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Complate list Dictionary of English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions

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Number of Idioms: 168
1 A chain is no stronger than its weakest link This means that processes, organisations, etc, are vulnerable because the weakest person or part can always damage or break them.
2 A day late and a dollar short (USA) If something is a day late and a dollar short, it is too little, too late.
3 A fool and his money are soon parted This idiom means that people who aren't careful with their money spend it quickly. 'A fool and his money are easily parted' is an alternative form of the idiom.
4 A fool at 40 is a fool forever If someone hasn't matured by the time they reach forty, they never will.
5 A hitch in your giddy-up If you have a hitch in your giddy-up, you're not feeling well. ('A hitch in your gittie-up' is also used.)
6 A lick and a promise If you give something a lick and a promise, you do it hurriedly, most often incompletely, intending to return to it later.
7 A little bird told me If someone doesn't want to say where they got some information from, they can say that a little bird told them.
8 A little learning is a dangerous thing A small amount of knowledge can cause people to think they are more expert than they really are.eg. he said he'd done a course on home electrics, but when he tried to mend my table lamp, he fused all the lights! I think a little learning is a dangerous thing
9 A long row to hoe Something that is a long row to hoe is a difficult task that takes a long time.
10 A lost ball in the high weeds A lost ball in the high weeds is someone who does not know what they are doing, where they are or how to do something.
11 A OK If things are A OK, they are absolutely fine.
12 A penny for your thoughts This idiom is used as a way of asking someone what they are thinking about.
13 A penny saved is a penny earned This means that we shouldn't spend or waste money, but try to save it.
14 A picture is worth a thousand words A picture can often get a message across much better than the best verbal description.
15 A poor man's something Something or someone that can be compared to something or someone else, but is not as good is a poor man's version; a writer who uses lots of puns but isn't very funny would be a poor man's Oscar Wilde.
16 A pretty penny If something costs a pretty penny, it is very expensive.
17 A problem shared is a problem halved If you talk about your problems, it will make you feel better.
18 A rising tide lifts all boats This idiom, coined by John F Kennedy, describes the idea that when an economy is performing well, all people will benefit from it.
19 A rolling stone gathers no moss People say this to mean that that an ambitious person is more successful than a person not trying to achieve anything. Originally it meant the opposite and was critical of people trying to get ahead.
20 A slice off a cut loaf is never missed Used colloquially to describe having sexual intercourse with someone who is not a virgin, especially when they are in a relationship. The analogy refers to a loaf of bread; it is not readily apparent, once the end has been removed, exactly how many slices have been taken.('You never miss a slice from a cut loaf' is also used.)
21 A steal If something is a steal, it costs much less than it is really worth.
22 A still tongue keeps a wise head Wise people don't talk much.
23 A watched pot never boils Some things work out in their own time, so being impatient and constantly checking will just make things seem longer.
24 A1 If something is A1, it is the very best or finest.
25 Abide by a decision If you abide by a decision, you accept it and comply with it, even though you might disagree with it.
26 Abject lesson (India) An abject lesson serves as a warning to others. (In some varieties of English 'object lesson' is used.)
27 About as useful as a chocolate teapot Someone or something that is of no practical use is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
28 About face If someone changes their mind completely, this is an about face. It can be used when companies, governments, etc, change their position on an issue.
29 Above board If things are done above board, they are carried out in a legal and proper manner.
30 Above par Better than average or normal
31 Absence makes the heart grow fonder This idiom means that when people are apart, their love grows stronger.
32 Accident waiting to happen If something is an accident waiting to happen, there's definitely going to be an accident or it's bound to go wrong. ('Disaster waiting to happen' is also used.)
33 Ace in the hole An ace in the hole is something other people are not aware of that can be used to your advantage when the time is right.
34 Ace up your sleeve If you have an ace up your sleeve, you have something that will give you an advantage that other people don't know about.
35 Achilles' heel A person's weak spot is their Achilles' heel.
36 Acid test An acid test is something that proves whether something is good, effective, etc, or not.
37 Across the board If something applies to everybody, it applies across the board.
38 Across the ditch (NZ) This idiom means on the other side of the Tasman Sea, used to refer to Australia or New Zealand depending on the speaker's location.
39 Across the pond (UK) This idiom means on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, used to refer to the US or the UK depending on the speaker's location.
40 Act of God An act of God is something like an earthquake or floods that human beings cannot prevent or control.
41 Act of war An act of war is a action that is either intended to start a war or that is interpreted as being sufficient cause for a war.
42 Actions speak louder than words This idiom means that what people actually do is more important than what they say- people can promise things but then fail to deliver.
43 Adam's apple The Adam's apple is a bulge in the throat, mostly seen in men.
44 Add fuel to the fire If people add fuel to the fire, they make a bad situation worse.
45 Add insult to injury When people add insult to injury, they make a bad situation even worse.
46 After your own heart A person after your own heart thinks the same way as you.
47 Against the clock If you do something against the clock, you are rushed and have very little time to do it.
48 Against the grain If doing something goes against the grain, you're unwilling to do it because it contradicts what you believe in, but you have no real choice.
49 Age before beauty When this idiom is used, it is a way of allowing an older person to do something first, though often in a slightly sarcastic way.
50 Agony aunt An agony aunt is a newspaper columnist who gives advice to people having problems, especially personal ones.
51 Ahead of the pack If you are ahead of the pack, you have made more progress than your rivals.
52 Ahead of time If something happens ahead of time, it happens early or before the set time.
53 Air your dirty laundry in public If you air your dirty laundry in public, you reveal aspects of your private life that should really remain private, by telling a secret, arguing in public, etc.
54 Albatross around your neck An albatross around, or round, your neck is a problem resulting from something you did that stops you from being successful.
55 Alike as two peas If people or things are as alike as two peas, they are identical.
56 Alive and kicking If something is active and doing well, it is alive and kicking. (It can be used for people too.)
57 All along If you have known or suspected something all along, then you have felt this from the beginning.
58 All and sundry This idiom is a way of emphasising 'all', like saying 'each and every one'.
59 All bark and no bite When someone talks tough but really isn't, they are all bark and no bite.
60 All bets are off (USA) If all bets are off, then agreements that have been made no longer apply.
61 All dressed up and nowhere to go You're prepared for something that isn't going to happen.
62 All ears If someone says they're all ears, they are very interested in hearing about something.
63 All eyes on me If all eyes are on someone, then everyone is paying attention to them.
64 All fingers and thumbs If you're all fingers and thumbs, you are too excited or clumsy to do something properly that requires manual dexterity. 'All thumbs' is an alternative form of the idiom.
65 All hat, no cattle (USA) When someone talks big, but cannot back it up, they are all hat, no cattle.('Big hat, no cattle' is also used.)
66 All heart Someone who is all heart is very kind and generous.
67 All hell broke loose When all hell breaks loose, there is chaos, confusion and trouble.
68 All in a day's work If something is all in a day's work, it is nothing special.
69 All in your head If something is all in your head, you have imagined it and it is not real.
70 All mod cons If something has all mod cons, it has all the best and most desirable features. It is an abbreviation of 'modern convenience' that was used in house adverts.
71 All mouth and trousers (UK) Someone who's all mouth and trousers talks or boasts a lot but doesn't deliver. 'All mouth and no trousers' is also used, though this is a corruption of the original.
72 All my eye and Peggy Martin (UK) An idiom that appears to have gone out of use but was prevalent in the English north Midlands of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire from at least the turn of the 20th century until the early 1950s or so. The idiom's meaning is literally something said or written that is unbelievable, rumor, over embellished, the result of malicious village gossip etc.
73 All of the above This idiom can be used to mean everything that has been said or written, especially all the choices or possibilities.
74 All over bar the shouting When something is all over bar the shouting, the outcome is absolutely certain.('All over but the shouting' is also used.)
75 All over the map (USA) If something like a discussion is all over the map, it doesn't stick to the main topic and goes off on tangents.
76 All over the place If something is completely disorganised or confused, it is all over the place.
77 All over the shop If something is completely disorganised or confused, it is all over the shop.
78 All over the show If something is all over the show, it's in a complete mess.An alternative to 'All over the shop'.
79 All roads lead to Rome This means that there can be many different ways of doing something.
80 All set If you're all set, you are ready for something.
81 All sixes If something is all sixes, it doesn't matter how it's done; it's the same as 'six of one and half a dozen of the other'.
82 All skin and bone If a person is very underweight, they are all skin and bone, or bones.
83 All square If something is all square, nobody has an advantage or is ahead of the others.
84 All talk and no trousers (UK) Someone who is all talk and no trousers, talks about doing big, important things, but doesn't take any action.
85 All that glitters is not gold This means that appearances can be deceptive and things that look or sound valuable can be worthless. ('All that glistens is not gold' is an alternative.)
86 All the rage If something's all the rage, it is very popular or fashionable at the moment.
87 All the tea in China If someone won't do something for all the tea in China, they won't do it no matter how much money they are offered.
88 All your eggs in one basket If you put all your eggs in one basket, you risk everything at once, instead of trying to spread the risk. (This is often used as a negative imperative- 'Don't put all your eggs in one basket'. 'Have your eggs in one basket' is also used.)
89 All's fair in love and war This idiom is used to say that where there is conflict, people can be expected to behave in a more vicious way.
90 All's well that ends well If the end result is good, then everything is good.
91 All-singing, all-dancing If something's all-singing, all-dancing, it is the latest version with the most up-to-date features.
92 Alter ego An alter ego is a very close and intimate friend. It is a Latin phrase that literally means 'other self'.
93 Always a bridesmaid, never a bride If someone is always a bridesmaid, never a bride, they never manage to fulfill their ambition- they get close, but never manage the recognition, etc, they crave.
94 Ambulance chaser A lawyer who encourages people who have been in accidents or become ill to sue for compensation is an ambulance chaser.
95 Amen Some use 'Amen' or 'Amen to that' as a way of agreeing with something that has just been said.
96 An apple a day keeps the doctor away Eating healthy food keeps you healthy.
97 An old flame An old flame is a person that somebody has had an emotional, usually passionate, relationship with, who is still looked on fondly and with affection.
98 An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure This expression means that is is better to try to avoid problems in the first place, rather than trying to fix them once they arise.
99 And all that jazz This idiom means that everything related or similar is included.
100 Angry as a bear If someone is as angry as a bear, they are very angry.('Angry as a bear with a sore foot' is also used.)
101 Angry as a bull If someone is as angry as a bull, they are very angry.
102 Answers on a postcard This idiom can be used to suggest that the answer to something is very obvious or that the person would really like to hear what people think.
103 Ants in your pants If someone has ants in their pants, they are agitated or excited about something and can't keep still.
104 Any port in a storm This means that in an emergency any solution will do, even one that would normally be unacceptable.
105 Any Tom, Dick or Harry If something could be done by any Tom, Dick or Harry, it could be done by absolutely anyone.
106 Apple of your eye Something or, more often, someone that is very special to you is the 'apple of your' eye.
107 Apple pie order Everything is in perfect order and tidy if it is in apple pie order.
108 Apples and oranges Tis used when people compare or describe two totally different things. ('Apples to oranges' is also used.)
109 Apples for apples An apples for apples comparison is a comparison between related or simialr things. ('Apples to apples' is also used.)
110 Apron strings A man who is tied to a woman's apron strings is excessively dependent on her, especially when it is his mother's apron strings.
111 Argue the toss (UK) If you argue the toss, you refuse to accept a decision and argue about it.
112 Arm and a leg If something costs an arm and a leg, it is very expensive.
113 Armchair critic An armchair critic is someone who offers advice but never shows that they could actually do any better.
114 Armed to the teeth If people are armed to the teeth, they have lots of weapons.
115 Around the clock If something is open around the clock, it is open 24 hours a day. For example, an airport is open around the clock.
116 Arrow in the quiver An arrow in the quiver is a strategy or option that could be used to achieve your objective.
117 As a rule If you do something as a rule, then you usually do it.
118 As cold as ice This idiom can be used to describe a person who does not show any emotion.
119 As cold as stone If something is as cold as stone, it is very cold. If a person is as cold as stone, they are unemotional.
120 As cool as a cucumber If someone is as cool as a cucumber, they don't get worried by anything.
121 As good as new If something has been used but is still in extremely good condition, it is as good as new.
122 As mad as a hatter This simile means that someone is crazy or behaves very strangely. In the past many people who made hats went insane because they had a lot of contact with mercury.
123 As mad as a wrongly shot hog (USA) If someone is as mad as a wrongly shot hog, they are very angry. (Same as, Angry as a bear or Angry as a bull).
124 As much use as a chocolate fire-guard A fire-guard is used in front of a fireplace for safety. A chocolate fire-guard is of no use. An alternative to 'As much use as a chocolate teapot'.
125 As much use as a chocolate teapot Something that is as much use as a chocolate teapot is not useful at all.
126 As much use as a handbrake on a canoe This idiom is used to describe someone or something as worthless or pointless.
127 As neat as a new pin This idiom means tidy and clean.
128 As one man If people do something as one man, then they do it at exactly the same time or in complete agreement.
129 As the actress said to the bishop (UK) This idiom is used to highlight a sexual reference, deliberate or accidental.
130 As the crow flies This idiom is used to describe the shortest possible distance between two places.
131 As you sow, so shall you reap This means that if you do bad things to people, bad things will happen to you, or good things if you do good things.
132 Asleep at the switch If someone is asleep at the switch, they are not doing their job or taking their responsibilities very carefully. 'Asleep at the wheel' is an alternative.
133 Asleep at the wheel If someone is asleep at the wheel, they are not doing their job or taking their responsibilities very carefully. 'Asleep at the switch' is an alternative.
134 At a drop of a dime (USA) If someone will do something at the drop of a dime, they will do it instantly, without hesitation.
135 At a loose end (UK) If you are at a loose end, you have spare time but don't know what to do with it.
136 At a loss If you are at a loss, you are unable to understand or comply.
137 At a snail's pace If something moves at a snail's pace, it moves very slowly.
138 At arm's length If something is at arm's length, it is a safe distance waway from you.
139 At cross purposes When people are at cross purposes, they misunderstand each other or have different or opposing objectives.
140 At daggers drawn If people are at daggers drawn, they are very angry and close to violence.
141 At death's door If someone looks as if they are at death's door, they look seriously unwell and might actually be dying.
142 At each other's throats If people are at each other's throats, they are fighting, arguing or competing ruthlessly.
143 At full tilt If something is at full tilt, it is going or happening as fast or as hard as possible.
144 At large If a criminal is at large, they have not been found or caught.
145 At loggerheads If people are at loggerheads, they are arguing and can't agree on anything.
146 At loose ends (USA) If you are at a loose end, you have spare time but don't know what to do with it.
147 At odds If you are at odds with someone, you cannot agree with them and argue.
148 At sea If things are at sea, or all at sea, they are disorganized and chaotic.
149 At the bottom of the totem pole (USA) If someone is at the bottom of the totem pole, they are unimportant. Opposite is at the top of the totem pole.
150 At the coalface If you work at the coalface, you deal with the real problems and issues, rather than sitting in a office discussing things in a detached way.
151 At the drop of a hat If you would do something at the drop of a hat, you'd do it immediately.
152 At the end of the day This is used to mean 'in conclusion' or 'when all is said and done'.
153 At the end of your rope (USA) If you are at the end of your rope, you are at the limit of your patience or endurance.
154 At the end of your tether (UK) If you are at the end of your tether, you are at the limit of your patience or endurance.
155 At the fore In a leading position
156 At the top of my lungs If you shout at the top of your lungs, you shout as loudly as you possibly can.
157 At the top of the list If something is at the top of the list, it is of highest priority, most important, most urgent, or the next in one's line of attention.
158 At the top of your lungs If you shout at the top of your lungs, you shout as loudly as you possibly can.
159 At the top of your voice If you talk, shout or sing at the top of your voice, you do it as loudly as you can.
160 At your wit's end If you're at your wit's end, you really don't know what you should do about something, no matter how hard you think about it.
161 At your wits' end If you are at your wits' end, you have no idea what to do next and are very frustrated.
162 Average Joe An average Joe is an ordinary person without anything exceptional about them.
163 Avowed intent If someone makes a solemn or serious promise publicly to attempt to reach a certain goal, this is their avowed intent.
164 Away with the fairies If someone is away with the fairies, they don't face reality and have unrealistic expectations of life.
165 Awe inspiring Something or someone that is awe inspiring amazes people in a slightly frightening but positive way.
166 AWOL AWOL stands for "Absent Without Leave", or "Absent Without Official Leave". Orignially a military term, it is used when someone has gone missing without telling anyone or asking for permission.
167 Axe to grind If you have an axe to grind with someone or about something, you have a grievance, a resentment and you want to get revenge or sort it out. In American English, it is 'ax'.
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