Idioms are a unique and fascinating part of the English language.
These phrases are often passed down through generations, and they can add depth and complexity to our speech and writing.
They can also be a source of confusion for non-native speakers and language learners.
In this blog post, we will explore a variety of idioms that are commonly used in everyday speech.
We will look at their meanings, origins, and how to use them correctly in a sentence.
Whether you’re a native speaker or learning English as a second language, this post will provide you with a wealth of idiomatic expressions to add to your vocabulary for free.
Idioms for Free
- “Break a leg” – This idiom is often said to actors before they perform on stage. It is thought to have originated in the theater as a way to wish actors good luck without actually saying the words “good luck,” which is considered bad luck.
- “Cost an arm and a leg” – This idiom is used to describe something that is very expensive. It’s thought to come from the idea that something so valuable would be worth losing a limb over.
- “Let the cat out of the bag” – To reveal a secret unintentionally. The origin of this idiom is said to come from the practice of selling piglets by putting them in a bag. The seller would often use smaller cats to substitute the piglets and that if someone let the cat out of the bag then the trickery would be exposed
- “Raining cats and dogs” – This idiom is used to describe heavy rain, and it has been in use since the 17th century. The origin of this phrase is uncertain, but it may come from old Norse myth or from the gutters in old houses that would overflow during heavy rains, carrying along debris that could include small animals.
- “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” – This idiom means it’s better to hold on to something you have, rather than risk losing it by trying to get something better. The phrase ‘a bird in the hand’ comes from hunting, where it is better to have a captured bird than two in the bushes.
- “Bite off more than you can chew” – This idiom means to take on more responsibility or a bigger task than you can handle. It’s often used to caution against overextending oneself.
- “Break the ice” – To start a conversation or to ease a tense situation, comes from the literal meaning of breaking the ice in a frozen river to make way for ships.
- “A picture is worth a thousand words” – This idiom means that a visual representation can convey a lot more information or emotion than words alone.
- “A dime a dozen” – This idiom is used to describe something that is very common and easy to find, often to the point of being worthless.
- “Hit the nail on the head” – This idiom is used to describe someone who has said or done something exactly right. It refers to driving a nail into a piece of wood with one swing, hitting it exactly on the head.
- “Add fuel to the fire” – To make a bad situation worse by adding more problems or complications to it.
- “Call it a day” – To stop working and go home, usually at the end of the workday.
- “Barking up the wrong tree” – This idiom is used to describe someone who is pursuing the wrong person or thing, and it is often used to tell someone they are mistaken about something.
- “Hang in there” – This idiom is used to encourage someone to keep trying or to keep a positive attitude, even when things are difficult.
- “Jumping on the bandwagon” – This idiom is used to describe someone who joins a popular trend or movement late, often for personal gain. It comes from the practice of travelling bands having a bandwagon carriage for people to jump on and join the parade.
- “Throw in the towel” – This idiom means to give up or quit. It comes from the practice of boxing, where a fighter’s cornerman would throw a towel into the ring as a signal for the referee to stop the fight.
- “Off the hook” – This idiom means to be released from responsibility or obligation. It can also mean to be out of a difficult situation.
- “Bite your tongue” – This idiom means to hold back from saying something that may be hurtful or imprudent.
- “A snowball’s chance in hell” – This idiom means that something has little or no chance of happening or succeeding. It comes from the idea that a snowball would instantly melt if it were to be thrown into hell.
- “Bend over backwards” – This idiom means to make a great effort to help or accommodate someone, often to the point of making sacrifices.
- “Actions speak louder than words” – This idiom means that what a person does is more important and revealing than what they say.
- “Hit below the belt” – This idiom means to be unfair or to act in a dishonorable way. It comes from the rule in boxing that a boxer cannot hit their opponent below the waist.
- “Hit the road” – This idiom means to leave, often in a hurry or without warning.
- “Keep your cards close to your chest” – This idiom means to keep one’s thoughts or plans secret. It comes from the practice of keeping one’s cards close to their chest to prevent others from seeing them in a game of cards.
- “The ball is in your court” – This idiom means that it is now someone else’s turn to act or make a decision. It comes from the sport of tennis, where the ball is hit back and forth across the net and each player must hit the ball when it is on their side of the court.
- “A penny for your thoughts” – This idiom means to ask someone what they are thinking about. It is thought to originate from the practice of paying someone a small amount of money for their thoughts, opinion, or ideas.
- “The whole nine yards” – This idiom is used to describe something that includes everything or the whole thing. The origins of the phrase are uncertain, but it may come from the phrase “the whole six yards,” referring to the length of a traditional Native American blanket.
- “Throw caution to the wind” – This idiom means to be reckless or to act without considering the consequences.
- “Cut to the chase” – This idiom is used to tell someone to get to the point or the main topic of a conversation, it comes from movie or film industry, where it was used to shorten the scenes which are not crucial to the plot.
- “The tip of the iceberg” – This idiom is used to describe something that is just a small part of a larger problem or situation. It comes from the fact that the majority of an iceberg is below the water line, and only a small part is visible.
In conclusion, idioms are a rich and varied part of the English language that can add color and complexity to our speech and writing.
They can also be a source of confusion, especially for non-native speakers and language learners.
We hope that this blog post has helped to demystify some common idioms and provided you with a deeper understanding of these phrases.
Whether you’re a native speaker or learning English as a second language, idioms are a great way to expand your vocabulary and communicate more effectively.
Remember, practice makes perfect, and you can use the idioms we have discussed in this post for free, to practice and improve your skills.
We encourage you to keep exploring and learning more about idioms, as there are countless phrases and expressions out there just waiting to be discovered.