The 30 Most Useful Idioms and their Meaning

Idioms are words, phrases or expressions which are commonly used in everyday conversation.


1. A bitter pill

Meaning: A situation or information that is in-pleasant but must be accepted

Example: Getting a poor performance review was a bitter pill to swallow, but it made me a better worker.

2. Actions speak louder than words

Meaning: People’s intension can be judged better by what they do than what they say.

Example: You keep saying that you’ll do your fair share of the housework. Remember that actions speak louder than words.

3. A dime a dozen

Meaning: Very common and no particular value

Example: Experts in this field are a dime a dozen.

4. Add insult to injury

Meaning: To act a way that makes a bad or displeasing situation worse

Example: My car barely started this morning, and to add insult to injury, I got a flat tire in the driveway.

5. All ears

Meaning: Listening intently, fully focused or awaiting an explanation

Example: I’m all ears, tell me what happened with you.

6. Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: Looking in the wrong place, accusing the wrong person

Meaning: If you think I’m the guilty person, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

7. Beat around the bush

Meaning: Avoiding the main issue, not speaking directly about a topic

Example: Don’t beat around the bush—just tell me the truth.

8. Bed of roses

Meaning: An easy, comfortable situation or an easy life

Example: Who said life would be a bed of roses? If I had a million bucks, I would be in a bed of roses.

9. Best of both worlds

Meaning: To get all the advantages of two things at the same time

Example: She works in the city and lives in the country, so she gets the best of both worlds.

10. Bite off more than you can chew

Meaning: To talk a task that is way too big

Example: I bit off more than I could chew when I volunteered to manage three little league teams in one season.

11. Call it a day

Meaning: To declare the end of a task

Example: I’m tired. Let’s call it a day.

12. Can’t judge a book by its cover

Meaning: Cannot judge something primarily on appearance

Example: This report may look dull, but don’t judge a book by its cover

13. Cat nap

Meaning: To have a short, light sleep, a doze

Example:  I’m really tired. I need a cat nap right now!

14. Couch potato

Meaning: A lazy person

Example: The only thing you do all day is watch TV. You’ve become a real couch potato, haven’t you?

15. Cry over spilt milk

Meaning:  When you complain about a loss from the past

Example: Yes, we made a mistake, but there’s no point in crying over spilled milk.

16. Curiosity killed the cat

Meaning: Being inquisitive can lead to an unpleasant situation

Example: I know curiosity killed the cat, but I can't stop the investigation until I know where the donations are really going.

17. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Meaning: Do not put all your resources in one possibility

Example: relax! Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

18. Have a blast

Meaning: To have a good time or to enjoy

Example: The kids are having a blast running around the beach all day.

19. Hit the road

Meaning: To depart, to start the journey

Example: We better hit the road before traffic gets even worse.

20. Hit the sack/sheets/hay

Meaning: To go to bed

Example: It’s 10 pm. I’m going to hit the hay.

21. It takes two to tango

Meaning: Actions or communications need more than one person

Example: She may want to argue, but it takes two to tango and I won't stoop to her level.

22. Kill two birds with one stone

Meaning: To accomplish two different things at the same time

Example: John learned the words to his part in the play while peeling potatoes. He was killing two birds with one stone.

23. Miss the boat

Meaning: Someone missed his or her chance

Example: There were tickets available last week, but he missed the boat by waiting till today to try to buy some.

24. Off the hook

Meaning: To escape a situation of responsibility, obligation or (less frequently) danger

Example: I couldn't get myself off the hook no matter what I tried.

25. Pushing up daisies

Meaning: Euphemism for dying or death

Example: If you talk to me like that again, you'll be pushing up the daisies!

26. Picture paints a thousand words

Meaning:  A visual image is far more descriptive than words

Example: Wow! She is so elegant! A picture paints a thousand words!

27. Piece of cake

Meaning: A job, task or other activity that is easy or simple

Example: No problem. When you know what you're doing, it's a piece of cake.

28. Once in a blue moon

Meaning: Happens very rarely

Example: Once in a blue moon, I buy a fashion magazine, just to see what people are wearing.

29. He/she’s a big fish

Meaning: Being the boss, the leader

Example: I'd rather be a big fish in a small pond than move to New York City and be a nobody!

30. Spill the beans

Meaning: To reveal someone’s secret

Example: There is a surprise party for Heidi on Wednesday. Please don't spill the beans.

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