EnglishVocabulary100+ Commonly Used Idioms in English

100+ Commonly Used Idioms in English

Have you ever heard someone say, ‘The early bird catches the worm’? This phrase means that being early or doing things ahead of time can help you succeed. Idioms are like secret codes in language. They’re phrases that mean something different from what the words say! Some are as easy as pie, while others might make you scratch your head. Learning about idioms in English is like finding a box of phrases that mean more than just their words. It’s easy and fun to explore these expressions and use these Idioms in Everyday life.

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    Learning common idioms and expressions can help you speak English more naturally. It’s a great idea to become familiar with these phrases. The tables below categorize idioms based on how often they’re used in American English. Starting with the very common idioms is a good idea since you’ll hear them a lot in American movies, TV shows, or when visiting the United States. Once you’re comfortable with those, you can explore the rest. None of the idioms listed here are uncommon or outdated, so you can use any of them confidently when talking to native English speakers from any English-speaking country. Here in this blog we have provided list of 100 idioms and their meanings that will help students to learn and enhance their vocabulary skills.

    Idioms in English

    What is Idioms in English? Definition and Meaning

    Idioms are phrases where the whole means something different from the individual words. They add color and uniqueness to language, but they’re tricky because their meanings aren’t always clear from the words alone.

    Using idioms can add flair to casual writing or speech, showing off creativity or humor. They’re not suitable for formal writing, though. The challenge lies in ensuring your audience understands the idiom you use, as it might be meaningless to those unfamiliar with it. So, it’s best to use them with a crowd who knows their meanings, ensuring your message gets across effectively.

    An idiom, as per the Collins Dictionary, refers to a collection of words that, when used together, convey a different meaning than if each word were interpreted individually. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides a more detailed explanation, defining an idiom as a language expression unique to itself.

    Top 10 List of Idioms for Money with Meanings You Should Know

    Here are ten idioms related to money along with their meanings:

    • Break the Bank: Spending a lot of money, especially an amount that strains one’s budget.
    • Cost an Arm and a Leg: Something very expensive.
    • Cash Cow: A reliable source of consistent income or profit.
    • Money Talks: The power and influence money has in getting things done or getting attention.
    • A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned: Saving money is as valuable as earning it.
    • Throw Money Down the Drain: Wasting money on something that has no value or benefit.
    • Make Ends Meet: To earn just enough money to cover one’s basic expenses.
    • In the Red: To be in debt or owe money.
    • Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees: Money is not easy to acquire and should be spent wisely.
    • On a Shoestring: Operating with a very small amount of money or resources.

    Understanding these idioms can add color to conversations about finances and wealth.

    Top 20 Most Common Idioms in English for Competitive Exams

    Here are twenty idioms that might come in handy for competitive exams:

    • Ace in the Hole: A hidden advantage or resource kept in reserve.
    • Bite the Bullet: To endure a painful or difficult situation with courage.
    • Cutting Corners: Taking shortcuts or finding an easier way to do something, often sacrificing quality.
    • Hit the Nail on the Head: To identify something exactly or do something perfectly.
    • Jump on the Bandwagon: Joining a popular trend or activity.
    • Keep an Eye on the Ball: To remain attentive and focused on a particular goal or objective.
    • Level Playing Field: A situation where everyone has an equal opportunity.
    • Make or Break: Something that will either lead to success or failure.
    • Nail-biter: A situation causing extreme anxiety or tension.
    • Off the Beaten Path: Doing something different or unconventional.
    • Play by Ear: Making decisions as events unfold rather than planning in advance.
    • Put All Your Eggs in One Basket: To invest or risk everything in a single venture.
    • Run in the Family: Shared characteristics or talents among family members.
    • Sit on the Fence: To be undecided or neutral about an issue.
    • Throw in the Towel: To give up or surrender.
    • Under the Wire: Completing something just before a deadline or at the last possible moment.
    • Walk on Thin Ice: To be in a risky or delicate situation.
    • X-factor: An unknown or unpredictable element that could have a significant impact.
    • Yellow-bellied: Being cowardly or easily scared.
    • Zero Hour: The time when a crucial event or decision will take place.

    These idioms might appear in reading comprehension or verbal reasoning sections, so understanding their meanings can be quite helpful for competitive exams and also helps in enhancing vocabulary.

    List of 20 Most Common Idioms in English, Their Meanings and Usage in Sentences

    Most Commonly Used English Idioms
    Idiom Meaning Usage
    A piece of cake Something very easy or simple The test was a piece of cake; I finished it in 10 minutes
    Break the ice To initiate or start a conversation He told a joke to break the ice at the meeting.
    Hit the nail on the head To describe exactly what is true or accurate> Her analysis hit the nail on the head
    Kick the bucket To die He’s getting old; he might kick the bucket soon
    Once in a blue moon Very rarely or almost never She visits her hometown once in a blue moon
    Barking up the wrong tree Pursuing the wrong course of action or making a mistake If you think I took your book, you’re barking up the wrong tree
    Caught red-handed To be caught in the act of doing something wrong or illegal The thief was caught red-handed stealing the jewelry.
    Don’t cry over spilled milk Don’t worry about something that has already happened and can’t be changed I made a mistake, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk.
    Every cloud has a silver lining There’s something positive in every negative situation Even though he lost the match, he made new friends. Every cloud has a silver lining
    Get cold feet To suddenly become nervous or afraid to do something She got cold feet before her first public speech
    Hit the hay To go to bed or go to sleep I’m exhausted; it’s time to hit the hay and get a good night’s sleep.
    Keep an eye on To watch or monitor something closely Could you keep an eye on my bag while I go to the restroom
    Leave no stone unturned To make every possible effort or attempt to achieve something He left no stone unturned in his search for a new job
    A perfect storm the worst possible situation The perfect storm brewed ominously on the horizon, signaling imminent chaos
    Birds of a feather flock together People who are alike are often friends (usually used negatively) Like-minded individuals naturally stick together—birds of a feather
    Comparing apples to oranges Comparing two things that cannot be compared Evaluating her singing ability to his painting skills is like comparing apples to oranges
    Under the weather Feeling ill / Getting a cold My sister was feeling a bit under the weather.
    Walk on eggshells To be very careful with your actions and words Talking to my dad about my grades made me feel like I was walking on eggshells.
    To be at loggerheads with someone To quarrel or disagree Maya parents seem to be at loggerheads over something or the other all the time.
    Let sleeping dogs lie To stop discussing something that is already over or sorted out Best not to wake sleeping dogs—it’s better to let them lie peacefully.
    Let someone off the hook Releasing someone or letting someone go The court decided to let the guy off the hook as there was no evidence proving his crime.

    Idioms in English to Express Happiness with Examples

    Expressing joy through idioms is a wonderful way to convey happiness in everyday conversations. Idioms like “on cloud nine,” “over the moon,” and “walking on air” build the picture of immense joy and contentment. These phrases not only add color to language but also capture that fantastic feeling, making it easy to picture just how happy someone is in those moments. Whether it’s the feeling of being in seventh heaven or the excitement that makes someone jump for joy, these idioms beautifully encapsulate the sheer elation one experiences when filled with joy. Here are some idioms that express happiness along with examples:

    On cloud nine: Feeling extremely happy or joyful.
    Example: After receiving the job offer, she was on cloud nine for days.

    Over the moon: To be extremely happy or delighted about something.
    Example: When they announced the engagement, she was over the moon with excitement.

    Walking on air: Feeling elated or euphoric.
    Example: Winning the championship had him walking on air for weeks.

    Jump for joy: To be extremely happy and show it physically by jumping.
    Example: When he heard the good news, he jumped for joy.

    In seventh heaven: Feeling extreme happiness or bliss.
    Example: Holding her newborn baby, she was in seventh heaven.

    Tickled pink: Extremely pleased or delighted.
    Example: She was tickled pink by the surprise birthday party her friends organized for her.

    Like a dog with two tails: Being extremely happy or excited.
    Example: When he got his favorite dessert, he was like a dog with two tails.

    These idioms can add color to your language, but it’s important to consider the context and audience when using them!

    20 English Idioms Examples Sentences and Their Meaning for Students

    Top 20 idioms that convey the idea of greatness, along with their meanings and examples

    A cut above the rest: Something or someone superior to others.
    Example: “His problem-solving skills are a cut above the rest in the team.”

    The cream of the crop: The best of a group or category.
    Example: “Only the cream of the crop gets selected for the national team.”

    Head and shoulders above: Much better than others.
    Example: “Her performance in the competition was head and shoulders above the others.”

    Second to none: Unsurpassed; the best.
    Example: “Their customer service is second to none in this industry.”

    In a league of their own: So outstanding that it can’t be compared to others.
    Example: “Her artistic talent puts her in a league of her own.”

    Set the gold standard: Establish a level of quality or excellence that others aspire to reach.
    Example: “Their innovation in technology set the gold standard for the industry.”

    Top-notch: Of the highest quality or standard.
    Example: “The hotel provided top-notch service to its guests.”

    Head honcho: The person in charge; the leader.
    Example: “He’s the head honcho in the company; all decisions go through him.”

    The crème de la crème: The absolute best; the highest quality.
    Example: “The crème de la crème of chefs prepared the meal for the gala.”

    The bee’s knees: Something excellent or outstanding.
    Example: “This new computer is the bee’s knees; it’s incredibly fast.”

    Cock-and-bull story: an absurd, improbable story presented as the truth

    Example: “During the long wait at the airport, she entertained her friends with a cock-and-bull story about how she once befriended a talking parrot that led her on a treasure hunt.”

    These idioms are great for expressing greatness and excellence in various contexts.

    20 List of Idioms Examples for students with their Meaning

    • Once bitten, twice shy: Being extremely cautious as you have been hurt already. Example: Rahul has been extremely careful with making new friends. After all, once bitten, twice shy.
    • Break the ice: To initiate a conversation or interaction. Example: Playing a game helped break the ice at the new student orientation.
    • Cut to the chase: To get to the main point without wasting time. Example: Let’s cut to the chase and discuss the key aspects of the project.
    • Hit the books: To start studying. Example: “I need to hit the books if I want to pass the exam.
    • A blessing in disguise: Something that seems bad but turns out to be good. Example: Failing the test was a blessing in disguise as it made me study harder.
    • Actions speak louder than words: What you do is more important than what you say. Example: Instead of promising, show them; actions speak louder than words.
    • Burn the midnight oil: To work late into the night. Example: I had to burn the midnight oil to finish my science project.
    • Every cloud has a silver lining: There is something positive in every bad situation. Example: Losing the game taught us a valuable lesson; every cloud has a silver lining.
    • Jump on the bandwagon: To join a popular trend or activity. Example: Many students jumped on the bandwagon of learning coding this year.
    • Pulling someone’s leg: Teasing or joking with someone. Example: “I’m just pulling your leg; I didn’t really see a ghost!
    • Spill the beans: To reveal a secret. Example: I can’t believe you spilled the beans about the surprise party!
    • The ball is in your court: It’s your turn to make a decision or take action. Example: “I’ve given you all the information; now the ball is in your court.
    • Under the weather: Feeling unwell or sick. Example: I won’t be at school today; I’m feeling a bit under the weather.
    • A taste of your own medicine: When someone experiences the same bad treatment they have given to others. Example: He didn’t like being ignored; it was a taste of his own medicine.
    • Barking up the wrong tree: Looking in the wrong place or accusing the wrong person. Example: You’re barking up the wrong tree if you think I took your pen.
    • Hold your horses: To wait or be patient. Example: Hold your horses! Let me finish explaining before you start asking questions.
    • Piece of mind: A feeling of calmness or satisfaction. Example: Finishing my homework early gave me peace of mind.
    • Raining cats and dogs: Raining heavily. Example: We couldn’t go out because it was raining cats and dogs.
    • Time flies: Time passes quickly. Example: I can’t believe it’s already the end of the school year; time flies!
    • Turn a blind eye: To ignore something intentionally. Example: The teacher decided to turn a blind eye to the minor rule breaking.

    Idiom Examples from TV Series

    TV shows commonly use everyday phrases in their conversations. Here are five idioms frequently used in TV series along with examples

    “Bite the bullet”

    Series: “Breaking Bad”
    Context: Walter White, facing a difficult situation, says, “We just have to bite the bullet and deal with it.”

    “Hit the nail on the head”
    Series: “Friends”
    Context: In an episode, Joey says, “Wow, Chandler, you really hit the nail on the head with that advice!”

    “Cut to the chase”
    Series: “Sherlock”
    Context: Sherlock Holmes impatiently tells Watson, “Stop with the details and cut to the chase; what’s the point?”

    “Piece of cake”
    Series: “The Office”
    Context: Pam says, “Don’t worry about the presentation; it’ll be a piece of cake.”

    “Bite off more than you can chew”
    Series: “Grey’s Anatomy”
    Context: Dr. Grey advises an intern, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew with this surgery; it’s complex.”

    These idioms are used in various TV series to express certain situations concisely.

    Explore and expand your English vocabulary

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    Frequently Asked Questions on Idioms in English

    What are the 10 idioms and their meaning?

    Idioms are expressions whose meanings aren't inferred from the literal definitions of the words. Ten commonly used idioms and their meanings include raining cats and dogs (heavy rain), bite the bullet (to endure hardship), hit the nail on the head (to be accurate), cost an arm and a leg (very expensive), piece of cake (easy task), break the ice (to initiate conversation), kick the bucket (to pass away), barking up the wrong tree (mistaken approach), under the weather (feeling unwell), and out of the blue (unexpectedly)

    What is an idiom example?

    An idiom example is a phrase or expression peculiar to a particular language that doesn't translate directly and has a figurative, rather than literal, meaning. For instance, break a leg is an idiom used to wish someone good luck, not an actual encouragement to break a limb.

    What is the most used idioms?

    Determining the most-used idioms can vary based on region and context, but some frequently used idioms in English include blessing in disguise, once in a blue moon, a piece of cake, kick the bucket, and hit the nail on the head.

    What is idioms and phrases with examples?

    Idioms and phrases are expressions or groups of words that convey a figurative meaning different from the literal interpretation. For instance, spill the beans means to disclose a secret, not literally spill beans. Examples include raining cats and dogs, down the drain, fish out of water, and burning the midnight oil.

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