Useful Idioms: A Wolf in Sheeps Clothing
"Wolf in sheep's clothing" is danger posing as harmless

Learn English Idioms

Figurative phrases or popular expressions that children and English Language Learners (ELL) come across can be confusing because their meaning is different from each of their individual words. We offer a collection of useful idioms, explanations of their meaning, and links to relevant stories that provide context.

Beginner English learners may enjoy Pre-K Wordplay! for phonics practice, very short stories and idiom phrases in Aesop's Fables, and our collection of Short Stories for Children. Phrases are offered alphabetically below; use your control-F key function to search for specific idiom phrases.

Are you a teacher? We offer Teacher Resources across all grade-levels.


A CB or ham radio expression meaning "OK"

"10-4, I can read you loud and clear."

800 pound gorilla

Something big or obvious that people may be missing or intentionally ignoring because it is uncomfortable to think about or discuss

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

A proverbial expression meaning when someone's away, they are appreciated more than when they are present

"Jack and May get along so much better now that they live in different cities. Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Achilles heel

A weakness or vulnerability, often used to specify the weakness in a person, organization or system

Acting like a chicken with its head cut-off

Panicking and just running or doing without thinking (the result might not change anything anyway)

Acting like an angel

Being very good

A "draw"

A tie or even match, no definite winner

Adversity makes strange bedfellows

A proverbial expression meaning that when faced with a conflict or difficult situation, people unite, despite their differences.

"Owen and Oliver never agreed on anything, but they came together to fight the oil drilling proposal. Adversity makes strange bedfellows."

Against the clock

An expression meaning to do something as fast as possible and try to finish it before a certain time

"She's racing against the clock to find the cure to cancer."

Albatross around one's neck

An annoying burden he/she can't get rid of or a punishment that won't stop, similar to "a cross to bear"

"That last final exam is really an albatross around my neck."

All eyes (or ears) are on you, or I'm all ears

An expression meaning you are paying attention completely

All roads lead to Rome

An expression meaning all paths or activities lead to the center of things, which was true in Rome, where all roads radiated from the city center

All thumbs

Physically awkward or clumsy


A compliment describing someone who keeps another steady or on-track

"She's my anchor, I could have never gotten through that job without her."

Ants in your pants

Unable to hold still or very anxious or uncomfortable

Apple a day keeps the doctor away

A common English proverb encouraging people to eat apples or other fruits and vegetables, to ensure good health

"I eat at least two pieces of fresh fruit every day. An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Apple doesn't fall far from the tree

An expression usually referring to a child who exhibits the same behavior as his/her parent

As fate would have it
As mad as a hatter
At the blink of an eye

An expression meaning a very short period of time (as long as it takes to blink?)

"At the blink of an eye, the concert was over. It went by so fast!"

Ayes have it

An expression meaning the affirmative vote is in the majority (sometimes confused with "eyes")

"That's it, the ayes have it! Motion carries!"

Backseat driver

An annoying person who is fond of giving advice to the person performing a task or doing something, especially when the advice is either wrong or unwelcome

"I have a hard time teaching my son to drive, I'm such a back seat driver."

Bad apple

A bad or corrupt person, someone who is likely to negatively influence others

"He has been caught shop-lifting, he's just a bad apple to be around."

Bad faith

Deceiving others or lying to oneself or refusal to confront facts or choices

"She sold that car in bad faith, she knew the car didn't run, she shouldn't have sold it to that guy."

Badger or pester someone

An expression meaning to bother someone repeatedly about the same thing

"Mom, stop badgering me, I'll clean my room, I promise."

Bad to the bone
Bail one out

An expression meaning to help someone or rescue them from trouble

"I'll bail Richard out, he needs the money to get groceries this week."

Balanced meal

Eating a nutritionally varied meal including protein, carbohydrates, fats, and sugars

"I'm going to stop eating junk food, for dinner I'll have a balanced meal of chicken, vegetables, and rice."

Band aid solution

An expression meaning a temporary solution to a problem

"Putting her on leave is just a band aid solution, she really should be fired."

Barefaced or baldfaced lie
Bare minimum
Bare one's soul

Meaning to show your vulnerability or emotions to another

"She really bared her soul to him, telling him about her difficult childhood."

Barking dog never bites
Bark is worse than bite
Bat an eye

An expression describing showing no emotion or acting as if nothing unusual is happening

"The popcorn machine exploded, but Josh didn't bat an eye, he just made sure no one was hurt and started cleaning up the mess."

Bated breath

An expression meaning so eager, anxious, excited, or frightened that the person is almost holding his/her breath

"I'm waiting with bated breath for my true love to return home."

Beat around the bush

An expression meaning to avoid getting to the point or the main issue

"Stop beating around the bush, does she like me or not?"

Beat of a different drummer
Beat someone with the ugly stick

An expression describing someone as extremely unattractive

"Wow, he's so far from good looking, I think someone beat him with the ugly stick."

Beat the band

An expression meaning to the greatest possible degree

"The baby's crying sure does beat the band, he hasn't stopped for twenty minutes!"

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Beauty is only skin-deep

An expression that means a pleasing appearance is not a guide to someone's character

"See that beautiful lady smiling over there? She's actually a mean, cold-hearted spinster. Beauty is only skin-deep."

Be careful what you wish for

An expression meaning that if you get what you want, there may be unintended or unforeseen consequences

"Be careful what you wish for, if you get that part, you'll be so popular, you might lose your privacy because everyone will recognize you."

Beck and call

A signal used by someone to direct, summon, or instruct someone to respond at the slightest request

"Tina's at my beck and call now that I'm sick in bed. She'll bring me whatever I need."

Beg off

An expression to request to be excused or decline from participating, usually at the last minute and after committing to do it

"I'm going to beg off and skip rehearsals tonight, I feel sick."

Be happy with your lot in life
Behind the scenes

An expression meaning out of sight of the public at a theater or organization

"All the research we do is behind the scenes, customers have no idea how much we work to improve the quality of our products."

Being toast

An expression meaning to be in trouble, comparable to "I'm in the dog house"

"I'm toast, my mom's going to find out I didn't come home until after midnight."

Better safe than sorry

An expression of advice cautioning against taking a chance doing something that's risky, stick with the sure thing

"I would put up a 2-pointer instead of a 3, better safe than sorry."

Between a rock and a hard place
Big brother is watching you
Big ears

A description of someone who overhears others' private conversations, overhearing other people's business, similar to "busy-body"

"Bill has big ears, you know. He can hear everything you said, he'll tell Cindy."

Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Birds of a feather

Describing people with similar characters, backgrounds, interests, or beliefs

"Birds of a feather flock together. Jeremy and Isaac both love exactly the same music."

Birthday suit
Bite off more than one can chew

Taking on more responsibility than is warranted

"Working at the grocery store and the restaurant while being a full time student is biting off more than you can chew."

Bite one's head off

An expression meaning to reply brusquely or sharply to someone

"She practically bit my head off when I admitted to her that I copied her homework."

Bite the bullet

An expression meaning to decide to do something difficult or unpleasant that one has been putting off

"I'm just going to bite the bullet and clean my room before my mom comes home."

Blind ambition

An expression meaning to seek to improve only things for yourself, not like ambition, which is about improving and changing things in the world

"He's got blind ambition, all he can think about is getting into business school."

Blind as a bat

An expression meaning not being able to see very well (bats use echolocation, rather than sight)

"She can't see anything without her glasses on, she's blind as a bat."

Blind date
Blindside someone

An expression meaning to simply to do or say something the person is utterly unprepared for

"Robby blindsided Emily when he told her he was breaking up with her, she was totally shocked."

Blowing a lot of hot air
Blow one's horn

An expression meaning to be boastful about one's own accomplishments, similar to "toot one's own horn"

"Not to blow my own horn, but I sing the best at my school."


An expression meaning the outcome of a competition was completely one-sided, similar to "landslide"

"The final score was 27-0, I'd say that was a blow-out!"

Blow smoke

An expression meaning to try to mislead or threaten someone by giving false or exaggerated information

"He's just blowing smoke, Mike would never report you to the principal."

Blue in the face

An expression meaning to get no result no matter how much effort is attempted

"You can tell her to go to bed earlier until you are blue in the face, she won't even attempt to fall asleep until midnight."


An expression meaning to retend to have a capability or intention one does not actually possess

"You can't really hit the golf ball 300 yards, you're just bluffing!"

Bob's your uncle

It means "it's not what you know, but who you know" referring to unearned favoritism, named after the British prime minister Robert "Bob" Cecil who appointed his undeserving nephew as Chief Secretary of ireland in 1887.

It can also mean "and there you have it" Example: "Right over left, left over right, and Bob's your uncle, a knot."

Boil over or boiling point

Literally, to flow over the sides of something boiling, it means not being able to control one's anger, starting a fight

"Tensions were boiling over as the crowd yelled insults at the speaker they didn't agree with."

Bone chilling
Bottom's up

An expression meaning to drink your beer or other beverage until it's empty

"Here's to your health [toast glasses], bottom's up."

Break a leg
Bred in the bone

An expression describing something firmly established or deep-rooted, similar to "died in the wool"

"What's bred in the bone is sure to come out in the flesh."

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

An expression meaning to intimidate someone into doing something, usually with stern or abusive words

"The captain browbeat the soldiers to climb the last ridge before the sun went down, there was no rest for anyone."

Brown-nose, ass-kisser, kiss-ass
Bull in a china shop
Bun in the oven

An expression describing a woman who is pregnant

"With that little tummy bump, I knew she had a bun in the oven."

Burning a candle from both ends
Burning bridges

To do something that damages a relationship going forward

"Make sure you give two weeks notice so you remain on good terms with the boss in case you need a reference. You don't want to burn bridges."

Bursting at the seams

An expression used to describe something full or overflowing, also when someone is overwhelmed with emotion

"He's just bursting at the seams, can't wait to tell Victoria how he really feels about her!"

Bury the hatchet

An expression meaning to end a quarrel and become friendly, similar to "let bygones be bygones"

"What do you say we stop fighting and bury the hatchet?"

Busy as a beaver, or busy as a bee

A meddling or prying person

"He's such a busy-body, listening to other people's conversations."

Butter someone up
Button up
By hook or by crook

Accomplishing something by any possible means

"By hook or by crook, I'll figure out how to pay for college."

Calling the question

A reference to Parliamentary procedure, used as a motion to end debate on a pending proposal and bring it to an immediate vote, also in poker, to "call" means to match the current amount of the previous bet

"I'm calling the question, let's vote. Do we fund the project or not? All in favor?"

Call in the cavalry

A reference to the only organization of any power that could be quickly sent to impose the rule of law on the unruly populace

"You better call in the cavalry, we need professional work laying these tiles properly."

Call off the dogs
Calm before the storm
Candle in the wind

An expression made popular in the song by Elton John, meaning something that is particularly vulnerable, weak, fragile, or precarious and likely to fail, perish, or be eliminated at any moment

"She was so fragile and weak, always getting sick when someone sneezed, a real candle in the wind."


An expression meaning to take sales away from an existing product by selling a similar, but new product

"Tony cannibalized that same pizza recipe at his new restaurant."

Can't hold a candle to

An expression meaning not be as good as the person or thing mentioned

"Reginald can't hold a candle to Christina, she's a much better teacher than he is."

Can't see the forest for the trees
Carpe diem

The Latin term translated as "seize the day" means to make the most of one's experiences or opportunities

"Make the most of this teaching opportunity, you can influence so many students, carpe diem!"

Carrot or the stick
Cast in stone

From Babylonian times, meaning something is defined and unchangeable

"It's not cast in stone, we can change the rules if we want to."

Catawampus or Cattywampus

An expression describing something as not lined up or arranged correctly

"His hat is crooked on his head, it's catawampus."

Catching some "z's"
Catch more flies with honey than with vinegar

An expression meaning you can win people to your side more easily by gentle persuasion and flattery than by hostile confrontation

"Focus on what she did well, instead of what mistakes she made if you want her to volunteer again, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Catch the eye of someone
Cat got your tongue?

An expression meaning you are unusually quiet, or speechless as in not knowing what to say

"How come you aren't answering my question, cat got your tongue?"

Cat's game

This expression is an analogy that a cat won't win the game of trying to catch its tail, and you can't win a tied game of Tic Tac Toe

"Oh, we tied, just like a cat's game."

Cat's out of the bag

An expression describing something is revealed and no longer a secret

"Looks like the cat's out of the bag now, Jeremy knows about his surprise party."

C'est la vie
Change your tune, or sing a different tune
Cheap skate
Cheshire cat

A reference to the magical cat character in "Alice in Wonderland" who disappeared except for his smile, it refers to anyone with a conspicuous and long-lasting smile

"Bob couldn't wipe that cheshire grin off of his face; it's so obvious how much he has a crush on Amanda."

Chicken and egg situation

An expression meaning it is not clear which event preceded the other

"By announcing the class, it may have increased enrollment, unless it was already full because she's such a good teacher. It's a chicken and egg situation."

Chill out

An expression meaning to be calm or avoid getting excited

"Chill out, he'll be here any minute."

Chomping at the bit

An expression originating from horses chewing on the bits in their mouths, it means to be very eager or impatient

"Mom is chomping at the bit to get going as soon as possible."

Chose the path less traveled

Though many would say this means the freedom to be unconventional, it actually refers to a man confronted by a fork of equally worn paths who chose one, and will say he took the one less-traveled if someone asks

"I chose the path less traveled when I made that decision."

Clear as a bell

An expression meaning easy to understand, similar in meaning to "ring a bell."

"I remember what she looked like thirty years ago, clear as a bell."

Cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition
Cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition
Clowning around
Cold feet

An expression meaning to change one's mind and not proceed with a prior commitment

"I got cold feet and decided not to audition after all."

Cold shoulder

An expression meaning to ignore or disregard someone

"She gave him the cold shoulder when he asked her out."

Come clean
Come hell or high water
Come out of your shell
Cookie crumbles

An expression meaning the way things worked out, nothing can be done about it, similar to "ball bounces"

"Well, you can't change the results of the try-outs, that's just the way the cookie crumbles."

Couch potato
Count one's lucky stars
Crap out

An expression meaning to break a promise or to abandon something because of fear, cowardice, exhaustion, or loss of enthusiasm

"Jane crapped out on the awards ceremony, even though she knew her whole team would be there."

Creature comforts

An expression referring to things which provide physical ease such as good food, warm clothing, and accommodations

"When I go camping, I really miss my creature comforts like warm slippers and a soft bed."


An expression meaning something or someone that causes an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease

"That guy is really creepy, he's been staring at me for the last ten minutes, it makes me really uncomfortable."

Cross my heart and hope to die
Cross to bear

A burden or trial one must put up with, similar to "an albatross around my neck"

"Being voted best citizen is your cross to bear, now you can never swear in public again."


A slang expression used as an adjective, describing someone that has well-defined muscles

"His abdominal muscles are so chiseled, he's really cut!"

Cut both ways

An expression meaning a piece of information that can serve both sides of an argument

"Having internet filters cuts both ways; it keeps kids safe from inappropriate content, but it might block useful information, too."

Cutting edge

An expression meaning the latest or most advanced stage in the development of something

"Nate is developing a brand new thermometer for the rocket ship, it's real cutting edge technology."

Cutting off your nose to spite your face

Needless and destructive over-reaction to a problem

"By yelling so loudly, you'll just scare the dog and he'll run away again. You're cutting off your nose to spite your face."

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

An expression meaning no matter what someone does, he/she will be criticized for it

"Even if I apologize, the mistake is already made. I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't."

Damn the torpedoes

A quote by Admiral David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile which has come to mean continue with the planned course of action despite known risks

"Damn the torpedoes! We're going to have this picnic even if the forecast says it will only be 50 degrees."

Day dreaming
Dead duck

An expression meaning a person or a thing that is unsuccessful, useless or defunct

"After getting a D on that quiz, you're a dead duck now."

Dead in the water

An expression originating from a ship unable to move, it has come to mean something has failed, and that there is little hope of it being successful in the future

"That idea is dead in the water, there's no way Congress is going to pass the bill."

Dead meat
Deal with the hand (or cards) you were dealt
Death and taxes, the only two things that are certain
Death's door
Deer in the headlights

An expression meaning standing still in a panic or paralyzed with fear

"She forgot all her lines standing on the stage, she was a deer in the headlights."

Devil made me do it!

A classic defense to deflect blame or responsibility for one's actions

"I didn't mean to steal the candy, the devil made me do it!"

Devil makes work for idle hands
Devil's advocate
Devil's in the details
Died in the wool

An expression meaning deeply ingrained as part of someone's character, similar to "bred in the bone"

"Jazz music is so much a part of his life, it's died in the wool."

Dime a dozen
Dive in

An expression usually meaning to help oneself to food

"Dive in, there's plenty of food for everyone."

Doesn't have a leg to stand on

There is no solid basis or evidence for an assertion or action.

"Without any solid evidence connecting the accused with the crime, the prosecutor did not have a leg to stand on."

Dog and pony show

Organizing an event or show to impress others or explain the value of something

"Vicky put on quite a dog and pony show with all those slides during her presentation."

Dog eat dog
Dog tired

An expression meaning exhausted

"After climbing that hill, I'm dog tired."

Dog with a bone
Don't be like the grasshopper
Don't bite off more than you can chew
Don't count your chickens until they've hatched
Don't cry over spilled milk

An expression meaning it doesn't do any good to be unhappy about something that has already happened or that can't be helped

"Nancy, there was nothing you could do about all that food going bad when the power was out for three days, so don't cry over spilled milk."

Don't fix what ain't broke
Don't know someone from Adam

An expression referring to the character in the Old Testament of The Bible meaning to have never met someone and not know anything about him/her

"I just met Donnie this afternoon, before that, I wouldn't have known him from Adam."

Don't let the fox guard the henhouse
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth
Don't put all your eggs in one basket
Don't throw the baby out with the bath water
Down for the count

An expression meaning having been, or very near to being, defeated, ruined, or overcome; from boxing, when the referee counts to 10 after a boxer has been knocked out and is down on the mat

"He can't keep his eyes open, he's so tired. Jacob is down for the count."

Down in the dumps
Down the rabbit hole
Down the road, in the long run
Drama queen
Draw the last straw
Dressed to the nines

Describing a very elaborate manner of dress

"Her prom dress had sequence from head to toe, she was really dressed to the nines."

Early bird gets the worm
Ears are burning

What you say to someone who walks into the room after you've just been talking about them

"She just finished saying what a good student you are, your ears must be burning."

Easy come, easy go
Easy on the eyes

An expression describing someone as attractive

"He sure is easy on the eyes, I think he's the best looking boy in our class."

Eating crow
Eeny meeny miny moe
Egg on your face
Egg someone on

An expression meaning to taunt someone to keep doing something or provoke someone to action

"Stop egging me on, you know how much I love that movie, stop saying it's bad."

Empty threats
Even keel

A sailing expression meaning to stay balanced

"Margaret is very even keeled, she doesn't panic under pressure."

Everything's better with bacon
Eye candy
Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth
Eyes are bigger than your stomach
Face the music
Fall off the turnip truck

An expression meaning to be gullible or tricked easily

"I didn't just fall off the turnip truck, you know!"

False bill of goods
Feed the fire or stoke the fire
Feel it in your bones
Fifth wheel

This expression means to be involuntarily discharged or terminated from a job or assignment

"After six times showing up late and arguing with the customers, that's it, you're fired!"

Fire in the belly
Fish or cut bait
Fish out of water

An expression meaning a situation is suspicious

"That sounds pretty fishy, making twice her old salary doing the same job?"

Fit as a fiddle
Fit to be tied
Flash in the pan
Flying by the seat of your pants
Follow in your footsteps
Follow suit
For a song

A phrase meaning to get something cheaply

"I looked at buying a new vacuum cleaner at the department store, but I can get it for a song on Amazon."

Fox in a hen house
Full of piss and vinegar, or pep and vinegar
Full steam (or speed) ahead

An expression describing a fussy, nervous person, a worrier, perfectionist, often a stickler for things to be carried out exactly as he/she dictates

"My mom is nervous about leaving me home alone for the weekend, even though I'm old enough to take care of myself. She's such a fussbudget!"

Gave someone a heart attack

An expression meaning to scare someone very badly

"You just gave me a heart attack, surprising me around that dark corner like that!"

Get one's licks in

An expression meaning to hit one's opponent, injure them, but not necessarily win

"Louis made some really good points in his argument, he got his licks in, even though Harry won the debate."

Get on the stick

An expression meaning to get motivated or begin something

"You better get on the stick and brush your teeth, or you'll be late for school."

Get religion

An expression meaning to become serious about something, usually after a powerful experience

"After I got that F on my first math quiz, I got religion and now do practice problems every night so I can pass the class."

Get the boot
Get the monkey off my back
Get the show on the road
Get the wheels in motion

An expression meaning to ignore or treat someone as though he/she does not exist

"He's ghosting her, it was like she didn't exist when he walked by."

Gift horse

An expression reminding a person to be grateful for the gift they received, without being critical of it

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Be grateful for the pink socks, even though you wanted a complete outfit."

Give me liberty or give me death
Giving one's eye teeth

An expression meaning to work hard to achieve good results in the tasks that they have been given

"She's taking every class she can to ensure her admission to medical school, she's really goal-driven."

God helps those who help themselves
Go fry an egg
Going against the grain
Going like gangbusters

Someone who covets other people's money, and seeks companions who may spend it for their benefit

"She just married him for his money."

Golden Rule

A moral lesson in The Bible (Book of Matthew) and in many stories: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" means to treat other people the way you want to be treated

"Remember the golden rule, be kind to your brother."

Golden ticket

An expression meaning to get an unexpected or improbable opportunity, a reference to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

"I've got a golden ticket, I just got accepted to the medical school that was my long-shot."

Good company

An expression meaning to not be ashamed of making a mistake because respectable or important people have made the same mistake

"The teacher made the same mistake you did answering that question, you are in good company."

Good egg

An expression describing something or someone of good quality

"She's a good egg, always been a very thoughtful person."

Good for the goose is good for the gander

What is good for a man is equally good for a woman; or, what a man can have or do, so can a woman have or do

"Women can be construction bosses just like men, what's good for the goose is good for the gander."

Goody two shoes

An expression describing a naive, silly, or stupid person

"He's such a goofball, he doesn't even know how to tie a tie or tuck in his shirt."

Go stag
Got gumption or grit

An expression used to describe the best person to deal with a particular problem, or something that is a dependable solution

"Ernie is my go-to for that project, he's the expert on criminal law cases."

Grass is always greener on the other side

An expression that means to be envious of other's circumstances as more favorable than one's own

"Most people would say your BMW is fine, but you envy our neighbor's Porsche. I guess the grass is always greener."

Gravy train

An expression referring to a situation in which someone can make a lot of money for very little effort

"That consulting job is such great money for working only 20 hours a week, it's a serious gravy train."

Green thumb
Green with envy
Hack or hack job

An expression meaning not proficient or sub-standard

"That was a real hack job, he didn't meet the electrical code at all."

Hail mary
Hair of the dog that bit you
Half in the bag

An expression meaning hit or beat, attacked or forcefully criticized. Another meaning is to be extremely intoxicated

"They really got hammered by that hurricane in Florida!"

Handle on something

An expression meaning an understanding or ability

"She really has a handle on driving the car, now that she's finished twenty hours of instruction."

Hang-dog look
Hang one's hat

An expression meaning a place where someone lives, frequents, or feels comfortable

"I hang my hat there, I really like the crowd at that coffee shop."


Being sick from drinking too much alcohol

"She had a hangover this morning because she drank too much beer last night."

Happy as a pig in shit or happy as a pig in a poke
Happy camper
Hard nut to crack, tough nut to crack

A difficult problem to solve or a formidable undertaking

"That's a tough nut to crack, not having a GPS system while traveling in an unfamiliar city."

Have a firm foundation
Having a "come to Jesus"
Head over heels
Heart in hand
Heart on your sleeve
Heartstring, pulling on your heartstring
Heaven help us
Hell in a handbasket or Hell in a handbag

An expression describing a situation irrevocably headed for disaster

"Send those unwilling to work to hell in a handbasket if they complain again."

Hello, sugar pie! sweetie pie, or sweet pea!
Hemming and hawing

An expression meaning to discuss, deliberate, or contemplate rather than taking action or making up one's mind

"My mom just keeps hemming and hawing whether it's the right time to retire from her job or not."

Here's mud in your eye
Here's to your health
He's got guts
High on your horse, or acting high and mighty
Highway robbery
Hindsight is 20/20
Hit something out of the (ball)park

A baseball reference meaning to be successful or to do something extraordinarily well

You ran that meeting like a pro, Allan, you really hit that out of the park!

Hit the nail on the head
Hogan's goat
Hold your horses, hold the phone
Hold your tongue, bite your tongue, or watch your mouth
Hole in the wall

An expression describing a small, shabby place, often a restaurant or bar. In the UK, it can also mean a cash machine.

"They just shut down that hole-in-the-wall restaurant for health code violations."

Holier than thou
Holy cow, holy guacamole or holy crap
Honesty is the best policy
Horse's ass

An expression meaning a foolish or stupid person

"He's really acting like a horse's ass, cheering during the concert while they are trying to play."

Horsing around or rough-housing
Hot off the press
Hot potato
Humble pie

An expression meaning to be forced to acknowledge one's deficiencies or errors

"Rodger got served some humble pie, he couldn't perform that surgery as well as his colleagues."

Humpty Dumpty
I can read you like a book
If the shoe fits, wear it
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
I got your back
I have my hands full
I'll clock you or I'll knock your block off
I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house down!
I'm dying to try it
I'm in the dog house
I'm stuffed
In a fishbowl
In a nutshell
In a pickle

An expression describing being in a difficult situation or problem with no easy answer, from the Dutch word 'pekel'

"Wow, Sarah is really in a pickle agreeing to be an umpire for her old teammates."

In a pinch
In hot water
In someone else's shoes
In the bag

Expression meaning a certainty, a sure thing

"We have this team beat, the game is in the bag."

It's a dog's life
It's not over until the fat lady sings
It's not rocket science
I wish I were a fly on the wall
Jack of all trades
Jinx someone

Casting a "spell" of bad luck on something by stating an obvious truth.

We haven't lost a game all season. "Oh, no, I just jinxed us. Now we'll lose!"


An expression meaning a newcomer, a novice, or recruit who has just recently joined a group, and may use the experience of others to their advantage

"He's a real johnny-come-lately, just got the job last week, and already he's training a new-hire!"

Jury rig

An expression meaning to use makeshift repairs or temporary contrivances, with only the tools and materials that happen to be on hand

"Duct tape is the best way to jury rig that trailer hitch for now, but we'll need a permanent fix when we get home."

Just a piece of meat
Keeping up with the Joneses

An expression to compare to one's neighbor as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods

"No sense in trying to keep up with the Joneses, we can't afford a new car every two years."

Keep one's cool

An expression meaning to maintain a calm, controlled attitude

"Just keep your cool, there's no reason to let his remarks bother you."

Keep on trucking
Keep your eye on the prize
Keep your eyes peeled
Kidding someone

An expression used for saying that someone wants someone to believe something, but everyone knows it is not true

"Are you kidding me? I know he'd never go to the movies with Veronica!"

Kill the goose that lays the golden egg
Kill Time

An expression meaning to something to keep one busy while waiting for something

"I guess I can listen to music to kill time while I wait for the bus to arrive."

Kiss my ass

A derogatory expression meaning that you don't care what someone thinks about what you said or did

I'm going to watch that movie whether you like it or not; you can kiss my ass!

Knee jerk reaction

An expression meaning an immediate, emotional, unthinking response to a situation

"Your Dad had a knee jerk reaction in his opposition when he stood up and yelled during the meeting."

Knickers in a twist or knickers in a knot

An expression meaning to get very upset about something, usually not very important

Now, before you get your knickers in a twist, let me explain what happened.

Knocking on heaven's door
Knock on wood

A superstition to actually find and knock on a piece of wood after saying something you hope remains true

"I've never broken my leg while riding my motorcycle, knock on wood."

Known by the company one keeps
Lame duck
Lame or lame-ass

An expression meaning weak, inadequate, or otherwise not funny or worthy

"What a lame excuse why you were late, you had three hours to get ready."


An expression meaning something was completely one-sided, similar to "blow-out"

"They won by a landslide, final score was 27-0!"

Last straw or draw the short straw
Lead a horse to water, but one can't make him drink

An expression meaning to provide someone with an opportunity, but you can't force him/her to take it

"I gave him my email, but he didn't contact me. I guess you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

Lead foot
Leap of Faith

An expression meaning to believe or attempt something whose existence or outcome cannot be proved.

"You'll just have to make a leap of faith and trust me, you can make it on time if you take this alternate route."

Learn by rote

An expression meaning to be able to quickly recall the meaning of the material the more one repeats it

"Sally learned it by rote, memorizing all two thousand produce codes to get her job as a grocery store checker."

Learn something by heart

An expression meaning to commit something to memory.

"I learned the nursery rhyme, 'Roses are Red' by heart."

Let bygones by bygones

An expression meaning to forget about unpleasant things that happened in the past, and especially to forgive and forget something bad that someone has done, similar to "bury the hatchet"

"I forgive you for insulting my cat, let's just let bygones by bygones and move on."

Let sleeping dogs lie
Let the chips fall where they may
Lick your wounds
Like a bat out of hell
Like a red-headed stepchild
Like clock-work
Like mixing oil and water
Listen to that baby purr
Loaded for bear
Lock horns
Long haul

An expression meaning an extended period of time

"I[m in it for the long haul, I"m committed to fixing this relationship no matter how long it takes."

Long on the tooth

An unkind or humorous expression describing someone as old. As people age, their gums recede and their teeth appear longer.

"Grandpa turns 75 next year; he's pretty long on the tooth."

Long shot

An expression meaning a venture or guess that has only the slightest chance of succeeding or being accurate

"It was a long shot, but I actually got into my first choice school!"

Look a gift horse in the mouth

A person who seems interested in buying something, but is just browsing, also someone who lingers around the scene of an accident, etc., or strives to get a look into the private property of others, especially celebrities

"She's a reall looky-loo, goes to every open house in the neighborhood acting like she wants to buy it."

Loose lips sink ships
Lose one's head

An expression meaning to become overly emotional or lose control

"Jeremy just lost his head when he found out his ex-girlfriend was going out with his friend Josh."

Love is blind
Lucky devil
Lucky dog

An expression meaning to run into good luck or fortune

"You won the lottery, you lucky dog!"


An expression meaning only moderately enthusiastic, unsure, or unable to commit to a position

"I'm kind of luke-warm about going out for track this year. Maybe I'll warm up to the idea later."

Make your bed, now lie in it

The expression means to make a decision and now one must accept the circumstances

"You decided to buy the cheap brand of chocolate, rather than the more expensive one you liked best, you made your bed, now you have to lie in it."

Man your stations

A military expression that has come to mean to be ready for action

"Man your stations, the website just went live, the server might be overwhelmed."

Marked man

An expression meaning being singled out for special treatment, usually to be harmed

"Playing paint ball in a bright yellow coat makes him a marked man, his opponents can attack him so easily."

Meet your match
Mice will play while the cat's away

An expression meaning doing things that might not be permitted because an authority figure isn't present

"With their parents out of town, the kids threw a wild party. Mice will play while the cat's away!"

Milk it for all it's worth

An expression meaningtTo take full advantage of a situation or condition

"It's Owen's birthday today and he's milking it for all it's worth, getting out of taking that test."


Describing a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, especially one who is easily dominated or intimidated; inspired by the cartoon character, Caspar Milquetoast, created by H. T. Webster in 1924.

Jared is milquetoast, he's too afraid to ask for a raise even though he's done great work for three years.

Mind over matter

An expression meaning to use willpower to overcome physical problems, similar to "A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition"

"Although I remember what the cheese smelled like when I made it, mind over matter, I'm going to enjoy tasting it now."

Monday morning quarterback
Mother's love is blind
Muddy the waters

An expression meaning to make a situation more confusing by introducing complications

"He's dating her friend's mother, which really muddies the waters of their relationship."

Mud on one's boots

An expression meaning to do hard work, make an effort to get work done

"Jimmy works hard at the office, doing anything that needs doing, he's really got mud on his boots."

My hands are tied!

Expression meaning a situation that causes great anxiety or tension

"That horror movie was a real nail-biter, I kept waiting for the burglar to jump out of the shadows."

Nailed to the wall
Nest egg
Never cry wolf
Night owl
Nip and tuck
No bones about it
Nod and a wink, or nod is as good as a wink

A way of saying you have understood something that someone has said, even though it was not said directly

"A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse."

No pain, no gain
No picnic

An expression meaning something is difficult or requires work

"Boy, hanging this mirror straight is no picnic!"

No rhyme or reason
No shit, Sherlock

An expression referring to the fictional detective who pioneered deductive reasoning to solve crimes, it refers to an expression made by an individual in response to a statement that is considered obvious or stupid

"No shit, Sherlock. The reason there is all this mud in the house is because you tracked it in on your shoes!"

No such thing as a free lunch
Not in Kansas anymore, Toto
Not so fast

An expression one might say if they disagree or want someone to stop, slow down, or reconsider

"Not so fast, mister, those are my shoes!"

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer
Not to mince words

An expression meaning to speak plainly and clearly, so as to be understood.

"Don't mince your words, Darla. Tell me what you really think."

Nuts, nut-job

An emphatic expression meaning something or someone is crazy or ridiculous

"That's nuts! I would never do that!"

Odd man out or odd one out

A person or thing different from all the others in a group

"Everybody else is here with someone, I'm the odd one out coming alone."

On auto-pilot

An expression meaning something will run itself or doesn't require effort or skill

"I take this route everyday, it's like being on auto-pilot."

On a wing and a prayer
Once in a blue moon

An expression meaning something that doesn't happen very often, as in when there is a full moon twice in the same month

"I might go to the movies once in a blue moon, usually I wait for it to come out on Netflix."

One bad apple spoils the barrel or one rotten apple spoils the bunch
One if by land, two if by sea
On the fence

An expression meaning unable to decide between two acceptable alternatives

"I'm on the fence about this issue, I can't decide whether to vote yes or no."

On the same wavelength
On thin ice
On your case, get off my case

An expression meaning to nag someone (or to ask someone to stop nagging him/her)

"Get off my case, I promise to clean my room after dinner!"

Open sesame
Open up a can of worms
Out of the frying pan and into the fire
Over someone's head
Over the moon
Pace yourself
Panic button

An expression referring to someone who gets so distraught and reacts without thinking

"I was so mad, I just hit the panic button instead of thinking first."

Pass muster
Patch things up

An expression meaning to make amends or remedy a situation, similar to "smooth things over"

"I finally patched things up with Ramona, I thought she was going to break up with me, but she accepted my apology."

Payback is a bitch
Pay the piper

An expression meaning to face the consequences of self-indulgent behavior, similar to "face the music"

"I stayed up way too late last night, time to the pay the piper, I'm exhausted!"

Pay the price

An expression meaning to suffer the consequences of doing or saying something

"She paid the price for insulting him, now he won't pick her for the team."

Peachy keen

An expression meaning ok, good, cool, awesome

"That's just peachy keen with me, I'm happy to stay here over Christmas vacation."

Pecking order

An expression meaning a hierarchy of status seen among members of a group of people or animals, originally as observed among hens

"Here's the pecking order: I'm the boss, you're my employees who report to me."

Peeping Tom
Peer pressure
Penny-wise, pound-foolish
Pet Peeve

An expression meaning something that is particularly annoying to a particular person

"My pet peeve is when people misuse the apostrophe."


Describing someone who is difficult or mischievous

"Matthew is a little pickle, he always steals his classmate's snack when he's not looking."

Picture is worth a thousand words

A proverb that implies it's easier to understand something by seeing it, rather than talking or reading a description of it.

"Look at the two of them, you can see they are perfect together. A picture is worth a thousand words."


An expression meaning to eat or consume too much or well beyond a "normal" helping

"Those pancakes were so good I had five, I really pigged-out!"

Pig pen
Pins and needles

An expression meaning the tingling sensation experienced in recovering from numbness, or an anxious feeling waiting for something to arrive or happen

"I'm on pins and needles, waiting for them to post the test results so I can see whether I got an A."

Pipe dream

An expression referring to an unattainable or fanciful hope or scheme

"Jonathan wants to be a professional baseball player, but that's just a pipe dream, he isn't good enough to go pro."

Piss and Moan
Piss and wind

An expression meaning empty talk

"All wind and piss like a tanyard cat."


Describing someone who has energy, guts, or drive without giving up

"She's a real pistol, she kept telling one funny joke after the next."

Plate is full

An expression meaning fully engaged, having no room to take on new responsibilities or activities

"My plate is full, I'm volunteering with three organizations already, I don't have time to do more."

Playing without a full deck

An expression meaning someone is crazy or doesn't have common sense

"That man is babbling to himself, he must not be playing with a full deck."

Play it by ear

Originally describing a musician playing being about to play a tune after hearing it, rather than reading the music, expanded to mean making this up as you go along

"When we get to the zoo, let's just play it by ear which animals we see first."

Pleased as punch
Poker face

An expression describing an excessively cheerful or naive person

"She's a pollyanna, always happy about everything, even if it's bad news."

Poor as a church mouse

An expression meaning to be impoverished, indigent, destitute, similar to "not having two nickels/pennies/sticks to rub together"

"Daniel is poor as a church mouse, he hasn't had a job for a year, he can only afford to eat macaroni and cheese every night."

Poor devil
Port in a storm

An expression meaning that any solution is better than doing nothing at all.

"Ida's plan isn't perfect, but any port in a storm."

Pot calling the kettle black

A derogatory expression calling out someone for putting down someone else for something one does or is him/herself

"Saying she works too much is like the pot calling the kettle black, since you work 80 hours a week yourself."

Practice what one preaches

An expression meaning actions speak louder than words, a person should do what he/she advises others to do

"Practice what you preach, go to bed early like you tell your kids to do."

Preaching to the choir
Pressing someone's buttons
Psyche out

Undermine the confidence or intimidate

"The basketball team psyched out their opponent when all the players hit three pointers during warm-ups."

Pulling someone's chain or yanking someone's chain
Pulling strings
Pull oneself up by one's bootstraps

An expression meaning to advance oneself without the aid of others

"Tamra really pulled herself up by her bootstraps, working through college so she could pay part of her tuition."

Pull someone's leg

An expression meaning to tell someone something that is not true as a way of joking with them

"You're pulling my leg, I know you weren't voted most likely to succeed, I saw your yearbook."

Putting the cart before the horse

A fraudulent or ignorant pretender of medical skill

"My old doctor was just a quack, he didn't even know how to give a vaccination."

Quid pro quo
Rain on one's parade
Raising Cane
Rally the troops

An expression originating during war time, it means to have a meeting with friends, family or co-workers and get them united to help out with something

"I'm going to rally the troops and make sure everybody works together to get through this crisis."


An expression describing an unknown, unspecified, or odd person

"I was in the park, and it was so random, I saw my best friend when I was in first grade."

Razor's edge
Reach the boiling point or boiling over

An expression which means the time at which action is required or anger erupts, similar to "the last straw"

"He reached the boiling point after she insulted his shoes for the third time."

Read someone the riot act

An expression meaning a strong warning to stop behaving badly, derived from Britain, The Riot Act of 1715 was invoked to prevent "tumults and riotous assemblies"

"Suzanna read me the riot act for not introducing my friends to her."

Reap what one's sows
Right-hand man
Ring a bell

An expression meaning to recognize something as familiar. Similar to "clear as a bell."

"This might ring a bell for you, the house used to be right next to the hardware store before they tore it down."

Rob Peter to pay Paul
Rock and roll

An expression meaning to get serious and do something

"OK, enough standing around, let's rock and roll and start selling these tickets."

Roller coaster ride
Roll over

An expression meaning to overturn, an extension or transfer of a debt or other financial arrangement, or to shift one's position by turning from one side to the other

"Amanda rolled over, instead of voting for Hastings, she's voting for Budd."

Roll with the punches
Running against the clock
Run out of gas

An expression meaning to be run out of energy or lose momentum

"I can't walk another mile, I need to turn around, I've run out of gas."

Runt of the litter
Salt of the earth

A decent, dependable, unpretentious person, with origins from the Bible, Book of Matthew

"He's such a gentle soul, the salt of the earth."

Saving something for a rainy day
Scramble or hustle

An expression meaning being to hurry up

"I was scrambling to get out of the house to catch the bus."

Second-hand information

An expression meaning to gain information from others or from books, rather than discovering information directly

"Well, I'm not sure, I got second-hand information."

See the forest for the trees

An expression describing someone who is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole

"She can't see the forest for the trees, she's too busy taking orders to know there's a line out the door."

See you later alligator, in a while crocodile
Self-fulfilling prophecy
Separate the wheat from the chaff

An expression meaning to distinguish valuable things or people from worthless ones

"OK this final trial-out is going to determine the best singer, it will really separate the wheat from the chaff."

Set your sails with the wind.

An expression meaning to take care of unfinished business.

"Finish doing your taxes this weekend, set yours sails with the wind."


An expression used as an adjective to describe something or someone underhanded or not to be trusted

"That's a shady deal the realtor proposed, considering the property is next to a landfill, it's only worth half that amount. What a shady character!"

She's got a bun in the oven
Ship has sailed

An expression meaning it is too late to correct or change what's already been done.

"Since you didn't study at all for your exam tomorrow, that ship has sailed. All you can do now is get a good night's sleep."

Shit from Shinola

An expression derived from a brand of shoe polish in the USA, if one doesn't know which to apply to one's shoes, then he/she is clueless or hopeless

"He doesn't know shit from Shinola, he works at the bank but can't tell the difference between a debit and a credit."

Shit hits the fan

An expression referring to when something bad happens, the consequences reveal themselves

"After the city council approved that affordable housing budget, the shit hit the fan and their social services costs were twice what they budgeted."

Shit or get off the pot

An expression meaning a small amount of money that is inadequate for its intended purpose

"Carol has a shoestring budget, and won't be able to buy those extra books for the kids after all."

Shoot fish in a barrel

An expression meaning something that is ridiculously easy

"Setting up that computer is like shooting fish in a barrel, just plug it in and it will work."

Shoot oneself in the foot
Shut your trp
Sick as a dog

Expressions meaning extremely ill

"I have the flu, I feel as sick as a dog."

Sight for sore eyes

An expression meaning to be very pleased to see someone

"Well, you're a sight for sore eyes, I've missed you!"

Silver spoon in one's mouth

An expression symbolic of wealth, especially inherited wealth, describing someone born into a wealthy family

"She's got a silver spoon in her mouth, that trust fund means she won't have to work a day in her life."

Silver tongue

Having an ability to speak with a persuasive and eloquent manner

"He was the most eloquent man, he had a real silver tongue."

Sing one's praises

An expression meaning to compliment someone

"I can't sing your praises enough, you were so nice to help with my homework."

Sink or swim

When thrown into an unknown situation, a person has to figure out how to survive on his/her own

"Well, it's sink or swim time, I hope they make it through the job."

Sink your sails

An Australian expression meaning to put your napkin in your lap

"Don't forget to sink your sails before you start eating."

Six ways from Sunday

An expression meaning thoroughly, every possible way, exhausted all alternatives

"I edited that story six ways from Sunday, and it's still not good enough to publish."

Size up

An expression meaning to carefully look at the person or think about the situation, in order to decide how to act

"I've had a chance to size up Amanda, I think we can trust her and she's worth doing business with."

Skating by

An expression meaning to get away with something or do the bare minimum

"She's just skating by in that class, doing just enough to pass it."

Skin of one's teeth

An expression meaning to narrowly escape disaster. Origin from the Bible, Book of Job, in which Job is subjected to horrible trials by Satan, to be relieved finally by God.

"We just got through that traffic jam by the skin of our teeth, check out the back-up in our rear view mirror."

Sleeps with the fishes
Slip of the tongue

An expression meaning to say something one shouldn't have said

"Oops, that was a slip of the tongue, I shouldn't have told her I didn't like her dress."

Slippery slope

An idea or course of action which will lead to something unacceptable or disasterous

"Steal a small piece of candy from the store may seem harmless, but it's a slippery slope because it's stealing, and that's breaking the law."

Slow and steady wins the race
Sly dog

Someone who used devious, dishonest or misleading means to ensure a favorable outcome

"You sly dog, I had no idea you were throwing me a party!"

Small potatoes

An expression meaning insignificant or easy

"Racing in junior varsity was small potatoes compared to varsity."

Smooth something over

An expression meaning to make amends or remedy a situation, similar to "patch things up"

"I got her to see my point of view so she's not mad at me anymore, I smoothed things over."

Snooping around

An expression meaning to search for or find out something that's not that person's business

"She snooped around and started reading his emails."

Soft pedal

An expression meaning to make something sound less important or bad than it really is, similar to "white wash"

"She soft pedaled when she told him his stuttering wasn't very distracting, because it was."

So hungry I could eat a horse
Song and dance

An expression meaning to say things or act for the purpose of impressing others, perhaps in an exaggerated manner

"He put on a real song and dance to try to close that sale."

Sour grapes

Describing behavior that is demeaning or insulting when someone realizes he/she can't win or complete a task

"Insulting her was just sour grapes because she didn't choose him on her team."

Spaz (short for spastic)

A expression for someone who is hyperactive or acting in an overly-energetic manner inappropriate for the situation

"She's such a spaz running to the front of the line; the show hasn't even started yet."

Speak of the devil

An expression meaning that the person about whom one was just speaking arrives or makes their presence known

"Well, speak of the devil, we were just talking about you!"

Speak softly and carry a big stick

An expression encouraging someone to behave by using a tangible threat for non-compliance; no yelling is required

"I'm speaking softly and carrying a big stick: he knows I'll take away the car keys if he doesn't finish his chores before dinner."

Spick and span

An expression describing something as clean, tidy or orderly

"Well, you've put all your toys away, your room looks spick and span now."

Spill the beans

An expression to reveal secret information, usually unintentionally

"He spilled the beans about Marc and Cindy getting married, it was supposed to be a secret."

Spit and polish

An expression meaning exaggerated cleaning or polishing, often referring to a soldier

"I used some spit and polish to get these shoes extra shiny."

Square peg in a round hole

An expression meaning something that doesn't fit

"That's like trying to put a square peg in a round hole, you'll never get that to work."

Squeaky wheel gets the grease
Stage fright

A drama reference, someone who is nervous performing before an audience

"She's stage fright ever time she makes a presentation to her boss."

Star-crossed lovers

An expression meaning a couple so in love, they are oblivious to everyone else

"They can't even take their eyes off each other to order their food, those two are such star-crossed lovers."

Staying on track

An expression meaning to remain focuses on pursuing your goal, without distraction

"If you stay on track and focus on your studies, you'll get straight As."

Step in shit

An expression meaning getting in trouble, or finding oneself in a bad situation, in addition to the literal meaning of accidentally stepping on dog or animal feces

"He stepped in shit and came out smelling like a rose."

Step on it

An expression meaning to hurry up, usually referring to driving a car

"C'mon, step on it, we're going to be late!"

Stick in the mud

An expression referring to someone who is unwilling to take chances, boring, or not interesting

"He's such a stick in the mud, he never goes out dancing with us."

Stitch in time saves nine

A proverbial expression meaning it's better to spend a little time and effort to deal with a problem right now than to wait until later, a sewing reference.

"Best to take care of that roofing leak right away before it causes more damage. A Stitch in time saves nine."

Stone fox
Straw that broke the camel's back

An expression meaning the last and final time something occurred to ruin or destroy a situation

"It's all over now, that was the straw that broke the camel's back."

Strike while the iron is hot

An expression meaning to do something while one has the chance, during a window of opportunity

"She just smiled at him, he'd better strike while the iron's hot and ask her on a date."

Strong stomach

An expression describing someone who can tolerate gruesome or nauseating conditions without vomiting

"He's got a strong stomach, being able to perform open-heart surgery."

Stubborn as a mule

An expression meaning refusing to change one's mind or course of action despite pressure to do so, unyielding or resolute

"He'll never change his mind about planting in May, he's stubborn as a mule."

Stuck-up or snotty
Suck it up

An expression of encouragement meaning to persevere and endure the discomfort or pain

"Suck it up, only two more laps to go!"

Sugar daddy

A description of a rich older man who lavishes gifts on a young woman in return for her company or sexual favors

"Sheila is just with him because she can buy whatever she wants, he's a real sugar daddy."

Sweep something under the rug (or carpet)

An expression meaning to hide or ignore something damaging or unpleasant so it won't be seen

"Louise never learned cursive in elementary school, which she tried to sweep under the rug now that she's a handwriting specialist."

Tag along or tail along

An expression meaning to go somewhere with something or someone

"I'm just tagging along with you to the grocery store with you, I don't really need anything specifically."

Tail waging the dog

The less dominant or minor factor controls the situation, the roles are reversed

The costs of medical procedures have become the tail that wags the dog."

Take a page from someone's book or take a leaf out of someone's book
Take care of the little things
Take it easy

An expression when people part, an endearing way to say goodbye

"Hey, take it easy. I hope you do well on those tests."

Take it with a grain of salt

An expression meaning to treat the information as exaggerated, believe only part of something

"They aren't that good of a team even though they won the last five games. You've got to take that with a grain of salt, they lost eight before that."

Take one for the team

An expression meaning to sacrifice one's personal position for the benefit of others

"That player took one for the team, he hit a sacrificial bunt and was tagged out so the team could score."

Take the plunge

An expression of encouragement meaning to try something without hesitation

"Take the plunge, once you join the book club, you'll love it."

Take what one can get
Talk is cheap
Talk the talk, walk the walk
Tap-dance around

An expression meaning to improvise to avoid confronting an uncomfortable issue or person

"Jeanette is tap-dancing around Richard instead of confronting him with the problem."

Tapped out

An expression meaning out of money, broke, or exhausted

"I'm sorry I can't make a donation to your charity right now, I'm really tapped out."

Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime
Teacher's pet

Describing a student who the teacher appears to favor over other students

"She's the teacher's pet, she always gets out early."

Tell-tale or telltale

An expression used to describe an indicator or sign that explains something

"That gust of wind is a telltale sign that the weather's changing."

Test the waters

An expression meaning to try something out before you do it

"Eric is going to test the waters and have a reception to see how many supporters he has before running for mayor."

Thank your lucky stars
That's all she wrote

An expression used to convey that there is or was nothing more to be said about a matter.

"I've already told you everything I know, that's all she wrote."

That's the way the cookie crumbles

An expression meaning to accept the circumstances

"Well, you couldn't have done anything, that's just the way the cookie crumbles."

That sucks

An expression of sympathy meaning: "That's too bad"

"Well that sucks, I'm sorry you didn't get the part."

Think twice

An expression meaning to consider a course of action carefully before embarking upon it

"I'd think twice before jumping over that puddle in your white pants."

Third time's a charm

A superstitious observation about the number three, sometimes it takes three times to complete something successfully. Opposite of "three strikes, you're out!"

"Third time's a charm, after two tries you finally got the anchor secured."

Thorn in one's side

An expression meaning something or someone that continually causes problems and won't go away

"Money has been a thorn in my side ever since I quit my job."

Three strikes, you're out!

A baseball reference, if you don't get something done in three attempts, it is time to stop. Opposite of "third time's a charm"

"You tried to fix the sink three times and it still leaks. Three strikes, you're out. Time to hire a plumber."

Through the roof

An expression meaning to rise to a very high level or to get angry

"Their costs went through the roof when they moved to San Francisco."

Throw down the gauntlet

An expression meaning to to invite someone to fight or compete

Judy threw down the gauntlet when she challenged him to a rematch."

Throw one's hat in the ring

An expression meaning to enter a competition or a political race

"Mark decided to throw his hat in the ring and run for City Council."

Ticking crocodile

A Peter Pan reference from the Captain Hook character symbolizing time, alternatively, "the croc is ticking"

“I suppose it's like the ticking crocodile, isn't it? Time is chasing after all of us.”

Tiger by the tail

An expression meaning something is too big or powerful to deal with alone

"If you try to push that boat up the driveway alone, you'll end up chasing a tiger by the tail."

Time flies (when you are having fun!)

An expression meaning that time seems to pass more quickly than normal while engaging a particularly busy or fun activity

"Time flies! My shift was six hours but we were so busy it felt like only an hour."

Time heals all wounds

An expression meaning people eventually get over injuries, insults, rejection, hatred

"He was so sad after she broke up with him. Time heals all wounds, he'll feel better after awhile."

Times that try men's souls

Thomas Paine's famous quote that the colonies were unwilling to raise an army, and trusted the cause to the temporary defense of a well-meaning militia

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country."

Time will tell

An expression meaning the result of something will be clear in due time

"Only time will tell if all those singing lessons pay off and she becomes famous."

Tip of the iceberg

An expression that means the small or perceptible part of a much larger problem

"Showing up late for work everyday is just the tip of the iceberg, he isn't keeping up with his work either."

Tiptoe around
Tiptoe through the tulips

A popular 1929 song that has come to mean to be extremely cautious

"Tiptoe through the tulips when you suggest those changes to the president's speech."

Toast of the town

An expression meaning one is liked, well-regarded or admired

"She's the most popular student in school, a real toast of the town."


A girl who enjoys rough, noisy activities traditionally associated with boys.

"She's such a tomboy, always coming home covered in dirt after playing all day."

Tongue in cheek

An expression meaning to not really mean what one is saying or writing, with irony, or having a double-meaning

"She's just being tongue in cheek, she doesn't really think you should become the coach."


A severe scolding, to speak angrily to someone who has done something wrong

"She got a real tongue-lashing from the chief for making that mistake during the surgery."


An expression meaning too embarrassed or shy to speak

"He was going to ask her on a date, but he was so tongue-tied, he couldn't even say hello."

Too big for one's britches

An expression meaning too proud our confident in oneself

"She was too big for her britches, preparing her acceptance speech without a chance of winning."

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians

An expression meaning everyone is trying to be in charge, no one is willing to follow others' directions, similar to "too many cooks in the kitchen"

"With all those coaches yelling at the players, no wonder the kids are confused. Too many chiefs, not enough Indians."

Too many cooks in the kitchen

An expression meaning everyone is trying to be in charge, no one is willing to follow others' directions, similar to "too many chiefs, not enough indians"

"With everyone trying to bake at once, no wonder she burned the cookies, too many cooks in the kitchen."

Tooth and nail

An expression meaning to fight with the intensity and ferocity of a wild animal

"She fought tooth and nail to get custody of her daughter."

Toot one's own horn

An expression meaning to boast about one's own accomplishments, similar to "blow one's horn"

"Well, not to toot my own horn, but my essay scored the highest in my class."


Describing something of the highest quality, excellent

"Her pottery is top-notch, I would buy all of her pieces if I could afford them."


An expression meaning turned upside down, unpredictable or unstable

"I made such careful plans for her surprise party, but everything went topsy-turvy today, it wasn't a secret at all."

Treading water

An expression meaning to maintain one's current position or opinion

"TIna is still treading water, she hasn't changed her position on those mutual funds."

Tread lightly or tread softly

To speak or behave carefully to avoid conflict Be careful to avoid conflict or causing an offense, similar to "tiptoe around" or "walk on eggshells"

"I have to tread lightly when I talk about Nick, since he broke up with her last year."

Trial and error

Not having a plan, letting errors determine what course of action to take next

"I just used trial and error to figure out how to cast the fly rod properly."

Trigger happy
Tune out

An expression meaning to ignore something or someone deliberately

"If you can't concentrate while she's on the phone, just try to tune her out so you can get it done."

Turning the tables
Twisting in the wind

An expression meaning to be left in a state of uncertainty or suspense

"She really left me twisting in the wind, I didn't know if I had a ride to school or not."

Two birds of a feather

An expression describing two people who may be different in many ways, but have something in common

"My grandfather and daughter are two birds of a feather, they both love rocky road ice cream."


Someone who is not genuine: they act one way under one set of circumstances, and completely differently under another set of circumstances

"She's so two-faced, telling Lisa how much she likes her, but then telling everyone else how much she can't stand her."

Two peas in a pod or like peas in a pod

An expression meaning to be extremely similar, so its hard to distingush

"I can't even tell them apart in their Batman suits, my nephews are really two peas in a pod."

Two pennies (or nickels or sticks) to rub together

These expressions refer to being impoverished, destitute, or without resources, similar to "poor as a church mouse"

"He doesn't have two nickels to rub together, but he makes sure his kids don't go hungry."


An expression meaning to deceive or be unfaithful, dating or seeing two people simultaneously

"He was two-timing Yvonne in San Francisco, he had another girlfriend in Los Angeles."

Two wrongs don't make a right

A proverb meaning just because someone has done something unjust or dishonest is no justification for acting in a similar way

"You can't steal a piece of that cake just because Michael did; two wrongs don't make a right."

Uncharted territory

An expression meaning something new or unknown

"I'm not sure what we do now that we've gone from being employees, to you getting promoted as my boss, it's uncharted territory."

Under the weather

An expression meaning slightly unwell or in low spirits

"I just can't get out of bed this morning, I'm feeling under the weather."

Up a creek without a paddle or up shit creek

An expression meaning to be hopeless, trapped or in trouble

"She's up a creek without a paddle, now that her best friend is no longer in charge."

Up in the air

An expression meaning something is unclear or undefined

"We don't know what we are doing yet, everything's still up in the air."


An expression meaning anxious, jumpy or angry in a tense way

"Don't be so uptight, we'll make it in time before the show starts."

Up to one's eyeballs

An expression meaning the extreme degree of a situation, overwhelmed by an undesirable situation

"I'm up to my eyeballs here, I have three tables of dishes to clean!"

Vote with one's feet

Act in accordance with your opinion or beliefs to get your point across

"This service is so slow here, I'm going to vote with my feet and walk out, instead of ordering."

Wait for something to blow over

An expression meaning to not take any action and wait for whatever it is to pass

"Wait for it to blow over. After a good night's sleep, you'll be able to talk with her tomorrow."

Walk in the park

An expression describing something that is pleasant and easy to do

"Finalizing the budget this year will be like a walk in the park compared to last year, when I didn't have any experience."

Walk on eggshells

An expression meaning to be extremely cautious about one's words or actions, similar to "tiptoe around" and "tread lightly"

"I've been walking on eggshells ever since I found out her dog died, I don't know what to say to her."

Walk the plank

From pirate lore, an execution in which victims were forced to walk, often blindfold and with hands tied, off a plank of wood. It can mean be punished

"She's going to have to walk the plank if she doesn't stop insulting him."


A description for someone who has no one to dance with or who feels shy or awkward

"She's just a wallflower, Lisa won't ask any of the boys to dance."


An expression meaning someone who wants to travel or seeks new experiences

"Sam has a real case of wonderlust, he can't stay in the same city for more than a year before he needs to move."


Inspired by a song by the band Oasis, it means a barrier which separates the mundane from the Transcendent reality; someone one thinks about constantly

"You are my wanderwall, I can't stop thinking about you!"

Warm up to something

An expression meaning to gradually accept or get used to an idea or commitment

"I warmed up to the idea after I saw all my friends decided to join the team."

Warp speed

An expression meaning traveling faster than the speed of light, extremely fast

"I wish you could drive this car at warp speed, so we could be cross country by tonight!"

Wash one's hands of something

Disengage or refuse to participate in something

"You should just wash your hands of it softball and quit the team."

Wasn't born yesterday

An expression often used sarcastically to convey that the person knows what they are doing and are not easily deceived

"I wasn't born yesterday, I know how to set a table properly, I know the forks go on the left, not the right, stop trying to fool me."

Waste not, want not

An expression of advice meaning that wise use of one's resources will keep one from poverty

"You can stock up on the toilet paper since it's on sale this week. Waste not, want not."

Wax poetic

An expression describing a manner of speech that is increasingly verbose and romantic

"He went on waxing poetic about how much fun he had sailing boats last summer."

Way the ball bounces

An expression meaning the way things have worked out, nothing can be done about it, similar to "cookie crumbles"

"Well, that's the way the ball bounces, you can't re-do that test, it's done."

Wear lead boots

An expression meaning to act in a passive/aggressive manner, sink or fail at something

He's wearing lead boots, he says he doesn't care, but I know he really does."

Weekend warrior

An expression meaning someone who exercises intensely when not working, usually Saturday or Sunday

"He's a real weekend warrior, riding over 150 miles every weekend."

Wet your whistle

An expression meaning to get something to drink

"I'm really thirsty, I need to wet my whistle."

What a dog!

An expression meaning something regarded as contemptible, wicked or of no value

"That boat has a hole in it, what a dog!"

What's cooking?

An expression of greeting, similar to how are you doing or what's going on, similar to "what's shakin'?"

"Hey, man, what's cooking? I haven't seen you for weeks!"

What's shakin' (bacon)

An informal greeting of hello, similar to "what's cooking?"

"Hey, man, what's shakin'? I haven't seen you for weeks!"

When it rains, it pours
White noise

Constant background noise which drowns out other sounds, meaningless or distracting commotion or chatter

"I like taking my computer to that coffee shop, the white noise actually helps me concentrate on my work."

White wash

An expression meaning to try to make something sound not as bad as it is, or to play-down the truth, similar to "soft pedal"

"She really white washed that report, making it sound like we aren't going to lose as many clients as we really are."

Whole enchilada

A reference to a Mexican dish, meaning something in its entirety

"Why do only part of the job, when I can finish the whole enchilada?"

Witching hour

An expression meaning the time after midnight during which haunting can occur by creatures such as witches, demons, ghosts; it has come to mean the time in the late afternoon when young toddlers may misbehave badly

"It must be the witching hour, Johnny won't stop crying, he's throwing a temper tantrum."

Wolf in sheep's clothing

Someone who is acts or is disguised as someone they are not

"The pharmaceutical company runs a charity to hand out sample medicines, but they don't offer any generic brands, so they are like a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Wrap it up

An expression meaning to finish something

"OK, we're going to wrap it up after I take this last question."


Describing someone as a coward

"He's a yellow-belly, he too afraid to stand up and ask the most important question of all."

You are what you eat

An expression of advice meaning it is important to eat good food to stay healthy and fit

"Eat at least one fresh fruit or vegetable with each meal, you are what you eat."

Your nose is growing
You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours

An expression meaning to do someone a favor in hopes that it will be returned, same as "quid pro quo"

"I'll watch your dog this weekend, if you can take mine next weekend, you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."

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