Idioms and Phrases Meaning, Uses, Examples, and Exercise


ABC: basic/ fundamental rules

Above board; honest

Against a rainy day: for hard times

All in all: complete master

All and sundry: everyone without distinction

An apple of one’s eye: very dear

An apple of discord: cause of quarrel

An axe to grind: selfish motive to serve

At an arm’s length: at a sufficient distance

At all events: at every cost

At large: free

At close quarters: near

At stake: in danger of being lost

At the top of: very loudly

At a stone’s throwi at a short distance

At hand: near

At random: without any aim

Ai a stretch: without break

At sixes and sevens: in disorder

At one’s fingers’ ends: thorough knowledge

At home in: expert

At home to: to give feast

At home: to feel comfortable

At a loss: unable to decide

A daggers drawn: bitter enemies

At logger heads; on hostile terms

At the eleventh hour: at the very last moment

At any rafe: in any case

A good many: a considerable number

A black sheep: a mean person

A block head: stupid person

 A blue book: a government report

 A brainwave: a sudden clever idea (P-09)

A bolt from the blue: a sudden calamity

A bosom friend: a fast-friend

A bed of roses: very comfortable

At times: sometimes

A bird’s eye view: a general view

 A cock and bull story: a false story

 A cry in the wilderness: useless talk

A cat and dog life: a quarrelsome life

A child’s play: an easy work

A feather in one’s cap: a thing of distinction

A Fool’s paradise: false hopes

A fair hand: good hand writing

A fair-weather friend: a friend of prosperous days

A flying visit: a very short visit (P-09)

A good or great deal of: much

A dead letter: no longer in use

A fish out of water: quite uncomfortable

A drop in the ocean: very small amount

A hard nut to crack: a difficult task

A lion’s share: great portion

A man of letters: a literary man

A man in the street: an ordinary man

A rap on the knuckles: severe criticism (P-02)

A red letter day: an important day

A sleeping partner: inactive partner

A thankless job: without any credit

A gala day: a day of merriment or festivity

As a matter of fact: truly speaking

A maiden speech: first public speech

At sea: perplexed

A man of iron will: a man of strong will

Bad blood: ill-will, unfriendliness (P-04)

Be-all and end-all: the whole and soul (P-2000)

By and by: gradually

By the by\way: Ty: incidentally

Bad bargain: bad compromise

Bag and baggage: with all belongings

Bread and butter: livelihood

Birds of the same feather: persons of the same kind.

 Blue blood: high birth

Behind the scene: not openly

Burning question: main topic

By dint of: by virtue of, by force of

By fits and starts: irregularly

By all means: surely

By leaps and bounds: very rapidly

By hook or by crook: by any means

Black and white: in writing

By far: to a large degree

By degrees: gradually

By himself alone, without help

Crocodile tears: false tears

Chicken-hearted: cowardly

Castles in the air: imaginary schemes

Cry something out: to continue doing something (P. 13)

Dead as the door nail: quite dead

Dispense with: to get rid of, do away (P-04)

Double dealing: duplicity

Double Dutch: speech or writing that makes no sense (P-05)

Enough and to spare: plenty

End and aim: sole purpose

Eye opener: suggestive warning

 Ever and anon: occasionally

Far and near: everywhere

From hand to mouth: with great difficulty

For good: for ever

Fair and square: just or honest

Face to face: before each other

From time to time: occasionally

From bad to worse: much worse

First water: thorough

Foul play: dishonestly

First and foremost: above all

 Flesh and blood: human nature

Gift of the gab: talent for speaking (P-02)

Golden opportunity: a good chance

Good for nothing: useless

Head and heart: mental and spiritual

Head and tail: meaning

Hard and fast: strict

Hale and hearty: healthy

Heart and soul: with full energy

Heart to heart: intimate

Hand and glove: close friends

Hand in hand: close together (P-04)

High and low: everyone

High hand: dictatorial way (P-05)

High time: proper occasion

Hue and cry: great noise

Hole and corner: a secret policy

Hard times: bad days

Head and ears: completely –

Hush money: bribe given for hiding crime (P-09)

Ins and outs: full details (P-05)

In accordance with: according to (P-04)

In a nutshell: in brief

In fair weather and foul: in happiness and sorrow

In the air: prevalent

In the nick of time: at the right moment

In cold blood: deliberately, cruelly (P-05) –

In lieu of: in place of

In vogue: in fashion –

In the long run in the end

Into the bargain: into the contract

In a fix: to be confused

In the prime of life: in youth

In the teeth of opposition: in the face of great opposition

In full swing: with full force

In spite of despite

In token of: as a sign of

In addition to besides

In the twinkling of an eye: in a moment

In keeping with: suitable to

In hot water: in trouble –

In proportion to: according to (size, quantity, etc.

In the wake of behind

In small hours: between midnight and dawn

In view of: considering

Jack of all trader one who knows something of

Keep quiet: bold tongue (P-03)

Kith and kint near relations

 Long and short gist, substance

Lock and key: safe

Loaves and fishes, material gains

Length and breadth all over

Last though not least, last but not less important

Man of letters, a scholar

Narrow escape: close shave

Null and void: useless, ineffective

Nonetheless nevertheless, yet

Out of sorts: unwell

Once for all: forever

Out and out: completely

-On the alert: ready to act (P-2000)

On the wane: gradually decreasing

On the point of near, about to

On and on continuously

Of no avail: useless

Off and on: now and then

Of one’s own accord: willingly

On behalf of: in favour of

 On the eve of just before the event

On the look out: looking for

On one’s guard: careful

On the verge of about to

On pain of death at the cost of life

Out of date: out of fashion

Out of question: improbable

Out of order: not working

Out of the way: remote

Out of packet: without money

Over and over again repeatedly

Order of the day: a common occurrence

Pandora’s Bor: a process that once begun creates many complicated problems (P-09)

Penelope’s web: a complicated situation (P-05)

Point blank: at very close range, clear

 Petticoat government: female rule

 Part and parcel: an essential rule

Pick holes: find faults, criticize (P-03)

Pros and cons: arguments for and against

 Rack and ruin: complete ruin

Rank and file: common soldiers/people

Red tapism: delay due to office routine

 Royal road: an easy way

Rolling stone: an unsteady person

 Roaring trade: a profitable business

Red rag to a bull: a displeasing thing

Sum and substance: main idea

Safe and sound: safely

Slip of tongue: mistake

Silver lining: the ray of hope

Storm in a tea-pot: quarrel for nothing

Skin and bone: skeleton

Screw-loose: derangement of mind (madness)

Tall talk: boasting

Through and through: completely

To and fro: here and there

Time and again: repeatedly

Tooth and nail: with full force

Tit for tut: blow for blow

Tip-top, first class

Ups and downs: rise and fall

Up to the mark: up to the standard:

Under one’s nose: in the presence of

Under the thumb of: under control

Up-to-date: modern

Ways and means: resources

Weal and woe: happiness and sorrow

Wear and tear: depreciation

With open arms warmly

Well-to-do: rich

 Wet behind the ears: inexperienced (P-05)

White elephant: expensive but not useful

Wild goose chase: useless effort

Yeoman’s service: excellent service (P-09)


To add fuel to fire: to make the matter worse

To add insult to injury: to harm as well as insult

To beat black and blue: to beat severely (P-05)

To beat the air: to make useless efforts

To beat a retreat: to go back

To bear in mind: to remember

To bear the palm: to become victorious

To blow hot and cold: to favor and oppose a thing at the same time

To blow one’s own trumpet: to boast

To bell the cat: to do a risky job

To break the ice: to break the silence

To break the news: to carry sad news first

To breathe one’s last: to die

To bring to light: to make known

To bring home: to explain

To build castles in the air: to make imaginary schemes

To bury the hatchet: to forget the past enmity

To burn the candle at both ends: to spend money lavishly

To burn the midnight oil: to work late at night

To be in one’s good books: to get the favor of a person

To be laid up: to be confined to bed

To be caught red-handed to be caught while doing an evil act

To call a spade a spade: to speak clearly

To come across: to meet by chance

To call one name: to abuse

To come true: to become true

To come off with flying colours: to get success

To carry through/to carry out to bring to completion

To call to account: to demand an explanation

To call on: to request

To call upon: to pay a brief visit

To cut a sorry figure: to leave a poor impression

To cry for the moon: to wish for an impossible thing

To cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth: to live within one’s means

To carry coal to Newcastle: to do a useless thing

To cry over spilled milk: to repent

To die in harness: to die while on duty

To do away with: to abolish

To drink to the health of to express good wishes

To end in smoke: to be unsuccessful

To end in a draw: to end without result

To fall flat: to produce no effect

To fight shyness of: to avoid

To fish in troubled waters: to take advantage of others’ difficulties

To follow suit: to act in a like manner

To gain ground: to make progress

To get wind: to be known to the public

To get rid of: to get free of

To get the better of: to gain superiority

To get into hot water: to fall into difficulties

То get off scot-free: to escape without punishment

To give oneself airs: to feel superior

To give up the ghost: to die

To give false coloring: to misrepresent

To go to the dogs: to be ruined grease the palm: to bribe

To harp on the same string: to repeat the same topic

To have an edge on: to be slightly better than

To have clean hands: to be innocent

To hit below the belt: to strike unfairly

To hold good: to apply to

To hold water to be correct

To hold fast: to secure firmly

To hold one’s tongue: to keep quiet

To keep an eye: to watch

To keep body and soul together: to maintain life

To keep pace with: to walk at the same speed

To keep up appearances to maintain an outward show

To kill two birds with one stone: to get two objects in one effort

To keep the wolf from the door to avoid poverty

To laugh in one’s sleeves: to laugh inwardly

To leave no stone unturned: to make all possible efforts

To lick the dust: to be badly defeated

To leave in the lurch: to leave a person in difficulty

To let bygones be bygones: to forget the past

To leap in the dark: to take a risk deliberately

To lose heart: to give up courage

To look sharp: to look smart

To lead a dog’s life: to have a miserable life

To make up or make good: to compensate, to cover loss

To make both ends meet: to earn one’s living with difficulty (P-04)

To make a clean breast: to confess

To make amends for: to make compensation

To make the most of: to utilize to the full

To make a mountain of a molehill: to attach undue importance to the matter

To meet one’s Waterloo: to meet one’s final defeat (P-09)

To move heaven and earth: to make a great effort

To nip in the bud: to destroy in the very beginning

To play a double game: to deceive

To play a second fiddle: to play a subordinate role

To play truant: to absent oneself from school or other duty

To pour oil on troubled waters: to pacify the anger

To poison one’s ears: to say things secretly against someone

To put one’s shoulders to the wheel: to work earnestly

To put the cart before the horse: to reverse the natural order of things

To put up with: to bear/tolerate

To put an end to: to stop

Putting two and two together: drawing a conclusion from the given data

To pocket an insult: to bear an insult without opposing

To poke one’s nose: to interfere

To play ducks and drakes: to waste money

To rain cats and dogs: to rain heavily

To rise to the occasion: to act as the occasion demands

To run short: to be insufficient

To shell a rat: to suspect a trick

To split hair: to indulge in over-refined arguments

To stand in good stead: to be helpful in need

To strike a terror: to frighten

To take to task: to scold, rebuke

To take to one’s heels: to run away

To talk big: to boast, brag of

To take to heart: to take seriously

To throw cold water: to discourage

To throw down the gauntlet: to challenge

To turn over a new leaf; to be completely changed

To turn the tables: to reverse the condition

To turn a deaf ear: to pay no attention

To wash one’s hands of: not to do anything with

To win laurels: to win distinction

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