Idioms

An idiom is a phrase, saying, or a group of words with a metaphorical (not literal) meaning, which has become accepted in common usage.

An idiom’s symbolic sense is quite different from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made. There are a large number of Idioms, and they are used very commonly in all languages. There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language.

Idioms evolve the language; they are the building blocks of a language and civilization. They also have great intensity to make a language exciting and dynamic. Idiomatic expressions bring a spectacular illustration to everyday speech and provide compelling insights into the use of words, languages, and their speakers’ thought processes. Idioms have a sense of mystery and fun about them.

So what makes idioms difficult?
The answer is their meanings. Idioms are not easy to understand – especially for non-native speakers, because their intentions are usually symbolic. This characteristic makes them strange and difficult to understand for English learners.

Top 10 Common Idioms

List of top 10 most common English idioms and phrases, with their meaning and examples for students and teachers. They are also frequently asked in competitive exams. Though the popularity of the idioms may vary from region to region, still the list is rather popular around the globe.

a hot potato

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

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 on

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 on

a bed of roses

Meaning: easy option

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

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 on

when pigs fly

Meaning: something that will never happen or is impossible.

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

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 on

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 on

apple of eye

Meaning: someone very precious or dear

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

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 on

Free download idioms list PDFDownload as PDF file

Latest Idioms!

take it up/down a notch

Meaning: apply more effort to achieve a goal

Example: The team got through to the quarter-finals. Now they need to take it up a notch to get to the semis. Read on

pour oil on troubled waters

Meaning: try to calm, soothe or placate a problematic situation

Example: She's such a calm person; last week, the whole office was in uproar until she stepped in and poured oil on troubled waters. Read on

elephant in the room

Meaning: a difficult, controversial, or obvious problem that no one wants to talk about or mention because the subject is problematic, uncomfortable, or awkward

Example: When Geoff arrived at the meeting yesterday, he had a huge black eye. He gave us no explanation, and nobody dared ask him about it. So we sat there for the whole morning with this elephant in the room. Read on

barking dogs seldom bite

Meaning: to threaten someone, but not take action or follow through with threats

Example: "I haven't finished my maths homework. You know what Mr Peterson is like, he'll shout so loud they will hear him in the next town."
"Yes, but barking dogs seldom bite. It's just his way." Read on

nail in the coffin

Meaning: an action/event that will help bring about the death, end, or failure of something or someone

Example: She was late for the fourth day in a row. It will be another nail in her coffin when the boss hears about it. Read on

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

Idiom of the Day

rule of thumb

Meaning: a principle that is kept to

Example: As a rule of thumb, I do not start a new project on Fridays. Read on

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