What is an idiom?
An idiom is a group of words used as a general expression, the meaning of which cannot easily be deduced from the literal words they contain.
Idioms are often classified as figurative language, i.e. when words are used in a figurative or unusual way.
In other words: idiomatic expressions have a different meaning from individual words.
For example, the expression “writing an idiom is a piece of cake” does not mean that writing an idiom is a “piece of cake” to be eaten. On the contrary, “piece of cake” is a figurative expression that indicates that something is easy to do.
Idioms are most commonly used in America, but they are also frequently used in English in television programs, movies, written literature, and other media.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the meaning of common idioms, as they do not always have a literal meaning. Below is a list of the most popular and commonly used idioms in American English, with examples and their meanings.
Common English idioms
Blessing in disguise
Meaning: A good thing that seemed bad at first.
For ten pounds.
Meaning: something very common, not unique.
Adding insult to injury
Meaning: Making a bad situation worse.
Beating around the bush
Meaning: Avoiding sharing your true opinions or feelings because it makes you uncomfortable.
Biting the dust
Meaning: stop a bad situation or work now, because at some point you have to finish it.
The best of both worlds
Meaning: a choice or decision has all the advantages of two opposite things at the same time.
Bite off more than you can chew
Meaning: committing to doing something you don’t have the time, resources or ability to do.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Meaning: don’t judge someone or something by its appearance.
Do something on a whim.
Meaning: to do something on a spontaneous whim.
Being caught between a rock and a hard place.
Meaning: to choose between two unpleasant options.
Meaning: taking risky shortcuts to save time and/or money.
Meaning: defending the opposing side in an argument to encourage further discussion.
Tasting your own medicine
Meaning: an attitude towards others (usually negative).
Meaning: believing someone’s story without evidence, even if it seems unbelievable.
You got it right.
Meaning: being absolutely right.
Leaving someone out
Meaning: not holding someone responsible for something
No pain, no gain
Meaning: you have to suffer to gain something.
Stay on your toes
Meaning: Being careful and doing your job well.
Once in a blue moon
Meaning: Something that happens rarely.
Speaking of the devil
Meaning: When the person you were just talking about shows up.
The straw that broke the camel’s back.
Meaning: The final act that makes the whole situation unbearable.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Meaning: I have no idea.
A dead ringer.
Intended meaning: Someone who looks a lot like another person.
Everything you need to know
Intended meaning: Everything. Everything.
Meaning: start working
Meaning: to destroy a relationship to the ground
Meaning: to be a good-for-nothing person: in excellent health
Burn in the fire
Meaning: to suffer a stunning setback
He/she has lost control of anger.
Meaning: someone who acts irrationally or does not think rationally
He/she is always the darkest before the dawn.
Meaning: things always get worse before they get better.
It takes two to tango.
Meaning: Usually, one person is not the only one responsible for the situation.
Like riding a bicycle.
Meaning: You never forget what needs to be done.
For better or for worse.
Meaning: Everyone goes through good and bad times.
Time is money
Meaning: Work faster and more efficiently
You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
Meaning: You can’t please everyone.
It’s like two peas in a pod.
Meaning: Two people who are always together
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Meaning: Apples are good for your health and good for you.
I’ve heard that word of mouth spreads
Meaning: to hear a rumor about someone or something
It’s a small thing
Meaning: a task or act that is easy to accomplish
Bread and butter
Meaning: something you make or use to survive or thrive in a particular situation
Bring home the bacon
Meaning: to earn money, especially for a living
Cry over spilled milk
Meaning: to worry about the past or something that has been accomplished or resolved
Not my cup of tea.
Meaning: something you don’t like.
Take it with a pinch of salt.
Meaning: take it at your own risk
Meaning: the most influential or important person in a group or organization.
Meaning: a troublesome person
Meaning: like a troublemaker, but worse; someone who seems downright dishonest or behaves badly
Meaning: the opposite of “bad egg”; a person who is honest and trustworthy
Bigger fish is about to fry
Meaning: having more important things to do
Cold as a cucumber
Meaning: calm, especially under pressure
Potato on the sofa
Meaning: sedentary person who spends a lot of time sitting, often in front of the TV
Can’t work very well
Meaning: can’t keep up with the competition
Hard to grind
Meaning: not a whetstone: something or someone that is difficult to understand
Meaning: someone who is responsible for the work
The apple of my eye
Meaning: to be loved and adored
Meaning: to be very nice to someone because you want something from them
To make someone mad
Meaning: to encourage someone to do something, usually something they shouldn’t do
Meaning: to summarize
Spill the beans.
Meaning: to tell everything: to reveal secret information
This is just a small sample ofare found everywhere. They add color to everything from simple conversation to roadside advertising and convey a degree of cultural understanding and affinity. What’s your favorite common phrase? Share the wealth in the comments below!