An idiom is a group of words which have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings from those of the individual words. Therefore, Idioms should not be taken literally. Idioms won’t make any sense unless you have learned about them before.
Here’s a list of the most commonly used idioms for students with meanings and example sentences:
Commonly Used Idioms
A bed of roses
Meaning: A situation or activity that is comfortable or easy
Example: Making money is no bed of roses.
A blessing in disguise
Meaning: An apparent misfortune that eventually has good results.
Example: Losing the job was a blessing in disguise for her as she started her own clothing business.
A dime a dozen
Meaning: Very common and of no particular value.
Example: Those antique are a dime a dozen.
A hot potato
Meaning: A problem or situation that is difficult to deal with and causes a lot of disagreement.
Example: Migration issue has become a political hot potato.
A penny for your thoughts
Meaning: A way of asking what another person is thinking.
Example: A penny for your thoughts, Stephan.
Add insult to injury
Meaning: To make a bad situation even worse.
Example: I was already late for work and, to add insult to injury, I spilled coffee all over my boss.
Apple of eye
Meaning: Someone’s favorite person.
Example: Her grandson is the apple of her eye.
At the drop of a hat
Meaning: To do something immediately without stopping to think about it.
Example: Your job can go at the drop of a hat.
Back to the drawing board
Meaning: To start planning something again because the first plan failed.
Example: The board must go back to the drawing board and review the whole issue.
Ball is in your court
Meaning: It is now your turn to make the decision.
Example: I’ve done all I can; now the ball’s in your court.
Barking up the wrong tree
Meaning: Doing something that will not get you the desired results
Example: If you think he will help you get the job, you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree!
Beat around the bush
Meaning: To avoid talking about what is important.
Example: Don’t beat around the bush—just tell me the truth.
Best of both worlds
Meaning: A situation wherein one can enjoy two different opportunities.
Example: She works in the city and lives in the country, so she gets to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Bite the bullet
Meaning: Decide to do something that one has been putting off.
Example: I hate going to the doctor, but I’ll just have to bite the bullet.
Break a leg
Meaning: Wishing someone good luck.
Example: You look great in your costume! Break a leg!
Call it a night
Meaning: To stop what you have been doing in the night and go to bed.
Example: Stephan was exhausted, so he called it a night.
Costs an arm and a leg
Meaning: Costs a lot of money.
Example: Dental fees cost an arm and leg nowadays.
Curiosity killed the cat
Meaning: Being curious can get you into trouble.
Example: I know curiosity killed the cat, but where did you get all that money?
Meaning: To do something as to save time or money.
Example: Stephan is always tempted to cut corners when time is short.
Cut somebody some slack
Meaning: To be lenient with someone.
Example: You need to cut her some slack—she’s is already working overtime to get the work finished.
Meaning: One who argues against a cause either for the sake of argument or to help determine its validity.
Example: He was just playing devil’s advocate.
Desperate times call for desperate measures
Meaning: Extreme situations can only be resolved by taking equally extreme actions.
Example: I really don’t want to fire an employee, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Easy does it
Meaning: To do something slowly and carefully.
Example: Easy does it! We don’t want break the glass.
Feel a bit under the weather
Meaning: To feel ill.
Example: I’m feeling a bit under the weather.
Get out of hand
Meaning: If a situation gets out of hand, it becomes unmanageable.
Example: His drinking had got out of hand.
Get something out of your system
Meaning: To say or do something that you have been wanting to for a long time.
Example: You will feel much better if you get it out of your system.
Get your act together
Meaning: To organize one’s affairs so that you do things in an effective way.
Example: Stephan needs to get his act together if he does not want lose the job.
Give someone the benefit of the doubt
Meaning: To believe someone, even though you are not sure that what the person is saying is true.
Example: The boss gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed that she’s right.
Hang in there
Meaning: To not give up, despite difficulties.
Example: Hang in there and you never know what you might achieve in future.
Hit the books
Meaning: To study.
Example: You better hit the books if you want to pass your exam.
Hit the nail on the head
Meaning: To say something that is exactly right or completely true
Example: I think he really hit the nail on the head with that answer.
Hit the sack
Meaning: To go to bed in order to sleep.
Example: You have to get up early tomorrow, so I think you should better hit the sack.
In the heat of the moment
Meaning: To say or do something without thinking due go anger or excitement.
Example: He said things he didn’t mean in the heat of the moment.
It takes two to tango
Meaning: It means that a situation or argument involves two people and they are both therefore responsible for it.
Example: Responsibility for good governance and effective aid is shared by the donor community and the developing countries themselves; it takes two to tango.
It’s not rocket science
Meaning: It is not very difficult to do or to understand.
Example: Football is not rocket science. Anyone can learn to play it.
Jump on the bandwagon
Meaning: To join others in doing or supporting something popular.
Example: If this was a famine flood or other tragedy, they would all be jumping on the bandwagon to help the victims.
Keep something at bay
Meaning: To keep something at a distance and prevent it from causing you problems.
Example: What is the best way to keep insects at bay?
Kill two birds with one stone
Meaning: To achieve two things at once.
Example: I could kill two birds with one stone by going to New York tomorrow: get my yearly health checkup in the morning and watch the baseball game in the evening.
Let someone off the hook
Meaning: To let someone go without being punished.
Example: They let the theif off the hook too easily.
Let the cat out of the bag
Meaning: To reveal a secret, usually without intending to.
Example: I was trying to keep the party a secret, but she let the cat out of the bag.
Make a long story short
Meaning: To skip directly to the point.
Example: To make a long story short, they are finally buying the house.
Miss the boat
Meaning: To lose an opportunity to do something.
Example: Stephan missed the boat to buy the share at lower prices.
Off one’s rocker
Example: Evelyn is a little off her rocker these days.
On the ball
Meaning: Quick and alert.
Example: Stephan is not really on the ball today.
Once in a blue moon
Meaning: Very rarely.
Example: Stephan comes round once in a blue moon.
Piece of cake
Meaning: Very Easy.
Example: It was a piece of cake.
Pull someone’s leg
Meaning: Tease someone.
Example: Stephan wasn’t serious, he was just pulling his leg.
Raining cats and dogs
Meaning: You say it when it is raining heavily.
Example: Its raining gets and dogs today.
See eye to eye
Meaning: To agree with each other.
Example: They do not always see eye to eye
Sit on the fence
Meaning: Delay or avoid making a decision.
Example: You can’t sit on the fence any longer, you need to make up your mind.
So far so good
Meaning: Satisfaction with the way that a situation is happening.
Example: India has reached the quarter-finals. So far so good.
Steal someone’s thunder
Meaning: To get attention and praise for doing something that someone else had planned to do.
Example: Stephan stole my thunder when he said he’d done all the work.
Take with a grain of salt
Meaning: To view something with skepticism.
Example: You should take his advice with a grain of salt.
Taste of your own medicine
Meaning: To suffer a same thing that one has inflicted on others.
Example: Stephan likes to play rough, so let’s give him a taste of their own medicine!
To get bent out of shape
Meaning: To become very angry or upset.
Example: These days Stephan lets himself get bent out of shape a lot.
To hear something straight from the horse’s mouth
Meaning: To hear it from the person who has direct personal knowledge on the spoken matter.
Example: Stephan heard the news straight from the horse’s mouth, so its true.
To make matters worse
Meaning: To make a bad situation worse.
Example: Stephan was already late for the meeting but to make matters worse, the car broke down.
Twist someone’s arm
Meaning: Pressurize someone into doing something
Example: Stephan had to twist his arm to get the information out of him.
Wrap your head around something
Meaning: Try to understand something that one considers confusing.
Example: I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what had happened at the award ceremony.
You can say that again
Meaning: To show that you completely agree with what someone has said.
Example: Stephan: “That was a weird movie.” Evelyn: “You can say that again! “
Your guess is as good as mine
Meaning: It is said in response to a question when one doesn’t know answer .
Example: Stephan: “How much time will it take?” Evelyn: “Your guess is as good as mine.”