200+ Common English Idioms and Phrases with Their Meaning

Learn commonly used idioms in daily English conversations


  • above board: honest, open
  • ad lib: improvise, interpolate
  • after all: in spite of the situation; nevertheless
  • against the grain: contrary to someone's feelings, principles
  • all along: all the time
  • all ears: eager to listen
  • all of a sudden: no difference
  • all thumbs: clumsy
  • apple of one's eye: very dear, precious
  • apple of discord: subject of envy or quarrel
  • as a rule: generally, usually
  • as far as I know: if I have correct information
  • as far as I am concerned: in my opinion
  • as for me/ as to me: in my opinion
  • as well: also, too
  • at first sight: from the first glance; at once; at first glance
  • at odds with: in disagreement with
  • at random: at this time
  • backseat driver: a passenger who tells you how to drive
  • ballpark figure: approximate estimate (in figures)
  • bark at the moon: do a useless thing; waste time
  • bark up the wrong tree: accuse or pursue the wrong person; misdirect one's efforts
  • be about to: ready
  • be all in: be extremely tired
  • be back on one’s feet: healthy again or better financially
  • beat around the bush: avoid giving a clear/definite answer
  • be behind the times: be old-fashioned, outdated
  • be beside oneself: be very upset, nervous, worried
  • be better off: be in a better situation (financially)
  • be broke: have no money at all; be penniless, bankrupt
  • be hard on something or someone: treat roughly
  • be high on one's list: be one of the most important things
  • be in charge of something: be responsible for
  • be in good health: be healthy
  • be in poor health: be not healthy
  • be in good shape: be physically fit; in good condition
  • be in bad shape: be in bad state; in bad condition
  • be in the red: be in debt
  • be on/at the point of something: be on the verge of something; be close to doing something
  • be out of date: be outdated
  • be out of sorts: be in bad temper
  • be pressed for time, for money: not to have enough time, money
  • be to blame: be responsible for a mistake, for something wrong
  • be touch and go: risky, dangerous; uncertain of the result
  • be up and around / about: able to be out of bed after an illness
  • be up to one's ears in work: be very busy
  • beat around/about the bush: avoid giving a clear or definite answer
  • beat one's brains out: make great efforts, often unsuccessfully
  • before long: soon

  • big shot: important person
  • bite off more than one can chew: try to do more than one can
  • bite the bullet: accept painful but necessary action
  • bite the dust: be killed; die; suffer defeat
  • bite the hand that feeds one: repay kindness with evil
  • black sheep: a good-for-nothing member of the family
  • blind date: a meeting between a man and a woman (who have never met before) arranged by their friends
  • blow it: lose the chance
  • bottom line: main result; main factor
  • break someone's heart: hurt deeply
  • break the ice: overcome awkwardness or shyness
  • break the news (to someone): tell important news
  • bring home the bacon: earn the living for the family
  • by all means: definitely, certainly
  • by heart: by memorizing
  • by hook or by crook: by any possible means
  • by oneself (by myself, by himself, etc.): alone; on one's own
  • by the way: incidentally
  • call a halt to something: terminate, stop something
  • call a spade a spade: use plain, direct words
  • call it a day: consider work finished for the day
  • call the shots: give orders; be in control of something
  • call the tune: give orders; be the most important person in some situation
  • carry weight: be important
  • castles in the air: daydreaming about success
  • catch someone's eye: attract attention
  • catch one's breath: stop and rest
  • catch someone off guard: catch someone unprepared
  • catch someone red-handed: find someone in the act of doing wrong
  • close call: a narrow escape; a bad thing that almost happened
  • come to one's senses: act normally and reasonably again
  • come true: become reality
  • cross one's mind: occur to someone
  • do one's best: try very hard
  • do one's bit: do what's needed
  • do someone good: be good for someone
  • do something behind someone's back: do (harmful) things secretively
  • down to earth: practical
  • draw the line: set a limit; impose a restriction
  • duty calls: must fulfill obligations
  • eat one's words: take back one's words
  • every now and then: occasionally
  • every other: every second one
  • fall in love (with): begin to love
  • fall out of love: stop loving
  • false alarm: untrue signal; untrue rumor
  • a far cry from something: not nearly as good
  • feel it in one's bones: expect something bad to happen
  • feel like doing something: want to do; be inclined to do something
  • few and far between: rare, scarce

  • find fault with someone or something: criticize; complain about
  • first things first: important things come before others
  • fly off the handle: get angry
  • follow in someone's footsteps: do the same thing
  • foot the bill: pay the bill
  • for good: forever
  • for the time being: for now; at this time
  • frame of mind: mental state
  • from now on: now and in the future
  • from the word go: from the very beginning
  • get a grip on oneself: take control of one's feelings
  • get carried away: get too excited and enthusiastic about something
  • get cold feet: be afraid to do something
  • get even with someone: have one's revenge
  • get in touch with someone: contact someone
  • get to the bottom of something: know deeply
  • get to the point: speak directly about the subject; come to the point
  • Give me a break!: Stop it! Enough!
  • give someone a hand: help someone
  • go back on one's word: break a promise
  • go from bad to worse: become much worse
  • go to pieces: get very upset; fall apart
  • go with the flow: lead a quiet life
  • have a ball: have a good time
  • have a bone to pick with someone: complain or discuss something unpleasant
  • have a sweet tooth: love eating sweet things
  • have a word with someone: talk to someone
  • have no business doing something: have no right to do something
  • have one's hands full: be very busy
  • hit the nail on the head: say exactly the right thing
  • hold one's tongue: keep silent; refrain from speaking
  • ill at ease: uncomfortable
  • in advance: well before
  • in cold blood: mercilessly
  • in fact: actually; in reality
  • in hot water: in trouble; in a difficult situation
  • in someone's shoes: in another person's position
  • in the long run: in the end
  • in the same boat: in the same situation
  • in the clear: free from blame
  • it goes without saying: should be clear without words
  • jump at the opportunity: accept the opportunity eagerly
  • just as soon: prefer; would rather
  • just in case: to be on the safe side
  • keep a straight face: try not to laugh
  • keep company: accompany
  • keep in mind: bear in mind; consider; remember
  • keep one's word: fulfill a promise
  • keep someone posted: inform someone

  • keep one's fingers crossed: hope that nothing will go wrong
  • kill time: fill time; spend empty time
  • know the ropes: be very familiar with some business
  • lay one's cards on the table: be frank and open
  • lay one's life on the line: put oneself in a dangerous situation
  • lead a dog's life: live in misery
  • leave word: leave a message
  • let go of something: release the hold
  • let one's hair down: be relaxed and informal with other people
  • let someone know: inform someone
  • like father, like son: be like one's parent in something
  • little by little: step by step; bit by bit; gradually
  • lose one's temper: become angry
  • lose one's way: get lost
  • lose track of someone: not to know where someone is
  • lucky break: a lucky chance
  • make a living: earn money to provide for life
  • make allowance(s) for something: take into consideration when judging
  • make a point of: be sure to do something intentionally
  • make friends: become friends
  • make fun of someone or something: laugh at; joke about
  • make room for someone: allow space for someone
  • make up one's mind: decide
  • make yourself at home: be comfortable; feel at home
  • mean well: have good intentions
  • might as well: maybe it's a good idea
  • never mind: don't worry about it
  • now and again: occasionally; now and then
  • off the cuff: without preparation
  • off the point: beside the point
  • off the record: not for the public; unofficially
  • once and for all: decidedly
  • on credit: not having to pay cash right away
  • on edge: nervous, irritable
  • on guard: on the alert
  • on hand: available
  • on one hand/on the one hand: considering one side of the question
  • on one's toes: alert, attentive, prepared for difficulties
  • on purpose: intentionally
  • on second thought: after thinking again
  • on the alert: on guard
  • on the carpet: called in by the boss for criticism
  • on the go: on the move; busy, active
  • on the other hand: considering the other side of the question
  • on the spot: right there
  • on the spur of the moment: without previous thought or plan
  • on the tip of one's tongue: on the verge of saying but unable to remember

  • out of one's mind: crazy
  • out of one's way: away from one's usual route
  • out of the question: not to be considered; impossible
  • pack rat: a person who saves lots of unnecessary things
  • pay attention: note something; be attentive to something
  • pick a fight: start a quarrel
  • put one's foot down: object strongly
  • right away: immediately
  • ring a bell: remind someone of something familiar but half-forgotten
  • see red: become very angry
  • take a break: stop for rest
  • take it easy: relax; be calm
  • take something for granted: accept as given
  • take steps: take action; take measures
  • take time: take a long time
  • twist someone's arm: force someone to agree
  • under the weather: feeling a little ill, a little unwell
  • up-and-coming: showing promise of future success
  • up in the air: undecided, unsettled
  • up to date: modern, latest, current
  • walk on air: be very happy
  • waste one's breath: speak uselessly, to no purpose
  • watch one's step: behave prudently; be careful
  • white lie: unimportant lie
  • word for word: in the same words

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200+ Common English Idioms and Phrases with Their Meaning

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