Idioms in English are groups of words that, when put together, mean something different from what you’d expect by just looking at the words individually. Imagine this: If someone says, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” they don’t mean that actual cats and dogs are falling from the sky! Instead, it’s an expression used to say that it’s raining very heavily.
20 Common Idioms in English
Below is a list of 20 common idioms in English that might sound strange but are used a lot!
- Break the Ice
- Bite the Bullet
- Beat around the Bush
- A Piece of Cake
- Cost an Arm and a Leg
- Hit the Nail on the Head
- Once in a Blue Moon
- Under the Weather
- Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk
- Actions Speak Louder Than Words
- A Penny for Your Thoughts
- Kick the Bucket
- Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
- Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
- Kill Two Birds with One Stone
- Let the Cat Out of the Bag
- Spill the Beans
- Jump on the Bandwagon
- Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
- Hold Your Horses
20 Idioms with Their Meanings and Sentences
Now, let’s explore these 20 idioms with their meanings and example sentences.
1. Break the Ice
- Meaning: Making a situation less awkward by initiating conversation or making everyone comfortable.
- Example: When you’re meeting new people, talking about common interests can break the ice and make everyone feel relaxed.
2. Bite the Bullet
- Meaning: Facing a challenging situation bravely, even if it’s frightening or difficult.
- Example: During tough times, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and confront your fears to move forward.
3. Beat around the Bush
- Meaning: Avoiding directness or talking indirectly about a topic instead of addressing it directly.
- Example: Instead of beating around the bush, just tell me what’s bothering you directly.
4. A Piece of Cake
- Meaning: Describing something that is very easy or effortless to do.
- Example: Cooking that recipe was a piece of cake; it was so simple!
5. Cost an Arm and a Leg
- Meaning: Something that is very costly or expensive.
- Example: Buying that luxury car would cost an arm and a leg; it’s very pricey.
6. Hit the Nail on the Head
- Meaning: Describing someone who gets something exactly right or accurately.
- Example: Sarah hit the nail on the head with her analysis of the situation.
7. Once in a Blue Moon
- Meaning: Something that occurs very rarely or infrequently.
- Example: Meeting my childhood friends happens once in a blue moon as we all live far away now.
8. Under the Weather
- Meaning: Feeling unwell or sick (not in good health).
- Example: I won’t be coming to work today as I’m feeling under the weather.
9. Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk
- Meaning: Advising not to worry about something that has already happened and cannot be changed.
- Example: I know you made a mistake, but don’t cry over spilled milk; let’s focus on finding a solution.
10. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
- Meaning: Emphasizing that what someone does is more important than what they say.
- Example: Instead of promising to help, show your support. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
11. A Penny for Your Thoughts
- Meaning: A friendly way of asking someone to share their thoughts, feelings or opinions.
- Example: You seem lost in thought. A penny for your thoughts?
12. Kick the Bucket
- Meaning: A humorous way to refer to someone’s death.
- Example: He always joked that he’d travel the world before kicking the bucket.
13. Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
- Meaning: Taking on more tasks or responsibilities than one can handle.
- Example: I agreed to help with three projects at once; I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
14. Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
- Meaning: Being in a situation with no good options to choose from.
- Example: She was caught between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between her job and taking care of her family.
15. Kill Two Birds with One Stone
- Meaning: Accomplishing two things at once with a single action.
- Example: By studying with a friend, I can kill two birds with one stone: learn and spend time together.
16. Let the Cat Out of the Bag
- Meaning: Revealing a secret or confidential information unintentionally.
- Example: Her sister accidentally let the cat out of the bag about the surprise party.
17. Spill the Beans
- Meaning: Sharing a secret or revealing something private.
- Example: We were trying to keep it a surprise, but someone spilled the beans about our vacation plans.
18. Jump on the Bandwagon
- Meaning: Joining or supporting a trend or popular activity.
- Example: Many people jumped on the bandwagon and started using the new social media app.
19. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
- Meaning: Advising against relying too much on one single thing.
- Example: I’m investing in different stocks so that I don’t put all my eggs in one basket.
20. Hold Your Horses
- Meaning: Asking someone to be patient or to wait.
- Example: Hold your horses! Let’s think about this decision before rushing into it.
Idioms in English are special phrases that have hidden meanings. Understanding idioms helps you unlock the deeper meanings behind words and express ideas more creatively. For instance, “butterflies in your stomach” doesn’t mean you’ve swallowed butterflies; it’s just a way to describe feeling nervous. These phrases add color and imagination to how we communicate!
Test your knowledge with a quick quiz! Match the idioms on one side with their correct meanings on the other. This activity will help reinforce your understanding and memory of these expressions.
|A piece of cake
|To reveal a secret or information that was supposed to be kept hidden
|Hit the nail on the head
|To initiate a conversation or ease tension
|Break the ice
|To be very expensive
|Cost an arm and a leg
|Something that happens very rarely
|Let the cat out of the bag
|To be mistaken or looking in the wrong place
|Barking up the wrong tree
|To describe exactly what is causing a situation or problem
|Kill two birds with one stone
|Don’t worry about something that has already happened and cannot be changed
|Once in a blue moon
|To accomplish two things with a single action
|Don’t cry over spilled milk
|Something very easy to do
Fill in the Blanks
Try completing the following sentences by filling in the blanks with the appropriate idiomatic expressions:
- I had to _________________ and face my fear of heights to ride the roller coaster.
- She _________________ when she accidentally revealed the surprise party plans.
- John always manages to _________________ by finishing his homework and studying for the test simultaneously.
- Instead of _________________, he should have been more direct and spoken his mind.