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If you are learning English as a second language, this book should help.
This book is not intended to be used by children who are learning English.
It is made for adults. The idioms used here are just not very useful for
children. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Wishing you the best of life!



A Drag
A Great Catch
About Time
Absent Minded
Across The Board
Add Up
Ahead Of Time
Air One's Dirty Laundry
An earful
At a Loss
At An End
At Fault
At First
At Heart
Average Joe
Back On One's Feet
Back Out
Back Seat Driver
Back to the Drawing Board
Bad Egg
Bail Out
Bang For The Buck
Bank On
Banker's Hours
Bean Counter
Black And White
Blessing In Disguise
Blow A Fuse
Blow Away
Blow Something Out Of Proportion
Boss Around
Bottom Fell Out
Bottom Line
Break (It) Up
Break A Sweat
Break Even
Break The Ice
Bring Home The Bacon
Bring Something Up
Budget Crunch
Burns Me Up Inside
By Heart
Calculated Risk
Call It A Day
Call It Quits
Call Off
Call the Shots
Captain Of Industry
Carry The Day
Carry Through
Catch Some Rays
Catch You Later
Change One's Tune
Check Out
Chip In
Chow Down
Close Out
Close The Books
Cold Call
Company Man
Cool Off
Cost An Arm And A Leg
Couch Potato
Crystal Clear
Cut Back
Cut Corners
Cut It Out
Cut Ones Losses
Dawn On
Day And Night
Dead As A Doornail
Dead End
Dead Set
Dead Tired
Dead to the World

Deal With
Decked Out
Dig Up Dirt
Dirt Cheap
Do The Trick
Don't Hold Your Breath
Don't Let It Get Down
Double Check
Down In The Dumps
Down The Drain
Drop It
Eagle Eye
Ear to the ground
Ease Off
Easy Come, Easy Go
Easy Grader
Easy Target
Eat Away At
Eat Like A Bird
Eat Like a Horse/Pig
Eat One's Words
Eat Out
Elbow Room
End of One's Rope
Face the Music
Face to Face
Fair Play
Fight A Losing Battle
Figure Out
Fill The Bill
Filthy Rich
First Out Of The Gate
Fix Up
Flash in the Pan
Flip Out
Full Of Crap, Full Of Baloney
Funny Farm
Gaining Ground
Get A Break
Get A Fix On
Get A Grip
Get A Kick Out Of
Get a Move On
Get A Rise Out Of Someone
Get Across
Get Along
Get Away From It All
Get Off The Ground
Get The Ball Rolling
Give One's All
Give Someone The Cold Shoulder
Give Someone The Green Light
Go Public
Hammer Out
Hand Down
Hand In
Hand It To
Hang A Left Or Right
Hang In There
Hang Out
Hard Nut To Crack
Hard Sell
Hard to Swallow
Heads Will Roll
Help One Self
Hooked To; Hooked On Something
Horse Around
If Worst Comes To Worst
Ill At Ease
In A Bind
In A Fog
In A Hurry
In A Jam
In a Nutshell
In a World of One's Own

In Advance
In Charge
In Short Supply
In Stock
In The Black
In The Dog House
In The Red
Jazz Up
Jerk (someone) Around
Jump All Over (someone)
Jump Out Of One's Skin
Jump The Gun
Jump To Conclusions
Just About
Just Off The Boat
Just So
Just The Same
Just What the Doctor Ordered
Keep An Eye On
Keep Ones Head Above Water
Keep One's Mouth Shut
Keep One's Nose To The Grindstone
Keep One's Shirt On
Keep One's Word
Keep Pace With
Keep Quiet
Keep the Books
Keep Track Of
Kick the Habit
Kill Time
Knocked Up
Labor Of Love
Laid Back
Laid Up
Lame Duck
Lap Up
Lash Out
Last Minute
Learn One's Lesson
Like a Fish Out Of Water
Long Shot
Lose Weight
Love Handles
Luck Out
Make A Killing
Make A Living
Make A Mistake
Make A Mountain Out Of A Molehill
Make A Name For Oneself
Make A Pass At Someone
Make a Point Of
Make a Run For It
Make Away With
Make Believe
Make Do With
Make Ends Meet
Make Up Your Mind
Number Cruncher
Off The Cuff
Off The Hook
Off The Record
Off The Top Of One's Head
Off The Wagon
Old Hat
On a Diet
On a Shoestring
On and Off
On Cloud Nine
On Edge
On End
On Hand
On The House
Packed In Like Sardines
Paint Oneself Into A Corner
Palm Off
Pan Out
Par For the Course

Pass Away
Pass Out
Pass the Buck
Pat On The Back
Patch Up
Pay Attention
Pay Off (1)
Pay Off (2)
Pay Off (3)
Peas In Pod
Piece Of Action / Slice If The Action
Piece of Cake
Rack One's Brain
Rain Cats And Dogs
Raise a Fuss
Raise Eyebrows
Rake In The Money
Ream Someone Out
Rip Off
Rough Time
Run Out Of Gas
Run Short
Run the Show
Safe And Sound
Salt Away
Save Face
Save One's Breath
See Eye to Eye
Sell Like Hot Cakes
Shape Up Or Ship Out
Shell Out
Shoot Down
Short On Funds
Single Out
Slim To None
Sold Out And Sell Out
Steamed Up
Strike While The Iron Is Hot
Sweet Tooth
Take a Bath
Take a Beating
Take a Stand On
Take Advantage Of
Take Care Of Business
Take For
Take For Granted
Team Player
The Inside Track
Throw Cold Water On
Tight Spot
To Be Chicken
To Dance To A Different Tune
Turn Over
Turn Someone Off
Under the Table
Under the Weather
Under Wraps
Up For Grabs
Up To One's Ears
Up To Par
Up To Someone
Use One's Head
Used to
Warm Up
Warm Up To
Wash One's Hands Of
Washed Up
Waste (of) One's Breath
Watch It
Water Down
Water Under the Bridge
Way Off Base
What's Eating You
Write Off
Year Round
Zero In On


The idiom twenty-four seven (24/7) is a time expression that means every hour of
every day. It comes from the fact that there are 24 hours in a day and 7 days a week,
but normally the phrase is used as an exaggeration. The real intent is a large amount
of time, not literally all the time, except in specific contexts.

Example #1: Because the factory was completely operated by robots and computers,
it could keep going 24/7.

Example #2: John is so intent an getting exercise and working out that he is overdoing
it it seems like he's at the gym 24/7.

Example #3: As parents, our job is to keep our children safe, healthy and
nurtured, 24/7 no breaks for us.

Example #4: This truck engine sounds like it has been running 24/7 don't you ever
give it a rest?

A Drag

If something or someone is described as a drag, then the person or thing is
depressing, energy-using, and a problem for someone or everyone. The idiom
comes from the idea that the friction of the air on a car or airplane slows it down
a phenomenon known as drag. It became a popular catch-phrase in the 1960s.

Example #1: I don't know how you can live with her and not be in a bad mood
she seems like a real drag to be around all the time.

Example #2: The song Kind of a Drag was a big hit by The Buckinghams in
the late 1960s, and its theme was the sadness caused by unrequited love and

Example #3: We know it's a drag, but you really have to be home every night by
midnight or we'll have to take away your license.

Example #4: Why do you have to be such a drag? I get depressed just being in
the same room with you.

A Great Catch

This phrase refers to something as a great choice. It is most often used to denote
somebody who makes for an excellent girlfriend/boyfriend or husband/wife.

Example #1: I dont understand why you should be mad because you broke up with
that guy. If you ask me, hes not a great catch anyway.

Example #2: He looks like Brad Pitt and he graduated from Yale. If hes not your idea
of a great catch, then somethings probably wrong with you!

Example #3: Your bride looks dashing Peter. I hear shes a great cook too. What a great

Example #4: You may be smart and pretty, but some people find you too moody. Try to
be a bit more pleasant and Im sure many guys will be considering you as a great catch.

About Time

When a person says that it is about time for something, he means that
too much time has passed. He is saying that you are late in doing
something or that an expected event is overdue, and that more than enough
time has passed for something to have happened. The idiom is commonly
used with a form of the verb to be, and has a connotation of impatience
and of annoyance.

Example #1: It was just about time for the long movie to be over, and I
was ready to go home.

Example #2: It's about time you repaid me the $20 I loaned you it's
been over 6 months.

Example #3: He felt that it was about time for her to leave the
conversation was getting boring.

Example #4: It has to be about time to get the oil changed on our car,

Absent Minded

If a person has a habit or tendency to forget important or even not so important
things, he or she is absent minded. We always say that the famous scientist
Albert Einstein was forgetful and absent minded, because he was probably
thinking about more serious things. The idiom is often used to describe
academic people like professors, and sometimes elderly people.

Example #1: My astronomy teacher was the perfect example of being absent
minded he always forgot what day it was and which class he was teaching.

Example #2: I always get absent minded when I am thinking about a new
musical composition I forget what I was doing or thinking.

Example #3: Nobody could accuse her of being absent minded she
remembered everyone's birthday every time.

Example #4: Being absent minded is sometimes a sign of intelligence.

Across The Board

One of those idioms with a very physical origin, across the board
simply means all inclusive, leaving out nothing and nobody. It can
refer to many different things depending on the context, but it always
means the same it includes all with no exceptions.

Example #1: If you are going to raise prices in your store, it should
be across the board so that everything costs a little more.

Example #2: Because of their successful sales this year, the company
is giving out bonuses across the board. Let's all celebrate!

Example #3: Since no one has admitted to the vandalism, all students
will be suspended without exception across the board.

Example #4: I can confidently recommend her for the position across
the board, in every possible way.

Add Up

If an explanation or series of actions or behaviors adds up, then they are
reasonable, logical, and understandable. If something does not add up, then
there is suspicion that someone is being dishonest, or at least that all of the
facts are not yet known.

Example #1: The detective had interviewed all of the witnesses to the crime,
but something still just didn't add up.

Example #2: Her story about what happened last night won't add up there is
an hour missing from the time line.

Example #3: I understand what you are telling me about how you made your
decisions, and it all adds up.

Example #4: If you are honest about the details of your service charges, it
will all add up for your customers and they will trust you with their business.

Ahead Of Time

English has many idioms using the word and the concept of time, because time is
an important part of our lives. To be ahead of time means to be early, to be
finished or to have arrived before a required point in time, and to have anticipated
something in advance. It is generally considered to be a good thing.

Example #1: I arrived at the movie 10 minutes ahead of time, so I was able to get
a good seat in the theater.

Example #2: If you plan and write your research paper ahead of time, you'll be
ready to submit it early and get extra credit.

Example #3: John never did anything ahead of time, and in fact his work was
usually late.

Example #4: By cooking meals for the week ahead of time on Sunday, I have
more leisure hours after work during the week.

Air One's Dirty Laundry

If someone talks about your private life in public, then your dirty laundry is being
aired. This idiom can refer to secret information or merely private, but it is
generally embarrassing and hurtful for the person being discussed. It is often used
with public figures, but can happen between acquaintances too.

Example #1: When the secretary aired the senator's dirty laundry at the press
conference, the politician's career was immediately finished due to the scandal.

Example #2: It's not a good idea to air your dirty laundry in public you never
know who might be listening.

Example #3: At the office party, John drank too much and began airing his
bosses' dirty laundry. He was fired the next day.

Example #4: It can be hurtful and embarrassing to air someone's dirty laundry
some secrets are meant to stay secrets.


To describe a person as an airhead is to say that it seems that there is nothing
in his or her cranium but air no brains. The idiom is related to calling
someone spacy, an expression from the 1960s which implies low intelligence
and aptitude, and a poor memory.

Example #1: Unfortunately, even though Brenda is beautiful and her family
is rich, she's somewhat of an airhead she's not very smart.

Example #2: Sometimes I think I'm a real airhead I always forget my keys
until I'm in the car and ready to go.

Example #3: Try not to be such an airhead your interview today is very
important and you want to make a good impression.

Example #4: As a parent, you don't want to admit that your child might be
kind of an airhead, but sometimes I suspect she is not very bright.

An Earful

The idiom an earful means more than you want to hear in a conversation, the
idea being that your ears are being filled with words. It usually implies a
complaint, a reprimand, a scolding, or harsh words in addition to the volume of

Example #1: When I got home at midnight, my wife gave me a
real earful about being up late on a night before work.

Example #2: John's boss gave him an earful in his poor performance
evaluation, and John was grateful when it was finally over.

Example #3: My dentist gave me an earful about how badly I was doing at
taking care of my teeth.

Example #4: As a customer service representative, I'm always getting an
earful from an angry customer, and I have to be patient and polite while I'm

At a Loss

This idiom has 2 commonly used meanings. If you cannot think of words to
say due to surprise or shock, or you have no options, then you are at a loss. If
you sell an item at a loss, then you have not made a profit or made back what
was paid originally.

Example #1: When my son told me and his mother that he had joined the
army, we were simply at a loss we thought that he was planning to go to

Example #2: After trying everything to solve the problem, the professor was
finally at a loss and in front of the math class.

Example #3: I had to sell the house at a loss, because we had to leave the
country quickly.

Example #4: I will sell you my car at a loss, since I desperately need the cash

At An End

The idiom at an end means at the finish, at the point where nothing else
can be done. It probably seems strange to a non-native speaker, but there
is a big difference between at the end which means a certain point in a
cycle of time, and at an end which implies no more time.

Example #1: We finally had to accept reality and admit that our
marriage was at an end we are now separated.

Example #2: The long war was at an end after many battles and many
lives lost, and now the rebuilding had to begin.

Example #3: The relationship between the two companies will be at an
end after the last fiscal quarter, when they will operate independently.

Example #4: The class realized that the semester was at an end, so they
decided to have a party to celebrate.

At Fault

The idiom at fault means to be responsible for, to be to blame. It
can refer to a person, or a thing that has been the cause of an
event or outcome.

Example #1: There was no doubt that John was at fault for the
failure of the advertising campaign it was his idea from start to

Example #2: When the coroner finally conducted the autopsy,
she found that his heart was at fault he died of a heart

Example #3: If you don't want to be considered at fault, then you
shouldn't get involved.

Example #4: There's no shame in being at fault for how
everything happened, but you should be willing to learn from
your mistakes and do better next time.

At First

The short idiom phrase at first means in the beginning stage, right
from the start, from the first step. There is NO such idiom as at
second or at third, and so on English keeps you thinking.

Example #1: At first I was very naive and gullible, but I finally
became experienced enough to know my way around the city.

Example #2: There's an old saying that if at first you don't
succeed, then you need to continue trying don't stop.

Example #3: I think you will agree that at first a cruise ship can
be frightening, but after a while you'll get accustomed to it.

Example #4: She intimidated me at first, but over time I learned
to appreciate her sharp intelligence and quick sense of humor.

At Heart

The idiom at heart can simply be a synonym for the words basically or
essentially, but it also means deep inside, on the interior, in a private
and maybe unknown way. Western cultures see the heart as the seat of
love, and truth-telling is sworn with a hand on the heart.

Example #1: I'm just an old-fashioned, sentimental fool at heart I
always cry in the sad part of the movie.

Example #2: John has always been attracted to the front desk secretary,
and at heart he's a romantic, but I never expected him to ask her for a

Example #3: I have to tell you that at heart I'm a vegetarian, even
though I can't stop eating meat completely.

Example #4: You have to be committed to your country to be a Marine,
and to be a true patriot at heart.

Average Joe
If someone is an average Joe, then he is a regular person with no outstandingly
good qualities, and no very bad characteristics either. The name Joe is very
common, and is used here as a representation of the common, everyday man. The
idiom is not applied to females.

Example #1: I knew that I was just an average Joe in her eyes, but I was
determined to impress her somehow and make her fall in love with me.

Example #2: Most of the customers who buy our fishing equipment are average
Joes who don't want to read instructions, so we make it very easy to use.

Example #3: My neighbor is definitely not your average Joe he has a doctorate
from Stanford in astrophysics and works at the university.

Example #4: The average Joe doesn't want to sit down in front of his big screen
television after a hard day's work and hear a lot of bad news.

Back On One's Feet

If someone is back on his or her feet, then that person has recovered from
something that was injurious. It might be physical, emotional, or mental,
but the idiom implies that whatever the person is recovering from was

Example #1: After the car accident, it took over 6 months for John to
get back on his feet and go back to work.

Example #2: The divorce was devastating for Sheila, but I saw her last
night and she seems to be back on her feet she's dating a wonderful man.

Example #3: The only way to get back on your feet after such a terrible
thing is to resolve to get better on your own, but ask for help if you need

Example #4: Sometimes getting back on your feet after being hurt can
take a long time, but you'll get better eventually.

Back Out

To back out of a driveway or a parking spot with your car means to
move in reverse. The idiom to back out means to reverse a position or
decision, or to change a situation in an extreme way.

Example #1: After thinking about his decision to buy a new Mercedes,
he chose to back out of the deal because it was too expensive.

Example #2: John was engaged to be married to a wonderful girl, but
he backed out before they set a date for the wedding.

Example #3: If you have to back out of an agreement, you should at
least have a good reason.

Example #4: Until you have actually signed the final papers, it's never
too late to back out of buying a house.

Back Seat Driver
The idiom back seat driver refers to someone sitting in the rear of an
automobile who gives instructions and advice to the driver. This advice
is not wanted and is seen as being intrusive, so the idiom can be used in
non-driving situations.

Example #1: My mother is such a bad back seat driver that she actually
makes me nervous when she's in the car she just can't be quiet.

Example #2: My wife accused me of being a back seat driver because I
told her to be careful going downtown today.

Example #3: I was learning the new computer software on my own, and
Jane was looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do I
hate back seat drivers.

Example #4: The truth is that some drivers need a back seat
driver because they don't pay attention to what they are doing.

Back to the Drawing Board

If you need to go back to the drawing board, then you are starting
all over again with new plans, from the beginning. The origin of
the expression is from the way that architects and engineers make
plans on paper, on large easels or drawing boards.

Example #1: Well, it's back to the drawing board for John his
proposal was rejected by the boss again.

Example #2: I think we should go back to the drawing
board with our design, and try to make it better this time.

Example #3: My experiment was a failure, so I'm back to the
drawing board.

Example #4: Sometimes the best way to proceed after a mistake
is to start over and go back to the drawing board.

Bad Egg

If someone is a bad egg, then he or she is not a good person. It could be for
having a character flaw, bad behavior, poor social skills, or a number of other
reasons. The idiom originates in the fact that sometimes an egg is not edible
even though it looks good it's a bad egg.

Example #1: Despite his reputation, John's boss is not really such a bad egg
after all, he did promote John to a better paying position last year.

Example #2: She's a bad egg, I'm afraid we caught her stealing from the
office petty cash box and had to dismiss her.

Example #3: To say that a person is not a bad egg is to pay someone a left-
handed compliment, or to damn someone with faint praise all of which are
idiomatic expressions.

Example #4: I'm not a bad egg, I just don't know how to get people to like me.

Bail Out

The idiom bail out has 2 related meanings. One is to provide bail money for
someone charged with a crime and being held in jail, the other is to help
someone in a bad situation. It can be a verb or noun phrase. The expression has
become well-known in economics in recent years.

Example #1: The automobile company requested a bail out from the
government, because so many jobs would be lost if the company failed.

Example #2: I had to bail out my brother last night from the county jail after
he was arrested for reckless driving.

Example #3: If you make a habit of bailing your children out of every
difficulty, they will never take responsibility for their own actions.

Example #4: In the history of economics, the savings and loan bail out of the
80s will always be a much-studied event.

Bang For The Buck

The idiom bang for the buck means a high value for a relatively small price.
The origin of the expression is from the use of gunpowder in weapons and
fireworks, where the more noise (the bang) that is produced, the better the
value of the purchase (a buck is a dollar).

Example #1: You'll definitely get more bang for the buck at the new giant
discount store than at the smaller, older stores.

Example #2: If you really want to get the most bang for your buck, do your
gift shopping at the duty-free shop.

Example #3: When the Mercedes dealer had a sale, I bought one and ended
up getting a lot of bang for the buck.

Example #4: When we bought our house the market was down and the
price was below the value, so we certainly got the best bang for our buck.

Bank On

The idiom to bank on means to put one's trust in. In the past banks and the banking
system were seen as the ultimate safe haven, and to put money in the bank was to
trust the institution completely. That attitude has changed in recent times, but the
expression remains useful.

Example #1: She will get the lead role in the play, and you can tell her she
can bank on it.

Example #2: The boss has changed his mind about John he now sees him as
someone to bank on in a crisis.

Example #3: I feel that I can bank on his advice, because he's never been wrong
before when it comes to investments.

Example #4: In a partnership enterprise, you have to able to bank on your partner
or your business will fail.

Banker's Hours

The idiom banker's hours means to work for a short time. It is a good
example of an outdated expression that stays useful in the language.
Decades ago, banks were only open a few hours during the middle of the
day, but with increased competition and the emphasis on customer service,
most modern banks are now open at convenient times.

Example #1: John's boss seems to be working banker's hours these days
he comes in late and goes home early.

Example #2: Most of us would love to have banker's hours and get paid
the same as we do for a 40 hour week, but it's not going to happen.

Example #3: If you are successfully self-employed you can work banker's
hours, but it takes time and effort to achieve that kind of freedom.

Example #4: I hope you don't expect banker's hours here we all work 50
to 60 hour weeks at this company.

Bean Counter

A bean counter is an accountant or bookkeeper who records and tracks every penny
spent. The idiom has a negative connotation, meaning someone who micromanages and
who is too concerned with details at the expense of more important things. Inventory
controllers might actually count beans, but accountants count money.

Example #1: John's boss is a real bean counter he noticed that John had arrived to
work 2 minutes late and reprimanded him.

Example #2: I was a bean counter at the company for 40 years, and one day the owners
simply closed their doors and took my retirement with them.

Example #3: Every successful company has at least one bean counter who nobody
likes, but who makes sure that every cent is accounted for.

Example #4: Don't be such a bean counter we can use our savings for a small
vacation at least!

Black And White

To ask for a decision or agreement in black and white means to get it in writing,
on paper, in an official legal form. This is the opposite of a verbal contract in
which each party agrees to something. If you say you would like to see it in black
and white, you are saying that you are not satisfied with an understood agreement.
Formality is the main meaning here, as opposed to casual.

Example #1: He said he would pay me twice my current salary, and I asked him
to put it in black and white.

Example #2: So you received an offer to buy your house did you get it in black
and white?

Example #3: Seeing the divorce papers was a shock our marriage was over
in black and white.

Example #4: Don't agree to anything unless it's in black and white.

Blessing In Disguise

The idiom blessing in disguise describes a common event in life. Imagine that
something happens that seems bad, wrong, unlucky, and you feel a negative
impact. Then you find that a good thing happens that couldn't have done so
without the bad thing.

Example #1: When the accident at the ski run happened, I was devastated. But it
was a blessing in disguise, because I fell in love with the man who rescued me.

Example #2: It's impossible to see a blessing in disguise when it happens you
just have to wait.

Example #3: Losing the house was a blessing in disguise, because we started
living a simpler, less expensive life afterward.

Example #4: What seems like a mistake can be a blessing in disguise if you can
learn from it and grow.

Blow A Fuse

If you are living in a house or an apartment and fuse blows, you have an
electrical problem of some kind. If you blow a fuse yourself in an
idiomatic way, you get angry and lose your temper. Getting excessively
angry is frightening and sudden, just like blowing an electric fuse.

Example #1: When I told John he was being demoted, he blew a
fuse and left my office very angry.

Example #2: We'll get to the movie on time please don't blow a
fuse about this heavy traffic!

Example #3: He has a tendency to blow a fuse instead of
communicating his feelings in a mature way.

Example #4: Sometimes when I feel myself about to blow a fuse, I
count to 10 while not speaking and it usually helps.

Blow Away

To blow someone away is to impress him or her to a high degree, to earn their
respect and admiration with a lot of impact. The idiom can also have a
connotation of surprise, shock, or unexpectedness in a particular setting, which is
an indication of its somewhat violent origins.

Example #1: Her singing just blew me away I didn't expect her to have a voice
like that.

Example #2: The charity was blown away by the quantity of donations earned at
the telethon.

Example #3: If you can blow away your customers with quality service and great
products, they will be customers for life.

Example #4: John's boss told him that he expected to be blown away by John's
new advertising campaign, and hoped not to be disappointed.

Blow Something Out Of Proportion

The meaning of the idiom to blow something out of proportion is to
exaggerate, or to place too much emphasis or importance on something that
does not warrant such treatment. The phrase comes from photography, when
a lens or treatment is used to change natural proportions in an image.

Example #1: The policeman totally blew my speeding out of proportion I
was only going 5 miles over the speed limit, not 20.

Example #2: If you blow this incident out of proportion, then our son will
never trust us again to be fair and honest he didn't wreck the car on purpose.

Example #3: It is tempting to blow the president's visit out of proportion, but
our city was the only place where his plane could land.

Example #4: I know you are feeling sick, but don't blow it out of
proportion you're not going to die.

Boss Around

To boss someone around is to tell someone what to do and act like his or
her supervisor when there is no such relationship between you. The idiom
uses the noun boss as a verb meaning to command or order. The word
around emphasizes the degree of the unnecessary behavior.

Example #1: My son told me, You can't boss me around anymore I'm
18 years old and I can do what I want to do.

Example #2: I said to him, As long as you are living in my house, I have
the right to boss you around, because I AM the boss here.

Example #3: If you try to boss others around and act like a jerk, then
you're not going to be well-liked.

Example #4: The new secretary tries to boss everyone around like she's the
manager or something, which is very annoying to all the employees.

Bottom Fell Out

If you carry something in a box or a bucket and the bottom falls out, then
you lose everything you were carrying. The idiom means to suffer a
catastrophe of some kind, and to lose something important as a result.

Example #1: We had invested some of our retirement money in risky
investments, and when the bottom fell out of the stock market we lost it all.

Example #2: When the bottom falls out of your life and you have no where
to go, come and see me I can help.

Example #3: After the tsunami, the bottom fell out of the tourist trade and
we had to find other ways to earn money.

Example #4: After John's boss had embezzled millions from the company,
the bottom finally fell out and John lost his job.

Bottom Line

The idiom the bottom line means the most important point to consider in a given
situation, financial or not. On an accountant's ledger sheet, the bottom line is where
the profit or loss is shown, the place where the focus usually is placed.

Example #1: Our bottom line in this company is giving good customer service, no
matter what the cost might be.

Example #2: Here's the bottom line, son you have to respect our rules as long as
you are living in our house.

Example #3: John's boss was always interested in the bottom line, and nothing else
ever mattered to him, including employee satisfaction.

Example #4: Look, the bottom line is that you still owe me $1,000, and I'd like to
know when you plan to pay me back the loan.


All over the world, bread is considered the primary food, the staff of life, the
one thing that can sustain life on its own. The idiom breadwinner is a term
meaning the person in a household who earns the money, and therefore
provides (wins) the necessities of life (bread) for everyone in the home.

Example #1: As long as I am the breadwinner in this house, I have the right
to make some rules for everyone who lives here.

Example #2: Being a single mother was very difficult for Sheila she was
the breadwinner, the house cleaner, the nurse, the cook, and the nurturer all in

Example #3: If you are the breadwinner for your family, you should have a
life insurance policy that pays them a benefit upon your death.

Example #4: The way the economy is these days, it takes 2 breadwinners to
keep the bills paid and food on the table.

Break (It) Up

To understand this idiom, visualize a very common scene from a movie.
Two men are struggling in a fight and a policeman comes along. He
says, OK, now, let's break it up. The two men stop fighting and the
policeman continues on his walk. The meaning of to break it up is to
stop an altercation, either physical or not.

Example #1: When I saw what was happening in the street, I yelled out,
Break it up or I'll call 911.

Example #2: Johnny and Jimmy started fighting about who was going
to play with the toy, and I told them to break it up.

Example #3: Sometimes trying to break a fight up gets you involved,
and the results can be unpleasant.

Example #4: I've been listening to the two of you arguing all night it's
time to break it up or go home!

Break A Sweat

Perspiration is the natural result of hard work or physical exercise. If you
break a sweat, then you perspire. The idiom to break a sweat can be used
when speaking of actual perspiration, or about hard mental work or effort
in other ways. It is most often used in a negative form.

Example #1: It was so cold in the gym today that I didn't even break a
sweat like I usually do.

Example #2: I envy him because no matter how hard he works on
something, he never seems to break a sweat.

Example #3: Don't break a sweat on this project it's really not worth the

Example #4: If you never put in some effort and break a sweat, you'll
never accomplish anything in life.

Break Even

The idiom to break even means to not make a profit and to not suffer a
loss, but to be at the same place you started. It is usually used to talk
about money, but can be used for other situations too.

Example #1: Well, I guess we broke even on this divorce I have the
house and she has the vacation property.

Example #2: If the company breaks even after selling all of these
widgets, then it will be a lucky thing they were expensive to produce.

Example #3: Our English club had a baked goods sale, but after
paying expenses we only broke even.

Example #4: It's difficult for a restaurant owner to break even these
days with the cost of food being so high.

Break The Ice

The idiom to break the ice means to start a conversation, begin a relationship, or
make an uncomfortable silence end with something small or unimportant. To
break the ice is necessary to get to the water or to the fish, and it sometimes
requires a little effort, sometimes a lot.

Example #1: I know you are reluctant to speak to him, but try breaking the
ice by asking about his children he likes to talk about them.

Example #2: She finally broke the ice at the party by playing some dance music
and getting everyone on their feet.

Example #3: How can we break the ice with the new neighbors if they won't
even say hello to us?

Example #4: Sometimes to break the ice between two stubborn people you
have to continue trying, even when it seems that it will never happen.

Bring Home The Bacon

The idiom to bring home the bacon is very similar to being the breadwinner, and it
means to provide for the household. The difference is that the one who brings home
the bacon is usually the one who makes more money in the house than someone else,
so an element of competition is implied.

Example #1: I bring home the bacon around here, so I get to set some basic rules and
boundaries of behavior.

Example #2: She brought home the bacon for 5 years while he attended graduate
school now it's his turn to work.

Example #3: I agreed to bring home the bacon, while my wife wanted to stay at
home and raise our 3 children she had the more difficult job, I think.

Example #4: Both of them were working, but he made twice as much as she did
since he brought home the bacon, he decided which new car they would buy.

Bring Something Up

If you bring something up you mention it in conversation, or ask for it to be considered
as a topic of discussion. The idiom is based on the idea of raising something from a
place where it is not noticed into the light and thus the perception of everyone.

Example #1: I hate to bring this up, but you still owe me some money and I need it
really badly right now.

Example #2: John brought up the subject of an office-wide raise in pay at the meeting,
and his boss was very angry with him.

Example #3: Here's a good rule to follow whenever possible: if you don't want to talk
about something, then don't bring it up.

Example #4: At the city council meeting tonight, we plan to bring up the problem of
paying for a new water system.

Budget Crunch

The meaning of the idiom budget crunch is a lack of funds, or a situation in
which available money is less than expected. The idiom is related to the
expression to crunch the numbers, which means to calculate an outcome.

Example #1: The federal government faced a budget crunch at the end of
the year, and it was called a fiscal cliff.

Example #2: Sorry to tell everyone, but the English club is in a real
tight budget crunch this year, and we can't have a party after all.

Example #3: If the company follows John's advice, we could avoid a budget
crunch next quarter and perhaps even make a profit.

Example #4: I told my son that we had a budget crunch and couldn't buy a
new car right now, no matter how much he wanted one.

Burns Me Up Inside

If something or someone burns you up inside, then it makes you feel angry, agitated,
and anxious. The idiom uses the physical phenomenon of a fire to describe a feeling
that can't be seen, and compares the feeling to being consumed as in a fire.

Example #1: John said his boss really burns him up inside sometimes he goes home
from work and he is so mad he can't eat or sleep.

Example #2: This situation just burns me up inside, because there's no possible way to
stop the government from shutting down our clinic.

Example #3: When the referee made that call in the football game, it burned me up
inside I knew my son had not done anything to deserve such a penalty.

Example #4: It burns her up inside to know that her child is in the custody of the state,
and she is helpless to intervene.

By Heart

The idiom by heart means simply from memory. It also
implies no hesitation or difficulty in retrieving something
from the memory, sometimes under possibly difficult
circumstances. Before modern times, the heart was thought to
be the seat of memory and cogitation in humans.

Example #1: I knew the lyrics to all the songs by heart, so I
won the contest easily.

Example #2: Because she had learned the names of all the
veterans on the monument by heart, she was chosen to lead
the ceremony and recite the list.

Example #3: We were familiar with the trail from having
hiked it in the past so many times, and we were confident we
knew it by heart.

Example #4: The orchestra members decided to learn the
piece by heart so they could perform it without turning pages
of music.

Calculated Risk

The idiom a calculated risk means that the probability of certain
outcomes in a situation has been computed, and it is worth the risk
involved. It implies a gamble within limits that have been foreseen, or at
least considered beforehand.

Example #1: It was definitely a calculated risk, but from experience I
knew I could make the wilderness journey without encountering a bear.

Example #2: Putting all our savings in the fund was a calculated risk,
but it paid off very well for us in the end.

Example #3: When you have to make split-second decisions, you
take calculated risks that's what a pilot does every day.

Example #4: If you never take a calculated risk, then you'll never
experience the thrill of taking a chance that is worth taking and winning.

Call It A Day

The idiom to call it a day is a verb phrase that means to bring
something to an end, to finish something. It is usually related to an
occupational activity, but not always.

Example #1: We have laid the foundation, and half of the walls are
done on the garage we're building let's call it a day and finish it

Example #2: The boss told John to call it a day and go home, because
he had been working for over 12 hours on the new ad campaign.

Example #3: After lying on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and
enjoying a picnic in the dunes, the family decided to call it a day.

Example #4: Listen everyone we'll call it a day in about an hour
when the sun goes down, because we can't keep working in the dark.

Call It Quits
This idiom means to stop doing something, to end a process, to be
finished. The expectation is that the declaration of the end is
permanent, at least until a new start can be made. It sometimes has a
connotation of regret about what happened, and resignation to an
unfortunate situation.

Example #1: I desperately wanted to work on our marriage, but she
was convinced that we should call it quits, so we divorced.

Example #2: If you want to call it quits for today, then I'll concede
this tennis game to you.

Example #3: John always wants to call it quits before it's officially
time to leave work, which the boss is always watching for.

Example #4: Sheila called it quits on our friendship, because she felt
that I had betrayed her trust.

Call Off

The meaning of to call off an event is to cancel it. The idiom usually refers to a public
happening, and usually includes the reason for the cancellation. Another meaning of
the idiom is to cancel a command to an animal.

Example #1: We practiced every day after school for weeks, and then the last
football game was called off due to bad weather.

Example #2: The Smiths are going to call off the party this weekend they are both
sick in bed with the flu.

Example #3: The security guard is trained to command his dog to attack an intruder,
and he knows how to call off the dog if needed.

Example #4: The general decided to call off the attack after the enemy surrendered.
Call the Shots

The idiom to call the shots means to be in charge, to be in control, and to make the final
decisions. The origin of the expression is probably from the game of pool or billiards,
where a player has to announce which ball will be hit and where it will go.

Example #1: In our marriage, my wife always seems to call the shots, even though we
discuss all decisions first.

Example #2: He has always wanted to be the one who called the shots, and now he is
he was just promoted to CEO of the company.

Example #3: If you want to call the shots, you have to learn to take responsibility for the

Example #4: Calling the shots in any organization isn't easy, but some people are natural

Captain Of Industry

The idiom a captain of industry means a person in a position of power, a successful and well-
known person. It originates in the early industrial economic history of the US, when
Carnegies and Rockefellers developed the west and became rich in the process they were
known as captains of industry.

Example #1: If John's boss was the captain of industry he believes himself to be, then the
company would not be going under.

Example #2: Being a captain of industry these days is holding yourself up for public
scrutiny, no matter how wealthy and powerful you might be.

Example #3: I love to read about American history, especially the expansion of the western
states and the rise of the railroads those captains of industry were like heroes at the time.

Example #4: There are so many regulations and laws in the world of business today, that it's
very hard to succeed in the way that the captains of industry did.

Carry The Day

The idiom to carry the day means to be triumphantly successful, to have
achieved important goals. The expression originates in warfare, when
battles were tallied daily to assess progress and decide which side was

Example #1: Our team was finally able to carry the day and win the
game, but at the beginning it looked like we were going to lose.

Example #2: Our company was very near bankruptcy, but the new line
of computers carried the day and got us through.

Example #3: I have confidence that our country will carry the day in
this energy crisis, because we have good motives and the resources
needed to be successful.

Example #4: Don't forget that to carry the day does not mean that the
war has been won there are many battles still ahead.

Carry Through

If you continue with a previously discussed or decided on action, you have
decided to carry through with it. You may have hesitated about the action or
behavior, but you have now made a decision that you will continue to do
what you had previously considered. The idiom implies determination and a
sense of decisiveness.

Example #1: After thinking about it, he decided to carry through with his
plan, even if he still had doubts.

Example #2: Will the new president carry through the old regime's budget
choices for supporting the country's infrastructure?

Example #3: My plan to ask Linda to marry me was carried through on the
first anniversary of our meeting and she said yes.

Example #4: My son is unable to carry through on his promises to do his
homework before TV.

Catch Some Rays
To catch some rays is a casual, almost slang expression that means to
get a sun tan by exposing the body to sunlight. It can be a passive
activity like lying on a blanket, or more active such as riding in a boat
or skiing.

Example #1: Since the weather got warmer, we all decided to go to the
beach and catch some rays.

Example #2: Would you like to go out in my boat and go for a swim,
maybe catch some rays?

Example #3: If you want to catch some rays safely, be sure to apply
plenty of sunscreen.

Example #4: We caught some rays at the beach, then we headed for
our favorite seaside restaurant.

Catch You Later

The idiom catch you later has two related meanings. One is identical to
the expression see you later, but even more informal. The other meaning
is to pay what is owed later, after incurring the expense, and the promised
time is not specified.

Example #1: John and I went out to lunch and I paid for it. When we left
he told me he would catch me later on his half of the lunch bill.

Example #2: I'm leaving for the movie now, so I'll catch you later, OK?

Example #3: Thanks for buying the tickets but I'll have to catch you
later because I'm out of cash.

Example #4: My teenager told me he would catch me later at the
basketball game, but he never arrived.

Change One's Tune

The idiom to change one's tune means to have a different opinion or
attitude than in the past. A tune is a song or piece of music, and to
change it is what a musician does quite often.

Example #1: Right now she doesn't want him as a doubles partner,
but she will change her tune about him once she sees how well he can
play tennis.

Example #2: The boss has changed his tune when it comes to John,
because he now appreciates his value to the company.

Example #3: I predict that he will change his tune when he sees the
profits he'll switch investment brokers.

Example #4: Bob changed his tune about the football team after they
won the Superbowl, and he won a lot of money.

Check Out

To examine, to look at, to consider something or someone in a
thoughtful way is to check it out. The idiom can be used in a casual
way, or it can carry a more serious meaning depending on the
circumstances. (Note that to check out can mean to die, in the slang

Example #1: If you're not busy, we should check out the new cars at
the auto show downtown.

Example #2: John, please check this report out I think there are some
serious errors in the forecast section.

Example #3: He always goes to the mall so he can check out the girls.

Example #4: You say you pulled a muscle when you were exercising?
You really should have it checked out by a doctor.

Chip In

The idiom to chip in means to make a contribution, to participate monetarily.
The expression comes from gambling with playing cards, where plastic discs
called chips are used instead of money. To get in the game you must place a
bet with chips, in which case you have chipped in.

Example #1: All four of us went out for dinner last night, and instead
of chipping in, John and Sheila let us pay the bill.

Example #2: I had to chip in for the big gift that everyone at the office
bought for the boss, even though I didn't want to be a part of the whole

Example #3: We can all chip in on a time-shared beach bungalow for our
annual vacation this year it'll be great to be together in the warm weather.

Example #4: She asked me to chip in for the food and drinks, even though I
only had water and some dessert.

Chow Down

The idiom to chow down means that someone or something is eating a large
amount of food it can be used with people or with animals. The origin of
the idiom is from the military, where food was called chow after soldiers
heard about Asian dishes using that word. It is used only in a very informal

Example #1: Dinner is ready and on the table so let's chow down.

Example #2: Did you see how that dog was chowing down? He must not
have eaten for days.

Example #3: If we chow down fast, we can make it to the movie on time.

Example #4: I love going to Chinese buffet restaurants, because I can feel
free to chow down as much as I want.

Close Out

If a store advertises a close out sale on an item, it means that the item
will not be available in the future. At least, that is what they say it's
often used as a sales strategy to get people to buy more later. The
idiom can mean to stop other processes in addition to sales of

Example #1: We'll have to close out the business checking account,
since we don't use it anymore.

Example #2: The big department store had a close out sale on the
computer we bought, but the next month they had more in the store.

Example #3: Let's close out the operation in Saudi Arabia, so we can
concentrate on the Hong Kong office, agreed?

Example #4: John wanted to close out the entire ad campaign
because it was such a failure, but his boss said to run it a while longer.

Close The Books

The idiom to close the books comes from accounting and bookkeeping, where the
books are the financial records for a business or organization. To close the books is to
stop doing such record keeping, and to finish something in general.

Example #1: I think we can close the books on this project and move forward, since
it has been a huge success.

Example #2: Sheila decided to close the books on her company and retire so she
would have more time to spend with her family.

Example #3: Now that our daughter is out of college, we can close the books on that
part of our life and get ready for the next stage.

Example #4: John's boss told him to close the books on the Smith campaign, even
though he wasn't quite ready.

Cold Call

The idiom cold call refers to the act of soliciting of a sale of an item or a service,
or participation in something, without knowing the person being contacted. It
means that as a salesperson you are talking to someone without any idea if that
person is interested or not. The phrase can be used in similar situations as well.

Example #1: When I sold encyclopedias, I loved making cold calls because it was
a challenge to make a sale to someone I didn't know.

Example #2: If any salesman stops by the office and makes a cold call, just tell
him that he needs an appointment to talk to me.

Example #3: Do you have a list of interested people to contact to sell this new
product, or will you be cold calling?

Example #4: After several years of cold calls and walking neighborhoods
knocking on doors to sell our products, I was ready to work at a desk.

Company Man

To be a company man is to be loyal, committed, and dedicated to an organization
at the expense of everything else family, friends, and sometimes ethics. As an
idiom, it comes from the development of unions in the US, when the workers
struggled against management for higher wages.

Example #1: In modern times, being a company man means that you work more
than 40 hours a week and you don't tell the competition any secrets.

Example #2: I was a company man for many years, even when our products were
below the high standards set by the founders.

Example #3: He wanted to be a company man, but his father had been a union
worker and he couldn't participate in the company's shady labor practices.

Example #4: I'm really not a company man I like to leave work early
sometimes, and I don't always take just a half hour for lunch.

Cool Off

The meaning of the idiom to cool off means to calm oneself from a condition of
being upset or angry. Anger is perceived in many expressions as being hot or
heated, and the opposite is naturally used to talk about anger management. When
talking about actual heat, the phrase means to literally get cooler.

Example #1: The coach told my son to sit on the bench and cool off after he got
into an argument with the basketball referee.

Example #2: She said that she didn't want to cool off, that she liked being mad at
him for cheating on her.

Example #3: John's boss advised him to take a break and cool off he was
getting very angry in the company meeting.

Example #4: Don't tell me to cool off I have every reason possible to be angry
at her and I want an apology.

Cost An Arm And A Leg

The meaning of the idiom to cost an arm and a leg is that a purchased item or anything
gained is very costly and expensive. It's an innocent expression with a gruesome origin
punishment for crimes in ancient times sometimes meant losing a member, so it was costly

Example #1: I hope we have time to enjoy our new barbecue grill this summer, because
it cost me an arm and a leg even on sale.

Example #2: I finally got the promotion I had been wanting for a long time, but it cost me
an arm and a leg I had to sign a contract and make a commitment.

Example #3: Just getting a car repaired shouldn't cost an arm and a leg, but it often does
due to unscrupulous mechanics.

Example #4: If this house is going to cost us an arm and a leg, it's not worth it we are
better off financially to keep paying rent.
Couch Potato

The descriptive idiom couch potato means a person who sits indoors and watches
television or plays video games, eats bad food, and doesn't exercise. The origins of the
phrase are foggy, but it unfortunately applies to more people today than in the past.

Example #1: My son is the opposite of a couch potato he jogs, works out, eats healthy,
and even takes his vitamins.

Example #2: A couch potato used to be someone who watched television all day - but
these days it can also refer to a video game player or an Internet addict.

Example #3: The sad truth is that our population of couch potatoes is getting younger and
younger, and also more and more unhealthy.

Example #4: OK, it's time to stop being such a couch potato let's go for a walk and get
some fresh air.

Crystal Clear

If you make something clear, you explain and clarify with examples until it is
completely understood. The idiom crystal clear means to raise the clarity to a high
standard - similar to a clear piece of mineral like a diamond or other transparent

Example #1: The politician liked to say he was making everything crystal clear, even
while he was being confusing and hiding the truth.

Example #2: I hope the new rules and regulations are crystal clear to you if you
don't understand, please ask me for help.

Example #3: She definitely made it crystal clear that she did not want to date me
anymore she changed her phone number and moved to a different apartment.

Example #4: It's crystal clear to me now I should have gone to graduate school and
worked in academia rather than in the business world.

Cut Back

The idiom to cut back means to reduce the amount of or lower the
frequency of. It is part of a family of expressions in English using the
word cut with other words to produce shades of meaning.
However, cut back is identical to cut down.

Example #1: After smoking 2 packs a day for 10 years, I decided
to cut back to a half pack, and I feel much better already.

Example #2: The company has already cut back on salaries, vacation
and sick time, and on benefits like health insurance what cost is left
to reduce?

Example #3: With our income going down, we need to cut back on
luxuries in our budget and focus on the necessities.

Example #4: The doctor should have cut back on how much blood
thinner you were taking now your surgery will have to be delayed.

Cut Corners

The idiom to cut corners means to reduce costs in making something or
providing a service, usually so that profits can increase. Normally this is not
perceived as a good thing, except by those who get the profits.

Example #1: We are going to have to cut some corners at the restaurant to cover
the higher food costs, so we are reducing our open hours.

Example #2: Any manufacturer that cuts corners on quality risks losing
customers, so it's not a good idea in the long run.

Example #3: Just look closely at how poorly these bicycles are assembled it's
obvious that the factory is trying to cut corners somehow.

Example #4: In any business, to cut corners you have to lower costs without
sacrificing quality and that's very difficult to do successfully.

Cut It Out

The idiom to cut it out has a simple meaning: stop, cease, quit. It is a
casual expression, not normally used in formal spoken or written
language, and is often used as a direct command or order.

Example #1: Hey, you with the cigarette cut it out! There's no
smoking permitted while you're filling up your tank with gasoline!

Example #2: My son was starting the bad habit of playing video games
all night and not sleeping I told him to cut it out or he'd be grounded.

Example #3: The easiest way to quit smoking is to simply stop cut it
out without hesitation or sue of a substitute.

Example #4: John had been taking longer and longer lunches, and
finally the boss had to ask him to cut it out.

Cut Ones Losses

To cut one's losses means to stop before more is lost whether it's money,
time, or health. Use of the idiom assumes a situation in which negative
things are happening and will only get worse if nothing is done to change.

Example #1: After the new computer models sold poorly, the company
decided to cut its losses and close the factory in China.

Example #2: This car is costing us too much money to maintain, so I think
we should cut our losses and sell it while it is still relatively new.

Example #3: Sometimes the best choice is to cut your losses and start again,
in business or in personal relationships.

Example #4: If we cut our losses now, we might be able to begin a new
campaign in the spring and start making money again.

Dawn On

This idiom comes directly from a natural process the rising of the
sun, known as the dawn. If something dawns on you, you are just
starting to realize, understand, comprehend, or accept something
previously unknown or not comprehended. It implies a gradual
process that will unfold over time, and it is involuntary you can't
control when it happens.

Example #1: It dawned on me that the real problem in this
situation was my behavior, and that I needed to learn better

Example #2: John read the management memo again, and
it dawned on him that he might lose his job.

Example #3: It will dawn on you some day when you least expect
it, that Sarah really loved you.

Example #4: The seriousness of the accident gradually dawned
on her as she regained consciousness in the hospital.

Day And Night

The idiom day and night means in a consistent and continual way, and is normally
used in conjunction with work, effort, practice, and similar concepts. It is a good
example of an exaggeration idiom, which sounds like it should mean 24 hours a day,
but actually means something a little less.

Example #1: He worked day and night on that proposal until it was perfect, and the
boss loved it.

Example #2: By practicing day and night on the song list for the concert, he was
ready to put on a great performance.

Example #3: If I write day and night, I can make the deadline for my dissertation
but I have to have a life too.

Example #4: I don't want to waste my time worrying day and night about getting to
work on time, so I really need a reliable car.

Dead As A Doornail
This colorful idiom is another example of the use of exaggeration in English
idioms. A doornail is simply a nail used in building construction, and it is
certainly not alive, and it has never been alive. So if something is as dead as
a doornail, there is no doubt whatsoever that it is dead, and completely so.
The idiom is not normally used with humans, unless it is in a humorous or
sarcastic way.

Example #1: When I got out of the car to look at the deer I had collided
with, I knew that it was beyond help it was as dead as a doornail.

Example #2: That dog is as dead as a doornail, so there's no need to call the
veterinarian now.

Example #3: My car would not start this morning the battery was as dead
as a doornail.

Example #4: The policeman thought that the gangster was as dead as a
doornail, but he was only pretending.

Dead End

The idiom dead end has a literal meaning and a figurative one. If you are driving and
you come to the end of a road with no way to go but reverse, then you have reached
a dead end. If you are trying to come to an agreement and reach a point where nothing
is progressing, then you have also reached a dead end.

Example #1: After driving down the country road for an hour, I finally came to a dead
end and had to go back the way I came.

Example #2: The negotiators are hopeful that their discussions with the terrorists will
not come to a dead end.

Example #3: Our house is at the edge of town on a dead end street, so it's always very
quiet there.

Example #4: My wife and I argued until we hit a dead end, then we realized that we
had to let the whole matter go and forget about it.

Dead Set

The idiom dead set means decidedly, adamantly, completely, and
unquestionably. It can be used with the word against to mean in opposition to
something or someone, or with the word on to mean supportive or positive.

Example #1: John is dead set against ever returning to that restaurant, after
the waiter spilled hot coffee on him today.

Example #2: Our son is dead set on joining the army, and I'm afraid there is
no way to change his mind.

Example #3: When he decides he's dead set on doing something, than you
may as well stop trying to talk him out of it.

Example #4: My mother is dead set against alcohol consumption of any kind,
after my father died of cirrhosis of the liver.

Dead Tired

If you are dead tired then you are so exhausted that to an outside
observer you might actually look dead. More importantly, you feel the
tiredness on the inside, and recognize your need for sleep and rest.

Example #1: We were all dead tired by the time we had returned home,
so we went to bed early and got some much needed rest.

Example #2: I think you should take the rest of the day off, because you
really look dead tired.

Example #3: When you are dead tired, you have the strangest feeling
that you are walking around asleep but functioning like a machine.

Example #4: Afterward, I blamed the accident on the fact that I had
been driving for 12 hours and I was dead tired behind the wheel.

Dead to the World

The idiom dead to the world is descriptive of someone or an animal
that is completely and definitely asleep. It actually is based on the old
idea that sleep is a form of dying, but not as permanent. When a person
is so asleep that it is difficult to awaken him or her, then that person
almost seems to have died.

Example #1: I was finally ready to take our dog for a walk, but she
was lying on the floor by the fireplace, dead to the world.

Example #2: She had been awake for almost 24 hours and when she
fell asleep, she was dead to the world, even when the telephone rang.

Example #3: I envy anyone who can sleep like she's dead to the
world I am a light sleeper and the smallest sound wakes me up.

Example #4: While appearing dead to the world, the opossum is
completely aware of its surroundings and can react very quickly.

Deal With

The idiom deal with means to have involvement in, to be a part of in
some way, to take care of. The word deal in this idiom has a similar
meaning to the word in make a deal, which means an agreement to
participate in an exchange.

Example #1: I really hate having to deal with used car salesmen, so I try
to buy from private sellers.

Example #2: I am so busy these days that I don't seem to be able to deal
with the slightest problem without getting stressed.

Example #3: John didn't want to deal with his boss today, so he left
work early.

Example #4: We can deal with this matter later, after the police arrive.

Decked Out

The idiom decked out (from to deck out) means to be ornamented or
decorated in a special way. Its origin is in maritime history, when a ship
(the top surface is called the deck) was adorned in finery and color on its
maiden voyage for public display.

Example #1: Our children were decked out for Halloween as a fairy, a
princess, and a witch.

Example #2: John's bass asked him to make sure that the office
was decked out in a big way for Christmas this year.

Example #3: She came to the party all decked out in fancy clothes, but it
was a casual event and she was embarrassed.

Example #4: You can either deck out your new motorcycle or leave it
stock it looks great either way.

Dig Up Dirt

The idiom to dig up dirt means to find and make public secret, private
and possibly embarrassing facts and details about someone in order to
damage or discredit him or her. It is often done in the political world,
but also in personal relationships.

Example #1: The journalist didn't have to work very hard to dig up
dirt on the dictator it was easily gotten from everyone in the country.

Example #2: The senator realized that his enemies would try to dig up
some dirt from his past, but he wasn't worried he had nothing to hide.

Example #3: Liz was jealous of Ellen's new boyfriend Bill, so she dug
up dirt on him and told Ellen. Now Liz and Bill are together.

Example #4: There simply is no way to dig up dirt on this guy he's
apparently a saint and has never done a bad thing in his life.

Dirt Cheap

The meaning of dirt cheap is almost free, at an extremely low cost. The
idiom can be traced to the idea that soil and earth (dirt) cost nothing. In
fact, nowadays we sell soil for gardens and landscaping, and land for
farming has always been expensive.

Example #1: They were able to buy the new car dirt cheap it cost
them less than their old one had cost.

Example #2: This price on a washer and dryer is dirt cheap how can
the store sell them at such a low cost and still make money?

Example #3: I can get the tickets for the concert dirt cheap, because I
know the promoter and he will give me a good price.

Example #4: If you buy something dirt cheap, you just might get what
you pay for that's what my Dad always said.

Do The Trick

The idiom to do the trick means to be successful, to be the right thing in a
certain situation. A trick is what a magician or performer does, so to
accomplish it is to have been a success.

Example #1: The doctor said that this medicine should do the trick and
make you feel better it's the latest thing for the flu.

Example #2: I really hope that this new job does the trick and keeps us
out of bankruptcy, because I will be earning a lot more money.

Example #3: The exercises you gave me for my sore back did the trick
today I feel like a new man.

Example #4: After trying many different passwords, I finally found one
that did the trick and gave me access to the new web site.

Don't Hold Your Breath

The idiom don't hold your breath means not to anticipate or think
something will happen, because it's not probable or likely. It is based
on a common human behavior we stop breathing for a few seconds
when we are expecting an outcome of some kind, especially when we
are excited or afraid.

Example #1: I know we need to buy a new car, but don't hold your
breath we can't afford one until after the new year.

Example #2: Here's some advice don't hold your breath until the
house sells. It's not a good time for real estate sellers right now.

Example #3: I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you your chances
of winning the lottery are extremely low.

Example #4: It was a good thing we didn't hold our breath waiting for
our team to win they lost the game without making a touchdown.

Don't Let It Get Down

If something gets you down, then it makes you feel sad, depressed, and in a
bad mood. The idiom don't let it get you down means that you shouldn't let that
happen in a particular circumstance.

Example #1: Don't let it get you down it always rains here during the winter,
but the spring is wonderful.

Example #2: Here's some advice: I know it's frustrating that you can't sell your
house, but don't let it get you down because a buyer could come along any day.

Example #3: I wouldn't let it get me down if I were you the real estate
market is notorious for changing overnight.

Example #4: I told her not to let it get her down, that her son would be just
fine in the army.

Double Check

If you check something, you look to see what the current status is. The
meaning of double check is therefore to do this more than once for safety,
security, or assurance. It comes from the fact that a check list is commonly
used in many processes, and to indicate that something has been done, it is

Example #1: Be sure to double check the date on all of your prescriptions
some medicines can go out of date very quickly.

Example #2: Can you double check our account balance? That doesn't seem
right to me.

Example #3: Here at Old Kitchen Burgers, we double check every order
before you take it home so that your experience with us is always good.

Example #4: John's boss ordered him to stay late to double check the numbers
he used for the report apparently something didn't add up right.

Down In The Dumps

If someone is down in the dumps (or just in the dumps) then that person is
depressed, sad, and in a bad mood. The meaning of the idiom is clear, but the
origin is not it might be related to German or Dutch words meaning foggy or
dull, but it has nothing to do with a garbage dump.

Example #1: She was so down in the dumps after her boyfriend broke up with
her that we decided to cheer her up with a party.

Example #2: I don't know why, but I am down in the dumps today maybe it's
this gray, cold, wet weather we're having that depresses me.

Example #3: If you ever get down in the dumps, just listen to an oldies radio
station for a while, and you'll be smiling again in no time.

Example #4: Listen, I want you to call me anytime you are feeling down in the
dumps, and I will do my best to make you laugh and forget your troubles.

Down The Drain

When something is down the drain, it is completely gone and cannot be
recovered. A drain in most modern homes is at the bottom of a sink,
and if something is lost in the drain it usually can't be retrieved.

Example #1: After she saw her ex-boyfriend with another woman, her
mood went right down the drain and we couldn't cheer her up.

Example #2: Our entire life savings went down the drain when the
investment fraud was discovered, and I don't think we'll get our money

Example #3: I hate to see money go down the drain, so I advised him
not to buy that used car it had too many problems

Example #4: Listen, I want you to call me anytime you are
feeling down in the drain, and I will do my best to make you laugh and
forget your troubles.

Drop It

If a policeman tells the criminal to drop it, he's talking about a gun, and
he wants the criminal to release it and let it fall to the ground. The
idiom drop it simply means stop talking, do not continue the

Example #1: She insisted on talking about my problems, and I finally
asked her to drop it because I didn't want to talk about myself.

Example #2: This conversation is going nowhere, so why don't we
just drop it and try again another day?

Example #3: We tried to talk to our son about his problems in school,
but he got angry and told us to drop it he wasn't feeling like
discussing it.

Example #4: You'll never find out what really happened by bothering
him all the time you should probably drop it for now.

Eagle Eye

If a person has an eagle eye, he or she has 20/20 vision, which means
superb visual acuity, and is able to notice things that others might not
see. The idiom comes from the idea that an eagle can see something
very small from a long distance away, so to be able to see as well as
an eagle is very well indeed.

Example #1: I swear my father has an eagle eye he noticed the
tiny dent on the rear fender as soon as I pulled into the garage.

Example #2: Why don't you go over the house plans with your eagle
eye and see if we have made any errors or missed anything

Example #3: Most famous detectives have an eagle eye they can
spot details and notice things that no one else can.

Ear To The Ground

Have you ever seen a cowboy movie in which the character seems to
listen to the earth? He has his ear to the ground to hear approaching
horses. Keeping an ear to the ground means that you are focusing your
attention, watching carefully, and staying aware of what is happening
in the world around you so that you are not surprised.

Example #1: Please keep your ear to the ground about this investment.

Example #2: If I had kept my ear to the ground, I might have noticed
that she was acting differently.

Example #3: She had her ear to the ground and got the best price on
that new house.

Example #4: The candidate planned to keep her ear to the ground and
change her election strategy if needed.

Ease Off

The meaning of the idiom to ease off is to lower, to reduce, to diminish
something that is judged to be excessive in some way, or already
sufficient. It is commonly used in an informal way, and has a
connotation of annoyance or exaggeration.

Example #1: The coach decided to ease off on the team after everyone
complained about the long practices.

Example #2: I really think you should ease off on the strict discipline
a teenager has to have some fun, after all.

Example #3: John's boss thought it might be a good idea to ease off on
his workload he was looking tired and unhealthy.

Example #4: You should ease off on the buffets it looks like you're
gaining too much weight.

Easy Come, Easy Go

To say something is easy come, easy go essentially says that it is not
important or serious, that it can be ignored as trivial. If it is used to refer
to a way of life then it is talking about a general attitude towards life that
is casual and playful. It can be used as an expression on its own.

Example #1: When I lived in the Caribbean, everyone accepted life
as easy come, easy go, so everyone was happy.

Example #2: Since George grew up in a wealthy family, money was
always easy come, easy go for him.

Example #3: Don't worry about the car - we can always buy another
one. Easy come, easy go.

Example #4: If you look for love in a singles bar, then you have to
accept that romance is easy come and easy go.

Easy Grader

If you find yourself in a class with an easy grader, it might be a good
thing, or it might be a bad thing. The idiom means a teacher or evaluator
who tends to give students better grades than they earn or deserve.

Example #1: Miss Smith was an easy grader in English, but I realized
later that I didn't learn very much in her class.

Example #2: Physics was a very difficult course and I was happy to
have a professor who was an easy grader, since I needed to keep up my

Example #3: I took my driver's license exam and I was lucky to have
an easy grader he passed me even though I made some mistakes.

Example #4: Having an easy grader in a foundation course can be
harmful, because later on you never feel at the same level as other

Easy Target

To be an easy target is to stand out for some reason, to be gullible or easily
fooled, or to be the goal of someone's plans. It is most commonly used in
the negative sense, but not always.

Example #1: I was an easy target for John's affections because I so much
wanted to be in a relationship, but I'm glad it happened.

Example #2: My grandmother was, unfortunately, an easy target for the
con artists she lost her life savings to the thieves.

Example #3: If you act like a tourist in this city you are an easy target for
muggers and pickpockets, so be careful.

Example #4: My son was apparently an easy target for the army recruiter,
because he changed his mind quickly and decided to become a soldier
instead of a teacher.


The meaning of this idiom is to be calm, relaxed, not nervous, and not easily
made angry or anxious. It is generally used to describe people, but can also
be used for animals, especially domesticated ones.

Example #1: That old gray mare was the most easy-going horse I have ever
seen she would let children ride her with no problems.

Example #2: John seems to be very easy-going now that he has a job that he

Example #3: Everyone thinks that I am this easy-going, relaxed guy who
never gets angry and never raises his voice I must be a good actor.

Example #4: If you'll just try to be a little more easy-going, then I'm sure
my children will like you.

Eat Away At

The idiom to eat away at describes a natural thing that happens when
something decomposes or deteriorates. If something a thought, a feeling,
a piece of information, a dream - eats away at you, then it constantly and
consistently worries you, bothers you, and makes you anxious. The idiom
can also be used to describe how something rots or gets destroyed.

Example #1: The dream I had about her just kept eating away at me, until I
finally felt that I had to call her.

Example #2: After he was fired for incompetence, it ate away at him for a
long time.

Example #3: The termites ate away at the foundation of the house until it
was totally destroyed.

Example #4: Normally I can solve a calculus problem quickly, but this
one eats away at me I just can't figure it out.

Eat Like A Bird

If a person eats like a bird eats, he or she does not eat very much. The
idiom refers to the amount of food being ingested, not the way it is eaten.
For contrast, see the idioms eat like a horse or eat like a pig.

Example #1: She has always eaten like a bird, but lately I've noticed that
she seems to be getting even thinner.

Example #2: If you continue to eat like a bird, there's no possibility that
you can make it through tryouts for the football team.

Example #3: We have a habit of eating like birds for breakfast and lunch,
and then eating like horses we enjoy a big dinner.

Example #4: He always eats like a bird, and his mother is constantly
trying to fatten him up somehow.

Eat Like a Horse/Pig

This idiom has a very clear meaning: if a person eats like a horse or a
pig, he or she eats a lot of food at once. The only difference between
the 2 idioms is that to eat like a pig can also mean to be a messy,
sloppy eater. It can be an insulting thing to say to someone or about
someone, so be careful.

Example #1: On our first date and last date, I noticed that Henry ate
like a pig there was food all over the table.

Example #2: When I am really hungry, I can eat like a horse.

Example #3: At the free buffet we all ate like pigs, and we weren't
hungry again until the next day.

Example #4: The football player always ate like a horse the day
before a big game so that he had plenty of energy.

Eat One's Words

The idiom to eat one's words means to admit that you are or were
mistaken, especially after a strong or public expression of opinion. The
meaning is based on the idea that your words come back to you, and you
allow them to be taken back.

Example #1: I told everyone to invest in that company, and now it's
bankrupt I'll have to eat my words.

Example #2: She hates to admit that she's wrong, but she'll eat her
words this time because her prediction didn't come true.

Example #3: If the bus isn't here in 5 minutes, I'll eat my words.

Example #4: The senator ate his words in public after the new project
he promised lost its funding.

Eat Out

When a person has a meal at home, eats food made at home, then he or
she is eating in. If you eat out, you have a meal at a restaurant or other
eating establishment.

Example #1: If you live in a rural area or in a small town, you don't
have the option of eating out because there are no restaurants.

Example #2: You can save a lot of money simply by not eating out so
much try to make going out to eat a reward or a special occasion
instead of a habit.

Example #3: When I was a student, I ate out all the time because I had
no place to cook or to store food.

Example #4: Let's eat out tonight I'm in the mood for Chinese, or
Italian, or maybe Mexican, it really doesn't matter to me.

Elbow Room

The idiom elbow room means sufficient space to move, live and
work freely. If you have ever done physical labor in close proximity
to someone, you know how important space can be you have to be
able to move your arms and elbows without hurting another worker.

Example #1: We finally decided to move to the suburbs with our
family of four so we could all have some elbow room our city
apartment was too small.

Example #2: Out in the western states in the US there aren't too
many people, so a person can find some elbow room easily.

Example #3: They are adding on to the house this summer before
the new baby is born, because they will need the elbow room.

Example #4: John complained to the boss that he couldn't work in
his cubicle there wasn't enough elbow room.

End of One's Rope

The idiom at the end of one's rope means that a limit has been reached, that
there can be no progress or movement forward, that the end is now here. A
rope is used as a safety device, as well as to execute someone by hanging.
The end of a rope is not a good place to be in either case.

Example #1: After the terrible events of the year and the break up of the
company, John felt hopeless, that he was at the end of his rope.

Example #2: If you are at the end of your rope, I think that getting therapy and
support from professionals is a good idea.

Example #3: Sometimes when you get to the end of your rope, the desperation
is stimulating and helps you solve your problems out of necessity.

Example #4: Sheila is really at the end of her rope she lost her job, her
husband, and her house, and she has no choice but to start over.

Face the Music

To face the music means to accept and admit to what is true and real,
especially if this has not yet happened. It also means to accept the
consequences of an action or behavior, whether those are good or bad.

Example #1: John finally faced the music after being caught embezzling
money from the company he was sentenced to 5 years in jail.

Example #2: I told my wife that we have to face the music and admit
that our daughter is almost 18 now, and she must make her own

Example #3: Sometimes deciding to face the music makes a person feel
free and morally responsible at the same time.

Example #4: Sooner or later, a criminal will have to face the music for
what he has done.

Face to Face

The idiom face to face means a meeting of real people in real life,
in person, and in the same room. Video chats and other modern
technologies do not count, because the point is for all faces to be

Example #1: So far I've only talked to the architect by phone, but
we are planning to meet face to face next week to talk about the
new plans.

Example #2: You can't get a job at this company without
completing a face to face interview.

Example #3: She said she was tired of arguing over the phone,
and asked for a face to face meeting to discuss the problem.

Example #4: The company board of directors is required to
meet face to face at least once each quarter.

Fair Play

The idiom fair play means a moral and ethical approach that balances
both sides. It is usually used with the words a sense of to emphasize
that it is an abstract characteristic, one that can only be seen in actions.

Example #1: She has always had a sense of fair play, which was a good
thing in her job as the woman's basketball coach and physical education

Example #2: If you can make fair play a rule to follow and a personal
goal, then you will never get upset about losing.

Example #3: My boss has a sense of fair play, so he gave us both a little
more time to work on the proposal.

Example #4: Let's try to be examples of fair play for our children and not
get angry at the referee for the little league baseball games.

Fight A Losing Battle

To fight a losing battle means to continue efforts even though failure is
inescapable. The origins of the phrase are in warfare, where a battle must
continue to be fought, sometimes even after it is clear that it will be lost.

Example #1: My wife and I have finally decided that enforcing a curfew
on our teenage son is fighting a losing battle he has to learn to be
responsible on his own.

Example #2: When I was a first year teacher, maintaining discipline
was fighting a losing battle, because the students didn't respect me.

Example #3: We fought a losing battle trying to get the new model in
production, because the company didn't believe in it.

Example #4: If you insist on making this change, you will fight a losing
battle and waste a lot of time and energy.

Figure Out

If you want to figure out something, you want to find a solution to a
problem or a mystery. You also use this idiom to mean to calculate the
answer to a math problem. And another meaning is simply to understand
something or someone, as if you are solving a puzzle.

Example #1: I just can't figure Mary out, because she never says what
she means.

Example #2: John figured out the solution to the math problem on the
blackboard before the instructor did.

Example #3: Sherlock Holmes was usually able to figure out who was
the criminal by noticing small clues.

Example #4: I was having a problem with the bicycle, and I
couldn't figure out what to do about it.

Fill The Bill

This idiom means to meet a person's needs, or to be or do what is
required and necessary. When something or someone fills the bill in a
particular situation, then a solution has been found, and no more effort or
input is needed.

Example #1: The burgundy carpet we had installed in the living
room filled the bill we won't have any more wine stains.

Example #2: Having an assistant really fills the bill for me, because it
frees my time for more important things.

Example #3: If the new nanny fills the bill after a trial period, you can
hire her permanently.

Example #4: I'm sorry John, you just don't fill the bill in this department.
I'm going to transfer you upstairs.

Filthy Rich

The idiom filthy rich means extremely, or at least very wealthy. The
expression is is an emphatic one, and an exaggeration meant to show a
sense of distaste for such wealth. It also demonstrates some envy.

Example #1: Her family was filthy rich, so she never had to worry
about mundane things like having enough money for rent or food.

Example #2: They say that the rich are different, so I would imagine
that the filthy rich are like aliens from another planet.

Example #3: Nobody likes those who are filthy rich by birth, but
everyone respects those who become wealthy by working at it.

Example #4: Do you ever dream about what it would be like to be filthy
rich and never have to work again in your life?

First Out Of The Gate

To be first out of the gate is to be a pioneer, an innovator, and an initiator.
It also means simply to be the first at something, a quick starter. The idiom
comes from the practice racing of horses or dogs, where the animals are
restrained by a gate until the race starts and the gates are opened.

Example #1: If you are first out of the gate with your proposal, it will
probably be approved.

Example #2: Sheila's company was first out of the gate with her product,
and the company captured the market early.

Example #3: John's boss hoped that he would be first out of the gate with
the new television ad campaign, but John wasn't able to get it done in time.

Example #4: Being first out of the gate helps you realize how important it
is to be a winner.

Fix Up

The word fix is used in an idiomatic way in English to mean prepare or
make. This can be confusing because the primary and literal meaning of the
word is, of course, to repair, to make something work, or to solve a problem.
As an idiom it is often, but not always, used with the word up.

Example #1: My grandson came unexpectedly for an overnight visit, so
I fixed up a place on the floor for him to sleep.

Example #2: Would you mind fixing us a drink? I'm exhausted after
shopping all day.

Example #3: I could fix some soup for a quick dinner, in case you're hungry.

Example #4: She was a great cook she fixed us up a casserole last night
that was amazingly tasty.

Flash in the Pan

The idiom flash in the pan comes from the act of panning for gold. If you
see something that looks like gold in the pan, but it was an illusion or a
trick of the light, then it was just a flash in the pan. As an idiom it means
momentary success, status or fame that didn't continue or was very brief.

Example #1: He had one big hit in his short career as a pop star, and now
he is considered a flash in the pan.

Example #2: We had high hopes for the new model of vacuum cleaner
based on consumer anticipation, but it was just a flash in the pan.

Example #3: The blonde actress had her moment of fame on the silver
screen, but like so many other Hollywood stories, she ended up a flash in
the pan.

Example #4: I don't want to be a flash in the pan as a novelist I want to
build a long career and have many bestsellers in my life.

Flip Out

The meaning of this idiom is to be out of control of oneself with
anger, anxiety, or other negative emotions. It is considered to be
very informal and slang-like, and is used only in casual

Example #1: Please don't flip out now, but I really want to start
seeing other people we need to separate for a while.

Example #2: When John lost his job, I was afraid he would flip out,
but he seems to be calmer and more relaxed than ever.

Example #3: My wife flips out whenever I complain about the food
or service at a restaurant she doesn't like confrontation.

Example #4: If you flip out when some stupid thing goes wrong,
how will you be able to handle the real tragedies of life?

Full Of Crap, Full Of Baloney

If someone tells you that you are full of crap, it is an insulting expression
meaning you are ignorant, unintelligent, and/or incorrect. The idiom is
euphemistic, a substitute for an expression using dangerous English. Crap is
another word for human waste, and baloney (a type of cold meat) is a
substitute word for crap, which is a slang word.

Example #1: I think the mechanic is full of crap, because this I just had the
oil changed 2 weeks ago my car doesn't need a new oil filter.

Example #2: I hope you realize that she is full of baloney I never said
anything insulting to her.

Example #3: John secretly thinks that his boss is full of crap, but he doesn't
want to say it and insult him to his face.

Example #4: You know what? You're full of baloney, and I don't think
you've had a thing to eat all day.


If a football player fumbles, he drops the ball and his team loses ground. If the word
fumble is used literally, it means to be clumsy, to drop something or spill
something in an awkward way. As an idiom, it simply means to do something
wrong, incorrectly, mistakenly, or clumsily.

Example #1: When I got the new assignment at work, I really fumbled it and forgot
to call the client for instructions.

Example #2: If you fumble on your first try at online dating, don't worry you can
always do it again.

Example #3: John usually fumbles so much on a project that the boss gives him an
easier job.

Example #4: Fumbling a relationship isn't the end of the world, because we all
make mistakes that we have to learn from in life.

Funny Farm

The idiom funny farm is a euphemism for a psychiatric clinic. These places
are also called mental hospitals, mental institutions, insane asylums, psych
wards, the crazy house, the loony bin, and so on. The idiom is normally used
in a joking way, but is sometimes meant seriously, depending on the context.

Example #1: After this writing project is finished, they're going to have to
send me to the funny farm I feel a little crazy.

Example #2: Sorry to tell you this, but John doesn't work here anymore he
had a nervous breakdown and is in the funny farm.

Example #3: Back in the old days, they called insane asylums funny
farms because funny was another word for odd or crazy.

Example #4: These days everyone is careful to be politically correct in their
language, so don't say funny farm - say rehab instead.

Gaining Ground

The meaning of the idiom to gain ground is to make progress, to accomplish
something, to move forward. The origin of the phrase is in warfare, where an
army wins battles, acquires territory, and literally gains ground (land). It is
also used in games such as football where similar events occur.

Example #1: We have been gaining ground on this construction project, but
we still have a lot of work to do before we can finish it.

Example #2: I feel that I gained some ground with my son yesterday after
we had a good discussion, but then I lost it when we argued about the car.

Example #3: If you think you are gaining ground with me by flirting and
making me uncomfortable, you are very wrong.

Example #4: The hometown team gained ground on the first kick-off, but
they ended up losing it all after that.

Get A Break

The idiom to get a break has several meanings. The most common meaning is to
get a good price on something you are buying in a store or from another person.
Another way it is used is as a way to express frustration about bad luck or events
that happen to you. And it can mean to find a solution to a problem or facts and
evidence that will help to solve a problem

Example #1: The new detective got a break in the murder case when he found
the weapon used.

Example #2: It seems like I just can't get a break my car wouldn't start this
morning, and I lost my job because of it.

Example #3: If you go to the appliance store where Bob works, you'll get a
break on a new refrigerator.

Example #4: I think I can get a break on the price of a used car by looking on
Craig's list.

Get A Fix On

If you get a fix on something, you locate it in an exact and accurate way.
This meaning is used in specific technical situations like locating a lost
airplane or ship or person. In a more general meaning, the idiom means to
have an understanding of or concept about a person or thing.

Example #1: After getting a fix on the hiker's location, we sent out a rescue
team and saved his life.

Example #2: We need to get a fix on the place where the aircraft crashed
before we can plan a rescue mission.

Example #3: John, I can't seem to get a clear fix on you in your new job
do you like it or don't you?

Example #4: She simply couldn't get a fix on organic chemistry, so she
dropped out after the first week of class.

Get A Grip

If a person needs to get a grip on herself or himself, he or she needs to
gain a sense of control, to manage a temper, and to be in charge of
reactions that can become too quick and emotional. If you grip
something, you hold it tightly, so it is under control.

Example #1: You have to get a grip on yourself if you lose your
temper on the job you'll get fired.

Example #2: All he said to me was, get a grip it's not the end of the

Example #3: John's boss told him to get a grip on reality his
performance on the job was getting worse and worse.

Example #4: She will need to get a grip on her anxiety problem, or her
stage fright will end her carer as a concert pianist.

Get A Kick Out Of

To get a kick out of something or someone means to be amused to the
point of laughter and hilarity, to be completely entertained. The idiom
conveys the idea of impact, since a kick is literally a physical impact.

Example #1: I love to go to the movies to see the classic films I
really get a kick out of Charlie Chaplin comedies.

Example #2: We went white water rafting on our last vacation, and the
kids got such a kick out of it, we plan to do it again next year.

Example #3: I always get a kick out of my work friend John he's
always in trouble with the boss for some reason.

Example #4: I guarantee you will get a kick out of cosmic bowling
you just have to try it sometime.

Get a Move On

If someone tells you to get a move on, then you are going too
slowly and you need to increase your speed. This can be used for
physical and non-physical processes, to encourage progress and

Example #1: If you want to finish this exam in time, then you
should get a move on your time is almost over.

Example #2: We had better get a move on so we can see the
beginning of the movie you know how much I hate to be late.

Example #3: Hey soldier get a move on there, we don't have all

Example #4: There's no way the house will be finished before
winter, unless the contractors decide to get a move on.

Get A Rise Out Of Someone

The idiom to get a rise out of someone means to purposefully cause a person to
become angry and agitated, hopefully only temporarily and sometimes as a joke.
The phrase comes from observing animals when they are upset, and the fur stands
up rises on their back.

Example #1: She got a rise out of me when she said I was too short to play
basketball, but after getting mad I saw her smile at me.

Example #2: My son was always trying to get a rise out of me, just to see how
angry he could make me feel.

Example #3: The boss got a rise out of John when he said that his vacation had
been cancelled.

Example #4: Don't even think you'll get a rise out of him he always stays cool
and calm no matter what happens.

Get Across

The idiom to get across means to provide an explanation or to participate in a
communication successfully. It carries an implication of frustration and
annoyance, either with oneself or with another person.

Example #1: I wanted to tell the policeman what I had seen, but with my
English I just couldn't get across.

Example #2: Somehow we have to get across to her that she must seek medical
attention for her injuries.

Example #3: If you can't get across one way, try another communication can
be difficult at times, but explaining your ideas is important.

Example #4: I keep trying to explain why I left her at the party, but I don't seem
to be getting across.

Get Along

The idiom to get along has several meanings. The most common meaning is
to be friendly with, to be courteous and polite with, or to at least to be
tolerant of another person. A secondary meaning that is related is to be
alright, to have enough.

Example #1: After the Los Angeles race riots, Rodney King famously
asked, Can't we all just get along?

Example #2: If you have neighbors, the best practice is to learn who they
are and to make an effort to get along with them you might need them

Example #3: In most areas of the world, Muslims and Christians have
learned how to get along with each other peacefully.

Example #4: I don't make much money, but I get along because my
expenses are so low.

Get Away From It All

The idiom to get away from it all means to take a vacation, to escape
reality, usually temporarily, but sometimes permanently. It is related to
the idiom to get away, which means to escape.

Example #1: I know it's a fantasy, but I dream about getting away from it
all and living on a tropical island for the rest of my life.

Example #2: Don't you think we should get away from it all for a while
after this terrible winter?

Example #3: She finally decided that she had to get away from it all
the stress of the job was causing health problems.

Example #4: If you really want to get away from it all, you'll have to
leave behind your cellphone and your laptop.

Get Off The Ground

The idiom to get off the ground means to start, to initiate, to make good early
progress. It has a connotation of making effort after a waiting period. The
expression is used when an airplane lifts off the runway and leaves the
ground, and this is where the idiom originates.

Example #1: I was beginning to feel that the project would never get off the
ground now I'm almost halfway finished.

Example #2: Let's get off the ground with this garage cleaning job you
sweep the floor, and I'll throw away all of the garbage.

Example #3: Most important inventors were told that their inventions could
never get off the ground including the Wright Brothers.

Example #4: First we have to get off the ground with this investment
process, then we can decide what happens in the future.

Get The Ball Rolling

The idiom to get the ball rolling means to begin and continue. The
origin of the idiom is from games such as bowling, in which a ball or
a puck needs to be put in motion for anything else to happen. (Note
that this is a different expression than to keep the ball rolling.)

Example #1: We need to get the ball rolling on this story right now,
so I'm assigning the reporting job to you, Mary good luck.

Example #2: Let's get the ball rolling by offering a coupon that's only
valid at our new restaurant for the next 30 days.

Example #3: If you don't get the ball rolling on the application soon,
you'll miss the deadline.

Example #4: I got the ball rolling by telling John that it was his turn
to buy lunch now you'll have to ask him where he wants to take us
to eat.

Give One's All

The meaning of the idiom to give one's all is to do everything possible in a certain
situation, to sacrifice personally for something, or to make a heroic effort. It can be a
rhetorical expression, often used in speeches and other special language to describe
heroes and acts of bravery.

Example #1: On Veteran's Day, we have to remember those who died for our
freedom, who gave their all so that we could live.

Example #2: Because a few brave men gave their all for us, we enjoy many
privileges that we would not have gained without them.

Example #3: If you don't plan to give it your all, then you might as well not even
think about trying out for the Olympics next year.

Example #4: John gave his all to the big project, but the boss didn't appreciate his
hard work.

Give Someone The Cold Shoulder

The meaning of the idiom to give someone the cold shoulder is to shun, to
shut out, to ignore, to purposefully refuse to respond, all with an intention of
doing harm. The origin of the expression is as a creation (a coined phrase) of
a writer Sir Walter Scott in the 1800s.

Example #1: I tried to be his friend after the argument, but he gave me the
cold shoulder and we haven't spoken a word to each other since then.

Example #2: If you don't want to talk to John, then you'll have to give him
the cold shoulder or he won't stop trying.

Example #3: I applied for a home loan, but in the interview the bank officer
really gave me the cold shoulder and rejected my application.

Example #4: Giving her the cold shoulder is not a good idea she loves a
challenge and will continue to bother you.

Give Someone The Green Light

The meaning of the idiom to give someone the green light is to grant
permission, or to do something necessary to begin. The expression originates
in the traffic light system where the green light means to proceed through an

Example #1: She winked at me, and I knew that she was giving me the green
light to ask her to marry me.

Example #2: After reading John's proposal for the new advertising campaign,
his boss gave him the green light to get started on it.

Example #3: I waited at the clinic for hours until they finally gave my doctor
the green light to begin a course of treatment for my illness.

Example #4: Giving her the green light in this situation is the same as putting
a loaded gun in her hands you don't know what she might do with this
classified information.

Go Public

The idiom to go public means to purposefully make information public knowledge by
announcing or publishing it. Before modern mass media, newspapers were the only way to
make something public, but all that has changed with the Internet and television.

Example #1: Sheila didn't want to go public with the news that her company was going out
of business, but somehow the media heard about it anyway.

Example #2: Are we actually going public with this story? It could cause the end of the
president's administration if we do.

Example #3: I have to ask a favor of you don't go public about our divorce until I can tell
the children.

Example #4: The Internet has made it possible for private conversations, communications,
and even events to go public in an instant, and the results can be devastating.

Hammer Out

The idiom to hammer out has a simple meaning that comes from a real-world
source. Blacksmiths are craftsmen who work with metal. They make horseshoes,
knives, and other items with a hammer and an anvil. They hammer out the metal
until it is finished. To hammer out an agreement means to create a compromise and
a plan that is suitable for everyone involved in the situation.

Example #1: As a divorce attorney, I help couples to hammer out a legal settlement
that is agreeable to both.

Example #2: The union representatives and the company executives hammered
out a new contract that everyone could accept.

Example #3: You and your office partner have to stop arguing try to hammer
out a compromise.

Example #4: I think I can hammer out an agreement with my roommate about
when to have quiet time.

Hand Down

The idiom to hand down has different meanings that depend on the context. In an
official situation, a government officer or representative hands down a decision
or ruling when it is announced and made public knowledge. In its everyday
meaning, to hand down means that something is being given to an inheritor,
either next of kin or informally.

Example #1: The king finally handed down his decision on the subject all of
the citizens had to pay a tax on beer.

Example #2: The Supreme Court hands down their ruling on the law's
constitutionality this afternoon.

Example #3: Since he couldn't drive it anymore, John decided to hand down his
old sports car to his son, John Jr.

Example #4: Those leather gloves are very old they look like they have
been handed down for several generations.

Hand In

If a person hands in an assignment, a piece of work, an application, or
something similar, he or she submits it to a teacher, a boss, a parent and
so on. The idiom follows from the actual gesture of using the hand to
give something to another person, and is a widely used expression in all
walks of life.

Example #1: I handed in the completed problem set to my calculus
teacher 5 minutes early.

Example #2: Now that my thesis is done, all I have to do is hand it in
what a great feeling!

Example #3: John's boss told him he should hand in his work for the
next campaign before the last possible minute.

Example #4: She went to the Post Office to hand in her passport
application and have her photo taken.

Hand It To

If you hand it to someone, you are assigning credit for some outcome or
event to that person. It usually refers to a positive result, and the credit
given is deserved and the person is worthy of praise. It can, however, be
used sarcastically in a negative sense.

Example #1: I have to hand it to him John was the one who made the
office Christmas party the huge success that it was.

Example #2: Hey everyone, let's hand it to this guy, because he stopped the
store from being robbed.

Example #3: OK, I have to hand it to her she made so many mistakes that
no one will ever be able to repair the damage.

Example #4: I will always hand it to my wife she has been a terrific
mother to our children.

Hang a Left/Right

This idiom is used to give directions on how to go somewhere or how a
journey was done. It simply means to turn left, or turn right. If you visualize a
driver leaning into a turn, you will understand where it comes from.

Example #1: If you hang a right on State Street, you'll be driving down one of
the most famous streets in Chicago.

Example #2: When you leave here, hang a left on Adams and then a right on
Madison, and you'll see the theater.

Example #3: She told me to hang a right at the third stoplight, but she was
mistaken that road took me away from the city.

Example #4: When I hang a right, my car vibrates like it's going to fall apart.

Hang In There

The idiom hang in there is one of those things that people say to each other when
they don't know what else to say. It means to hold on, to keep on trying, to
continue and be strong. It is an exhortation, a command, and a phrase of
encouragement that can be used in many situations.

Example #1: I have been having problems learning my new job, but my boss tells
me to hang in there it will get better.

Example #2: Sometimes it seems like you will never learn English fluently, but if
you hang in there, you'll eventually reach your goal.

Example #3: My wife says that we have to hang in there and continue working to
earn more money, but I'm getting discouraged.

Example #4: The basket ball told the team to hang in there, because they were
close to winning the game.

Hang Out

To hang out is a verbal idiom that means to participate in a gathering, whether
with one other person or more than one. Another meaning is to be a regular at
a certain locale or public place.

Example #1: If you don't mind hanging out with me, I have to go to the mall
this afternoon and I'd like you to come with me.

Example #2: She always hangs out at the dog park on Saturday afternoons.

Example #3: John always hangs out at the pub across the street from work on
his lunch hour, and that's where I found him today.

Example #4: Do you want to go down to the skating rink and hang out? You
might meet some interesting people there

Hard Nut To Crack

The idiom a hard nut to crack describes a person who is difficult to
understand, or a problem that is hard to solve. The origin is from the
actual process of opening a nutshell, which often requires a special tool
or substantial force to accomplish.

Example #1: John is a hard nut to crack, but I finally learned how to
motivate him with food and drink.

Example #2: I really don't know why you have to be such a hard nut to
crack can't you simply be honest and tell me how you feel?

Example #3: This bridge project has been a hard nut to crack, but we
have now been successful in acquiring the land we need to get started on

Example #4: Lately our son has been a hard nut to crack he broke up
with his girlfriend, his grades are getting worse, and he won't talk to us.

Hard Sell

The idiom hard sell refers to a technique or method that salespersons are known for. If you are
looking at cars for sale and the salesman or saleswoman puts pressure on you to buy a certain
car, then he or she is using the hard sell. The method takes advantage of the fear some people
have of confronting or contradicting someone seen as important or authoritative.

Example #1: I had already decided that I would buy a used car, but the salesman put the hard
sell on to get me to buy a new one.

Example #2: I didn't want to argue or disagree with him, so I went along with the hard
sell and came home with something I didn't want a new car.

Example #3: You don't have to waste the hard sell on me I know exactly what I want and
there's no way to change my mind.

Example #4: People who are victims of the hard sell often have buyer's remorse they regret
their decision to buy.

Hard to Swallow

The meaning of the idiom hard to swallow is that a statement or action cannot be
accepted as the truth or as accurate. This comes from the fact that if you are eating
and the food is hard to swallow, you might have to reject it, or you will choke or
injure yourself.

Example #1: Her excuse for getting in late last night was hard for me to swallow,
because I knew where she really was.

Example #2: If John's boss was ever actually polite and civil to him, he would
probably find it hard to swallow.

Example #3: The pilot's story about the UFO sighting was hard to swallow, but he
had no reason to lie.

Example #4: I told my son that his explanation for getting a low grade in English
class was hard to swallow, but I would accept it for now.

Heads Will Roll

The idiom heads will roll is a colorful phrase which means that people will be punished
for doing wrong, whether the wrongdoing was real or perceived. The gruesome origin of
the expression is the practice of execution of criminals by decapitation.

Example #1: I'm afraid that heads will roll for this mistake the company lost millions,
and whoever is responsible will be fired.

Example #2: After the general discovered that the 3rd battalion had failed to win the
battle, he decided that some heads would roll.

Example #3: John tried to tell his boss that it wasn't his fault, but the boss insists
that heads will roll, and the first one will be John's.

Example #4: By the time we realized that the engineering was faulty, it was too late to
save the building. Now heads will roll.

Help One Self

The idiom to help one's self has a couple of different meanings. One is to be free to
take food, drink, or other items as they are offered, without being polite or hesitating.
There is a connotation that after taking what you want or need for yourself, you will
not take more that would be rude.

Example #1: At the free hotel buffet, there was a sign that read help yourself, but eat
all you take.

Example #2: Mother said that we could help ourselves to as much popcorn as we
wanted, because she had made too much.

Example #3: At the wedding there was an open bar, which means that John
could help himself to as much free booze as he could drink.

Example #4: Please, help yourself to the rest of my french fries I can't eat another

Hooked To; Hooked On Something

The idiom to be hooked on something means that a person has an addiction to
something. The addiction could be mental, physical, or psychological, and the
phrase can be used in a casual context or a serious one. The expression developed
from the act of being caught on a hook used for fishing.

Example #1: I have been hooked on tobacco from the time I smoked that first
cigarette at 18 years of age, and it was very difficult to stop the habit.

Example #2: She is so hooked on Starbuck's coffee that she goes there every
morning before work for a latte and that's expensive.

Example #3: We are afraid that our son is hooked on video games he plays
them all the time, and won't even leave his room to eat.

Example #4: Just as an alcoholic is hooked on drinking alcohol, a shopaholic
is hooked on shopping but alcoholism is much more dangerous.

Horse Around

The meaning of the idiom to horse around is to act in a playful but irresponsible
manner, often with negative results. It has the same meaning as fool around, and is
related to the expression horse play, which is the act of horsing around. The origin
is unknown, but horses can be playful animals.

Example #1: At basketball practice, the coach told us to stop horsing around or
we would have to run 100 laps as punishment.

Example #2: We were just horsing around, and we didn't mean for Joey to really
jump off the bridge. We were playing a joke that went bad.

Example #3: If all of you are finished horsing around, we can start today's lesson
all about idioms in English.

Example #4: I told my son not to horse around with the new car he doesn't have
enough driving experience to know when he is getting into trouble.


The descriptive idiom hot-headed means prone to anger, easily made angry. A hot
head is the noun form, meaning a person who gets mad quickly, and the adjective
form has the same meaning. Heat is associated with anger, probably because an angry
person's face gets red as if he or she is hot.

Example #1: I can't believe how hot-headed John is he told the boss to take a flying

leap off of a bridge.

Example #2: My brother was so hot-headed that he often was involved in fights in
the army, until he finally grew out of the tendency to get mad.

Example #3: Even grown-up, mature people can be hot-headed, but they usually
have a lot of regret and remorse about their behavior.

Example #4: You have to calm down and stop being hot-headed about everything
stress and anxiety will ruin your health if you don't.

If Worst Comes To Worst

The idiom if worst comes to worst is a bit unusual because it is long, and is used as a
complete phrase. The only thing that changes in actual use of the idiom is the tense of the
verb. The meaning is that if the most unwanted, unfortunate, negative, bad possibility
happens, then another action will result, or a conclusion will be made.

Example #1: I expected that if worst came to worst and I became homeless, I could stay in a
shelter temporarily.

Example #2: Sheila is a real pessimist she is always saying if worst comes to worst and
then thinking bad things will happen.

Example #3: If worst comes to worst and the election is lost, he might accept another
government appointment.

Example #4: I think that if worst comes to worst and my car stops running, I will still be able
to take the bus to school

Ill At Ease

If a person is ill at ease in a particular situation, he or she is experiencing discomfort
and anxiety. The fact that the person is ill at ease may or may not be noticeable to
someone else, but because it is a strong feeling it is very evident to the person who
experiences it.

Example #1: John was so ill at ease during the meeting with his supervisor that he
spilled his coffee because his hands were shaking.

Example #2: I am really ill at ease with my daughter's decision to drop out of college,
but what can I do?

Example #3: Sheila couldn't explain why she was so ill at ease on the flight to Rome
she had never feared flying in the past.

Example #4: Fortunately, I am not at all ill at ease when I am in a social situation I
love to meet new people.

In A Bind

The meaning of the idiom in a bind has a direct origin in a physical action.
If a rope or a chain is in a bind, it is tightly wound and difficult or
impossible to loosen or untie. If a person is in a bind, he or she is in a bad
situation which will be very hard to make better but not impossible.

Example #1: I am really in a bind, because my professor lost my
homework and I didn't keep a copy.

Example #2: If she was ever in a bind for cash, she knew that she could
count on her parents for some extra money.

Example #3: John told his boss that he was in a bind he hadn't started
work on the new assignment yet and was behind on his other work.

Example #4: Don't get in a bind start your research paper early so you
can get some help if you need it.

In A Fog

In the real world, fog is difficult to see through, and can cause drivers
and pedestrians to become confused. If someone is in a fog, it means he
or she is in a state of confusion. The person may have problems
understanding, communicating, and making decisions. This condition
can be permanent or temporary, depending on the context.

Example #1: My mother may be suffering from early Alzheimer's
disease she seems to always be in a fog.

Example #2: John's lack of focus at work was noticed by the boss, who
asked him why he was walking around in a fog.

Example #3: I didn't sleep well last night, and today I'm just in a fog.

Example #4: Sometimes if your body lacks important vitamins and
minerals, you might feel like you are living in a fog.

In A Hurry

This idiom is a very common one and used every day. It means to
have to move fast, to do something fast, in a short time. A person
who is in a hurry does not have any extra time to stop and enjoy
life, but is usually very ambitious and driven.

Example #1: She is always in such a hurry that I can't imagine
how she sleeps at night.

Example #2: If you're in a hurry after the movie, don't take the
bus it takes forever to go anywhere.

Example #3: When I was younger I was always in a hurry about
something, but now that I'm older I like to take my time.

Example #4: They say that haste makes waste, but I can't help it
I seem to be in a hurry all the time.

In A Jam

The idiom in a jam means to be in trouble, to be having a difficult time in life. It
comes from the use of the word jam as in a paper jam in a photocopier, or a
log jam on a river. When things are stuck where they should not be, a jam
results. If you are in a jam, you are where you do not want to be.

Example #1: I have not been able to learn how to do my new job, and now
I'm in a jam with my boss.

Example #2: If you get into a jam when you are trying to speak English with
native speakers, just smile and nod.

Example #3: John is really in a jam at work he hasn't finished his project and
the boss needs it right now.

Example #4: Don't get yourself in a jam if you need to borrow some money,
just let me know

In a Nutshell

The idiom in a nutshell means in a small number of words, concisely, in a
summary manner. The origin of this idiom is Shakespeare himself, whose
character Hamlet first used the phrase, although in a different sense.

Example #1: John asked for the boss to give him his evaluation in a nutshell, and
the boss said you're fired.

Example #2: My father has a habit of talking for a long time on a topic, so I
always remind him to tell me something in a nutshell.

Example #3: For example, I asked him to please tell me in a nutshell what the
doctor said to him.

Example #4: The police detective asked the witness to describe the crime in a

In a World of One's Own

If a person is in a world of his or her own, then that person is out of
touch with reality, in a state of disconnectedness with other people and
events going on around him. It can be a negative description or a
positive one, depending on the context.

Example #1: Picasso was such a creative and imaginative artist that he
often was in a world of his own, and his friends had to be patient with

Example #2: My teenage son is always in a world of his own it takes
some effort to get his attention.

Example #3: An autistic child lives in a world of his or her own, and
communicating is always difficult and sometimes impossible.

Example #4: If you just want to be in a world of your own, then you
should go live on a deserted island.

In Advance

The idiom in advance means before the usual time or ahead of a
planned or appointed time. It never changes form and always
appears as just the 2 words.

Example #1: The weather forecaster said that, in advance of the
hurricane, we will have torrential rains and strong winds.

Example #2: You can choose to buy concert tickets in advance or
at the door, but if all the tickets sell ahead of the show you won't
be able to go.

Example #3: Why don't we agree in advance on some simple rules
for the house, then we won't have any thing to argue about.

Example #4: If you pay in advance, you'll usually save some
money on interest.

In Charge

The meaning of the idiom in charge of is to be in a position of
power, authority and control. It is based on one of the meanings of
the word charge, as someone being taken care of or under
someone's control.

Example #1: The captain was in charge of the troops, and it was his
fault that the battle was lost.

Example #2: If I am put in charge of a project, then I expect to be
given credit for its success, or blame for its failure.

Example #3: I'm in charge of everyone now, so you all should
listen closely to my instructions and follow them carefully.

Example #4: When she was in charge of the school, it was making
a profit and had a good reputation.

In Short Supply

The idiom in short supply means less than what is required or necessary in a
certain situation. It originates from the science of economics, and the study
of the supply and demand of goods and services.

Example #1: My patience is in short supply right now, so I think you should
explain what happened, and do it quickly.

Example #2: Our office has been in short supply of extra workers lately, so
every employee has had to put in overtime to make up the work.

Example #3: As the party went on, we noticed we were in short supply of
liquor, so I had to go out to the store for more.

Example #4: Doctors are in short supply in Mongolia, where it is sometimes
impossible to find a surgeon for the simplest operation.

In Stock

The meaning of the idiom in stock is available for purchase. A store's stock is
the inventory, what is on the shelves and on the floor at the moment. If an item
is out of stock, then it is not available.

Example #1: The clerk told me that the store still had a few of the shoes in
stock, but when I looked for them on the shelf they were all sold out.

Example #2: The online store says it has the shoes I need in stock, but I don't
know how up to date the web site is.

Example #3: Much to my surprise, the vitamins I was looking for were in
stock, so I bought 4 bottles.

Example #4: If the car you want is in stock, you can drive it home today. If
not, we'll have to order it and it will take a month to arrive.

In The Black

Back in the days of paper accounting, financial records for businesses and
organizations were kept in ledger books. If there was a profit or positive
balance, it was shown in black ink, but a loss or debt was written in red
ink. So the idiom to be in the black means to be successful, profitable, or
out of debt.

Example #1: At the end of the fourth quarter the company was finally in
the black, after a year of ups and downs, profits and losses.

Example #2: The project has to end up in the black or the boss won't be
very happy he expects every division to show a profit.

Example #3: As treasurer for a small church, I am always pleased when
our accounts are in the black.

Example #4: According to our household budget, we should be in the
black by the year 2050 - obviously this state of affairs can't go on.

In The Dog House

The idiom in the dog house means in a condition or circumstance designed
to be a punishment. It might be a literal punishment, such as the practice of
grounding for a child, or it could be a feeling that is vague and abstract but
present between people.

Example #1: I was out partying with my friends until 3 AM last night, and
now I'm in the doghouse with my wife.

Example #2: My parents grounded me for 2 weeks no car, no TV, no
phone, no Internet. I'm really in the doghouse.

Example #3: John is in the dog house with his boss he made a huge
error on the monthly report, and now he has to work overtime for a month.

Example #4: It's very simple: if you don't want to be in the dog house,
then don't do anything you could get punished for doing.

In The Red

The idiom to be in the red means to be unsuccessful, not profitable, or in debt. Back
in the days of paper accounting, financial records for businesses and organizations
were kept in ledger books. If there was a profit or positive balance, it was shown in
black ink, but a negative balance, a loss or debt was written in red ink.

Example #1: Our company is in the red, profits are down, sales are low, and
production is getting more expensive I think it's time to quit.

Example #2: Our household budget always ends up in the red, so my wife and I
have to get second jobs to pay the bills.

Example #3: If the people who owe us money would pay their bills, we would not
be in the red this quarter.

Example #4: Sometimes when a new product is introduced, the company might
be in the red for a while before it starts making a profit.

Jazz Up

The idiom to jazz up means to decorate, ornament, brighten, make colorful,
improve. The use of the word jazz gives its origin away jazz is a form of
improvised music in which instrumentalists commonly take a melody or theme
and explore possible variations.

Example #1: This house could use a little jazzing up, so I'm going to pick out new
carpet and drapes today.

Example #2: John jazzed up his cubicle so much that the boss had to make him
stop it was distracting him from doing his job.

Example #3: If we rent an apartment together, we can go to the thrift stores and
get some things to jazz it up.

Example #4: Your research paper is alright as it is, but if you jazzed it up with
some more recent studies it would be better

Jerk (someone) Around

. The idiom to jerk (someone) around is an example of an expression that originates in
the physical world and then becomes used in a symbolic or figurative way. To jerk a
person around literally means to push, pull, and be rough and aggressive with a person.
As an idiom it means to cause trouble for or make problems for, annoy or irritate

Example #1: John always believed that the boss enjoyed jerking him around and
making his life miserable.

Example #2: Don't jerk me around, he said, just tell me the truth!

Example #3: If you jerk him around about this deal, he'll decide not to go through
with it.

Example #4: I think that he was just jerking me around and had no intention of paying
me the money he owed me.

Jump All Over (someone)

The meaning of the idiom to jump all over someone is to reprimand or
scold, usually in a cruel and impolite manner, possibly in public. If you
literally jump all over something, you will injure, break, or destroy it.
The expression follows through with that meaning in a figurative way.

Example #1: John was shocked when the boss jumped all over him at
the big meeting, because he thought he was doing a good job.

Example #2: If I jump all over one of my employees, I usually
apologize for my behavior the next day.

Example #3: Don't jump all over me it won't improve my playing
and I will still hate soccer!

Example #4: When an authority figure jumps all over someone, it
usually means that he or she is an ineffective leader.

Jump Out Of One's Skin

If something happens that startles, frightens, or surprises a person, he or
she is said to jump out of his or her skin. As an idiom, it is very
descriptive of the physical feeling of being scared or startled and also
being unable to control one's reaction in the situation.

Example #1: When the shocking surprise ending came to the movie, it
made me jump out of my skin.

Example #2: She almost jumped out of her skin when the tire on her car
blew out at 60 miles per hour.

Example #3: Feeling a spider crawling on me in the dark makes
me jump out of my skin.

Example #4: Please don't take a fright and jump out of your skin I'm
going to light the firecracker right now, and it will be very loud.

Jump the Gun

This idiom comes from foot racing in which a starting gun is used to
begin the race. If you jump the gun, you start before the time is
right. Jumping the gun could be in a formal situation with an exact time,
or it could happen informally and refer to a vague or unknown time.

Example #1: John's boss reprimanded him for jumping the gun on the
new advertising project, since the product was not yet developed.

Example #2: If you jump the gun and buy a ticket to the concert, you
may not get a refund if it is cancelled.

Example #3: I'm sorry I really jumped the gun when I asked you for a
date so soon. Can we start over?

Example #4: Sheila jumped the gun when she started the English test
before she was told to begin.

Jump To Conclusions

Some people have a tendency to make fast decisions based on very
little information. If you trust your first impressions of a person, for
example, you might be jumping to conclusions (the idiom can also be
used in a singular form jump to the conclusion). To really understand
a situation or person, you need to collect more knowledge and not
make snap judgments don't jump to conclusions.

Example #1: My wife saw a woman's name on my cell phone,
and jumped to the conclusion that I was cheating on her.

Example #2: In the job of investment broker, it is important not
to jump to conclusions other people's money is at stake.

Example #3: Don't jump to conclusions Sheila isn't pregnant, she
just gained weight.

Example #4: For a detective, it is especially dangerous to jump to
conclusions before all the facts are known.

Just About

The idiom just about is a very useful and common expression. It means close
to, almost, very near, and sometimes implies one event happening before

Example #1: We were just about at our subway stop, when the train stopped
and the conductor said there would be a delay.

Example #2: She had been just about ready to tell him the truth, when her
phone rang and rescued her from the consequences.

Example #3: My baby daughter was just about to go to sleep when the
phone rang and woke her up.

Example #4: Just about everyone he knew was at the party, and he was glad
he had decided to come after all.

Just Off The Boat

This idiom comes from recognition of the problems that immigrants
often have. They may not speak the language, they may be gullible,
they may be needy, and native people know that they have only just
arrived they are just off the boat.

Example #1: She acts like she is just off the boat she really needs to
understand how things work around here.

Example #2: If you act like you are just off the boat, then there are
people who will take advantage of you, so be careful.

Example #3: Sometimes it can be dangerous to let others know that
you might be just off the boat you must learn to protect yourself.

Example #4: I'm not just off the boat, so dont try to fool me I
know what I'm doing.

Just So

The idiom just so can mean almost perfect, or in a way pleasing to someone. If I
like to have my computer desktop looking just so, then I have a preference for
how it looks, what is on it, how things are arranged, and so on. It may not look
perfect for someone else, but it is the way I want it.

Example #1: Before we could go out for the evening, she had to make sure she
looked just so.

Example #2: I like for the items on my drawing table to be arranged just so, and
only then can I start working.

Example #3: There are some people who can't begin to eat a formal meal until
the utensils, plates, bowls and napkins are placed just so on the dining table.

Example #4: Usually research papers have to be carefully formatted, because
professors like them just so, and any deficiencies will lower your grade.

Just The Same

The idiom just the same is used in exactly the same way and has the
same meaning as the word nevertheless. This is a difficult word to
define in English because it has such a deep function, but some
synonyms are however, nonetheless, yet, and notwithstanding, and it
means despite anything or no matter what else may be true.

Example #1: She has never liked concerts, but just the same, she has
promised to go with me tomorrow night.

Example #2: I know what you thought about the movie. Just the same, I
would like to see it to form my own opinion.

Example #3: We understood the dangers in climbing the mountain,
but just the same, we decided to attempt the ascent.

Example #4: You may be right that she is lying to me. Just the same, I
need to believe she is telling the truth.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

A doctor can order a patient to take medicines, to exercise, to have treatments,
and so on. If something or someone is just what the doctor ordered, the
meaning is that it is exactly right at this point in time, for this situation.

Example #1: Taking a winter vacation in a tropical climate may be just what
the doctor ordered for me I can't stand this cold weather any longer.

Example #2: My wife's suggestion that we go to a marriage counselor was just
what the doctor ordered, because we are doing much better now.

Example #3: A sabbatical for Professor Smith may be just what the doctor
ordered, because he has been under tremendous stress lately.

Example #4: Getting a smaller place that was easier for her to take care of
was just what the doctor ordered

Keep An Eye On
The idiom to keep an eye on simply means to watch over, to take care of, to be
aware of. It is interesting because it is probably not possible to do any of these
things with only one eye, but that's why it's an idiom.

Example #1: I'm going to ask my neighbor to keep an eye on our house while we
are gone, just for safety.

Example #2: My dog has been acting a little sick please keep an eye on him
while you are here today.

Example #3: John's boss told him that he would be keeping an eye on him for any
mistakes or deficiencies.

Example #4: My doctor told me to keep an eye on my blood pressure so that I
could let him know how my new medication was working.

Keep Ones Head Above Water

If you are in the water and you are not a good swimmer, it is very difficult
to keep your head above water. You are in danger of drowning, and it is a very
uncomfortable and frightening feeling. The idiom means, not that you are
literally drowning, but that you are having problems with finances, maybe
buying things you can't afford. Or perhaps you cannot pay your bills and you
owe more money than you earn or have.

Example #1: After the divorce, he couldn't keep his head above water after
paying the alimony and child support payments.

Example #2: John knows how to keep his head above water, even on his small
salary he doesn't buy what he can't afford.

Example #3: One of the first things a young adult has to learn is how to keep
his or her head above water without going into debt on credit cards.

Example #4: Please keep your head above water and don't buy that new car that
you want so badly.

Keep One's Mouth Shut

If someone tells you to keep your mouth shut, then you are being told to be quiet, to say
nothing about something or not to make noise in a certain situation. It may refer to
something specific and understood, or it could be more general and vague. It carries a
threatening, impolite overtone.

Example #1: John couldn't keep his mouth shut about the new product, and a
competitor found out and made it to market first.

Example #2: I expected my partner to keep her mouth shut on the witness stand, but
she told the entire story of how we robbed the bank.

Example #3: Now you have to keep your mouth shut the prison guard is coming and
he thinks we are asleep.

Example #4: Here's a sentence you often hear in gangster movies: Just keep your
mouths shut and no one will get hurt!

Keep One's Nose To The Grindstone

The origins of this idiom are in a technology that is lost in the modern world.
Grain mills were places where grain such as wheat, barley, and millet were taken
to be ground into flour. The animals that turned the grindstone to make the flour
had to work very hard and continuously to do their jobs. If you keep your nose to
the grindstone, you work hard and consistently so.

Example #1: John's boss expects him to keep his nose to the grindstone, and if he
doesn't, he will be in trouble.

Example #2: The American dream is that if you keep your nose to the
grindstone and do the right thing, youll be rewarded.

Example #3: My friend doesn't believe in keeping his nose to the grindstone he
thinks that he is entitled to enjoy life and have a good time.

Example #4: Learning English can be difficult, but if you keep your nose to the
grindstone and don't give up, you'll be able to reach your goal.

Keep One's Shirt On

The idiom to keep one's shirt on means to be patient, calm, and non-aggressive.
Traditionally, men would take off shirts before a physical fight, so to do the
opposite is to remain peaceful, at least temporarily.

Example #1: I knew I had to keep my shirt on and not upset the policeman, or I
would probably get a speeding ticket.

Example #2: After I asked her if she was cheating on me, she told me to keep
my shirt on she could explain everything.

Example #3: Just keep your shirt on, and we'll get out of this mess somehow.

Example #4: Even though John has caused a lot of problems for the boss, he
always keeps his shirt on when they meet and tries to be respectful.

Keep One's Word

If you are know as someone who keeps his or her word, then you are responsible,
reliable, trustworthy, and you stand by and carry out your promises and
obligations. The idiom does not have to refer to an actual verbal agreement or
contract it can be used in a more general way to describe a person's character.

Example #1: John always keeps his word, and he'll do just what he said he would
do trust me.

Example #2: If you are working with a realty agent to sell your house, it's
important that the agent keeps his word and follows through.

Example #3: Although she was frightened of flying, she kept her word and took a
plane to see her dying mother, as she had promised.

Example #4: I wouldn't worry about trusting that guy as an investment counselor
he is known for keeping his word.

Keep Pace With

The idiom to keep pace with means to proceed at the same speed as others are
going. It is used in many different contexts, sometimes physically as in running
or racing, sometimes symbolically as in studying or making grades.

Example #1: I joined the study group to improve my English speaking skills,
but I just couldn't keep pace with the native speakers so I quit.

Example #2: If you can keep pace with the rest of the runners, then yo will
probably be able to finish the marathon with a good showing.

Example #3: Writing about the latest technology means that you must keep
pace with technical advances and new products.

Example #4: John tried to keep pace with his co-workers, but he always
seemed to fall behind at some point.

Keep Quiet

One of many idioms using the word keep, to keep quiet means to stay
silent, to not make any noise, to stop talking, to be as quiet as possible for
as long as possible. It is a more polite form of the idiom, shut up, or
keep your mouth shut.

Example #1: Please keep quiet during the play I want to hear every
word the actors say, and I can't hear when you are talking.

Example #2: After we called to complain, the police came and warned the
neighbors to keep quiet or they would be arrested.

Example #3: My baby daughter finally learned to keep quiet when I read
her a bedtime story.

Example #4: I hope you'll keep quiet about this I don't want John's boss
to know we're using his computer.

Keep the Books

The idiom to keep the books means to make records of profits, losses
and expenditures for a business. An accountant is one who keeps the
books, but it can be an informal job too, especially in smaller

Example #1: Because the church had a very small congregation, the
treasurer also kept the books.

Example #2: John hired a bookkeeper for his new company, but he
soon found out that with no sales, there is no need to keep the books.

Example #3: If you can keep the books for our new restaurant while we
are starting out, we can save some money.

Example #4: I only trust a professional to keep the books for our
company she is a certified public accountant with many years of

Keep Track Of

The meaning of the idiom to keep track of is to document, record or
notice movement, position, behavior or a combination of those traits. A
track is at the most basic level a foot print, so the origin of the expression
is from an essential human and animal activity hunting.

Example #1: She has to keep track of her toddler at all times, because he
can run away very quickly and get lost.

Example #2: If we can keep track of our expenses, we can reduce them
and have more money to pay for food, shelter, and other necessities.

Example #3: Keep track of how many meals are served tonight, so we
know how much food to prepare tomorrow.

Example #4: I have such a huge collection of Barbie dolls that I
can't keep track of them all I may have to dedicate a room to them.

Kick the Habit

A habit is something that you do regularly, and if it is not good it is very
difficult to change or stop even if you want to do so. The meaning of the idiom
to kick a habit is to be successful in stopping it.

Example #1: I smoked cigarettes for twenty years, but I was finally forced
to kick the habit when I had a heart attack.

Example #2: She kicked her drinking habit all by herself, without going to

Example #3: Experts say that a heroin addiction is incredibly hard to stop, and
anyone who kicks the habit deserves congratulations.

Example #4: He sent me a sweet Valentine that said, Im totally addicted to
you, and I never want to kick the habit.

Kill Time

The idiom to kill time means to fill up a period of waiting for some other event
to take place with meaningless activity. If you arrive at a movie early, you will
have time to kill and you might wander around the lobby looking at posters. As
a verb phrase, the form can change depending on the context.

Example #1: We got to the airport 3 hours before the flight was scheduled to
leave, so we had to kill a lot of time in the bar.

Example #2: If you really want to kill some time before dinner, go down to the
beach and go for a walk.

Example #3: Killing time is difficult when you see every moment of life as a
gift, not something you can ever throw away.

Example #4: While the men killed time in the tavern, the women had their
meeting in the council hall.

Knocked Up

The meaning of the idiom knocked up is to be pregnant either by accident or
on purpose, and the verb form (to knock up) means to make a woman
pregnant. The origin of the expression is uncertain, but it is probably related
to the British English meaning, which is to wake someone by rapping on the
door or window.

Example #1: My wife decided to get knocked up before she got any older,
so she stopped taking her birth control pills without telling me.

Example #2: All females should remember to use contraceptives to avoid
getting knocked up.

Example #3: Men are responsible for contraception, and for getting
women knocked up without using it.

Example #4: Many teen mothers find themselves knocked up too young,
and are not able to complete their high school classes and receive a diploma.

Labor Of Love

The idiom labor of love means something that is done for its own sake,
for pleasure, enjoyment, or self-fulfilment. There is no other motive for
it such as money or fame.

Example #1: You probably think that I'm a fool for continuing this
project, but for me it's a labor of love.

Example #2: John decorated his cubicle as a labor of love, but the boss
didn't see it that way he told him to take everything down.

Example #3: I must admit that gardening is a labor of love that I enjoy
doing, because it's relaxing and inspiring at the same time.

Example #4: If you have a labor of love, never give it up it's
important for your sanity and health to keep going.

Laid Back

To be laid back means to be unworried, calm in the face of difficulties,
accepting of what life gives. The idiom describes a person who does not
suffer from anxiety, who is friendly and easy to be with, and who is a
good example of how we should try to live, at least sometimes. The
mental image that comes to mind when using this idiom is of a person
stretched out in a chair, hands behind the head, eyes closed.

Example #1: Almost everyone who knows me thinks I am a laid back
person I don't get too excited about things.

Example #2: John's boss told him that there is such a thing as being too
laid back, especially if you are not getting the work done.

Example #3: If we can be laid back about this problem, the solution
will come to us.

Laid Up

The idiom to be laid up means that a person are supposed to stay at home,
usually remaining in bed, due to doctor's orders with a severe injury or
illness. It can also be used when talking about animals in certain special

Example #1: My favorite racing horse is laid up with an injured ankle, so I
couldn't bet on him today.

Example #2: After breaking his leg falling down the stairs at work, John
will be laid up for at least 2 months while it heals.

Example #3: Betsy, the family dog, was laid up for over a month after she
was hit by a car and injured.

Example #4: I was laid up at home with the flu when I heard about the
merger. Now I had no job to go back to.

Lame Duck

If a duck is lame, it can't walk or move very well, if at all. The idiom lame duck
refers almost exclusively to a certain situation. An official in a public office has
come near to the end of his or her term of office, and as a result has very little
power to make changes. This not a position most politicians enjoy, but it often is
part of the process.

Example #1: During the last year of his presidency, he was lame duck and he was
not able to finish his plans.

Example #2: Knowing she would be lame duck, the mayor decided to resign from
office early and retire.

Example #3: The best way to avoid being a lame duck in office is to not get
elected for another term.

Example #4: No political figure wants to be a lame duck, but legally there are term
limits, so there is no way around it.

Lap Up

The way most animals drink water is to use the tongue to bring the liquid
into the mouth. This known as lapping up water and that is one meaning of
the idiom. The other follows from the first if you eagerly take in or
experience something as a dog does with water, than you lap it up.

Example #1: John had never had a mentor before, and he was lapping it up.

Example #2: The best way to learn English is to be in an environment
where everyone speaks the language, and just lap it up.

Example #3: My friend said that she had never experienced such a love
before, and that it was her time to lap it up and love it.

Example #4: High speed trains in Japan go very fast, and seem to lap up the
miles with no effort.

Lash Out

The idiom to lash out means to use words to hurt a person, in an extreme and
abusive manner. A lash is a whip, used to control animals, and the idiom is
strongly associated with violence and cruelty.

Example #1: After John had drank too much alcohol at the office party,
he lashed out at his boss and said things that caused his termination.

Example #2: If you can keep from lashing out at the people you love, then you
have managed to control your anger.

Example #3: All I said was that she looked older wearing that dress, and
she lashed out at me.

Example #4: When you love someone and that person lashes out at you, then it
becomes difficult to trust and be honest you're always afraid of a violent

Last Minute

This idiom means that time has run out, that there is no more time. It is
normally used as an expression of warning or reprimand, for those who
always wait until it is almost too late to do something.

Example #1: If you wait until the last minute to renew your driver's
license, you may not have a valid license for a while.

Example #2: John has a habit of always waiting till the last minute to
complete an assigned project, and his boss is angry about it.

Example #3: Sometimes if you wait until the last minute to place a bid
on ebay, you can get a good price.

Example #4: My husband tells me that I wait until the last minute for
everything, but it's not true for everything, that is.

Learn One's Lesson

In the same way that learning a lesson in school is important, learning
in life is important too. The meaning of the idiom to learn one's
lesson is to make a mistake and learn something valuable from the

Example #1: I really learned my lesson when it came to driving too
fast I got too many tickets and almost lost my license.

Example #2: She will either learn her lesson when the supervisor finds
out what she's been doing, or she'll lose her job.

Example #3: A person who has learned a lesson in life is very unlikely
to repeat the same mistake, but it sometimes happens.

Example #4: After I almost drowned, I learned my lesson and started
taking swimming classes.

Like a Fish Out Of Water

The idiomatic expression like a fish out of water means uncomfortable, feeling
ill at ease, and not in the right place. If you have ever seen a fish taken from its
natural habitat (water), then you have an idea about the origin of this idiom.

Example #1: I went to the meeting of homeowners, but I was like a fish out of
water I was poor, single, and debt-ridden, unlike all of the other people there.

Example #2: If you ever go to a party and feel like a fish out of water, that's a
good signal that you should leave and go home.

Example #3: Sometimes the feeling of being like a fish out of water means
that you need to widen your circle of friends and knowledge to fit in better.

Example #4: My son was like a fish out of water at the new high school,
where everyone was from a rich family and loved to demonstrate it.

Long Shot

The meaning of the idiom long shot is a low probability or likelihood of
something happening. The phrase originates in the subject area of guns
and marksmanship, where a long shot is a very difficult one to make the
farther away the target is, the less chance there is to hit it.

Example #1: Winning the lottery is an extremely long shot, but I always
say that you can't win if you don't play.

Example #2: I knew it was a long shot, but I asked her to go to dinner
with me anyway and she accepted.

Example #3: This company is a long shot, but if we take a chance and
invest now, we could be wealthy in a few years.

Example #4: Making it through grad school was a long shot for me, but I
finally did it with a family and a full-time job all the while.

Lose Weight

The idiom to lose weight simply means to weigh less and to look thinner in
the process. The most common method of becoming thinner is to eat less and
to eat certain kinds of food, which is another idiom to go on a diet.

Example #1: After working in an office setting for years and getting very
little exercise, John decided it was time to lose weight, so he joined a gym and
started a diet.

Example #2: My wife looked at herself in the mirror and asked me if I
thought she needed to lose weight. Of course I said no.

Example #3: It is common for your doctor to suggest that you lose weight,
but it's your decision to make.

Example #4: I plan to lose weight before my daughter's wedding so I can fit
into my old tuxedo.

Love Handles

The idiom love handles refers to accumulations of body fat around the waist of men
and women. These areas protrude and make the waist area and abdomen larger.
Imagine a man and woman dancing, and the man's hands are on the sides of her
waist. If she has love handles the hands would rest there, thus the expression.

Example #1: When I was a teenager I was very thin, but over the years I have
developed a spare tire and a big belly my wife calls them my love handles.

Example #2: In our body conscious society, people think of obesity as dangerous
and unhealthy, but not all love handles are the same.

Example #3: As an older woman dating, I was embarrassed by my body until I met
a man who said he loved to dance with me because I had nice love handles.

Example #4: If you really want to lose your love handles, you'll have to diet,
exercise, and take supplements.

Luck Out

The idiom to luck out means to be lucky and fortunate, and it emphasizes the random
quality of luck. It's also a good example of how an English noun can become useful in a
verb phrase.

Example #1: When I read the winning lottery numbers and they matched my ticket, I
knew I had lucked out completely I was now a millionaire.

Example #2: That tire looks bad, but you may luck out and get safely home without
having to stop at a garage.

Example #3: If you luck out and get accepted to grad school, I'm going to be very jealous,
but proud of you too.

Example #4: The only reason she didn't get deported as an illegal immigrant was that
she lucked out and married an American.

Make A Killing

Someone who makes a killing has found a way to make a lot of money all at once.
This might be through a big sale, an inheritance, an investment, or by gambling.
The meaning of the idiom is accompanied by a feeling that the money was
unexpected, a surprise, or even possibly gotten dishonestly. Using the expression
about someone else means you are envious; about yourself that you are bragging.

Example #1: Because the man had inside information, he was able to make a
killing on the sale of his stocks.

Example #2: I hardly ever gamble, but when I was at the casino in Atlantic City
I made a killing on the slot machines.

Example #3: The land he inherited is so valuable that he will make a killing if he
ever decides to sell it.

Example #4: I could make a killing on these widgets if I could just find an

Make A Living

To make a living is to be earning sufficient money to pay your bills, have food
and shelter, and provide your family, if you have one, with at least the basic
needs. It can imply that what seems like enough money is not really enough,
because just making a living is insufficient.

Example #1: John complained to his boss that he was barely making a
living at his current salary.

Example #2: With only a few sales leads a day, I can't make a living selling
these machines.

Example #3: To really make a living being self-employed, you will have to be
ready to spend a lot of your time working.

Example #4: This job lets me make a living, but that's not enough for me I
want to earn more money.

Make A Mistake

If you make a mistake, you do something in error, in the wrong way,
incorrectly. The idiom can be used with the as well, as in to make the mistake,
followed by a phrase with of. The word can also be plural, as in mistakes.

Example #1: Sheila made a mistake by telling her investors that the company
was in good condition, and then selling it at a loss.

Example #2: John made the mistake of not telling his boss he was leaving work
early, and he now has a written reprimand in his file.

Example #3: I made so many mistakes on my aptitude test that I will never be
accepted into a good college.

Example #4: Don't make too many mistakes on the driving exam, or you won't
be able to get a temporary license.

Make A Mountain Out Of A Molehill

This a colorful expression, and a good example of alliteration in English (3
words beginning with the letter M). A small pile of earth made by a mole
cannot be compared to a tall mountain, unless you exaggerate and make up
things that aren't true. The idiom means to make a small, insignificant thing
seem more important than it really is.

Example #1: She is overly sensitive to what people say to her, so sometimes
she makes a mountain out of a molehill.

Example #2: Bad communication is a problem even for native speakers of a
language, and it often causes people to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Example #3: Why are you making a mountain out of a molehill? You know
that she and I are only friends.

Example #4: Let's not make a mountain out of a molehill here the car doesn't
need replacing, it just needs new tires.

Make A Name For Oneself

All over the world, a person's name is very important. Names can be unknown or
well known, famous for good things or famous for evil. This idiom means to
become famous, with no built-in indication of whether it is for good or bad.

Example #1: Many criminals and outlaws do what they do just to make a name
for themselves.

Example #2: Wanting to make a name for himself, he shunned the family
fortune and started a career as an unknown.

Example #3: You could make a name for yourself in this business if you sold
enough cars.

Example #4: Almost anyone who runs for public office wants to make a name
for themselves that's the way politics works.

Make A Pass At Someone

To make a pass at someone is to let a person know that you are
interested in him or her romantically and that you would like to
have sex with the person. It can be a good thing or a bad thing,
depending on the situation and the people involved.

Example #1: John made a pass at the new secretary, and she
reported him to the boss for sexual harassment.

Example #2: If you go to a singles bar, you will see men and
women making passes at each other in a variety of ways.

Example #3: Many movies include a scene where a man
is making a pass at a woman, and the plot depends on what
happens next.

Example #4: At the party, he made a pass at me and I was
flattered I thought he didn't even notice me.

Make a Point Of

The idiom to make a point of means to purposefully do something. If you intend
and plan, then a conscious effort is being made, and you act with a purpose. The
idiom implies truthfulness and honesty, and sometimes discomfort that goes
along with such an approach.

Example #1: She finally had to make a point of telling him that his drinking was
becoming a problem for her, and that he had to stop.

Example #2: The best way to get an appointment with your professor is to make
a point of talking with him right after class.

Example #3: John's boss made a point of reprimanding him in front of the whole
office, and it embarrassed him.

Example #4: If you love someone, then you make a point of being considerate,
compassionate, and forgiving.

Make a Run For It

The idiom to make a run for it means to move quickly under dangerous or
challenging circumstances. It can be used to talk about people or animals.

Example #1: I was driving near my house when a squirrel jumped from a
tree and made a run for it across the road I narrowly missed hitting it.

Example #2: If we make a run for it and cross the border, we could be
safely in Arizona by morning.

Example #3: I get so impatient waiting for the red traffic light to change
that I feel like making a run for it but I don't because I'm a good driver.

Example #4: The bank robbers decided to make a run for it, but the
posse was right behind them and they were apprehended.

Make Away With

The idiom to make away with means to take along something or to leave
with something. The idiom to get away with is similar, but to make away
with is used for referring to the results or spoils of a crime or campaign.

Example #1: Although the bank robbers were forced to leave the bank
before they were finished, they still managed to make away with over 10
million dollars.

Example #2: After the army passed through Paris, the citizens realized
that the soldiers had made away with priceless works of art and artifacts.

Example #3: If you make away with your health and a good retirement
plan, then the high stress atmosphere of Wall Street might be worth it.

Example #4: If I was sure I could make away with enough money to
retire, I'd risk all of my savings on the stock market.

Make Believe

When children play, they often play a game in which they pretend
to be someone else or create a fantasy world, which known as
playing make believe. The idiom make believe (used as a verb or
noun phrase) means the process of pretending or trying to believe
that something is real when it isn't.

Example #1: I really thought we were meant to be together for a
lifetime, but I guess it was only make believe.

Example #2: Sometimes when people make believe in something,
they learn valuable information through the process of pretending.

Example #3: Why don't we make believe that this never happened,
and we'll just continue our separate lives.

Example #4: I like make believe as much as anyone, but video
games are nothing like reality when it comes to warfare and

Make Do With

If you make do with something, you make a substitution of some
kind, or you live on less money or use less of something. The idiom
has the connotation of a positive action, something that benefits

Example #1: When I was growing up in a household of 6 children,
we often had to make do with small meals and old clothes, but we
were happy.

Example #2: My wife said she could make do with the clothes she
had instead of buying the latest fashions.

Example #3: If you are making a pasta dish, you can usually make do
with spaghetti when the recipe calls for linguine.

Example #4: I really want to make do with my salary so I have more
time at home a different job would mean more hours at work.

Make Ends Meet

If you don't have enough rope to completely go around a tree, you
can't make ends meet. If you barely have enough rope, then you are
able to make ends meet. The idiom means to earn just enough income
to survive, or not.

Example #1: When my wife and I first were married, we were making
ends meet because we both had jobs.

Example #2: After we had a child and she had to quit working, we
found it very difficult to make ends meet like we used to do.

Example #3: I had to start working an extra job so we could make
ends meet, and we were able to save a little money too.

Example #4: After winning the lottery, we don't have to worry
anymore about making ends meet.

Make Up Your Mind

The idiom to make up your mind means to finally and conclusively
decide. To make up a face cosmetically is to put it in shape for an
occasion, and the meaning carries over in this case.

Example #1: You're going to have to make up your mind between him
and me you can't keep dating two men at the same time.

Example #2: Did you ever have to make up your mind, to finally
decide what you were going to do with your life?

Example #3: I told my son he would have to make up his mind soon
between college and the military, and he said he had already made a

Example #4: If you will make up your mind about what to have for
dinner, I can get started cooking it.

Number Cruncher

The meaning of the idiom number cruncher is a person or machine that performs
numerical calculations, with an emphasis on speed and volume. When computers
started being used for statistical analysis, they were seen as machines that ate up the
data and spit it out. Accountants are sometimes seen the same way.

Example #1: Because the annual report is due on Monday, the number
crunchers down in the accounting department are working all weekend.

Example #2: The supercomputer at the University of Illinois was one of the first
big number crunchers back in the 1980s.

Example #3: My wife is a number cruncher, and I started out to be an accountant too,
but I didn't like working with numbers all day long.

Example #4: After winning the lottery, we had to hire a number cruncher to help us
invest the money correctly.


The meaning of the idiom nuts is insane, in need of psychiatric intervention, or
behaving in a crazy manner. It is usually applied to people in a humorous way, but
can be used as a serious expression. It can also be said about animals.

Example #1: After he found out that he and his wife had won the lottery, he
went nuts I thought he was going to have a heart attack the way he was acting!

Example #2: Bob went nuts at the party last night and embarrassed himself he
must have had too much to drink.

Example #3: Some guy went nuts on campus last week and started shooting at
students. Fortunately he didn't hurt anyone.

Example #4: Sometimes before a thunderstorm, my dog goes a little nuts, barking
and running around apparently she can sense the change in the weather coming.

Off The Cuff

The idiom off the cuff comes from an era when men wore large starched cuffs
on their dress shirts. If a businessman had to give a speech or make a toast, he
might write a few words on the cuff to help him remember what he wanted to
say. In a kind of twist on the original phrase, it has come to mean doing
something without forethought or planning, in an impromptu way.

Example #1: Because the sales award was a surprise to him, John had to make
his acceptance speech off the cuff.

Example #2: I rarely speak in public, but when I do I like to be prepared
no off the cuff rambling for me!

Example #3: The minister's sermon almost seemed off the cuff I wonder if
he had not thought about what he was going to say.

Example #4: Some of the best comic performances in history have been
completely off the cuff.

Off The Hook

This idiom has 2 completely separate and distinct meanings, depending on the
context of use. If you are referring to a person, it means that he or she is not
responsible or to blame for something. If you are talking about a telephone, the
idiom means that the circuit is open and no one can call the number.

Example #1: According to John, it was not his fault that the advertising
campaign was a failure, so he was off the hook for the disaster.

Example #2: John's boss disagreed and told him that he was not off the hook yet
he might be indirectly to blame for the failure.

Example #3: Sheila's phone must be off the hook I've been getting a busy
signal for the last 2 hours.

Example #4: He is off the hook for the bank robbery his alibi that he was at the
church meeting has been confirmed.

Off The Record

A transcription of a meeting or a conversation can be done with notes written
down, a tape recording, or just by having a good memory. If something is
said to be off the record, it is said in a way so that no recording of any kind is
done, and complete privacy and discretion is expected.

Example #1: Sheila told the reporter off the record that she was selling the
company, but he broke the agreement and published the news anyway.

Example #2: This is off the record so don't say anything, but I know that
John is looking for another job because he told me so.

Example #3: If you promise to keep our conversation off the record, I'll give
you a private interview.

Example #4: He didn't pay any taxes on the profit he made, because he was
able to keep the whole transaction off the record.

Off The Top Of One's Head

If you remember something off the top of your head, it simply means that
you are accessing your memory, not an outside reference like a dictionary.
But it implies that your memory is good and functions quickly in a situation
when it is needed. The idiom also can mean that you are not absolutely
certain about a fact, but reasonably so.

Example #1: My teacher asked me if I knew the famous poem, and I
recited it off the top of my head. She was very impressed.

Example #2: Just off the top of my head, I would say that I own more than
500 movies on DVD.

Example #3: John is going to memorize the sales figures so that he can
produce them off the top of his head. His boss will be very impressed.

Example #4: You will know you have really learned English when you can
explain the meaning of any idiom off the top of your head.

Off The Wagon

If you fall off the wagon, you start drinking alcohol after stopping for an
unspecified time period. A wagon is something that you are either on or off, and
this colorful expression conveys the difficulties of quitting the consumption of
alcohol. The opposite of this expression is an idiom too to be on the wagon.

Example #1: John made an attempt to quit drinking, but he fell off the wagon at
the Christmas party, and now he is drinking regularly again.

Example #2: If you go to a singles bar, you will see men and women who are
constantly falling off the wagon, sometimes with disastrous results.

Example #3: A favorite plot device in many movies is to follow the path of the
main character who goes off the wagon, then back on, and what happens in

Example #4: If you go to a party and you don't want to fall off the wagon, drink
a lot of fruit juice and you'll be fine.

Old Hat

If something has become old hat, it has become a bore or a habit, and you need
something new or different. The idiom strongly implies that what was once a
good thing has become undesirable and difficult to continue with, so a change
might be necessary.

Example #1: For John, his job had become old hat, and he decided to look for a
more challenging position somewhere else.

Example #2: Once you learn the basics, the simple things become old hat and
you have to move up to the next level.

Example #3: If you feel like your relationship is getting to be old hat, than you
need to make an effort to make it fresh and new again.

Example #4: Taking the same route to work every day quickly got to be old hat,
so I tried to go a different way each day.

On a Diet

If your friend tells you that she is on a diet, she means that she wants to weigh
less and is trying to look thinner. Generally, to be on a diet does not mean to be
eating differently for any other purpose medical or health, for example - than
to weigh less, unless the speaker gives another reason.

Example #1: I asked Jeannie if she had been on a diet, because she looked
about 2 sizes smaller than the last time I saw her.

Example #2: My wife plans to go on a diet before our son's wedding so that
she can fit into her favorite dress again.

Example #3: My doctor told me I need to lose weight, and I want to feel better
about myself, so I'm now on a diet.

Example #4: All the health experts say that the best way to lose weight and be
healthy is not to go on a diet, but to eat sensibly and exercise regularly.

On a Shoestring

The idiom on a shoestring means with a small amount of money. A
shoestring is usually thin and not very substantial, but it does the job it
was intended for.

Example #1: When I was growing up in a household of 6 children, we
lived on a shoestring, but we were happy.

Example #2: We agreed that we would have to live on a shoestring for a
few years to achieve our goals.

Example #3: Sheila started her company on a shoestring, and built it
gradually to where it is today.

Example #4: Why would anyone want to live on a shoestring? One
reason is to have time for the more important things in life.

On and Off

The idiom on and off means at different times, in an intermittent way. It
can be applied to many different situations, people, and things. It can be
used in the form off and on with no change in meaning.

Example #1: My car has been in the repair shop now several times, and
the mechanic can't find the problem because it is so on and off.

Example #2: His plans for going to college are very on and off one
day he says he plans to go to Stanford, the next day he's taking a year
vacation before college.

Example #3: We have been engaged for two years now, but the
wedding plans are always off and on we just don't have time to get
married right now.

Example #4: Her desire for cosmetic surgery is surprisingly on and off,
because she doesn't always see the need for it.

On Cloud Nine

The idiom on cloud nine means extremely happy, joyful, and satisfied.
The origin of the phrase is somewhat mysterious, since the more
popular saying was cloud seven until the latter half of the 20th century.
In any case, it refers to a heavenly place, and a heavenly state of being.

Example #1: John was on cloud nine after the boss gave him a
glowing performance evaluation and a pay raise at the same time.

Example #2: When my wife and I first met, it seemed like we were on
cloud nine together every day, blissful and happy.

Example #3: We were on cloud nine for a while after inheriting a
million dollars, but we came back to earth when the tax bill arrived.

Example #4: Meditation is an ancient method of putting yourself on
cloud nine without drugs or alcohol.

On Edge

The idiom on edge is a descriptive phrase which means a person or an
animal is in a nervous state, anxious and irritable. It is generally a negative
condition to be in, and be careful not to confuse it with having an edge,
which is a good thing.

Example #1: After the shootings at the college, everyone in the city was on
edge, and for good reason the shooter was still free.

Example #2: If you drink too much coffee during the day, it can put you on
edge, make your heart beat too fast, and it might affect your sleep.

Example #3: I think you're on edge because you're trying to quit smoking,
and that's a natural result.

Example #4: If you're really on edge about the operation, your doctor can
give you a tranquilizer to calm you down.

On End

The idiom on end means with no break, in a continuous way. If you lay
dominoes on a table end to end so they form a line, then you are placing
them on end. Used with a time word, the phrase means almost without end
but not for eternity.

Example #1: For hours on end we struggled up the mountainside, and
finally reached the top at sunset.

Example #2: After I got seasick, it seemed that the cruise went on for days
and days on end, but it was really only 2 weeks.

Example #3: We were so compatible and so interested in each other that
we talked for hours on end until the morning light.

Example #4: We worked on that project for weeks on end, and just before
the holidays we finished it.

On Hand

The meaning of the idiom on hand is available and obtainable, whether
for a price or free. It is a physically derived phrase, coming from the use
of the hand to give or pass something to someone else.

Example #1: We now have over 100 varieties of imported incense on
hand in the store, more than we have ever stocked in the past.

Example #2: If you have the adoption papers on hand, I can read
through and sign them right here and now.

Example #3: When the couple ordered a special dish made with sea
scallops, I was happy that we had them on hand, and fresh too.

Example #4: If you have some cinnamon sticks on hand, we can make
a spicy hot chocolate just like my Grandma Vandervoss used to make.

On Its Last Legs

If something or someone is on its last legs, it is near the end of its usefulness, appointed
time, or life. The origin is in farming and the care of domesticated animals, who near
the end of their lives can't stand on their legs.

Example #1: This car is really on its last legs, so we're going to have to make a
decision have it repaired or get a new one.

Example #2: My computer was on its last legs, so I finally was forced to go out and
buy a new laptop.

Example #3: She was actually on her last legs with this proposal, and she knew that
this was the last chance for her ideas to be accepted.

Example #4: I am not on my last legs here I am doing the work of 2 people and still
making the business successful.

On The House

The meaning of the idiom on the house is at no cost, and abundant, paid for by
the management or another person. In the case of this idiom's origin the house
was probably a gambling establishment, but it could also come from the idea of
any eating or drinking place. It came to be used in other similar situations.

Example #1: The waiter told us that our dinner would be on the house because
the chef had overcooked our steaks, and we were grateful.

Example #2: In the casinos of Las Vegas, the food and drink used to be on the
house, but no more now you have to pay for everything and still lose money.

Example #3: When you play an instrument in a band, the drinks are usually on
the house as part of your payment for performing in a nightclub.

Example #4: I just won the lottery and I'm now a millionaire drinks are on the
house for everyone!

Packed In Like Sardines

If you are on a public transport bus and there are too many people, all of you are packed
in like sardines. The idiom means to be in a crowded space, and comes from the way
that sardines (small cured fish) are tightly packed and sealed in their tin cans.

Example #1: On the subway ride home yesterday we were packed in like sardines, and
I started feeling claustrophobic.

Example #2: Usually when I attend a rock concert, I enjoy being packed in like
sardines it makes the experience more intense and exciting when there's a big crowd.

Example #3: If you are ever in a nightclub and you're packed in like sardines, make
sure you stay close to the main exit in case of an emergency.

Example #4: My family of 4 is packed in like sardines in our little electric car, but it is
very inexpensive to drive so the discomfort is worth it.

Paint Oneself Into A Corner

If you are painting a floor in a room, and you don't leave yourself a way
to avoid stepping on wet paint to get out, then you have the basic idea of
this idiom. It means that you have caused a situation for yourself in
which you have no alternative, and the result will not be good. The idea
is that this is something to avoid in the future.

Example #1: Judy made some bad decisions at a young age, and
she painted herself into a corner in life that was hard to get out of.

Example #2: I didn't intend to paint myself into a corner, but when I
insulted my thesis adviser, that's what happened.

Example #3: Unfortunately, John's argument with the boss painted him
into a corner he had to quit.

Example #4: She will paint herself into a corner if she continues getting
fired from jobs.

Palm Off

The meaning of this idiom is to misrepresent something or someone, to
be dishonest in a situation where an exchange, a sale, or something
contractual is happening. It has a connotation of being lower class
behavior, something that is definitely not respectable, acceptable or
honest in general terms in society.

Example #1: The diamond thief tried to palm off the gems, but they
were found to be fakes by the pawn shop owner.

Example #2: John wants to palm off the television as new that he has
used for 3 months, so that he can get a refund where he bought it.

Example #3: Trying to palm off a used car like that is really
disreputable it was in an accident and isn't safe to drive.

Example #4: Don't palm that DVD off on me I can tell it's a bootleg,
and it is worth nothing.

Pan Out

If you ever go panning for gold, you may see the origin of this idiom. Real
gold in small pieces called nuggets appear in a special tool called a pan,
and they are said to pan out. If a dream or a plan of action changes from
fantasy to reality and becomes true fact, then it is panning out.

Example #1: My dream of owning a yacht finally panned out my boat is
docked down by the bay.

Example #2: I think my plan to go to college in the US will pan out,
because I'm learning English quickly.

Example #3: Our hopes of getting married and moving away haven't
panned out yet, but we're still working on it.

Example #4: John's new job didn't pan out the way he expected, so he
went back to work for his old boss.

Par For the Course

The idiom par for the course means in an expected way, according to
expectations. It comes from the game of golf (as does the idiom up to par),
where par is the number of allowed strokes on a certain golf course.

Example #1: When John's boss told him to do the whole project again, John
felt that it was par for the course it had happened before.

Example #2: He insulted me last night when we were out with our friends,
and it is getting to be par for the course.

Example #3: If you feel like everything that happens in your relationship
is par for the course, then you need a new approach make some changes.

Example #4: My score on the exam was the same old par for the course, and I
want to improve, so I will study much harder for the next one.

Pass Away

The idiom to pass away has a very simple meaning it means to die. It is
one of many idioms in English that work as euphemisms in this case it's
a softer, more polite way to talk about what can be an unpleasant topic. It
is generally used only for people, but sometimes pet owners will use it in
talking about deceased pets.

Example #1: I can't believe it my friends mother passed away at the
age of 35 from breast cancer.

Example #2: How long has it been since your parents passed away?

Example #3: I cry every time I remember Fifi, my cat she passed
away more than 20 years ago, but I still miss her.

Example #4: The truth is that we will all pass away someday, and the
best thing to do is to accept it and live your life.

Pass Out

The idiom to pass out means to lose consciousness. The cause might be
illness, drunkenness, drug abuse, chronic disease, or simply intolerable
environmental conditions like heat or stuffiness. If you faint, then you have
passed out.

Example #1: Right before she passed out from the excessive heat, she told
me her address so I could get her home.

Example #2: Believe it or not, there are many places in the world
where passing out from drinking too much is a sign of manliness and
virility and not stupidity.

Example #3: Since I was a child, if I get too hot and can't cool down, I pass

Example #4: I felt alright until we went to Johns apartment, then I started
feeling sick and I passed out on his couch.

Pass the Buck

To pass the buck means to move the responsibility from one
person to another. The idiom comes not from the slang word for
money (buck), but from an old practice in the game of poker. A
buck knife was passed to the next dealer so there was no question
who was responsible for the cards.

Example #1: John always tries to pass the buck when he makes
an error, but he boss knows what is happening.

Example #2: If you manage to pass the buck, just be careful
someday someone will pass it back to you.

Example #3: President Roosevelt had a sign on his desk saying
the buck stops here there was no where else to pass the buck.

Example #4: Don't even think about passing the buck I know
you were driving when the accident happened.

Pat On The Back

The meaning of the idiom a pat on the back is to give praise to
someone. Sometimes the expression means faint or insufficient
praise, sometimes the opposite it all depends on the context.

Example #1: John felt like the boss only gave him a pat on the
back when he was expecting a raise and a promotion.

Example #2: My wife gave me a hearty pat on the back for
finally finishing the garage clean-up project, and I gave her a kiss
in return.

Example #3: Please don't just give him a pat on the back for
doing this he deserves much more than that.

Example #4: Our team got a pat on the back at the meeting for
finishing the design, but we still have a long way to go with it.

Patch Up

The verb phrase to patch up is used in a literal sense to mean to
put patches on something like a tire to make it usable. As an
idiom, it also means to repair, but can also be applied to non-
mechanical things like hearts and relationships.

Example #1: We really need to patch things up between us,
because our children are depending on having parents and a

Example #2: I can patch up the computer with some special
software, but it might still be in need of a new hard drive.

Example #3: John was hoping to patch up his relationship with
the boss, but he realized it had to go both ways.

Example #4: True friends should be able to patch up their
friendship after having an argument, so why don't we try it?

Pay Attention

The idiom to pay attention means to concentrate, to listen, to be aware,
and to focus. If someone asks you to pay attention then you are expected
to be quiet on the inside and the outside, make eye contact, and be
careful about non-verbal language.

Example #1: Every morning I try to talk to my son about world events,
but he can't seem to pay attention he thinks I'm boring.

Example #2: If you want to learn the most effectively, then you have to
teach yourself to pay attention in class.

Example #3: John hadn't been paying attention while the boss was
talking, and when the boss asked him a question he was shocked.

Example #4: Eastern philosophers have said that the key to living a
fuller, more satisfying life is to pay attention to everything.

Pay Off(1)

To pay off is a good example of one idiomatic expression with multiple
meanings in this case 3 different definitions. One meaning of pay off is
related to having a loan that money is owed on. If you pay off the loan, then
you have paid everything including the interest, and you are no longer in debt.
The noun form for this meaning refers to the amount needed to do this.

Example #1: After paying double payments for years, I finally paid off my
home mortgage the house is now all mine!

Example #2: I would love to pay off the loan on my car, but I just do not
have the money right now.

Example #3: Maybe I should ask my bank what the pay off on my car loan is
right now, and then borrow that amount from my rich aunt.

Example #4: The new company CEO plans to pay off the start-up loan before
the end of the quarter.

Pay Off(2)

To pay off is a good example of one idiomatic expression with multiple
meanings in this case at least 3 different definitions. One meaning of pay
off is to be successful, profitable, or advantageous in some way.

Example #1: Sheila's investments in the foreign currency exchange market
really paid off she is now a millionaire.

Example #2: Before you make a commitment to graduate school, you
should carefully consider if it will pay off in the future.

Example #3: I'm sure that her new and expensive electric car will pay
off after a few years of driving.

Example #4: Learning English fluently will pay off in so many ways in your
life that you can't even imagine right now.

Pay Off(3)

To pay off is a good example of one idiomatic expression with multiple meanings
in this case at least 3 different definitions. One meaning of pay off is to be offer
money, services or gifts to someone in a position of power for a favor in return,
usually called a bribe.

Example #1: At the border crossing, we had to pay off the guard before he would
even look at our passports.

Example #2: Back in the early days of popular music, record companies had to pay
off radio stations to play the latest records this was called payola.

Example #3: In many countries it is common practice to pay off the police so that
you don't have to pay a fine.

Example #4: Did you pay off the hostess? She gave us the best table in the entire

Peas In Pod

Green peas grow inside a natural container called a pod it's long and the peas are
snugly placed inside. They also all look identical, which leads to the idiom peas in a
pod. It is used to compare 2 or more people or animals that are the same in some way,
and also to describe a tight but comfortable spatial arrangement.

Example #1: John and his boss are actually like two peas in a pod they have similar
personalities and likes and dislikes.

Example #2: I grew up in a small house with 6 siblings we were always like peas in a
pod when we were children.

Example #3: Maybe you think you are too different from me to have a relationship, but
I think we're like two peas in a pod.

Example #4: I don't want to be like peas in a pod with someone I want to be a non-
conformist, independent, and free to be me.

Piece Of Action / Slice If The Action

If you want a piece of the action, you are asking to invest in something that you
think will be profitable. The idiom can refer to a gambling situation, a particular
stock or portfolio of investments, or a real estate opportunity. All of these represent
the action, and having a piece or slice means risking your money on it.

Example #1: John placed his bet in the football pool and hoped that his piece of the
action would pay off in a big win.

Example #2: If you let me have a piece of the action in this housing development,
I'll give you some tips for the next time you bet on the horses.

Example #3: A new company just starting up is an opportunity to get a slice of the
action, but you have to be careful about who you invest your money with.

Example #4: My slice of the action in the land deal did not pay off I lost
everything I invested.

Piece of Cake

The meaning of the descriptive idiom piece of cake is simple, easily done,
easier than previously thought. The idea of cake (and its companion
dessert, pie) as a luxury item appears in several other idioms, but in this
one it has to do with ease. It is of recent origin in English literature.

Example #1: John thought the assignment was a piece of cake and finished
it quickly, but then his boss told him that he had done it incorrectly.

Example #2: If you can practice English in all forms with a native speaker,
then the TOEFL will be a piece of cake for you.

Example #3: This game is going to be a piece of cake our team is better,
faster, and smarter, and we'll win easily.

Example #4: Don't tell me the medical exam will be a piece of cake I've
had one before and it was definitely not easy.

Rack One's Brain

The idiom to rack one's brain means to put a large effort into thinking about
something, to expend much energy in thought. Its origins are from the Inquisition,
when the rack was a device used for torture. If you rack your brain, you are
torturing yourself mentally, and the results may vary from good to bad.

Example #1: I racked my brain thinking about how to solve our money problems,
and all I could come up with was getting a second job.

Example #2: Well, don't rack your brain about it, because the whole situation
could change tomorrow.

Example #3: We sat in the conference room for hours racking our brains for ideas
on saving the company, but were unsuccessful.

Example #4: The pilot and the co-pilot racked their brains, and finally decided on
a solution to the engine problem they would land the plane at the nearest airport.

Rain Cats And Dogs

The meaning of the idiom to rain cats and dogs is simply that the rain is
falling down heavily. The origin of the expression is probably from the
middle ages when heavy rains would wash dead animals along the
gutters of the mud streets.

Example #1: When I drove to work this morning, it was raining cats
and dogs, so bad that the freeway was backed up for miles.

Example #2: Don't forget to grab a couple of umbrellas for our walk
it's raining cats and dogs tonight.

Example #3: If it rains cats and dogs, does the sun shine birds and

Example #4: Raining cats and dogs is one of those silly English
expressions that makes learning the language so difficult, and yet
amusing at the same time.

Raise a Fuss

The idiom to raise a fuss means to cause problems by complaining, behaving
badly, or being noisy, disorderly or insulting. It usually happens in a public
place, but it might be just between two people.

Example #1: I really didn't mean to raise a fuss about the steak, but it was not
cooked correctly and I thought the waiter should know.

Example #2: If the baby raises a fuss tonight after we are gone, just give him
a bottle of formula and he'll go back to sleep.

Example #3: John's boss apparently raised a fuss when he read the proposal
for the new campaign he didn't like it and told everyone so.

Example #4: As the police took the burglar away in handcuffs, he raised a
fuss and threatened to sue them for brutality.

Raise Eyebrows

As human beings, no matter what part of the globe we are from, we express
ourselves in similar ways. Body language is the same whether you speak
English or Swahili, and this idiom is a great example. The act of raising the
eyebrows means that you are surprised or shocked, and the idiom means the
same thing without the actual physical expression. It has a connotation of
disapproval as well.

Example #1: As the daughter of a minister, Judy's teenage behavior raised some
eyebrows in the small community.

Example #2: My announcement raised eyebrows all around, but it was
something I had to do.

Example #3: Whether her choice to live with him will raise eyebrows or not,
she is determined to do it.

Example #4: As for the raising of eyebrows at my actions, I have no concerns.

Rake In The Money

If someone or something (like a product or process) rakes in the money, he,
she, or it is bringing in lots of profit in cash or other forms of earnings. A
rake is, of course, literally a tool used to collect and gather small things into
a larger pile. So piles of money are being collected when this idiom is used.

Example #1: Sheila's new invention is raking in the money she can't make
enough of them for the market.

Example #2: John's boss hopes that after the new advertising campaign
designed by John, the company will be raking in the money.

Example #3: If you really want to rake in the money, you have to take a
chance on risky investments.

Example #4: I don't rake in the money, but I am able to earn enough to live
on for me and my family.

Ream Someone Out

If your boss, teacher, or any authority figure reprimands you, possibly in
a loud voice, then you are being reamed out. It is also used to describe
an argument or altercation. The idiom is generally used only in informal
situations and conversation, and is considered to be slightly off-color.

Example #1: John really made a lot of errors in the report, and his boss
decided to ream him out in front of the whole office.

Example #2: Miss Smith was very grouchy today she reamed me
out in class for not having my assignment finished.

Example #3: One of the jobs of a sergeant in the Army is to ream
out the privates every time he can.

Example #4: That was very embarrassing that guy reamed me out for
stealing his parking place, then he drove away fast.

Rip Off

This idiom has 2 forms but the meaning of each is related to the other. The noun
form means that something is a bad deal, a dishonest sale, a subterfuge. The
verb form means to make a person the subject of the same a disreputable and
dishonest exchange or relationship.

Example #1: Rafter I got home from the used car lot, I knew the car was a rip
off, because it started sputtering and smoking.

Example #2: The entire recruiting process for the job is a rip off they will not
fulfill their promises, and you will work for nothing.

Example #3: If he tries to rip you off with that offer, just say no and leave.

Example #4: The tax collectors will rip you off every time if you are not

Rough Time

The idiom rough time means the same as hard time it refers to
difficult circumstances. If you lose your job, you might have
a rough time until you find a new one. Anything or anyone in life
that causes problems and difficulties can cause you to experience
a rough time.

Example #1: This last few years has been a rough time for the
economy in the US and for all of us who have to live with it.

Example #2: She called me last night because she was having
a rough time getting over the breakup with her boyfriend.

Example #3: If you ever feel like you are experiencing a rough
time and you need to talk to someone, give me a call.

Example #4: John's boss really gave him a rough time about his
quality of work, and John was quite upset.

Run Out Of Gas

If a car runs out of gas, the fuel tank is empty and it will not move. The
idiom run out of gas can be applied to a person, and means that he or
she has used up all of his or her stored energy and cannot move
forward with a plan or course of action. It implies a permanent stop,
something that will not be restarted.

Example #1: My plan to get rich quick ran out of gas when I lost all of
my savings in the stock market.

Example #2: I wanted to get to the top of the mountain on our hike,
but I ran out of gas about halfway up, and we returned to the camp.

Example #3: Don't start something if you think you can't finish it
running out of gas shouldn't be an option.

Example #4: John always seems to run out of gas right before the end
of a project, and the boss really has to push him along.

Run Short

The meaning of the idiom to run short is to have an insufficient amount
or quantity of something. This usually is understood to happen
unexpectedly, because of negligence, oversight, or other reasons.

Example #1: The new restaurant served so many customers last night
that they ran short of food they had to close early.

Example #2: By the way, if you run short of tickets for the play, please
come back to the office to get more to sell.

Example #3: The boss knew it was John's fault that the office had run
short on copy paper, because it was his job to order it regularly.

Example #4: Do you mind paying for lunch and then I can pay you
back later? I'm running short on cash today.

Run the Show

The idiom to run the show means to be in control, to be the one
that makes decisions. Running the show can be visible, or an
invisible, behind the scenes process.

Example #1: John's boss likes to let everyone know that he runs
the show, and he does this by causing problems for John.

Example #2: If you want to know who really runs the show in
the family, follow the checkbook to see who controls it.

Example #3: I like to make everyone think that I run the
show around here, but I know it's my wife who's really in charge.

Example #4: The one who runs the show has the power, and
sometimes power is enough.

Safe And Sound

The idiom safe and sound is a good example of a redundant expression it says
a similar thing twice, with alliteration (the s sound). To be safe is to be out of
danger, and to be sound is to be uninjured and unharmed, either physically or

Example #1: We were very happy and relieved that our teenager was safe and
sound after the auto accident, so we didn't punish him for being out too late.

Example #2: Everyone was safe and sound after the emergency stop, but the
bus driver looked a little pale.

Example #3: Officer, I just need to know if my kids are safe and sound after the
school bus accident.

Example #4: Even though it was cold, snowing, and windy outside, they
were safe and sound in the cozy little rented log cabin.

Salt Away

The idiom to salt away has an interesting origin and meaning. In ancient times, salt
was very valuable and was used to pay soldiers in the Roman army. Our modern
word salary comes from the Latin word for salt, and to salt away means to put
money in savings, wherever it comes from.

Example #1: She was very careful not to spend too much money, and she salted
away enough to buy a good used car in a few months.

Example #2: My aunt made a lot of money in the stock market when she was
younger, and salted it away for the future.

Example #3: My wife thinks we should salt away at least a portion of my paycheck
every month, but there are too many things I want to buy right now.

Example #4: Many parents think it is their duty to salt away some money for
college for their children.

Save Face

The idiom to save face means to preserve one's reputation and public
image. It is often used in reference to leaders who have to maintain power
even while making mistakes, but it can be used in similar situations.

Example #1: After making errors solving the differential equation, the
professor tried to save face by saying it was an intentional teaching method.

Example #2: The dictator would do anything to save face, including
blaming one of his sons for the food shortages in the country.

Example #3: It's important to learn that saving face is not essential, but
building character is.

Example #4: Let's drop this whole thing, leave quickly, and save face. It's
bad enough that we didn't get the money, but everyone in the bank saw our
faces in the robbery attempt.

Save One's Breath

The idiom to save one's breath means to keep quiet, to refrain from talking,
to refuse to discuss a topic. It has a connotation of annoyance, despair, and
sometimes anger.

Example #1: I told her to save her breath I didn't trust her anymore and I
didn't believe her stories either.

Example #2: John's boss told him to save his breath, because the proposal
was useless anyway and there was no need to explain it.

Example #3: Your father won't consent to our marriage anyway, so you
might as well save your breath and forget about him.

Example #4: Save your breath, please I already know that you lost your
job today because your secretary called for you and told me what happened.

See Eye to Eye

The idiom to see eye to eye means to be in agreement with someone.
Physically, if two people are literally eye to eye, they are looking at each other
at about the same level, and making eye contact.

Example #1: If we can't see eye to eye, then let's at least agree to disagree and
not make matters worse.

Example #2: My wife and I never see eye to eye on new movies she wants to
see the small independent films, and I like the big hits.

Example #3: The senator and the president saw eye to eye until the last
election, when their positions on the issues started to diverge.

Example #4: So, do we see eye to eye on this decision? We're having Chinese
carry out for dinner, right?

Sell Like Hot Cakes

The idiom to sell like hotcakes means to sell a large quantity of something,
and to continue being successful at it. The origin of the phrase is the
popularity of hotcakes (also known as pancakes) in the US at public
gatherings such as fairs and festivals. They were easy to sell and people loved

Example #1: These new computers should sell like hotcakes where else can
you get a good laptop for $200?

Example #2: We were able to completely clean out our production run of
widgets they sold like hotcakes in a matter of days.

Example #3: John's boss was hopeful that the new advertising campaign
would make their client's products sell like hotcakes, but John wasn't very
confident in his work.

Example #4: I'm an experienced car salesman and I'm telling you these
electric powered cars will sell like hotcakes in Europe, but not in America
here everyone wants a powerful car.

Shape Up Or Ship Out

Many of the most common American idioms originate from the military. This
one is a good example, coming from a Navy background. It means that you either
need to change to meet the needs of the organization (the company, usually) or
stop wasting their time and yours and quit. In other words, do what needs to be
done or get out of here. Maybe this idiom seems rather harsh, but it is often used
as a motivator to underachievers to work harder or to move on so someone else
can do the job.

Example #1: My boss told me I had to shape up or ship out, so I started working

Example #2: When she told him he had to shape up or ship out, he knew that he
had to make some changes in his attitude.

Example #3: As her supervisor I was tired of her performance, so I told her that
she had to shape up or ship out.

Example #4: When I told my teenager that he needed to shape up or ship out, he
looked at me and said, What are you talking about?

Shell Out

The meaning of this idiom comes from an ancient practice. Long ago before
currency was used, seashells were valuable and were used in trade. So to shell
out means to make a payment in money for something to buy it in other words.

Example #1: Sheila had to shell out over $50,000 for her new Mercedes, but her
company is very successful so it was not a problem for her.

Example #2: You may have to shell out some cash for a new clothes washer it
looks like this one is not working right.

Example #3: John wanted to shell out some money for the office football pool,
but he was out of cash for the moment.

Example #4: The basic principal is that if you want to make money in the stock
market, you have to shell it out.

Shoot Down

To shoot down an idea, a plan, a proposal, or a suggestion is to reject it. This
disagreement is usually, but not always, in a public forum such as a meeting. The
idiom has overtones of annoyance and of wasted effort.

Example #1: The boss shot down John's suggestion in the meeting, and he was
angry about it for the remainder of the day.

Example #2: I presented my idea for a party at the book club meeting, but it
got shot down because they are boring people.

Example #3: She can shoot down a great proposal faster than anyone I know
and she seems to enjoy doing it.

Example #4: My wife and I are having a difficult time communicating I feel
that she shoots down every suggestion I make.

Short On Funds

A fund is an amount of money, and to be short is to lack, to not have enough of
something. So, to be short on funds is to not have enough money at a particular
point in time. It is expected to be a temporary situation, with luck.

Example #1: Can you lend me $5 for lunch? I'm a little short on funds today.

Example #2: Sheila found out that the company's bank account was very short
on funds, so she could not pay her employees what they were owed.

Example #3: My teenager will be short on funds by the end of the week if he
continues to spend his allowance.

Example #4: John is always short on funds, and he owes everyone in the office
some amount of money.

Single Out

The meaning of the idiom to single out is to place unnecessary or unfair
attention or emphasis on something or someone. If you have several apples
and you choose one, you have singled it out because single means one, but the
idiom is used with the connotation of the process being unjustified and a

Example #1: I was unfairly singled out in the police lineup because I am very
tall I didn't commit the crime I was accused of.

Example #2: If you feel singled out and mistreated at work, then you may be
able to bring a successful harassment suit against the management.

Example #3: Sometimes my English teacher singles me out because I always
make mistakes, and he uses me as a bad example.

Example #4: Please don't feel singled out in this case there are thousands of
people just like you who have been charged with illegal downloading of
copyrighted material.

Slim To None

The idiom slim to none refers to the idea that there is little or no chance or
probability of something happening. The idea of probability is always inherent
in this idiom, based on the idea of randomness and likelihood.

Example #1: Her chances of winning the lottery are slim to none, but she
spends her money on a ticket every week anyway.

Example #2: I applied for the job and went to the interview, even though my
chances of getting hired are slim to none.

Example #3: I placed a bet on the second horse in the second race, knowing the
odds of him winning were slim to none I just liked his name - Lucifer.

Example #4: The probability of me making a profit in the stock market right
now are slim to none, but I can only learn by trying harder.

Sold Out And Sell Out

The meaning of the idiom to sell out is that everything that was available for purchase
has been sold there can be no further sales because there is nothing remaining. The
idiom is related to the use of the word out to mean having none as in the store is out of
my brand of cigarettes.

Example #1: I need to get some more diapers for my baby, but the drug store is sold
out of my brand and will not have any more until the weekend.

Example #2: The clerk said, I'm sorry sir, but we are all sold out of the suits that were
on sale can I show you a different one?

Example #3: We have to go to the store before they sell out of the new cereal I have
some great coupons that will save us a lot of money.

Example #4: I can't believe it the one thing we needed from the auto parts store is sold
out now we'll have to drive across town to the other store.

Steamed Up

If someone is steamed up, then he or she is mad, angry, upset, and so on.
The idiom comes from the process of boiling water or applying heat a
common result is steam, which is vaporized water. It is a very casual and
near-slang expression.

Example #1: I told her not to get so steamed up over nothing we could
send her steak back to be cooked some more.

Example #2: I don't understand why I always become so steamed up over
the referee's calls in football games, but I do it every time.

Example #3: My husband has a tendency to get steamed up really fast, and
then he calms down as if nothing happened.

Example #4: John was visibly steamed up after his private meeting with
the boss I don't think it was a good meeting.

Strike While The Iron Is Hot

The colorful idiom to strike while the iron is hot means to act decisively and
quickly because you have an advantage of some kind. The origin of the phrase is
in the art of blacksmithing or working with metal to make tools and implements,
in which the metal has to be shaped wile it is hot and flexible.

Example #1: I hope you were able to get some funding from the bank we have
to strike while the iron is hot on this investment opportunity.

Example #2: My father always said that if you don't strike while the iron is hot,
you can't blame anyone but yourself when you aren't successful.

Example #3: The general said, We have to strike while the iron is hot send 10
battalions to the border immediately and get ready to attack.

Example #4: They struck while the iron was hot, but it didn't help the enemy
army had retreated from the region and there was no battle to fight

Sweet Tooth

If you have a sweet tooth then desserts, pastries, and candies are your
favorite food. The idiom is an evolution of the phrase to have a tooth for
sweets, meaning the same thing, to a shorter form. It can be a permanent
or temporary characteristic.

Example #1: I have such a sweet tooth today that I am going to go to the
bakery and pick up doughnuts for the whole office.

Example #2: My son has always had a sweet tooth and loved to eat ice
cream and candy, but it finally has caught up with him he has to have a
few cavities filled at the dentist.

Example #3: One of the hardest habits to break when you want to lose
weight is a sweet tooth, because there is nothing quite like the taste of

Example #4: If you get a sweet tooth later, there is cake and ice cream in
the refrigerator from the birthday party today.

Take a Bath

The idiomatic expression take a bath has a meaning completely based on
economics. If a person takes a bath in the markets, it means that he or she loses
a large sum of money. The loss may come from other kinds of transactions, but
is always economic.

Example #1: Although she had no choice about selling the house, she
really took a bath on it she sold it for less than half of its value.

Example #2: If you gamble large sums of money, then you have to expect
to take a bath in the casinos once in a while.

Example #3: Because her portfolio was not diversified, she took a bath in the
stock market when there was a downturn.

Example #4: Don't put all of your money into one investment what if you end
up taking a bath and lose all your savings?

Take a Beating

The idiom to take a beating means to suffer the loss of a large sum of money.
Another expression with a physical basis, to be beaten is to be punished
physically. The idiom has a connotation of annoyance and regret.

Example #1: The company really took a beating when it made a public
offering, but recovered after a year or so.

Example #2: If you don't want to take a beating in the stock market, then you
shouldn't take a risk with your money.

Example #3: As long as you are willing to take a beating once in a while, the
commodities market can be a real thrill.

Example #4: The worldwide recession has demonstrated to everyone in the
economic community what it's like to take a beating.

Take a Stand On

The idiom to take a stand on means to declare a strong position on an
issue, or to make a decision on a question. It generally implies a
public action of some kind, or a declaration that is well known. The
expression comes from the situation in which, in a group of seated
people, one stands up to state an opinion.

Example #1: An elected politician usually takes a stand on an issue
that reflects his constituency's opinion.

Example #2: You can't answer the question of abortion rights for
women both ways you need to take a stand on it and stick to it.

Example #3: He took a stand on the issue, but unfortunately, his
position was not popular and he lost the election.

Example #4: Modern parents have to take a stand on the subject of
Internet safety with their teenagers, or there will be many problems.

Take Advantage Of

To take advantage of means to receive a benefit from or to use an
opportunity. The idiom can be used in both positive and negative
senses, and the context is important to understanding how it is being

Example #1: I believe that she took advantage of my good nature,
and tried to get close to me to take my money.

Example #2: We always take advantage of grocery coupons, and we
save hundreds of dollars every month.

Example #3: You shouldn't take advantage of him in this condition
he can't even remember his name.

Example #4: Take advantage of all the scholarships available, and
get your tuition paid for throughout college.

Take Care Of Business

If a person takes care of business, than he or she is doing what
needs to be done in a particular situation. It means that someone
is responsible, thorough, and competent in performing a task or

Example #1: Sheila is apparently taking care of business with her
new company it has been very profitable for the investors.

Example #2: To get through graduate school with a high GPA,
you really have to take care of business and take it seriously.

Example #3: John wasn't taking care of business on the new
account, so his boss gave him a different job.

Example #4: Take care of business with your portfolio, and your
investments will take care of you.

Take For

This idiom has a couple of different meanings, depending on intention
and context. The main meaning is to be cheated out of something
rightfully yours, or taken advantage of for gain usually money. But
another way to use it is to make unwarranted assumptions about
somebody. It usually has an air of annoyance and self-righteousness

Example #1: The divorce was a disaster for her he took her for every
penny she had.

Example #2: What do you take me for, an idiot? I know that you've
been cheating on me.

Example #3: When I go to Las Vegas to gamble, I plan to take the
casinos for all they've got.

Example #4: Don't take her for a fool she understands that she is not
doing the right thing.

Take For Granted

The idiom to take for granted has at least 2 primary meanings. One is to
believe and assume that something is true, factual and accurate. The
other is to undervalue someone or something, with a connotation of
being unfairly done.

Example #1: As a new teacher, I took it for granted that the students
had a basic vocabulary but I was wrong.

Example #2: My wife says that I take her for granted, and it's probably
true she does much more than I give her credit for.

Example #3: I took you for granted, and that was a foolish and hurtful
thing to do. Can you forgive me?

Example #4: It's not a good idea to take for granted that the bank will
cover your checks for insufficient funds you need to know the policy.

Team Player

A team is by definition more than one person. Someone who does well
working with other people, as on a team, is known as a team player. The
idiom came from sports but does not have to be used in a sports context.

Example #1: Sheila demonstrated she was a real team player when she
got the board together to agree on the sale of the company.

Example #2: John's boss thinks that he is not a team player because he
is always going off on his own.

Example #3: Learning to be a team player is very important in the game
of basketball, and in the game of life you can't win without others.

Example #4: If you can't be a team player, then you can't expect to have
a lot of friends when you need them.

The Inside Track

This idiom comes from the world of horse racing and gambling on horses. The
advantage always goes to the horse on the track closest to the rail the inside
track. If you have the inside track on something, then you have information that
gives you an advantage of some kind.

Example #1: Because she knew the owner of the coffee shop, she felt that she
had an inside track on a job there.

Example #2: John always thought he had an inside track because he knew the
bosses' son, but it really didn't matter in the long run.

Example #3: I placed a bet on the second horse in the second race, because I
had an inside track from knowing the owner.

Example #4: You can make millions in the stock market if you have an inside
track and you know how to use it.

Throw Cold Water On

Someone throws cold water on your plan, idea, suggestion or
proposal, then he or she disagrees with it and also makes it
impossible to continue. The idiom has a connotation of
disappointment and annoyance, and it describes an unpleasant,
negative event for anyone.

Example #1: The boss threw cold water on John's idea for
restructuring, and he was angry about it for the remainder of the

Example #2: You can throw cold water on this proposal if you
want, but I will find a way to get it done some other way.

Example #3: I wanted to have Chinese food for dinner, but
she threw cold water on the idea right away.

Example #4: The board of directors love to throw cold water
on Sheila's suggestions it makes them feel powerful.

Tight Spot

If you are in a tight spot, then you are in danger, in difficulty, or in trouble. The
physical origin of the idiom is from being in some close situation where there is not
enough space to move easily, such as cave exploring or rock climbing.

Example #1: John found himself in a real tight spot after the boss rejected his
proposal he was not certain how to revise it successfully.

Example #2: We are in a tight spot this month with the household budget, so please
don't spend any money except for necessary items.

Example #3: The policeman was in a tight spot after chasing the criminal down the
alley he was now trapped and there was no possibility of escaping.

Example #4: If you get into a tight spot with your research paper, give me a call I
have a lot of experience at editing academic writing.

To Be Chicken

If someones calls you a chicken, then you are being called a coward,
possibly with the purpose of pushing you to do something you would not
ordinarily do. If you have ever observed chickens scatter when they are
frightened or surprised, you can see the origin of the term.

Example #1: She said, Are you really chicken to jump in the lake with
your clothes on? I'll give you a hundred dollars to do it!

Example #2: He called me chicken and I called him a creep, and that's
when the fight started.

Example #3: If someone says you are chicken, then the best thing to do is
ignore the situation and walk away but that's not always possible.

Example #4: In English we have many expressions for being cowardly,
afraid or reluctant you might be called chicken, yellow, a scaredy cat, a
sissy, and so on.

To Dance To A Different Tune

If you notice a major change in the behavior, actions, or appearance of a person, you
might say that he or she is dancing to a different tune. We generally use this idiom in
talking about someone we know well, because that's why we see a change. The reason for
the change could be inward or outward or both, but the difference is evident.

Example #1: Mr. Jones won the lottery, and now he's dancing to a different tune.

Example #2: If I knew I would live forever, I would dance to a different tune and enjoy
life more.

Example #3: If you always seem to dance to a different tune, you might be seen as a

Example #4: Since Sara became religious, she dances to a different tune.

Turn Over

The idiom to turn over has a couple of related meanings. If you are
referring to people, then it usually means a refresh or a change of staff.
When speaking of items such as cars or DVDs, it means how much it is

Example #1: Since I became a manager at a fast food restaurant, I am
surprised at the employee turn over here I am always training
someone new.

Example #2: The governor's staff experienced a huge turn over after
the scandal.

Example #3: These new models of mp3 players are the most popular
item right now they turn over so fast that we can't keep them in the

Example #4: When you sell cars, you really need to turn over your
stock quickly or you lose money on depreciation.

Turn Someone Off

The idiom to turn (someone) off means to cause disgust, dislike, or general negative
feelings by words, actions, behaviors, and so on. To turn off a light using a switch is
the source of the phrase, and its opposite, to turn on, has the same origin and a similar,
but opposite, meaning.

Example #1: She turned me off completely by treating the waiter so rudely, and we
have never had another date.

Example #2: The interview was progressing just fine until he started insulting his
former bosses - that turned me off, and I told him I wouldn't hire him.

Example #3: We enjoyed the basketball game until the coach began yelling at the
players angrily, which really turned us off.

Example #4: He had a terrible habit of not making eye contact when talking to
someone, and it turned her off so badly that she finally broke off the engagement.

Under the Table

Under the table is an interesting idiom, because its literal and idiomatic meanings
are very similar. Imagine a secret transaction with the buyer and the seller facing
each other at a small table. The buyer gives the seller money with his hand under the
table, and the seller gives the buyer the item being bought. As an idiom it means
done in secret, and usually illegally.

Example #1: The restaurant owner paid his employees under the table in cash, so he
didn't have to pay taxes, until he finally was caught and arrested.

Example #2: If you buy something under the table, it won't have a warranty.

Example #3: A last minute agreement was reached under the table, but now the
senators have to explain what happened.

Example #4: It is against the law to pay for citizenship or other documents, but it
happens all the time under the table.

Under the Weather

If you are under the weather then you are sick, either physically or in other ways. The
idiom is related to the idea that cold weather brings illness. Modern science has
discovered that this is because immunity is weak when the body is cold and wet, but our
idioms are still useful.

Example #1: All last week, I was feeling a little under the weather so I wasn't at my best
for the presentation.

Example #2: My son said he was feeling under the weather this morning, so I called the
school to tell them he would be absent and they told me about the exams scheduled for

Example #3: If you're under the weather then I certainly don't expect you to attend the

Example #4: Maybe being under the weather for a while will give me a chance to rest and
recover from the stresses of life.

Under Wraps

The idiom under wraps means that something is being kept secret and
unknown. A wrap can be a blanket or other covering, and things covered
are kept away from the public eye, so the idiom originates in the literal
meaning of the phrase.

Example #1: The company kept the new models of computers under
wraps for months, and the press had no information about them.

Example #2: Let's keep the details if this agreement under wraps until
everyone has signed it.

Example #3: My son kept his fiance's identity under wraps until we met
her at Christmas and we were surprised to see we knew her already.

Example #4: Keep it under wraps, but I think the new employee is a
relative of the boss.

Up For Grabs

If something (or someone) is up for grabs, then it is available to anyone
who can claim it, take it, pay for it, or find it. To grab is to use the hands
to quickly grasp, so the idiom also implies a certain amount of speed and

Example #1: The new televisions were up for grabs at a fantastic price,
so I decided to buy 2 of them while I could.

Example #2: John's boss says the new position is up for grabs, as long as
you're qualified for it.

Example #3: My apartment will be up for grabs as soon as my lease is
over in August are you interested in renting it?

Example #4: Everyone who made a campaign contribution thinks that
the president is up for grabs, but he doesn't work that way.

Up To One's Ears

This idiom has a simple meaning, but has a changeable form because it
has 2 pronouns. If you are up to your ears in something, you are
extremely busy and in fact probably stressed and overwhelmed.

Example #1: I am up to my ears in finishing my thesis, so I can't go
home for the holidays.

Example #2: John was up to his ears in the new budget, so I didn't want
to bother him with my problems.

Example #3: The marching band was up to their ears with practicing for
the parade.

Example #4: Right now my wife and I are up to our ears getting ready
for moving to the new house, so please call me next month.

Up To Par

When a person's work performance, behavior, or other activity is not at the
appropriate or expected level of quality or quantity, then it is not up to par.
The idiom comes directly from the game of golf, where the player has a
certain number of possible strokes at a hole a number known as the par.

Example #1: Sheila's company's earnings were not up to par in the third
quarter, so she made some changes in production.

Example #2: My teenage son said that his art teacher believes his work in
the class is not going to be up to par.

Example #3: John's performance evaluation by his supervisor showed
several areas in which he was not up to par.

Example #4: A mechanic has to be up to par on his repair record, or the
garage will lose customers quickly.

Up To Someone

This idiom, while being a small one, is very powerful. It means that the
decision belongs to the person something is up to. If someone says a decision
is up to you, then it is your duty and responsibility to decide in the particular
situation. If you don't want to decide, you have to refuse or reject the offer id f

Example #1: The decision about when to move on to chapter 2 will be up to
you, so tell me when you are ready.

Example #2: John's boss said that it would be up to him whether John
continued working at the company or not.

Example #3: Do you want Italian or Chinese food tonight? I'll leave it up to
you, because it doesn't matter to me.

Example #4: After my son becomes 18 years old, the major decisions of his
life are no longer mine they are up to him.

Use One's Head

The brain is located in the head, and the idiom to use one's head is based
on this simple fact. Using your head is equivalent to thinking, and
making use of your brain and the power it has to be careful, consider all
the facts and make good decisions in a variety of situations.

Example #1: If we use our heads and create a workable solution, we can
survive a really bad situation.

Example #2: I told my son to use his head when he was driving, and he
thought I was making a joke he said he always uses his hands.

Example #3: John didn't use his head when he started the new ad
campaign, and it was a failure.

Example #4: Always use your head and pay attention when you are in a
new environment or situation, and you will probably be fine.

Used To

The idiom used to has a simple meaning to be accustomed to,
habitually, regularly. It never changes form since it is a descriptive
expression, not a verb.

Example #1: I don't know if I will ever get used to her being gone,
even though almost 30 years has passed since she died.

Example #2: They say that the noise of living near the railroad
tracks is something you eventually get used to, bit it hasn't happened

Example #3: After a time, she got used to his snoring, and it even
started to help her to go to sleep.

Example #4: John is so used to his boss being abusive and mean to
him that he doesn't know when he's had enough.

Warm Up

The idiom to warm up has a simple meaning to practice. But
there are variations in meaning, too. It can mean to stretch the
muscles used in exercise before actually exercising, and it can
mean to be the opening act for a performer at a public event.

Example #1: Before she played her concert, she warmed up at
the piano with some exercises and short pieces.

Example #2: John forgot to warm up before he went jogging, and
he pulled a muscle in his leg.

Example #3: At one time I was the warm up act for a comedian
in a nightclub I was a juggler.

Example #4: As a singer, you can warm up your voice easily in
just a few minutes with the right exercises.

Warm Up To

The meaning of this idiom can change depending on the context.
If you are warming up to a person, you are becoming friendly and
comfortable and feeling safe with that person. You can also warm
up to a situation like a job or a school, or to a new environment
like a city or an apartment building. The overall meaning stays
the same, however.

Example #1: I am finally warming up to my new roommate, who
is kind of shy.

Example #2: John warmed up to the new job after the first week,
when he got a corner office and made several new friends.

Example #3: She'll warm up to the new boss, just wait and see.

Example #4: If you give him some time, you'll find it easy
to warm up to him he's a great guy.

Wash One's Hands Of

If you wash your hands, you clean them and start over with clean hands. The
idiom to wash your hands of something means that you are stopping
involvement, giving up on, and abandoning a situation or person. It has
overtones of annoyance and maybe regret too.

Example #1: I did everything I could do for my son and he has always been a
failure and a disgrace now I have to wash my hands of him.

Example #2: After losing most of his money in the markets, he washed his
hands of the whole concept of risky investing.

Example #3: John's boss has washed his hands of the project, and believes it
was a mistake from the start.

Example #4: If you ever decide to wash your hands of something, be certain
of your decision it's almost impossible to change your mind.

Washed Up

To be washed up is to be a failure after once upon a time being successful.
The idiom is often used with reference to celebrities such as movie stars, pop
music performers, or with famous sports figures. In form it is commonly used
with all to intensify the meaning.

Example #1: At one time the handsome singer had 3 songs on the top 40 list,
but now it's over he's all washed up.

Example #2: He was a famous Olympic gymnast in his youth, but
unfortunately, he's washed up now.

Example #3: His movies are not successful anymore, and he can't get work in
Hollywood he's definitely all washed up.

Example #4: It must be very difficult and sad to be washed up at such a
young age, but that's what happens to many child actors when they get older.

Waste (of) One's Breath

The idiom to waste one's breath means in a real sense to talk without
accomplishing anything, and so to throw away or misuse the breath
required to speak. It implies some disgust, annoyance and resignation on
the part of the speaker or describer.

Example #1: It was a complete waste of my breath to ask her father for
her hand in marriage he refused from the beginning.

Example #2: Don't waste your breath asking for a pay raise no one
ever gets an increase around here.

Example #3: John asked for a raise, and not only was it a waste of his
breath, but the boss got angry and fired him.

Example #4: We have to try to come to an agreement, even if it ends up
being a waste of our breath.

Watch It

This idiom is most commonly used as a command, but can be used in other
ways too. It means to be attentive and careful, implying danger or possible
injury might result if the advice is not followed.

Example #1: I told my son many times to watch it going down that hill on his
skateboard, but he wouldn't listen and now he has a broken leg.

Example #2: Hey, watch it with that fishing pole! You might hurt someone
with it!

Example #3: You really have to watch it in some parts of this city there are
dangerous places to be.

Example #4: Will you please watch it with your pool cue? You almost hit my
head swinging it around.

Water Down

The idiom to water down means to weaken, dilute, make less powerful. If you
water down an alcoholic drink, then it has less alcohol than before. Using the
idiomatic expression, watering down anything changes the situation in a similar

Example #1: The president's original strong position on the subject of
international aid had become so watered down that he didn't even recognize it.

Example #2: Please don't water down your language for the class they need
the challenge of hearing a native speaker to improve their English.

Example #3: Sometimes you have to water down your message if you want it to
be heard.

Example #4: If you water down the orange juice, it's much easier on the

Water Under the Bridge

The idiomatic expression water under the bridge means that
something is a past event and should be looked at as finished,
completed, over. Just as the movement of a river or stream under a
bridge shows, the water has moved on and cannot be recovered.

Example #1: We had a long relationship with many good times, and
many bad times, but now it's water under the bridge we need to
forget about us and continue with our separate lives.

Example #2: If it's all just water under the bridge, then why are you
so interested in continuing to be my friend?

Example #3: Our losses are now water under the bridge, and we
must accept the fact that life will be very different in the future.

Example #4: The ancient philosophers say that all of life is water
under the bridge, because the present is an illusion.

Way Off Base

The idiom way off base means incorrect or mistaken, but in an extreme or
exaggerated way. If something is on a base it is fixed and solid, so off base
carries the opposite connotation, and way makes it stronger.

Example #1: His impression of the secretary was way off base she was a
dedicated, talented, and intelligent woman, not a bimbo.

Example #2: I happen to think you're way off base on this the budget
doesn't need any more changes before it's adopted.

Example #3: A rescue helicopter pilot must be precise and skillful if he
or she is way off base, than lives could be lost.

Example #4: My prediction for the score was way off base my team
actually lost by 20 points instead of winning.

What's Eating You

The meaning of the idiom what's eating (someone) is making a person
angry or upset. It often appears in the form of a question, as in what's
eating you? But it can also be used in other ways. It is related to the
idiom eating away at, where eat means bother or make angry.

Example #1: What's eating you, anyway? I do everything I can to please
you, and you're still in a bad mood and angry at the world for some reason.

Example #2: I don't know what was eating him, but all of a sudden he
started yelling at the players and the fans and stomped off the basketball

Example #3: If you really want to find out what's eating her, just ask
sometimes a direct approach is much better than guessing.

Example #4: I felt mad, anxious, fearful, and sad, and I wasn't sure what
was eating me so I made an appointment with my doctor to figure it out.

Write Off

The meaning of the idiom to write off is to dismiss or reject, to make a
decision about in a negative way. The origin of the expression is in
accounting, where a certain expenditure or loss can be excluded from tax
or reduce tax it can be written off.

Example #1: I'm begging you not to write me off so quickly without
letting me explain what happened.

Example #2: After he lost his job and his house and car were repossessed,
she wrote him off as a failure and called off the marriage.

Example #3: If you don't give the team a chance to compete in the
tournament, you'll be writing them off without an opportunity to try.

Example #4: Let's just write this relationship off as an experiment that
failed, and move on maybe you and I were never meant to be together.

Year Round

The idiom year round means the whole length of the year, with no
exceptions. The expression reflects the cyclical quality of the seasons and
of time as we experience it.

Example #1: After I found out that the ski resort was open year round, I
made a reservation for a summer vacation.

Example #2: I have decided that I need to live in a climate where it is
temperate the year round I can't accept the idea of cold weather anymore.

Example #3: One educational reform that has taken hold in the US is year
round school, where students continue class even during the summer

Example #4: Ideally, I would like to be able to surf year round, so I am
thinking about moving to Australia.

Zero In On

The idiom to zero in on means to be concentrated and focused on a problem,
target, or goal. It comes from instrumentation used in warfare and surveying,
where the null setting indicates a lock on the target.

Example #1: We zeroed in on the problem, decided on a number of possible
solutions, and then implemented them one by one.

Example #2: The therapist's intuition was incredible she was able to zero in
on my issues and help me to improve my attitude about them.

Example #3: Why don't we take some time to zero in on the goal of complete
independence by next year, and think about how we might reach that goal.

Example #4: There is a beauty in the precision of zeroing in on a target,
arriving at the designated coordinates, and launching your ordinance.


The idiom zillionaire is a good example of an exaggeration it takes
the word millionaire, starts it with a Z, and means much more that a
million. It is also a good example of creativity and playfulness in the
formation of common expressions in English. The zillion also
appears alone to mean a large number.

Example #1: If I learn English fluently and move to the US, I will
become a zillionaire in no time at all!

Example #2: Now that he has won the lottery and become at least
a zillionaire, he thinks he is better than all of his former friends.

Example #3: If you write a book about English idioms and it
becomes a bestseller, you could become a zillionaire.

Example #4: She became a zillionaire almost overnight with a hit
song and video, but within 6 months she was out of money and hit

I hope you enjoyed this book and found it helpful. Please share it with your friends. Wishing you the best of life!


Please share this ebook with your friends. This ebook was produced by Robert of

UPDATED 09/17/2013