Idioms

An idiom is a group of words, a saying, or a phrase with a symbolic rather than literal meaning that is accepted in common usage. It is a form of artistic expression characteristic of a movement, period, individual, medium, or instrument.

Its symbolic sense differs from the definition or literal meaning of the words that make it. Idioms convey a figurative meaning that is difficult to understand solely by interpreting the words literally. For instance, “beyond the pale” means something is “over the line” or improper. You can only know that by being able to infer the phrase’s meaning based on context or if someone explains it to you.

Many different idioms exist, and people use them commonly in all languages. Translating them into other languages can be challenging because some meanings may be lost. Still, equivalents that fill in the gaps between languages exist. The English language has an unlimited number of idiomatic expressions.

Idiomatic expressions are the building blocks of civilization and language. They make the language evolve. The great intensity of idioms makes a language dynamic and interesting. Phrases bring a remarkable illustration to daily speech and offer compelling insights into the use of languages, words, and the speaker’s thought process. There is a sense of fun and mystery about idioms.

So why are idiomatic expressions difficult?
They are difficult because their meanings are not always easy to understand. This is particularly the case for non-native speakers of the language in question, since their intentions are typically symbolic. Due to this characteristic, English learners find them strange and hard to understand.

Top 10 Common Idioms

This is a list of the top ten most common English phrases and idioms used globally. We have provided their meaning and examples for teachers and students. Students also explain the meaning of idiomatic expressions in competitive exams. The popularity of an idiom can vary from region to region. However, this list is generally popular worldwide.

a hot potato

Meaning: a controversial issue or situation that is awkward to deal with.

Example: Addressing the issue of bullying in our school has become a hot potato. Read more ➺


piece of cake

Meaning: something that is easy to do

Example: Learning English is a piece of cake as long as you do it with our website. Read more ➺


once in a blue moon

Meaning: very rarely

Example: I go to visit my grandfather only once in a blue moon; he lives in a remote farm house. Read more ➺


a bed of roses

Meaning: easy option

Example: Taking care of my younger sister is no bed of roses; she is very silly. Read more ➺


raining cats and dogs

Meaning: raining very heavily

Example: I wanted to go to play outside, but it was raining cats and dogs yesterday. Read more ➺


when pigs fly

Meaning: something that will never happen or is impossible.

Example: William will keep quiet only when pigs fly. Read more ➺


devil's advocate

Meaning: one who presents a counter argument

Example: Hey Jack! You're always playing devil's advocate! Give it a rest and mind your own business. Read more ➺


miss the boat

Meaning: miss the chance.

Example: Peter wanted to enter the drawing competition, but he was too late to enter, and he missed the boat. Read more ➺


apple of eye

Meaning: someone very precious or dear

Example: Every kid in the world is the apple of their parents' eye(s). Read more ➺


zip your lip

Meaning: to stop talking

Example: I don't want to hear another sound out of you. Now do as you're told and zip your lip. Read more ➺


Latest Idioms

pinch pennies

Meaning: make a conscious effort to spend as little money as possible in everyday life.

Example: Anna lost her job, and now she's pinching pennies to get by. Read more ➺


out of pocket

Meaning: paying for something with one's own personal money rather than being reimbursed by someone else.

Example: She had to cover the medical bills out of pocket because her insurance didn't cover them. (Personal expense) Read more ➺


cash cow

Meaning: a consistently profitable business or product that requires minimal effort.

Example: Despite its age, the software continued to be a cash cow, generating immense revenue without any major updates. Read more ➺


break the bank

Meaning: to engage in a purchase or activity that exceeds one's financial limitations or budgetary constraints.

Example: The new smartphone was so expensive it nearly broke the bank, but she couldn't resist buying it. Read more ➺


heart of gold

Meaning: typically refers to someone who is kind, generous, and caring.

Example: Despite facing financial struggles herself, Bella always finds ways to help those in need, truly possessing a heart of gold. Read more ➺


out of this world

Meaning: used to describe something that is exceptionally good, impressive, or remarkable.

Example: The food at that restaurant is out of this world. Read more ➺


grin from ear to ear

Meaning: to have a wide smile extending from one ear to the other, often indicating extreme joy or satisfaction.

Example: When Sophia saw her birthday cake, she grinned from ear to ear. Read more ➺


until the cows come home

Meaning: for a long time or indefinitely.

Example: I'll keep drawing pictures on the sidewalk with chalk until the cows come home. Read more ➺


chickens come home to roost

Meaning: everyone eventually faces the consequences of their actions.

Example: After years of exploiting others, his wealth vanished overnight, and the chickens came home to roost. Read more ➺


monkey see monkey do

Meaning: blindly copying others' actions without critical thinking.

Example: The kids copied the teacher's moves, like "monkey see, monkey do," during the dance. Read more ➺


View all idioms

View the complete list of all idioms we have on our website. Read more ➺

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