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 in the United States. We have provided their meaning and examples for teachers and students. Students also explain the meaning of idiomatic expressions in competitive exams. An idiom's popularity can differ from one region to the other. However, this list is generally popular worldwide.
Meaning: a controversial issue or situation that is awkward or unpleasant to deal with.
Example: The subject of bullying and fighting in my school is a hot potato. Read on
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 on
Meaning: very rarely
Example: I go to visit my grandfather only once in a blue moon; he lives in a remote farm house. Read on
Meaning: easy option
Example: Taking care of my younger sister is no bed of roses; she is very silly. Read on
Meaning: raining very heavily
Example: I wanted to go to play outside, but it was raining cats and dogs yesterday. Read on
Meaning: something that will never happen or is impossible.
Example: William will keep quiet only when pigs fly. Read on
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 on
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 on
Meaning: someone very precious or dear
Example: Every kid in the world is the apple of their parents' eye(s). Read on
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 on
Meaning: strange behaviors.
Meaning: to try something new.
Example: The ski instructor told Sally to "give it a whirl" on the beginner's ski slope by following his exact moves. Read on
Meaning: to get angry quickly.
Example: He has a short fuse. He loses his temper for things that don't provoke others to high levels of angry emotion. Read on
Meaning: a significant change in circumstances.
Example: For most young adults, moving out is a whole new ball game. Read on
Meaning: to do something very quickly and enjoy doing it.
Example: She's taken to her grandmother's house like a duck to water. Read on
- View all idioms
- View the complete list of all idioms we have on our website.