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600 Idiomatic Expressions

600 Idiomatic Expressions

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600 English Idiomatic Expressions

Items (597)

  • above board

    If something is above board, it's been done in a legal and honest way.

  • above the law

    If someone is above the law, they are not subject to the laws of a society.

  • Achilles' heel

    An Achilles' heel is a weakness that could result in failure.

  • across the board

    If something is across the board, it relates to all without exception.

  • add fuel to the fire

    If you add fuel to the fire, you do something to make a bad situation even worse.

  • add insult to injury

    Someone adds insult to injury if they say or do something to upset you a second time, after you've already been upset somehow.

  • against all odds | against all the odds

    If you do something against all odds, or against all the odds, you do it even though there were many problems and it didn't seem possible to do.

  • agree to differ | agree to disagree

    If two people agree to differ, or agree to disagree, they accept that they have different opinions about something and stop trying to change each other's opinion.

  • ahead of the game

    You are ahead of the game if you have an advantage over your competitors in any activity in which you try to do better than others, such as in business, academia, sports, etc.

  • all hell broke loose (informal)

    You can say "all hell broke loose" if a situation suddenly became violent or chaotic.

  • all the rage (informal)

    If something is all the rage, it's very popular or it's in fashion at the moment.

  • an acid test

    An acid test is something that shows the true worth or value of something or someone.

  • an act of God (formal)

    Something like an earthquake or a tornado can be called an act of God.

  • an ax to grind (1) (AmE)

    If you have an ax to grind with someone, you have a problem with them, or a complaint against them, which you'd like to discuss.

  • an axe to grind (2) (BrE)

    If you have an axe to grind, you have a strong opinion about something and you express this opinion whenever you can.

  • another string to your bow (BrE)

    If you have another string to your bow, you have another way of making a living.

  • answer the call of nature

    If you answer the call of nature, you go to the toilet.

  • around the clock

    If something occurs around the clock, it goes on all day and all night.

  • as soon as possible | asap

    If you do something as soon as possible (sometimes abbreviated to "asap"), you do it at the first possible opportunity.

  • asking for trouble

    If someone is asking for trouble, they're doing something risky that could lead to a problem.

  • at a loose end (BrE)

    If you're at a loose end, you have nothing to do.

  • at cross-purposes

    If you're at cross-purposes with someone, you think you're both talking about the same thing but you're actually talking about different things.

  • at loose ends (AmE)

    If you're at loose ends, you feel restless and unsettled because you don't have anything to do.

  • at sea | all at sea

    If you're at sea, or all at sea, you're confused about something and not sure what to do.

  • at the drop of a hat

    If you do something at the drop of a hat, you do it immediately, without preparation or planning.

  • at your wits' end

    If you're at your wits' end, you're upset and frustrated because you've tried everything you can think of to solve a problem, and nothing has worked.

  • (your) bread and butter

    Your bread and butter is your livelihood or the source of your income.

  • a bad hair day (informal)

    If you're having a bad hair day, everything seems to be going wrong for you.

  • a bag of tricks

    Someone's bag of tricks is their collection of techniques or methods for getting a job done or for achieving a goal.

  • a ballpark figure | a ballpark estimate (AmE)

    If you give a ballpark figure or a ballpark estimate, you give a number which you think is fairly close to the actual one.

  • a blessing in disguise

    You can say something is a blessing in disguise if it appears to be bad at first, but it results in something very good in the end.

  • back to square one

    If you have to go back to square one, you have to stop and start again, usually because something isn't working as well as expected.

  • back to the drawing board

    You can say "back to the drawing board" when a plan or a design has failed, and you decide to begin all over again.

  • backed into a corner

    If you're backed into a corner, you're in a difficult situation that will be hard to get out of.

  • bark up the wrong tree (informal)

    If you're barking up the wrong tree, you're looking for something in the wrong place or going about something in the wrong way.

  • bear the brunt

    If you bear the brunt of something, you suffer the worst of its impact or its effects.

  • beat around the bush | beat about the bush

    If you beat around the bush, or beat about the bush, you don't say something directly, usually because you don't want to upset the person you're talking to.

  • beat the rap (AmE) (informal)

    If someone beats the rap, they avoid being found guilty of a crime.

  • behind someone's back

    If you do something behind someone's back, you do it without letting them know about it.

  • behind the eight ball (AmE) (informal)

    If you're behind the eight ball, you're in a difficult or dangerous position.

  • behind the times

    If someone is behind the times, they are old-fashioned and their ideas are out of date.

  • beside the point

    You can say something is beside the point if it has nothing to do with what's being talked about or with the reason something is being done.

  • beyond a shadow of a doubt

    Something is true "beyond a shadow of a doubt" if there is no possibility at all that it isn't true.

  • bite your tongue | hold your tongue

    If you bite your tongue, or hold your tongue, you force yourself not to say something you really want to say.

  • blow your own horn | blow your own trumpet

    If you blow your own horn, or blow your own trumpet, you proudly boast about your own talents and successes.

  • break the ice

    If you break the ice you say or do something to create a more relaxed atmosphere when meeting people for the first time.

  • break your heart

    If someone breaks your heart, they cause you a lot of emotional pain by ending a romantic relationship, or by deeply hurting you in some other way.

  • burn your bridges | burn your boats

    You have burned your bridges, or burned your boats, if you were in a situation and you then left it after doing something that made it impossible to go back there.

  • by the book

    If you do something by the book, you do it strictly according to the rules or the official procedures.

  • by word of mouth

    If something becomes well-known by word of mouth, it becomes well-known because people are telling each other about it, and not because of advertising or other marketing tools.

  • the back of beyond | the back of the beyond

    You can say a place is in the back of beyond, or the back of the beyond, if it's very far from towns or cities.

  • the ball's in your court

    If someone you're negotiating with says "the ball's in your court", they think it's your turn to make a move or make an offer.

  • a chip off the old block

    Someone can be described as a chip off the old block if they are very similar in character to one of their parents, usually their father.

  • a couch potato

    You can say someone's a couch potato if they're very lazy and they spend a lot of time sitting around watching TV and eating junk food.

  • call a spade a spade

    If you call a spade a spade, you tell the truth in a straightforward and direct way, even if the truth is not pleasant.

  • call it a day (informal)

    If you call it a day, you stop doing something that's usually related to work.

  • can of worms (informal)

    If you say a situation or an issue is a can of worms, you think that getting involved in it could lead to problems.

  • can't see the forest for the trees (AmE)

    If you can't see the forest for the trees, you can't see the whole situation clearly because you're looking too closely at small details, or because you're too closely involved.

  • can't see the wood for the trees (BrE)

    If you can't see the wood for the trees, you can't see the whole situation clearly because you're looking too closely at small details, or because you're too closely involved.

  • carte blanche (formal)

    If you give someone carte blanche, you give them freedom to do whatever they want in a situation.

  • caught red-handed

    If someone is caught red-handed, they are caught in the act of doing something wrong such as cheating or stealing.

  • change your tune

    If you change your tune, you change your opinion about something or your attitude towards someone.

  • chew the fat | chew the rag

    If you chew the fat, or chew the rag, you have a long, friendly chat with someone.

  • chickens come home to roost

    If chickens are coming home to roost, someone is suffering the unpleasant consequences of their bad actions in the past.

  • clean as a whistle

    If something is as clean as a whistle, it's extremely clean, or for a person it can mean they have a perfect record and have never done anything illegal.

  • come a cropper (BrE) (informal)

    If you come a cropper, you fall over, or you make a mistake which has serious consequences for you.

  • come clean

    If you come clean about something, you let people know about it after keeping it a secret.

  • come in handy (informal)

    You can say something might come in handy if you think it might be useful.

  • come to a head

    You can say a situation or a problem comes to a head if it reaches a crisis point and dealing with it can no longer be avoided.

  • come to grips with | get to grips with

    If you come to grips with something, or get to grips with something, you deal with the problems or challenges it poses.

  • come to your senses

    If you come to your senses, you see things clearly and begin to act sensibly after a period of confusion and unwise behaviour.

  • come up trumps (BrE)

    If you come up trumps, you succeed in something that you may not have been expected to succeed in.

  • cook the books | cook the accounts

    If someone cooks the books, or cooks the accounts, they keep inaccurate accounts for a business, usually in order to pay less tax.

  • cost the earth | charge the earth

    If something costs the earth, or they charge the earth for it, it's very expensive.

  • couldn't care less (informal)

    You can say "I couldn't care less" when you don't care about something, or it doesn't matter to you.

  • cover your tracks

    If you cover your tracks, you make sure no-one can find evidence of what you've done.

  • cross that bridge when we come to it

    You can say "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it" if someone mentions a problem that might occur in the future, but you want them to think about what's happening now instead.

  • cut to the chase (informal)

    If you tell someone to cut to the chase, you want them to get straight to the main point of what they are saying.

  • the cream of the crop

    If something or someone is in the cream of the crop, they are among the best of a class of things or people.

  • a done deal (AmE) (informal)

    A done deal is an agreement or a decision that is final.

  • a drop in the bucket (AmE)

    If an amount is a drop in the bucket, it's a very small portion of the amount that's needed.

  • a drop in the ocean (BrE)

    If an amount is a drop in the ocean, it's a very small portion of the amount that's needed.

  • damned if you do and damned if you don't

    If you say "damned if you do and damned if you don't" you're saying that no matter what someone does, they'll be criticised for it.

  • day to day

    If something happens day to day, it's part of the usual daily routine.

  • de rigeur (formal)

    If something is de rigeur, it is necessary to have if you want to be fashionable or be accepted into a particular social scene.

  • dead in the water

    If something is dead in the water, it has no chance of succeeding or of making any progress.

  • dead to the world (informal)

    If you're dead to the world, you are sound asleep.

  • deep pockets

    You can say a person or an organisation has deep pockets if they have lots of money.

  • dig one's own grave

    If you dig your own grave, you do something unwise that will result in your own failure or downfall in the future.

  • dig up dirt

    If you dig up dirt on someone, you try to find details from their past to make them look bad in the present.

  • dig your heels in

    If you dig your heels in, you stubbornly resist something or refuse to change.

  • dirt cheap

    You can say something is dirt cheap if it costs very little money.

  • do someone's dirty work

    If you do someone's dirty work for them, you do something unpleasant for them because they don't want to do it for themselves.

  • do you the world of good

    If something does you the world of good, it makes you feel a lot better.

  • do your best

    If you do your best, you do something as well as you possibly can, or to the best of your ability.

  • dot the i's and cross the t's

    If you dot the i's and cross the t's, you do something very carefully to make sure you haven't made any mistakes.

  • down in the dumps | down in the mouth (informal)

    If you're down in the dumps, or down in the mouth, you're feeling sad.

  • down to earth

    If someone is down to earth, they are practical and sensible.

  • drag your feet | drag your heels

    If you drag your feet, or drag your heels, you do something slowly because you don't really want to do it.

  • draw a blank (informal)

    If you draw a blank, you get no response when you ask for something, or get no results when you search for something.

  • dressed (up) to the nines (informal)

    If you are dressed to the nines, or dressed up to the nines, you are wearing very smart clothes for a special occasion.

  • drink like a fish (informal)

    If someone drinks like a fish, they drink a lot of alcohol.

  • drop a bombshell

    If you drop a bombshell, you announce some shocking news.

  • the die is cast

    We can say the die is cast after a decision has been made that will strongly affect a situation, and it can't be reversed.

  • (have) egg on your face (informal)

    You have egg on your face if you've said or done something wrong, and it's made you feel embarrassed or stupid.

  • (something) escapes you

    If you say something escapes you, it means you can't remember it.

  • an end in itself

    If something is an end in itself, it's done for its own pleasure or benefit rather than for some other purpose like making money.

  • an even break (AmE)

    If you get an even break, you get a fair opportunity to succeed in your ambition or to achieve your goals.

  • an eye-opener

    You can say something's an eye-opener if it's made you realize something you hadn't been aware of before.

  • each to their own

    You can say "each to their own" when you want to point out that we're all different and we all like different things.

  • ear to the ground (informal)

    If you have your ear to the ground, you know what's really going on in a situation.

  • earn your stripes

    If you earn your stripes, you do something to prove that you have the skills or ability for a particular job or rank.

  • easier said than done

    You say something is easier said than done when it looks easy to do, but in fact it's quite difficult to do.

  • easy as pie | easy as abc

    If something's as easy as pie, or easy as abc, it's very easy.

  • easy come, easy go (informal)

    You can say "easy come, easy go" to express the idea that if something comes to someone easily, such as money they get without working hard for it, they can lose it just as easily and it won't matter to them much.

  • Easy does it! (informal)

    You can say "Easy does it!" when you want someone to do something more carefully or more slowly.

  • easy money

    You can say "easy money" to describe money that someone gets without having to make much effort.

  • easy on the eye

    If something is easy on the eye, it is pleasant to look at.

  • eat humble pie (BrE)

    If you eat humble pie, you admit that you are in the wrong and behave apologetically.

  • eat your words

    If you eat your words, you admit that something you said was wrong.

  • elbow grease

    If something needs elbow grease, it needs a lot of hard physical work.

  • enough is enough

    You can say "enough is enough" if you think someone shouldn't do something because they've done it too many times already, or because they've been doing it for too long.

  • err on the side of caution

    If you err on the side of caution, you are overly careful in your approach to something.

  • esprit de corps (formal)

    A feeling of pride and comradeship shared by members of a group such as a military unit or a sports team.

  • every now and then

    If something happens every now and then, it happens occasionally, but not too often.

  • every trick in the book

    If someone uses every trick in the book to achieve something, they use any method available, even if it involves some deception.

  • Everything's coming up roses.

    you can say "everything's coming up roses" if everything is turning out very well for someone or for something.

  • expand | broaden | widen your horizons

    If you expand your horizons, you broaden your outlook on life and its possibilities.

  • eyes like a hawk

    If someone has eyes like a hawk, they have very good eyesight and they notice everything.

  • a fair-weather friend

    A fair-weather friend is a person who will only be your friend when things are going well for you.

  • a fait accompli (formal)

    If something is a fait accompli, it is certain to happen.

  • a flash in the pan

    You can say something or someone is a flash in the pan if they're popular or effective for a short time only.

  • a foregone conclusion

    You can say the result of something is a foregone conclusion if everyone knows what it's going to be before it happens.

  • face the music

    If someone has to face the music, they have to accept the consequences of doing something wrong.

  • face to face

    If people meet face to face, they meet in person in the real world.

  • fair and square

    If something was done fair and square, it was done in an honest and straightforward way, without cheating.

  • fall from grace

    If you fall from grace, you do something that results in a loss of respect and support, especially among those who influence your life or career.

  • feather your own nest

    If you feather your own nest, you use your position or your job illegally for personal gain.

  • feel the pinch

    If you are feeling the pinch, you're finding it harder to survive on your income.

  • few and far between

    You can say things are few and far between when there aren't many of them around.

  • fight a losing battle

    If you fight a losing battle, you try to do something even though it can't be done.

  • fight fire with fire

    If you fight fire with fire in a conflict or a contest, you use the same methods or "weapons" as your opponent.

  • fill somebody's shoes

    If you can fill somebody's shoes, you can replace them and do what they do.

  • find your feet

    If you're still finding your feet, you're still adjusting to a new place or a new situation.

  • firing on all cylinders

    If you're firing on all cylinders, you're functioning as well as you possibly can.

  • fly off the handle (informal)

    If you fly off the handle, you are so angry about something that you lose control of yourself and start screaming and shouting.

  • for a song

    If you buy or sell something for a song, you buy or sell it at a very cheap price.

  • for my money

    You can say "for my money" to mean the same as "in my opinion".

  • for the time being

    If something will be the way it is "for the time being", it will be that way for a limited period of time only.

  • forty winks (informal)

    If you have forty winks, you have a short sleep, or a nap.

  • fresh as a daisy

    If you feel as fresh as a daisy, you feel energetic and lively.

  • friends in high places

    If you have friends in high places, you know people in powerful positions in business or government.

  • from every walk of life | from all walks of life

    If you meet people from every walk of life, or from all walks of life, you meet different types of people from different levels of society.

  • from now on

    If you do something "from now on", you do it from now until some unknown time in the future.

  • from time to time

    If you do something from time to time, you do it occasionally, but not very often.

  • full of yourself

    If you are full of yourself you think you're better or more important than you really are.

  • a gut feeling

    If you have a gut feeling, you sense something about a person or a situation, without knowing why, but you're sure what you sense is true.

  • get a look in

    If you get a look in, you get a fair chance to do something.

  • get a word in edgeways | edgewise

    If you can't get a word in edgeways, you can't say anything because someone else is talking so much.

  • get away from it all (informal)

    If you get away from it all, you go somewhere to escape from your usual daily routine.

  • Get cracking! (informal)

    You can say "Get cracking!" if you want someone to hurry up and do something faster.

  • get it off your chest

    If you get it off your chest, you tell somebody about something that's been bothering you and you've been thinking about a lot.

  • get off on the wrong foot

    If you get off on the wrong foot, you start something poorly, or begin with a mistake.

  • get to the bottom of

    If you get to the bottom of something, you find out its real cause or the true story behind it.

  • get your act together

    If you get your act together, you greatly improve your attitude and peformance in relation to something such as your work, or to life in general.

  • give it a shot | give it a whirl (informal)

    If you give something a shot, or give it a whirl, you try doing something for the first time, usually for fun.

  • give it your all

    If you give (it) your all, you try as hard as you can to succeed in something.

  • give someone a hard time

    If you give someone a hard time, you bother them or make trouble for them.

  • give the green light

    If you give something the green light, you give permission for it to be done, or allow it to happen.

  • go down a treat (BrE)

    If something goes down a treat, it's a great success and everyone enjoys it.

  • go for broke

    If you go for broke, you risk everything, or use all your resources and energy, in order to achieve something.

  • go out of business

    If a company goes out of business, it stops trading and closes down.

  • go out on a limb

    If you go out on a limb, you put yourself in a risky position in order to support someone or something.

  • go over your head

    If someone goes over your head, they go to someone with more authority than you in order to get something that you would normally grant, possibly because they think you won't give it to them.

  • go overboard

    If you go overboard, you do something too much or you do it with excessive enthusiasm.

  • go through the motions

    You go through the motions when you do something without putting any real effort or thought into it.

  • go with the flow

    If you go with the flow, you relax and go along with whatever is happening.

  • going down (AmE) (informal)

    If you know what's going down, you know what's happening in a situation.

  • going great guns

    If you're going great guns, you're going really well in whatever you're doing.

  • grease someone's palm (informal)

    If you grease someone's palm, you pay them a bribe.

  • grin and bear it

    If you grin and bear it, you accept a difficult situation and try not to let it upset you.

  • the gift of the gab | the gift of gab

    If you've got the gift of the gab, or the gift of gab, you have the natural ability to talk in a way that people find entertaining or persuasive.

  • (your) hands are tied

    You can say your hands are tied if you're prevented from doing something that you'd normally have the power or the authority to do.

  • (your) heart goes out to (someone)

    If your heart goes out to someone, you feel great sympathy for them.

  • (your) heart is in the right place

    If your heart is in the right place, you try to do the right thing, even if things don't always work out for the best.

  • (your) heart isn't in it

    If your heart isn't in something you're doing, you don't really want to do it.

  • a head start

    If you have a head start, you start something ahead of others or with an advantage over others.

  • a hidden agenda

    If someone has a hidden agenda, they have a secret plan or motive for doing something.

  • half-baked (informal)

    If something is half-baked, it hasn't been properly thought out or planned.

  • hang in there | hang on in there (informal)

    You can tell someone to hang in there, or hang on in there, if they're in a difficult situation and you want to encourage them, or tell them not to give up.

  • hard to come by

    If something is hard to come by, it is difficult to find.

  • hard to swallow

    Something that someone has said is hard to swallow if it's difficult to believe.

  • have a heart-to-heart

    If you have a heart-to-heart with someone, you have an honest talk and share your feelings with each other.

  • have a soft spot for

    If you have a soft spot for someone or something, you feel a warm affection for them.

  • have second thoughts

    If you're having second thoughts about something, you're having doubts about a decision you've made.

  • have your hands full

    If you have your hands full, you're busy.

  • have your head in the clouds

    If someone has their head in the clouds, they are out of touch with the everyday world and can be unrealistic or naive as a result.

  • have your work cut out (for you)

    If you have your work cut out for you, you have a difficult task to do or a challenging situation to face.

  • heads will roll

    You can say "heads will roll" if people are going to lose their jobs after making a mistake.

  • hit it off

    If you meet someone for the first time and the two of you hit it off, you get along really well and have a great time together.

  • hit the hay | hit the sack (AmE)

    If you hit the hay, or hit the sack, you go to bed.

  • hit the nail on the head

    If you hit the nail on the head, you describe the exact nature of something such as a problem, a solution, or a situation.

  • hit the roof

    You can say someone hits the roof if they lose their temper and show their anger.

  • hold the fort

    If you hold the fort, you look after a place or a business while the person who is normally in charge is away.

  • hold your head high | hold your head up high

    You can hold your head high, or hold your head up high, if you feel proud of something.

  • hold your own

    If you hold your own, you are as successful as other people in a situation, or as good as others at an activity.

  • hot under the collar

    If you are hot under the collar, you feel angry or annoyed about something.

  • an ivory tower

    You can say someone's in an ivory tower if they're in a place that separates them from everyday life, such as a university.

  • I owe you one! (informal)

    You can say "I owe you one!" when someone has done something for you and you'd be happy to return the favour one day.

  • if all else fails

    You can say "if all else fails" before saying what you'll do if your plans don't work out as well as you'd like.

  • if I were you

    You can say "if I were you" when giving advice to someone.

  • if push comes to shove

    You can say "if push comes to shove" before saying what you'll do if things don't go as well as you'd like, and you're forced to do something that you'd rather not do.

  • if worst comes to worst

    You can say "if worst comes to worst" before saying what you'll do if your plans don't work out.

  • ignorance is bliss

    You can say "ignorance is bliss" when you want to say that not knowing about something unpleasant can be better than knowing about it and worrying about it.

  • ill at ease

    If you're ill at ease, you feel tense or you can't relax in a situation.

  • in a bind | fix | jam

    If someone is in a bind, or in a jam, or in a fix, they're in a bad or difficult situation.

  • in a nutshell (informal)

    You can say "in a nutshell" if you're about to describe something as briefly as possible, or you're going to sum something up.

  • in a row

    If something happened several times in a row, it happened several times in an unbroken sequence.

  • in any case

    You can say "in any case" before giving an additional reason for doing or not doing something, or instead of saying "anyway".

  • in deep water

    If you're in deep water, you're in some sort of trouble or in a difficult situation.

  • in someone's bad books (informal)

    If you're in someone's bad books, they are not pleased with you.

  • in someone's good books (informal)

    If you're in someone's good books, they are pleased with you.

  • in the black

    If a person or a company is in the black, their assets are greater than their debts.

  • in the dark

    If you're in the dark about something, you don't know about it.

  • in the long run

    If you talk about something "in the long run", you mean over a long period of time.

  • in the red

    If a person or a company is in the red, their debts are greater than their assets.

  • in two minds

    If you're in two minds about something, you can't decide what to do, or you can't decide which option is the best.

  • it's high time

    If you say it's high time something was done, you think it should have been done already, and is overdue.

  • It's written all over your face.

    If you say "it's written all over your face", you're saying that the expression on someone's face is showing their true feelings or thoughts.

  • itchy feet (BrE) (informal)

    If you have itchy feet, you feel the need to go somewhere different or do something different.

  • the icing on the cake | the frosting on the cake

    If something is the icing on the cake, or the frosting on the cake, it makes a good situation or a good result even better.

  • the ins and outs

    If you know the ins and outs of something, you know all the details about it and understand how it works.

  • a jack of all trades

    If you're a jack of all trades, you have many skills and can do many different jobs.

  • a jam session

    If musicians play in a jam session, they play whatever they feel like playing in an informal setting.

  • jobs for the boys (BrE)

    If you say "jobs for the boys" you're referring to the fact that people in positions of power sometimes use their power to give jobs to their friends or family members.

  • jockey for position (AmE)

    If you jockey for position, you try to get yourself in a good position in relation to others who're competing for the same opportunity or the same goal.

  • jog your memory

    If something jogs your memory, it helps you to remember something.

  • joie de vivre

    If you have joie de vivre, you feel the joy of living.

  • Join the club!

    You can say "Join the club!" to someone who has just experienced something unpleasant that you've also experienced, or to someone who's in an unfortunate position that's similar to your own.

  • join the ranks of

    If someone joins the ranks of a group or class of people, they become part of that group.

  • joined at the hip

    If two people or things are joined at the hip, they're so closely linked as to be almost inseparable.

  • jump down your throat | jump all over you

    If someone jumps down your throat, or jumps all over you, they strongly criticise you or scold you.

  • jump for joy

    You can say someone "jumped for joy" if they were very happy about something.

  • jump on the bandwagon

    If someone jumps on the bandwagon, they join a movement or follow a fashion that has recently become popular.

  • jump out of your skin (informal)

    You jump out of your skin when something suddenly shocks you and your whole body jumps.

  • jump the gun

    If you jump the gun, you start doing something too soon.

  • jump through hoops | go through hoops

    You can say you had to "jump through hoops" or "go through hoops" if you had to complete a lot of tasks before being permitted to do something.

  • jump to conclusions

    If you jump to conclusions, you decide something is true, or make a judgement about something, before having enough information to be sure you're right.

  • junk food

    Food that is bad for us because it contains large amounts of harmful substances like artificial colouring, preservatives, salt, refined sugar, and so on.

  • just in case

    You can say "just in case" when describing a possible future problem and a precaution that has been, or should be, taken against it.

  • just in time | just in the nick of time

    If you do something just in time, or just in the nick of time, you do it just before time runs out.

  • Just my luck!

    You can say "Just my luck!" when something goes wrong for you, or when something inconvenient happens.

  • just shy of (informal)

    You can say something is just shy of an amount if it's just short of that amount.

  • just the ticket (BrE)

    You can say something is just the ticket if it's the perfect thing or if it's exactly what's needed.

  • just what the doctor ordered (informal)

    You can say something was just what the doctor ordered when it was exactly what was needed.

  • the jewel in the crown

    If something is the jewel in the crown, it's part of a group or set of similar things, and it's the best of them all.

  • the jury is still out

    We can say the jury is still out when a decision still hasn't been made about something.

  • a kick in the teeth

    If you get a kick in the teeth, something bad happens to you or you feel that you've been treated poorly.

  • a knight in shining armour | armor

    If someone is a knight in shining armour, they help you when you are in a difficult situation.

  • a knuckle sandwich (informal)

    If you give someone a knuckle sandwich, you punch them.

  • keep a low profile

    If you keep a low profile, you try not to do anything that will draw attention to you or create interest in you.

  • keep abreast of

    If you keep abreast of something, you always know about the latest news and developments in relation to it.

  • keep an eye on

    If you keep an eye on someone, you make sure you know what they're doing.

  • keep it under your hat

    If someone tells you a secret and you keep it under your hat, you don't tell anyone.

  • keep something at bay

    If you keep something at bay, you stop something that could be a problem for you from getting too close or from getting worse.

  • keep something in mind

    If you keep something in mind, you remember some information or advice and consider it at some time in the future.

  • keep track of

    If you keep track of something or someone, you continue to know what's happening with them.

  • keep up with the Joneses (AmE)

    People who try to keep up with the Joneses are people who feel it's important to show that they're as successful as others (such as their rich neighbours, "The Joneses").

  • keep your nose clean

    If you keep your nose clean, you stay out of trouble by making sure you don't do anything wrong.

  • keep your word

    If you keep your word, you do what you promised to do.

  • kick the bucket (informal)

    If someone kicks the bucket, they die.

  • kick the habit

    If you kick the habit, you manage to stop doing something that has become a bad habit.

  • kill the goose that lays the golden egg

    If you kill the goose that lays the golden egg, you destroy something that has made you a lot of money.

  • kill time

    You kill time when you do something to amuse yourself while waiting for something.

  • kill two birds with one stone

    If you kill two birds with one stone, you achieve two things with the one action.

  • kiss and make up

    If you kiss and make up with someone, you get over a disagreement and become friendly again.

  • Knock it off!

    You can say "Knock it off!" when someone is doing something wrong, or something that's annoying you, and you want them to stop it.

  • knock your socks off

    If something knocks your socks off, it amazes you and surprises you.

  • know the ropes

    If you know the ropes, you know how to do a job properly, or you know how things work and how to get things done.

  • know what's what

    If you know what's what, you have a lot of experience and you understand things well.

  • know where you stand

    If you know where you stand, you know exactly where you fit in a social or work situation, or in someone's life.

  • know your stuff

    If you know your stuff, you're very good at what you do, and you know a lot about it.

  • a law unto themselves

    If somebody is a law unto themselves, they do things their own way and follow their own ideas about how to live instead of following what others do.

  • labour of love | labor of love

    A labour of love is work that's done for pleasure or for someone's benefit rather than for money.

  • lay down the law

    If you lay down the law, you tell people what they should do in a forceful and stern way.

  • lead the way

    If you lead the way, you show others where to go or what to do.

  • lead you astray

    If someone leads you astray, they set a bad example and you behave badly also, or they encourage you to do the wrong thing.

  • learn the ropes

    If you learn the ropes, you learn how to do a job properly, or how things work and how to get things done.

  • learn your lesson

    If you learn your lesson, you learn something about life from making a mistake.

  • leave no stone unturned

    If you leave no stone unturned, you look everywhere in order to find something, or try everything in order to achieve something.

  • leave well enough alone | let well enough alone (AmE)

    If you leave well enough alone, or let well enough alone, you don't try to improve or change something that's already good enough.

  • lend someone a hand

    If you lend someone a hand, you help them.

  • let off steam

    If you let off steam, you do something to release pent-up emotion or energy.

  • let the cat out of the bag

    If you let the cat out of the bag, you let someone know a secret.

  • let your hair down

    If you let your hair down, you enjoy yourself by doing whatever you feel like doing and not worrying about what other people might think.

  • life of the party | life and soul of the party

    If you are the life of the party, or the life and soul of the party, you are the liveliest and most entertaining person at a social gathering.

  • light at the end of the tunnel

    If you can see light at the end of the tunnel, you can see some sign of the end of a difficult period.

  • like a fish out of water

    You feel like a fish out of water if you're surrounded by people who are different to you, and it's making you feel a little uncomfortable.

  • live it up (informal)

    If you live it up, you enjoy yourself by doing things that cost a lot of money.

  • live on your wits | live by your wits

    If you live on your wits, or live by your wits, you don't have a regular job but you survive by cleverly manipulating people or situations.

  • lock, stock and barrel

    You can say "lock, stock and barrel" to mean every single thing when you're talking about a collection of things.

  • lose face

    If you lose face, your status falls and you aren't respected as much as you were.

  • lose your head

    If you lose your head, you become very angry about something.

  • lost for words

    You are lost for words if you're so surprised by something that you can't think of anything to say.

  • love at first sight

    If you experience love at first sight, you love someone from the first moment you see them.

  • the last straw

    Something is the last straw if it's the latest in a series of annoying or upsetting events, and it's the one that finally makes you do something about the situation.

  • the lion's share

    You can say something is the lion's share if it's the biggest share or portion of something.

  • a matter of life and death

    If something is a matter of life and death, it's extremely important and it could involve someone's survival.

  • a means to an end

    You can say something is a means to an end if it's the way to reach a goal, or the way to achieve something.

  • a mixed blessing

    You can say something is a mixed blessing if it seems to be good, but in fact has bad effects as well as good effects.

  • made of money

    If you are made of money, you have lots of money.

  • make a killing

    If you make a killing, you make a lot of money from a sale or a deal of some sort.

  • make a mountain out of a molehill

    If you make a mountain out of a molehill, you make a small problem seem to be a much bigger problem.

  • make a song and dance about something (BrE)

    If you make a song and dance about something, you make a big deal out of, or a fuss over, something that isn't very important.

  • make ends meet

    If you make ends meet, you earn just enough to pay for a place to live and your daily expenses.

  • make hay while the sun shines

    If you make hay while the sun shines, you make good use of the chance to do something while it lasts.

  • make the most of

    If you make the most of something, you get as much as possible from it.

  • make up your mind

    If you make up your mind, you make a decision.

  • make yourself at home

    If you make yourself at home, you relax and feel comfortable in someone else's home.

  • meet someone halfway

    If you meet someone halfway, you compromise with them and agree to some of their demands, but not all of them, in order to come to an agreement.

  • meet your match

    If you meet your match, you meet someone who can do as well as you, or better than you, in something that you're good at.

  • mend your ways

    If you mend your ways, you improve your behaviour and stop doing things that cause trouble.

  • middle-of-the-road

    If something is middle-of-the-road, it'll appeal to the majority of people and not be radical or challenging.

  • Mind your own business! (informal)

    If you say "Mind your own business!" to someone, you're telling them to stop interfering in things that don't concern them, or to stop asking personal questions.

  • miss the point

    If you miss the point of something you hear or read, you don't understand what it really means.

  • more often than not

    If something happens more often than not, it happens quite often, but not all the time.

  • more than meets the eye

    You can say there's more to something than meets the eye if it's more complex, more important or more interesting than it seems at first.

  • much ado about nothing

    If you say something is much ado about nothing, you think it's an overreaction to something that shouldn't have caused so much trouble.

  • much of a muchness (informal)

    If two or more things are much of a muchness, they are very similar to each other.

  • mumbo jumbo

    If you describe what someone says or writes as mumbo jumbo, you think it doesn't make sense or it's not clear because it's too complex.

  • music to your ears

    If something is music to your ears, it's just what you want to hear.

  • the middle of nowhere

    If a place is in the middle of nowhere, it's far from where most people live.

  • the moment of truth

    The moment of truth is a time when the truth about something is revealed, or when an important decision is made.

  • the movers and shakers

    You can say people are the movers and shakers in a place or a situation if they are the ones with the power to make decisions.

  • (someone's) name is mud (informal)

    If someone's name is mud, other people are angry with them, or they're no longer popular, because they've done something wrong.

  • a narrow escape

    If you have a narrow escape, you survive a dangerous situation, but only just.

  • a necessary evil

    If you say something is a necessary evil, you don't like it but you understand that it has to be accepted sometimes or it has to exist.

  • a nest egg

    If you have a nest egg, you have money put away for the future.

  • a new lease of life (BrE)

    If someone has a new lease of life, they have a new enthusiasm for living.

  • a new lease on life (AmE)

    If someone has a new lease on life, they have a new enthusiasm for living.

  • a night on the town | out on the town

    If you have a night on the town, or go out on the town, you go out for dinner and then go to a show or a dance club or some other entertainment venue.

  • a night owl

    You're a night owl if you like to stay up and do things late at night.

  • neck and neck

    If two competitors are running neck and neck in a race, they are almost level.

  • neck of the woods (informal)

    A neck of the woods is a neighbourhood or a district, usually rural.

  • neither here nor there

    You can say something is neither here nor there if it's not important, or not relevant.

  • nerves of steel

    If you have nerves of steel, you are very brave and not many things make you scared or nervous.

  • Never mind.

    You can say "never mind" when you want someone not to worry or feel bad about something, or not to bother doing something.

  • Never say die!

    You can say "Never say die!" if you want to tell someone to keep trying while there's still a chance of success.

  • next to nothing

    If something costs next to nothing, it costs very little, or nearly nothing.

  • nip it in the bud

    If you nip something in the bud, you stop a problem from becoming serious by dealing with it as soon as you notice it.

  • no holds barred

    If something is done with no holds barred, it's done without restriction, rules or restraint.

  • No sweat! (informal)

    You can say "No sweat!" if someone asks you if you can do something, and you're sure you can do it.

  • No way! (AmE) (informal)

    You can say "No way!" when you want to strongly reject an offer, a request, or a suggestion.

  • not your cup of tea

    If something is not your cup of tea, it's not what you like or what you're interested in.

  • nothing to write home about

    If you say something is nothing to write home about, you mean it isn't very important or it isn't very good.

  • now and then | now and again

    If you do something now and then, or now and again, you do it occasionally.

  • now or never

    If you say it's now or never, you mean that something has to be done now or it can't be done at all.

  • the name of the game

    You can say something is the name of the game if it's the most important thing you need to know or to have in order to succeed at something.

  • the new kid on the block (AmE) (informal)

    If you are the new kid on the block, you are the newest person in a workplace or in an educational institute, or any other place or organization.

  • (something) occurs to you

    If something occurs to you, you think of it.

  • a one-track mind

    If someone has a one-track mind, they spend most of their time thinking about one subject.

  • off the cuff

    If you speak off the cuff, you speak without planning what you will say beforehand.

  • off the record

    If you say something "off the record", you don't want it in the public record, or reported in the media.

  • off the top of your head (informal)

    If you give someone information off the top of your head, you do so from memory, without checking beforehand.

  • off your own bat (BrE)

    If you do something off your own bat, you do it without being asked to or told to.

  • old hat

    If something is old hat, it's old-fashioned and no longer seen as being modern and new.

  • on the back burner

    If a plan or a project is on the back burner, it isn't being worked on at present, but it might be completed in the future.

  • on the ball (informal)

    If you're on the ball, you're alert and you know what's going on around you.

  • on the off-chance

    You can say you're doing something "on the off-chance" if you're doing it because it might lead to something that you want, even though it's not definite.

  • on the one hand | on the other hand

    You can say "on the one hand" before describing one of two contrasting ideas, options, or opinions, and then say "on the other hand" before describing the other one.

  • on the record

    If you say something "on the record", you say it on the understanding that it will be part of the public record, and can be reported in the media.

  • on the strength of

    If you do something on the strength of certain advice or information, you do it because the advice or information suggests doing it.

  • on your last legs | on its last legs (informal)

    If you say you're on your last legs, it can mean you're close to exhaustion, or it can mean you're close to death. If a thing is on its last legs, it's close to breaking or wearing out.

  • once and for all

    If you do something once and for all, you do it in a way that's final and it means you'll never have to do it again.

  • once in a blue moon

    If something happens once in a blue moon, it happens very rarely.

  • one in a million

    If you say someone is "one in a million", you mean they're an exceptionally good person.

  • out of the blue

    If something happens out of the blue, you're not expecting it to happen and you're surprised when it does.

  • out of the question

    If something is out of the question, it cannot be considered because it's impossible or it's not allowed.

  • out of your depth

    If you're out of your depth, you're in a situation that you don't have the experience to handle, or the knowledge to understand.

  • out-of-date (1)

    Something is out-of-date if it is old and therefore no longer useful or no longer accurate.

  • out-of-date (2)

    If something like a passport or a credit card is out-of-date, it cannot be used anymore because the period during which it was valid is over.

  • over the moon (informal)

    If you're over the moon about something, you're extremely happy and excited about it.

  • over the top

    You can say something is over the top if you think it's too extreme or it's more than a situation needs or deserves.

  • over your head

    If something you hear or read is over your head, or goes over your head, you don't understand it because the language or the ideas are too advanced for you.

  • a pain in the neck (informal)

    You can say someone is a pain in the neck if they annoy you, or something is a pain in the neck if you don't like doing it.

  • a pat on the back

    You've given someone a pat on the back if you've told them they've done something well, or done a good job.

  • a piece of cake (BrE)

    If you say that something is a piece of cake, you mean that it is extremely easy.

  • a pipe dream

    A pipe dream is a plan or a dream for the future that could never come true or be achieved.

  • paint the town red

    If you paint the town red, you visit bars, nightclubs and other nightspots to have a good time.

  • par for the course (informal)

    If something is par for the course, it's what you'd expect it to be.

  • part and parcel of

    If something is part and parcel of an experience or a role in life, it is an important part of it and it cannot be avoided.

  • pass the buck (informal)

    If you pass the buck, you shift the responsibility for something to someone else in order to take the pressure off yourself.

  • pay the price

    You pay the price for doing something when you experience the unpleasant results of doing it.

  • pay through the nose (informal)

    If you pay through the nose for something, you pay more than the usual price for it.

  • pick somebody's brains

    If you pick somebody's brains, you ask them for detailed information or ideas about something.

  • pick up the tab | pick up the bill (informal)

    If you pick up the tab, or pick up the bill, you pay for yourself and your friends in a restaurant or a bar.

  • plain sailing

    If something is plain sailing, it's very easy to do and there are no problems to overcome.

  • play it by ear

    If you play it by ear, you don't plan ahead but you do whatever seems best at the time depending on the situation.

  • playing with fire

    You're playing with fire if you're involved in an activity that could be dangerous, or could lead to problems in the future.

  • pop the question (informal)

    If you pop the question, you ask someone to marry you.

  • prey on your mind

    If something is preying on your mind, you can't stop thinking about it or worrying about it.

  • pull out all the stops

    If you pull out all the stops, you do everything you can to make sure something is successful.

  • pull someone's leg (informal)

    If you pull someone's leg, you play a joke on them by saying something that isn't true.

  • pull your socks up (informal)

    You can say "pull your socks up" to someone if you think they should improve the way they are behaving or the way they are doing something.

  • put all your eggs in the one basket (informal)

    If you put all your eggs in the one basket, you put all your efforts or resources into one person, one thing or one plan, and if things don't work out, you lose everything.

  • put someone's nose out of joint (informal)

    If you put someone's nose out of joint, you upset them by not treating them with as much respect or consideration as they think they deserve.

  • put the brakes on

    If you put the brakes on something, you stop it or slow it down.

  • put your foot in it

    If you put your foot in it you say or do the wrong thing and usually make matters worse.

  • put your foot in your mouth

    If you put your foot in your mouth you say or do the wrong thing and usually make matters worse.

  • put your own house in order | get your own house in order

    If you say to someone "put your own house in order", or "get your own house in order", you think they should solve their own problems before telling someone else how to solve theirs.

  • the pros and cons

    The pros and cons of something are its good points and bad points.

  • a quantum leap

    A quantum leap is a major step in the development of something, or in the improvement of something.

  • a queer fish

    If someone's a queer fish, they are a bit strange and can sometimes behave in an unusual way.

  • a question mark over someone | something

    If there's a question mark over someone, there's some doubt about their future or their ability to do something. If there's a question mark over something, there's some doubt about its quality or its authenticity.

  • a question of time

    You can say "it's only a question of time" before saying what you think will happen in the future.

  • a quick fix (informal)

    If something is a quick fix, it's a quick and easy, but usually short-term, solution to a problem.

  • a quick study (AmE)

    If you're a quick study, you can learn new things quickly.

  • quaking in your boots

    If you're quaking in your boots, you are very frightened.

  • quality time

    If you spend quality time with someone, you spend time doing things that enrich your lives and improve your relationship.

  • quick as a flash | quick as a wink | quick as lightning

    If you're as quick as a flash, or quick as a wink, or quick as lightning, you're very quick.

  • quick off the mark

    If you are quick off the mark, you are quick to react to an event or an opportunity.

  • quick on the trigger | quick on the draw

    If you are quick on the trigger, or quick on the draw, you act quickly when solving problems or answering questions.

  • quick on the uptake

    If you are quick on the uptake, you're smart and you can understand things quickly.

  • quid pro quo (formal)

    If you do something as a quid pro quo, you do it on the understanding that something will be done for you in return.

  • quiet as a mouse

    If you're as quiet as a mouse, you're very quiet.

  • quit while you're ahead

    This phrase can be used to express the idea that one should stop doing something that's rewarding but risky before something bad happens.

  • quite a bit of | quite a lot of

    If you've got quite a bit of something, or quite a lot of something, you have a fairly large amount of it.

  • (it's) raining cats and dogs

    You can say "it's raining cats and dogs" if it's raining very hard.

  • a raw deal

    If you think that you got a raw deal, you think you weren't treated fairly or as well as other people.

  • a ray of sunshine

    Something is a ray of sunshine if it brings happiness to someone.

  • a recipe for disaster

    Something is a recipe for disaster if it's going to cause trouble or serious problems.

  • a red-letter day

    A red-letter day is a day that is very important for some reason.

  • a roller coaster | a roller-coaster ride

    You can say an experience is a roller coaster, or a roller-coaster ride, if it involves many emotional highs and lows, or really good times alternating with really difficult times.

  • rack your brains | rack you brain

    If you rack your brains, or rack you brain, you try hard to remember something or think of a solution to a problem or a puzzle.

  • rags to riches

    If you go from rags to riches, you start out very poor and you become very rich.

  • raison d'être (formal)

    Your raison d'être is your reason for living, or the most important thing in your life.

  • raring to go

    If you're raring to go, you're full of energy and you can't wait to get started on whatever it is you're doing.

  • reach for the moon | reach for the stars

    If you reach for the moon, or reach for the stars, you are aiming to achieve something great, or do something very challenging.

  • read between the lines

    When you read between the lines you try to understand what someone implies, but doesn't openly state, when they say or write something.

  • recharge your batteries

    You recharge your batteries if you do something to regain your energy after a period of hard work.

  • red light district

    A red light district is the area of a town or city in which prostitutes work.

  • red tape

    Strict adherence to rules and regulations so that a procedure seems to take longer than necessary.

  • right down your alley | right up your alley (AmE)

    If something is right down your alley, or right up your alley, it would be perfect for you or ideal for your skills and interests.

  • right up your street (BrE)

    If something is right up your street, it would be perfect for you or ideal for your skills and interests.

  • ring a bell (informal)

    If something rings a bell, it sounds familiar or you think you've heard it before.

  • rock the boat (informal)

    If you rock the boat, you do or say something that will upset people by changing a situation that they don't want changed.

  • rub it in (informal)

    If you rub it in, you keep talking about something that embarrasses or upsets someone.

  • ruffle someone's feathers

    If you ruffle someone's feathers, you do something to upset or annoy them.

  • run out of steam

    If someone runs out of steam, they run out of energy or enthusiasm. If something runs out of steam, it loses momentum and slows down.

  • run rings around | run circles around

    If you run rings around someone, or run circles around them, you do something much better than they do.

  • run-of-the-mill

    Something is run-of-the-mill if it is ordinary and nothing special.

  • the rat race

    The rat race is the highly competitive and stressful world of work and business.

  • the real McCoy

    You can say something is the real McCoy if it's genuine, and not a fake or a copy.

  • (it) stands to reason

    You can say it stands to reason that something should be so if it seems reasonable to you that it should be so.

  • a shot in the arm (informal)

    You can say something is a shot in the arm if it gives a person or an organisation renewed energy or enthusiasm.

  • a sight for sore eyes (informal)

    If something or someone is a sight for sore eyes, you are glad to see them.

  • a skeleton in the cupboard | closet

    If you have a skeleton in the cupboard, or in the closet, you have a secret in your past which could damage you if it became known.

  • a slap on the wrist

    If someone gives you a slap on the wrist, they give you a mild punishment for making a mistake or doing something wrong.

  • a slip of the tongue

    If you make a slip of the tongue, you make a small mistake when speaking.

  • safe and sound

    If you are safe and sound, nothing has harmed you even though you could have been in danger.

  • save the day

    If you save the day, you do something to ensure success or to solve a serious problem.

  • see eye to eye

    If you see eye to eye with someone, you totally agree with them about something.

  • see red

    If you see red, you become extremely angry.

  • see through rose-coloured glasses | rose-colored glasses

    If someone sees things through rose-coloured glasses, they see things as being better than they really are.

  • serve someone right

    If you say "it serves you right", you're telling someone that their problem is the result of their own bad behaviour, and they deserve it.

  • set the world on fire

    If you set the world on fire, you do something that creates a lot of excitment and makes you famous.

  • set your sights on

    If you set your sights on something, or set your sights on doing something, it becomes the target of your ambition or the object of your attention.

  • settle a score

    If you settle a score with someone who has hurt you or insulted you in the past, you do something to hurt or insult them in return.

  • shoot yourself in the foot

    If you shoot yourself in the foot, you harm yourself in some way by doing something stupid or making a silly mistake.

  • show your true colours | show your true colors

    You show your true colours if you show what you're really like, or you reveal your true character.

  • sick as a dog

    If you're as sick as a dog, you're very sick.

  • skate on thin ice

    If you're skating on thin ice, you're doing something risky, or you're in a situation that could quickly become dangerous.

  • snowed under

    If you are snowed under you have so much to do that you're having trouble doing it all.

  • so far, so good (informal)

    You can say "so far, so good" when you're in the middle of doing something, and everything has been going well.

  • speak your mind

    If you speak your mind, you say what you really feel about something, or what you really think.

  • start from scratch

    If you start from scratch, you begin something from the very beginning without using anything else as a starting point.

  • state-of-the-art

    If something is state-of-the-art, it's the latest and best example of something, or it shows the most recent developments in its field.

  • steer clear of

    If you steer clear of something, you don't go near it because it could harm you or cause you a problem.

  • stick out like a sore thumb | stand out like a sore thumb

    If someone sticks out like a sore thumb, or stands out like a sore thumb, everyone notices them because they're not the same as the people around them.

  • a tall order

    If you say something's a tall order, you mean that it'll be hard to do or difficult to achieve.

  • take a break

    If you take a break, you have a short rest while doing something like working or playing sport.

  • take for granted

    We can say somebody takes something for granted if they assume it'll always be there for them, and they don't seem thankful for it.

  • take into account

    If you take something or someone into account, you consider them when making a decision or making plans.

  • take part

    If you take part in something, you join in or play a role in it.

  • take something the wrong way

    If you take something the wrong way, you misunderstand what someone says and think they're being critical when they aren't.

  • take the bull by the horns

    If you take the bull by the horns, you deal with a problem or a challenge in a direct and fearless way.

  • take the mickey | mick out of someone (BrE) (informal)

    If you're taking the mickey out of someone, or taking the mick out of them, you're making fun of them or copying their behaviour for a laugh.

  • take the plunge

    If you take the plunge, you decide to do something you really want to do even though it's risky and possibly dangerous.

  • take with a grain of salt | take with a pinch of salt

    If you take what someone says with a grain of salt, or with a pinch of salt, you have doubts about the truth or accuracy of what they say.

  • talk through your hat

    If you're talking through your hat, you're talking about something without knowing much about it, or you claim something is true when it isn't.

  • talk turkey

    If you talk turkey, you discuss something seriously, usually to do with business or money.

  • teething problems | teething troubles

    If someone or something is having teething problems, or teething troubles, they're having problems during the early stages of something.

  • tell (things) apart

    If you can tell things apart, you can see they're not the same by spotting the differences between them.

  • test the waters

    If you test the waters, you try something first before deciding whether to get involved in it.

  • the tip of the iceberg

    You can say something is the tip of the iceberg when it's just a small part of something much bigger.

  • Things are looking up.

    You can say "things are looking up" if things are improving.

  • think better of something

    If you think better of something, you decide not to do it even though you'd made plans to do it.

  • think outside the box

    If you think outside the box, you think creatively and without being restricted by common ideas or ways of thinking.

  • think the world of

    If you think the world of someone, you admire and respect them very much.

  • throw someone in at the deep end

    If you throw someone in at the deep end, you give them a difficult job to do, or a serious problem to deal with, before they have the knowledge or experience for it.

  • tie the knot

    If you tie the knot, you get married.

  • tighten your belt

    If you tighten your belt, you try to spend less money.

  • time after time

    If you do something time after time, you do it again and again, or repeatedly.

  • time and time again

    If you've done something time and time again, you've done it many times, or you've done it repeatedly.

  • an unknown quantity

    If a thing or a person is an unknown quantity, not much is known about them.

  • an uphill battle | struggle | task

    If doing something is an uphill battle, an uphill struggle or an uphill task, it is difficult to do because of obstacles such as opposition from other people.

  • the upper crust

    If you are one of the upper crust, you are a member of society's highest class.

  • the upper hand

    If you have the upper hand, you have the advantage or you're in the stronger position in a contest or a conflict.

  • the ups and downs

    If you talk about "the ups and downs" in someone's life, or during a period of time, you talk about both the good times and the bad times.

  • um and ah (BrE)

    If you "um and ah" you're having trouble deciding what to say, or you're having trouble telling somebody something.

  • under a cloud

    If someone is under a cloud, they are suspected of having done something wrong.

  • under fire

    You're under fire if you're being attacked by the media or cricitised by many people.

  • under lock and key

    If something is under lock and key, it is kept in a very secure place.

  • under no circumstances

    If you are told that under no circumstances should you do something, you must never do it, no matter what happens.

  • under the table (AmE)

    If something is done under the table, it's done secretly, usually because it's illegal or unethical.

  • under the weather

    If you are under the weather, you're not feeling well.

  • under wraps

    If something is under wraps, it's being kept secret.

  • under your own steam

    If you do something under your own steam, you do it without anybody's help.

  • up a gum tree Australian English

    If you're up a gum tree, you're in trouble or have a serious problem.

  • up and running

    You can say something like a system or an organisation is up and running if it has started to operate.

  • up for grabs (informal)

    If something is up for grabs, it's available for anyone who wants to try to get it.

  • up in arms

    If you are up in arms, you are angry about something that you think is unfair or wrong.

  • up in the air

    If something such as a plan to do something, or details of an agreement, are up in the air, they still haven't been decided or settled yet.

  • up to no good (informal)

    If someone is up to no good, they are doing something bad, or something wrong.

  • up to scratch | up to snuff (informal)

    You can say something is up to scratch, or up to snuff, if it's as good as it should be, or as good as it needs to be.

  • up to your neck | up to your eyeballs

    If you're up to your neck in something, or up to your eyeballs in something, you've got too much of it and it's become a problem.

  • up-and-coming

    If someone's up-and-coming, they show signs of being successful in their profession.

  • upset the applecart

    If you upset the applecart, you do something that causes trouble or upsets someone's plans.

  • user-friendly

    When we say something is user-friendly, we mean it is easy to use.

  • a vested interest

    If you have a vested interest in something, you have a strong personal interest in it because you stand to gain from it.

  • a vicious circle

    If you're in a vicious circle you're in a situation in which the solution to one problem becomes the cause of another one, and the solution to that one causes the first problem to occur again.

  • a voice (crying) in the wilderness

    You're a voice in the wilderness, or a voice crying in the wilderness, if you're expressing an unpopular opinion or insight.

  • a volte-face (formal)

    If you make a volte-face, you change your opinion or your decision about something to the exact opposite of what it was.

  • a vote of confidence

    A vote of confidence is something that shows you're happy with the quality of something or pleased with someone or their work.

  • the very last

    The very last of something is the final remaining quantity just before it runs out.

  • the very thing

    If you say something is the very thing, you think it's exactly what's needed.

  • the villain of the piece

    If you call someone the villain of the piece, you're saying they are the "bad" person in a situation.

  • vanish into thin air

    If something vanishes into thin air, it disappears completely.

  • vent your spleen

    If you vent your spleen, you express your anger.

  • verbal diarrhoea (informal)

    If someone has verbal diarrhoea, they can't stop talking.

  • very well

    You can say "very well" when you agree to do something.

  • vice versa

    You can say "vice versa" when what you have just said is also true in the opposite, or reverse, order.

  • vim and vigor

    If you have vim and vigor, you have lots of energy and enthusiasm for life.

  • virgin territory

    You can say something is virgin territory if it's never been explored before or never been done before.

  • vis-a-vis (formal)

    You can say vis-a-vis instead of saying "in relation to".

  • vote with your feet

    If you vote with your feet, you show your opinion of something by acting in a certain way, such as by buying something if you like it, or by not buying it if you don't like it.

  • (like) water off a duck's back

    You can say an insult or criticism is like water off a duck's back if it doesn't upset you.

  • a wake-up call

    An event acts as a wake-up call if it makes people more aware of a danger.

  • a war of words

    If you're in a war of words with someone, you're having a long argument or dispute with them.

  • a weight off your shoulders

    You can say a weight is off your shoulders if you no longer have to worry about something or deal with something difficult.

  • a whale of a time

    If you have a whale of a time, you have a great time and really enjoy yourself.

  • a white lie

    If you tell a white lie, you say something that isn't true in order to be polite or so as not to hurt someone's feelings.

  • a wolf in sheep's clothing

    A wolf in sheep's clothing is someone who seems to be a good person but is really a bad person.

  • the worse for wear

    If something is the worse for wear, it has been damaged by being used a lot. If a person is the worse for wear, they don't feel well.

  • the writing | handwriting is on the wall

    If the writing is on the wall, or the handwriting is on the wall, there are signs that a person or organization is in trouble and might soon fail.

  • waiting in the wings

    If you're waiting in the wings, you're ready to take over a role or a position when you have the chance to do so.

  • warts and all

    If you show something warts and all, you show it exactly as it is without trying to hide any of its faults or weaknesses.

  • wash your hands of something

    If you wash your hands of something that you were involved in, you decide to stop being involved in it after losing your interest or belief in it.

  • waste your breath

    You're wasting your breath if you're speaking but what you're saying is being ignored or having no effect.

  • water under the bridge | water over the dam

    You can say a problem or an experience is water under the bridge, or water over the dam, if it happened in the past and it no longer affects the present to a degree that is worth worrying about.

  • weak at the knees

    If you go weak at the knees, you feel an emotion so strongly that it makes you feel unstable on your feet.

  • wear your heart on your sleeve

    If you wear your heart on your sleeve, you show your emotions openly and you don't try to hide your feelings.

  • weather a storm

    If you weather a storm, you survive a dangerous event or deal with a difficult situation.

  • wet behind the ears (informal)

    If someone is wet behind the ears, they don't have much experience of life.

  • wheeling and dealing

    If you're wheeling and dealing, you're involved in the complex world of making deals and exchanging favours in business or politics, or both.

  • whet your appetite

    If something whets your appetite, it makes you want something, or it stimulates your desire for something.

  • wide of the mark

    If something is wide of the mark, it isn't true or accurate, or it misses the target.

  • with flying colours | colors

    If you pass a test with flying colours, you pass it easily and get high marks.

  • work like a charm

    If something works like a charm, it works very well.

  • work your socks off | work your tail off

    If you work your socks off, or work your tail off, you work very hard.

  • worth its weight in gold

    If something is worth its weight in gold, it's extremely valuable or extremely useful.

  • worth your while

    If something is worth your while, the benefits to you of doing it are greater than the value of the time or effort that it requires.

  • x-factor

    If someone has the x-factor, they have a certain charismatic appeal and magnetic quality.

  • x-rated

    If something is x-rated, it is classified as pornographic and therefore not suitable for young people.

  • year dot | year one

    You can say "the year dot", or "the year one", when you're talking about a very, very long time ago.

  • year in, year out

    If something has happened year in, year out, it's happened every year for many years in a row.

  • yellow journalism (AmE)

    Journalism in which sensational stories are used to boost sales, or biased reporting is used to change the reader's views on an issue. Both of these are unethical.

  • yellow streak

    If someone has a yellow streak, they can sometimes act in a cowardly way and not be very brave.

  • yellow-bellied

    If someone is yellow-bellied, they are not brave, or they are cowardly.

  • yes-man

    If someone's a yes-man, they'll say they agree with someone, or say "yes" to them, in order to please them.

  • You are what you eat.

    You can say "you are what you eat" when you want to point out the connection between food and health.

  • You asked for it! (informal)

    You can say "You asked for it!" when you think someone deserves the punishment they're getting or the trouble they're in.

  • you bet | you bet your boots | you bet your life (informal)

    You can say "you bet", "you bet your boots" or "you bet your life" when you strongly agree with a statement or a suggestion, or to emphasise what you're saying.

  • You can say that again! (informal)

    If someone says "You can say that again!", it shows they strongly agree with what was just said.

  • You can't win them all.

    Something you can say after you, or someone else, loses a contest or fails to achieve something (said to make losing seem not so bad).

  • You could have knocked me over with a feather.

    You can say "you could have knocked me over with a feather" to show how surprised you were when something happened, or when you heard about something.

  • You're on!

    You can say "You're on!" if you want to accept a challenge, a bet or an invitation.

  • You're only young once.

    You can say "you're only young once" when you're trying to persuade someone, or yourself, to do something while you're still young enough to do it.

  • You're telling me!

    You can say "You're telling me!" when you strongly agree with what someone has said.

  • young at heart

    Someone is young at heart if they still feel young even though they're getting old.

  • young blood

    If you say "young blood", you mean young people who have fresh, new ideas and lots of energy.

  • Your guess is as good as mine. (informal)

    You can say "your guess is as good as mine" when you don't know the answer to a question.

  • zebra crossing (BrE)

    A zebra crossing is a pedestrian crossing that is marked on the road with painted black and white stripes.

  • zero in on

    If you zero in on something, you focus your attention on it.

  • zero tolerance (AmE)

    If something is given zero tolerance, it won't be accepted even once.

  • zero-sum game (AmE)

    A zero-sum game is a situation in which any gain by one side or person is at the expense of a loss to another side or person involved in the situation.

  • Zip it! (informal)

    If someone says "Zip it!", they're telling you to shut up or stop talking about something.