Idioms and Phrases Meaning, Uses, Examples, and Exercise

Here are Idioms and Phrases, uses of Idioms and Phrases, Examples of Idioms and Phrases, and exercises of Idioms and Phrases for competitive exams.


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 throw 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

At daggers drawn: bitter enemies

At logger heads; on hostile terms

At the eleventh hour: at the very last moment

At any rate: in any case

A good many: a considerable number

A black sheep: a mean person

A blockhead: 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: a 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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