom Five Kick the Bucket
Over My Dead Body Pop One’s Clogs
Pushing Up Daisies Set in Stone
Six Feet Under Sleep with the Fishes
Swim with the Fishes Whistle Past the Graveyard
Your Number Is Up Jim Crow
Get Off Scot Free Dutch Uncle
French Leave It’s All Greek to Me
Welsh (Welch) on a Deal (A) Snowball’s Chance in Hell
(Going to) Hell in a Hand basket (The) Devil Is in the Details
Dance with the Devil All Hell Breaks Loose
All Over Hell’S Half Acre Angel’s Advocate
Baptism by Fire Be A Cold Day In Hell
Cross to Bear Devil’s Advocate
Hail Mary (n. or adj.) Is the Pope Catholic?
Not Have a Prayer Preach to the Choir, Preach to the Converted
Sacred Cow Saving Grace
Knowledge is power Learn the ropes
Can’t make heads or tails of Burning the midnight oil/ pull an all-nighter
Know something backwards and forwards Doing your homework
Under one’s belt Two heads are better than one
Pick his brain Great minds think alike
As far as anyone knows To the best of your belief/knowledge
Go to your head Have your wits about you
Know what’s what

People Idioms and Phrases | Images

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Personal Names Idioms

Not Know Jack

  • Meaning: To not know anything about a particular subject or topic.
  • Example: I don’t know Jack about gardening.

The Real McCoy

  • Meaning:  The genuine article, the real thing.
  • Example: This Rolex watch is the real McCoy, not a cheap knockoff.

No Names, No Pack Drill

  • Meaning: To keep something or someone anonymous and not reveal their identity.
  • Example: The whistleblower wished to remain anonymous, so they requested “no names, no pack drill.

Any Tom, Dick or Harry

  • Meaning:  Refers to any ordinary person, regardless of their name or status.
  • Example: I don’t want any Tom, Dick or Harry working on my car – I want a certified mechanic.

Rob Peter to Pay Paul

  • Meaning: To take from one source to pay another, often resulting in a cycle of debt.
  • Example: John keeps robbing Peter to pay Paul, and now he’s in a lot of debt.

On the Fritz

  • Meaning: Something that is not working properly or is in a state of disrepair.
  • Example: My computer is on the fritz again – I think I need to take it to a repair shop.

Jack of All Trades

  • Meaning: Someone who can do many different things reasonably well, but may not excel at any one thing.
  • Example: My uncle is a jack of all trades – he can fix cars, do plumbing, and even cook!

Even Steven

  • Meaning: A situation where everything is fair and equal.
  • Example:We split the pizza evenly, so it’s even Steven.

(Between) Buckley’s and Nunn

  • Meaning: A situation where there is little or no chance of success or likelihood of something happening.
  • Example: I have Buckley’s and Nunn of getting that promotion – there are too many other qualified candidates.

Appearance Idioms & Sayings

(Not a) Spring Chicken

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who is not young anymore, usually over the age of 40 or 50.
  • Example: My grandmother is not a spring chicken anymore, but she’s still very active and lively.

All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who is dressed up in fancy clothes, but has nowhere to go or nothing to do.
  • Example: She spent hours getting ready for the party, but when she got there, it was cancelled – she was all dressed up and nowhere to go.

All Fur Coat And No Knickers

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who appears to be wealthy or high-class, but is actually lacking in substance or character.
  • Example: He may drive a fancy car and wear expensive suits, but he’s all fur coat and no knickers – he’s not as successful as he appears.

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

  • Meaning: Refers to the idea that physical beauty is only superficial and doesn’t reflect a person’s true character or worth.
  • Example:  She may be beautiful, but beauty is only skin deep – what really matters is what’s on the inside.

Clean Up Nicely

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who looks much better after cleaning up or dressing nicely.
  • Example: He usually dresses casually, but he cleans up nicely for special occasions.

Dead ringer

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who looks very similar to another person, often to the point of being mistaken for them.
  • Example: He’s a dead ringer for his father – they look almost identical.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

  • Meaning: Refers to the idea that you shouldn’t judge someone or something based solely on appearances.
  • Example: She may look shy and quiet, but don’t judge a book by its cover – she’s actually very outgoing.

Knockout

  • Meaning:  Refers to someone who is extremely attractive or impressive.
  • Example:  He was a knockout in his tuxedo – all the women at the party were fawning over him

Put one’s Face On

  • Meaning: Refers to the act of putting on makeup or getting ready to go out in public.
  • Example: She always puts her face on before leaving the house – she never goes out without makeup

Skills Idioms 

Amateur Hour

  • Meaning: Refers to a situation or person that is unprofessional, inexperienced, or lacking in skill.
  • Example: The new employee’s work was amateur hour – they clearly didn’t know what they were doing.

As Far as I Can Throw (someone)

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who is not trusted or liked, and who is only tolerated because they are necessary.
  • Example: I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him – he’s always up to something.

Bag of Tricks

  • Meaning: Refers to a collection of skills, techniques, or strategies that someone has at their disposal.
  • Example: He pulled out his bag of tricks to get out of the sticky situation.

Beat Someone To The Draw

  • Meaning: Refers to getting ahead of someone or being the first to take action in a situation.
  • Example: She beat me to the draw and got the last slice of pizza.

Drop the Ball

  • Meaning: Refers to making a mistake or failing to follow through on something.
  • Example: He dropped the ball on the project and missed the deadline.

Find One’s Voice

  • Meaning: Refers to finding one’s confidence and ability to express oneself.
  • Example: It took her a while, but she eventually found her voice and spoke up for herself.

Green as Grass

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who is inexperienced or naive.
  • Example: He’s green as grass when it comes to working in an office – he’s never had a job before.

Lose One’s Touch

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who has lost their skill or ability in a particular area.
  • Example: She used to be a great basketball player, but she’s lost her touch since she stopped playing.

Not Cut Out for (Something)

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who is not suited or capable of doing something.
  • Example: He’s not cut out for the military – he can’t handle the physical demands.

Sharp as A Tack

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who is very intelligent and quick-witted.
  • Example: Despite her age, she’s still sharp as a tack and can solve any problem.

Death Idioms

Full Fathom Five

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who has died and is buried at sea.
  • Example: The sailor was lost at sea and is now full fathom five.

Kick the Bucket

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who has died.
  • Example: He kicked the bucket last night – we’re all going to miss him.

Over My Dead Body

  • Meaning: Refers to something that will not happen, no matter what.
  • Example: Over my dead body will you marry that man – I won’t allow it.

Pop One’s Clogs

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who has died.
  • Example: She popped her clogs last week – it was a shock to everyone.

Pushing Up Daisies

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who has died and is buried in the ground.
  • Example: When I’m pushing up daisies, I want to be buried next to my parents.

Set in Stone

  • Meaning: Refers to something that is fixed and cannot be changed.
  • Example: The decision is set in stone – there’s no changing it now.

Six Feet Under

  • Meaning:  Refers to someone who has died and is buried in the ground.
  • Example: When I’m gone, bury me six feet under – I don’t want to be disturbed.

Sleep with the Fishes

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who has been killed and their body has been disposed of in the ocean.
  • Example: If you cross the boss, you might end up sleeping with the fishes.

Swim with the Fishes

  • Meaning: If you cross the boss, you might end up sleeping with the fishes.
  • Example: The mafia made sure he swam with the fishes after he talked to the police.

Whistle Past the Graveyard

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who is trying to act brave or unconcerned in the face of danger or death.
  • Example: She tried to whistle past the graveyard as she walked through the dark alley.

Your Number Is Up

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who is going to die soon, usually in a tragic or unexpected way.
  • Example: He had a feeling his number was up when he saw the car speeding towards him.

Ethnicity Idioms

Jim Crow

  • Meaning: Refers to a set of laws and customs in the United States that enforced racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans.
  • Example: The Jim Crow laws were finally abolished in the 1960s, but their legacy still affects American society today.

Get Off Scot Free

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who avoids punishment or consequences for their actions.
  • Example: He caused the accident, but he got off scot free while the other driver had to pay for the damages.

Nationality Idioms

Dutch Uncle

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who gives stern and direct advice, often in a harsh or critical manner.
  • Example: He gave me a Dutch uncle talk about my poor grades, telling me I needed to work harder in school.

French Leave

  • Meaning: Refers to leaving a situation or place without saying goodbye or without permission.
  • Example: He took French leave from the party, leaving without telling anyone.

It’s All Greek to Me

  • Meaning:  Refers to something that is completely unintelligible or incomprehensible.
  • Example: The instructions were all in Greek to me – I couldn’t understand a thing.

Welsh (Welch) on a Deal

  • Meaning: Refers to breaking a promise or agreement, especially regarding money.
  • Example: He welched on the deal and didn’t pay me back the money he owed me.

Religion Life Idioms

(A) Snowball’s Chance in Hell

  • Meaning: Refers to something that has no chance of success or happening.
  • Example: He has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the race – he’s not a very good runner.

(Going to) Hell in a Hand basket

  • Meaning: Refers to a situation that is rapidly deteriorating or heading towards disaster.
  • Example: The company is going to hell in a hand basket with all the layoffs and budget cuts.

(The) Devil Is in the Details

  • Meaning: Refers to the idea that small details or factors can have a significant impact on the outcome of a situation.
  • Example: The devil is in the details when it comes to planning a successful event.

Dance with the Devil

  • Meaning: Refers to engaging in risky or dangerous behavior or dealing with someone who is untrustworthy.
  • Example:  You’re playing with fire if you dance with the devil and get involved in illegal activities.

All Hell Breaks Loose

  • Meaning:  Refers to a situation where chaos and disorder occur.
  • Example: When the power goes out, all hell breaks loose in the city.

All Over Hell’S Half Acre

  • Meaning: Refers to a situation that is far away or difficult to reach.
  • Example: We had to drive all over hell’s half acre to find the right store.

Angel’s Advocate

  • Meaning: Refers to someone who takes a positive or optimistic view of a situation or person.
  • Example: He’s always been my angel’s advocate, seeing the good in people even when they make mistakes.

Baptism by Fire

  • Meaning: Refers to a situation where someone is quickly introduced to a new and challenging task or environment.
  • Example: Her first day on the job was a baptism by fire – she had to learn everything on the spot.

Be A Cold Day In Hell

  • Meaning: Refers to something that is unlikely to happen.
  • Example: It’ll be a cold day in hell before I let him borrow my car again.

Cross to Bear

  • Meaning: A problem or burden that a person has to deal with or endure.
  • Example: His addiction was his cross to bear.

Devil’s Advocate

  • Meaning: Someone who takes an opposing view for the sake of argument.
  • Example: I don’t necessarily agree with her, but I’ll play devil’s advocate.

Hail Mary (n. or adj.)

  • Meaning: A desperate or last-ditch effort to achieve something.
  • Example: It was a hail Mary pass, but it worked.

Is the Pope Catholic?

  • Meaning: A sarcastic way of saying “yes”.
  • Example: “Do you think he’ll show up on time?” “Is the Pope Catholic?

Not Have a Prayer

  • Meaning: Having no chance of success.
  • Example: He doesn’t have a prayer of winning the race.

Preach to the Choir, Preach to the Converted

  • Meaning: Trying to convince people who already agree with you.
  • Example: You’re preaching to the choir – we all know how important exercise is.

Sacred Cow

  • Meaning:  A person or thing that is considered immune to criticism or challenge.
  • Example: The company’s CEO is a sacred cow – nobody dares to question his decisions.

Saving Grace

  • Meaning: A redeeming quality that makes something or someone more acceptable.
  • Example: Her sense of humor was her saving grace during a difficult time.

Knowledge Idioms

Knowledge is power

  • Meaning: The more knowledge you have, the more powerful you are.
  • Example: He read every book he could find on the subject – knowledge is power, after all.

Learn the ropes

  • Meaning: To learn how to do something or to become familiar with a new situation.
  • Example: It took me a few weeks to learn the ropes at my new job.

Can’t make heads or tails of

  • Meaning: To be unable to understand or make sense of something.
  • Example:  I’ve looked at this math problem a hundred times and I still can’t make heads or tails of it.

Burning the midnight oil/ pull an all-nighter

  • Meaning: To work very late into the night.
  • Example:  I had to burn the midnight oil to finish my term paper on time.

Know something backwards and forwards

  • Meaning: To know something very well, in all its details.
  • Example: He knows the rules of the game backwards and forwards.

Doing your homework

  • Meaning: To do research or prepare for something thoroughly.
  • Example: I spent all weekend doing my homework for next week’s classes.

Under one’s belt

  • Meaning: To have gained experience in something.
  • Example: I’m glad to have another successful project under my belt.

Two heads are better than one

  • Meaning: Two people working together can solve a problem more effectively than one person alone.
  • Example: Let’s work on this project together – two heads are better than one.

Pick his brain

  • Meaning: To ask someone for advice or information on a particular subject.
  • Example: I need to pick his brain about the best way to approach this problem.

Great minds think alike

  • Meaning:  Intelligent people often have the same ideas or opinions.
  • Example: We both had the same idea for the project – great minds think alike.

As far as anyone knows

  • Meaning: To the best of everyone’s knowledge or understanding.
  • Example: As far as anyone knows, the treasure has never been found

To the best of your belief/knowledge

  • Meaning: To the best of what you know or believe.
  • Example: To the best of my knowledge, the meeting is still scheduled for tomorrow at 10am.

Idioms about Thinking and Learning

Go to your head

  • Meaning: To make someone feel more important than they really are.
  • Example: Winning the lottery can really go to your head if you’re not careful.

Have your wits about you

  • Meaning: To be alert and aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Example: You need to have your wits about you when walking alone at night.

Know what’s what

  • Meaning: To have a good understanding of a situation or topic.
  • Example: She knows what’s what when it comes to the stock market.

Not have a leg to stand on

  • Meaning: To have no evidence or argument to support your position.
  • Example: He doesn’t have a leg to stand on in this argument because he has no evidence.

Not see the wood for the trees

  • Meaning: To be so focused on small details that you miss the bigger picture.
  • Example: She’s so obsessed with the details of the project that she can’t see the wood for the trees.

Put two and two together

  • Meaning:  To draw a logical conclusion based on the information available.
  • Example: When I saw him with a bouquet of flowers, I put two and two together and realized he was going to propose.

Quick/ slow on the uptake

  • Meaning:  To be quick or slow to understand something.
  • Example: She’s quick on the uptake and always understands new concepts quickly.

Ring a bell

  • Meaning: To sound familiar or to trigger a memory.
  • Example: That name rings a bell – I think we went to school together.

Round the bend

  • Meaning: To be crazy or insane.
  • Example: After being stranded on the island for months, he started to go round the bend.

Split hairs

  • Meaning: To argue over small or unimportant details.
  • Example: He’s splitting hairs by arguing over the definition of a word.

Take stock (of)

  • Meaning: To assess or evaluate a situation or inventory. 
  • Example: After the busy holiday season, it’s time to take stock of our inventory.

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