phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

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I research the origins of phrases continuously and publish them in the idioms and phrases section.

Here's the archive of posts that have been sent to the Phrase-a-Week mailing list:

A cock and bull story

Now is the winter of our discontent

Saved by the bell

Below the salt

Local derby

A load of codswallop

Pipe dream

The darling buds of May

Take the Mickey

Back to square one


Up the duff

Turn a blind eye

In the offing

As good as gold

The exception that proves the rule

With bated breath

Over the moon

Scot free

At one fell swoop

The bitter end

Draw a blank

Beat a hasty retreat

Hoist by your own petard

Minced oaths

Sleep tight

From sea to shining sea

Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey

Christmas card sayings and phrases

Baker's dozen

Flavor of the month

The floozie in the jacuzzi

As keen as mustard

Daylight robbery

Between the Devil and the deep blue sea

Cop an attitude

You are what you eat

Be afraid, be very afraid

Push the envelope

Just deserts


Whipping boy

High, wide and handsome

A moveable feast

Speak of the devil

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen

Break a leg

Lame duck

So sue me

Nine days' wonder

Never-never land

Paint the town red

Lock, stock and barrel

Dead ringer

The whole nine yards

Ship-shape and Bristol fashion

Head over heels

Whet your appetite

Shake a leg

Taken aback

Shanks' mare

Go berserk

Heard it through the grapevine

Eat humble pie

Thumbs up


Flotsam and jetsam

Knuckle down


Trick or treat

Come up trumps

On your tod

Kick the bucket

Steal one's thunder

As mad as a hatter

Jot or tittle

Tinker's damn

Merry Christmas

Point to point

Port out, starboard home - POSH

Beck and call

Read the riot act

Run amok

Full tilt

Know your onions

Stool pigeon

Short shrift

Spitting image

True blue

Tell it to the marines

Tuckered out

A sledgehammer to crack a nut

Blue-plate special

Wild goose chase

Aid and abet

Heavens to Murgatroyd

In the doldrums

By and large

Skid row

On the wagon

Play ducks and drakes

Get underway

Curiosity killed the cat

Take umbrage

Rack and ruin

Coin a phrase

To a T

Curry favour

A flash in the pan

Run the gauntlet

Prime time

The whole shebang

Barking mad

Top dog

Toe the line

In the pink

On the warpath

Three sheets to the wind

Keep the ball rolling

Red herring

Grass up

On cloud nine

Spelling bee

Get down to brass tacks

Cooking the books

Boxing Day

Go off half-cocked

Parting shot


Best bib and tucker

I haven't got a clue

The devil to pay


Raining cats and dogs

Round Robin

Strait and narrow

Through thick and thin

Chaise lounge

Point blank

Silver bullet

Blown to smithereens

Bale out/bail out

Bandy words

Donkey's years

Let the cat out of the bag


Ne'er cast a clout till May be out


Outside the box

With bells on


Fight fire with fire

A cock and bull story

Bats in the belfry

Warts and all

As easy as pie

In a cleft stick

Come a cropper

Chip on your shoulder

As happy as...

Tide over

Crop up

Have an inkling

Hedge your bets

An Englishman's home is his castle

In limbo

Jump pn the bandwagon

Graveyard shift

Worth one's salt

A piece of the action

Make no bones about it

Harbinger of doom

Double cross

Without let or hindrance

At loggerheads


Wax poetic

Augur well

Yellow belly

In the offing

My old Dutch

Ring aring o'roses

A stitch in time saves nine

A skeleton in the closet

Copper bottomed

The proof of the pudding

Rule of thumb


Old codger

Cherchez la femme


Off his own bat

Someone is walking over my grave

Hair of the dog

Plain sailing

Movers and shakers

Pass the buck

A picture is worth a thousand words

Tempest in a teapot


The jury is still out

Swan song

Lose your marbles

Birds of a feather

Over the moon

Out of sorts

Pull out all the stops

Sir Walter Scott

Peter out

Raze to the ground

In a pickle

A red rag to a bull

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink


Sleep tight

Bring home the bacon

A pig in a poke

Full to the gunwales



If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Without so much as a by your leave

On the ball

High on the hog

In spades

On the button

Larking about

Nosy parker

A complete shambles

Lock, stock and barrel

Bite the bullet

Hard lines

Life begins at forty

Household words

Woe betide you

Going to hell in a handbasket

The living daylights

Cotton on

Get off your high horse

In the nick of time

The bee's knees

Drag race

Panic stations

Clutch at straws

It ain't over till the fat lady sings

Left in the lurch

Once in a blue moon

Hat trick

Dog in the manger

Pigs might fly / When pigs fly

Cash on the nail


Carpe diem

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Mind your Ps and Qs

Vice versa

Houston, we have a problem

Montezuma's revenge

Good riddance

Knocked into a cocked hat

Five o'clock shadow

Fed up

Fell off the back of a truck

Have no truck with

My cup of tea

Doff your hat

Let there be light


Beyond the pale

Take the gilt off the gingerbread

As cute as a bug's ear

It's not rocket science

To all intents and purposes

Let bygones be bygones

What's not to like?

Mum's the word

Which is which

Say cheese

Dressed to the nines

Beat around the bush


Eeny, meeny, miny, mo

As daft as a brush

Jack of all trades

A dog is a man's best friend

Rest on your laurels

Purple patch

Up the pole

Turn of phrase

Bean counter

Fair to middling

Booby prize

Between a rock and a hard place


Forlorn hope

In the sticks

Loose cannon

Blood, sweat and tears

Like it or lump it

For good measure

May you live in interesting times

Bunny boiler

If the shoe fits

Fathom out

Pony up

Jack - phrases that include the name Jack

Double Dutch

What you see is what you get - wysiwyg

A norange

Pig's ear

The writing is on the wall

Weasel words

As different as chalk and cheese

Security blanket

Second guess

Nail your colours to the mast

Cold turkey

Handle with kid gloves

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush


Don't look a gift horse in the mouth



Stand and deliver

A turn up for the books

Go the whole hog

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Back to square one

Keep it under your hat

Revenge is a dish best served cold

All that glitters is not gold

Start from scratch

Square meal


A tissue of lies

A frog in your throat

Plain sailing

Fobbed off

Halcyon days

On the fiddle

A bigger bang for your buck

Old chestnut

Young turk

Damp squib

The real McCoy

Be enthralled

Get your dander up

On tenterhooks

Fine words butter no parsnips


Batten down the hatches

Worse for wear

Badger to death

Under the thumb

Spring forward, Fall back

The toast of the town

Gussied up

An arm and a leg

That's all she wrote

Ask a silly question

Necessity is the mother of invention

Union Jack


As thick as thieves

Fair dinkum

Higgledy piggledy

A whip round

Lick into shape

As dead as a doornail

Swing the lead

'March' phrases

In a nutshell

Bob's your uncle

Forlorn hope

Plug ugly