Idioms title

The Idiom Attic - a collection of hundreds of English idioms, each one explained.

"america" idioms...

See also, the Phrase Thesaurus list of phrases that contain the word america

and, a list of phrases that relate in some way the word america

" A bad hair day "
Meaning:
A day on which everything seems to go wrong.
Example:
I missed the bus and was late on the one day the boss was early and now I’ve laddered my tights! - talk about a bad hair day.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Predominantly in the USA but also more widely.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   the_human_body   hair   emotion   misfortune  
" A bigger bang for your buck "
Meaning:
Better value for your money.
Example:
Those Chinese fireworks are so cheap. We literally get a bigger bang for our buck.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but overused to the point of cliche.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   money   cliche  
" A chip on your shoulder "
Meaning:
A sense of inferiority characterized by a quickness to take offence.
Example:
He’s the only cabinet minister that didn’t go to Eton and it’s given him a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   the_human_body   emotion  
" A dime a dozen "
Meaning:
So commonplace as to be of little consequence.
Example:
Red buses in London. they’re a dime a dozen.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   money   number  
" A fly on the wall "
Meaning:
1. An unperceived observer - able to see and hear but not be seen or heard. 2 - A form of cinema in which events are recorded without direction.
Example:
1 - I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Putin met Obama. 2 - These reality shows are just the same as the old fly-on-the-wall documentaries.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   animals  
" A foot in the door "
Meaning:
An initial inroad that may lead to greater influence in future.
Example:
I convinced them to start displaying my artwork. I’m making a loss on it but it’s a foot in the door.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   the_human_body   household_items  
" A miss is as good as a mile "
Meaning:
Some endeavours either succeed or they don’t - to miss narrowly is still failure.
Example:
He came within a millimetre of breaking the high jump records. Sadly, a miss is as good as a mile.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   location   proverbial  
" A picture paints a thousand words "
Meaning:
Pictures are far more descriptive than words.
Example:
I tried to describe that fantastic sunset and then she just showed them a photo. You know it’s true - a picture paints a thousand words.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
A very widely and commonly used proverb/adage.
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More idioms about:   language   number   adage  
" A piece of cake "
Meaning:
A task that can be accomplished very easily.
Example:
Jumping that two-foot fence? No problem - a piece of cake.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Very widely and commonly used, to the point of being considered a cliche.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   food   cliche  
" A shot in the arm "
Meaning:
A boost or encouragement.
Example:
I was out on my feet after ten miles’ running but seeing the kids cheering me on was a real shot in the arm.
Where did it originate?:
USA, initially alluding to a shot of drugs but now used without that connotation.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, very commonly used.
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More idioms about:   medical   the_human_body  
" A slap on the wrist "
Meaning:
A mild rebuke, often given when a more severe punishment might be expected.
Example:
Those muggers should get a jail term but these days they’ll probably just get a fine and a slap on the wrist.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   conflict   the_human_body  
" A sledgehammer to crack a nut "
Meaning:
The use of excessive resources to overcome a small problem.
Example:
Using the air ambulance to get granny to hospital was a sledgehammer to crack a nut. She could walk perfectly well and we only live 200 yards away.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Widely used.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   tool   effort   food  
" About face "
Meaning:
1. A military command to turn when on parade. 2. A change from one’s previous position.
Example:
1. Stand to attention! Present arms! About face! 2. Winston Churchill joined parliament as a Conservative and then did an about face and changed to the Liberals, before going about face again and re-joining the Conservatives.
Where did it originate?:
1. USA. 2. British.
Where is it used?:
Both meanings are widely used.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   military  
" Ace in the hole "
Meaning:
A saved, hidden advantage that can supply a victory when revealed.
Example:
Pete Townshend thought ’I can see for miles’ was a sure-fire hit and he saved it, as an ace in the hole, until he needed to boost the group’s success.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Used worldwide, but not commonly so.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   luck  
" Across the board "
Meaning:
Applying everywhere and to all classes of thing.
Example:
Everyone has to pay value-added tax. It’s an across the board levy.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   place  
" All kidding aside "
Meaning:
Said when you want people to realise you are speaking seriously, when they might otherwise think you were joking.
Example:
I know I'm dressed as a circus clown for the party but, believe me, the kitchen is on fire.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   joke  
" All the way "
Meaning:
Referring to something that is done fully, especially as a euphemism for full sexual activity.
Example:
I hear Jill's parents were away for the weekend so she and Jack took the opportunity to go all the way for the first time.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-20th century (with the sexual connotation)
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   sex   euphemism  
" Alley cat "
Meaning:
1. A cat that lives wild in a town. 2. Slang term for a prostitute.
Example:
1. Those alley cats were screeching and chasing rats in the yard all night. 2. Jack's getting to be a sex addict. He spends all his time with bimbos and alley cats.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA
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More idioms about:   animals   sex   slang  
" Alpha Mom "
Meaning:
An ambitious mother who aims to excel at work while raising children.
Example:
She has two kids and is desperate to get the top job to save to get them into private school - a real alpha mom.
Where did it originate?:
USA. A late 20th century adaptation of 'alpha male', which emerged in the 1930s.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but more in the USA than elsewhere.
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More idioms about:   family  
" Alphabet soup "
Meaning:
A jumble of words or letters, often referring to organisations known by their initials, like CIA or BBC.
Example:
All those institutions of the European parliament are confusing - a real alphabet soup.
Where did it originate?:
USA. An early 20th century adaptation of the name of the soup made from pasta letters.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   language  
" Amped up "
Meaning:
Excited and ready for action.
Example:
He's been training for today all year. Now the big day has come and he's amped up and ready to go.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century. A reference to the amplification of acoustic instruments.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but more in the USA than elsewhere.
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More idioms about:   emotion  
" An arm and a leg "
Meaning:
Very expensive. A large amount of money.
Example:
That new lawnmower is top of the range. It cost me an arm and a leg.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-20th century. Often mistakenly thought to be related to the high cost of painting full-length portraits.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   the_human_body   money  
" An axe to grind "
Meaning:
A dispute with someone.
Example:
Hey, I've an axe to grind with you. Didn't I hear you calling my sister a slag?
Where did it originate?:
USA, 18th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   conflict  
" An open and shut case "
Meaning:
A straightforward legal case in which the outcome is clear.
Example:
He was caught with the stolen money and the police had his picture at the crime scene on CCTV - it was an open and shut case.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   legal  
" Ankle biter "
Meaning:
A slang term for small child.
Example:
Janice is pregnant again. With the twins still only two there's soon going to be three ankle biters around the place.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   the_human_body   childhood   slang  
" As high as a kite "
Meaning:
1. Very high up in the sky. 2. High on drugs or excitement.
Example:
1. The Petronas Tower is as high as a kite. 2. She was ecstatic that she won the gold medal. She was high as a kite afterwards.
Where did it originate?:
1. Britain - 17th century. It probably refers to Red Kites, birds that were common in the UK in the 17th century, rather than children's kites. 2. USA.
Where is it used?:
1. In the UK. 2. Worldwide.
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More idioms about:   medical   cliche   animals   happiness  
" At the drop of a hat "
Meaning:
With no delay.
Example:
They were always ready to help. Just say the word and they'd be there at the drop of a hat.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   clothes  
" Baby brain "
Meaning:
Confusion or forgetfulness caused by lack of sleep when caring for a new-born.
Example:
I put baby Julie's bottle of milk away in the oven today - must be baby brain.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   family   stupidity  
" Back seat driver "
Meaning:
Someone who criticizes from the side-lines without being directly involved.
Example:
She's always ready to be a back seat driver and tell people what to do but she never does anything herself.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   travel   vehicle  
" Back to the drawing board "
Meaning:
Said when a plan fails and it's time to start again and make a new plan.
Example:
That battery hovercraft was a nice idea but it just didn't work. I guess it's back to the drawing board.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   work   cliche  
" Bag lady "
Meaning:
A homeless woman, who carries all her possessions in shopping bags.
Example:
It's a shame about Edith. She had a home and family this time last year and now she's divorced and living on the streets as a bag lady.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1970s.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   misfortune  
" Basket case "
Meaning:
A person or thing that is no longer able to function effectively, either through disability or misfortune.
Example:
The Greek economy took a nosedive after the 2008 world financial meltdown - to the point of becoming a total economic basket case.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   misfortune   medical  
" Bells and whistles "
Meaning:
Attractive additional features or trimmings.
Example:
It was expensive to get all the optional extras for my new car, but I decided that I wasn't going to get another for a few years so why not go for all the bells and whistles?
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century. First used in the computing world to refer to machines with lots of new features. Probably ultimately deriving as an allusion to fairgound organs, which have numerous bells and whistles.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   excess  
" Between a rock and a hard place "
Meaning:
Between two unwelcome options.
Example:
The only choices I have are poverty or a boring job - I'm between a rock and a hard place.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century. Sometimes mistakenly thought to come from Homer's Odyssey.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   nature   cliche  
" Big fish in a small pond "
Meaning:
An important person but only so within a small area of influence.
Example:
Alison is the queen of the post room. She's a big fish in a small pond though - no one in the rest of the company knows who she is.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   nature   animals   water  
" Binge watch "
Meaning:
Watch multiple episodes of a television programme in succession.
Example:
We started off just planning to watch an episode of The Sopranos but ended up binge-watching the whole series.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Initially the USA, but quickly spreading Worldwide.
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More idioms about:   excess  
" Bitch slap "
Meaning:
An open-handed slap in the face intended to be humiliating.
Example:
He wasn't worth the respect of a punch. Bitch-slapping was more humiliating.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Widely used, but mainly amongst the young.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   conflict   slang  
" Blue plate special "
Meaning:
A set meal provided at a reduced price.
Example:
We were hungry but broke. The blue plate special was our only option.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   food  
" Bought the farm "
Meaning:
Died, especially in a violent way which may give rise to an insurance claim.
Example:
Henry's parachute failed at 20,000 feet - he really bought the farm.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   death   euphemism  
" Break a leg "
Meaning:
A superstitious way to wish 'good luck' to an actor before a performance while avoiding saying 'good luck' out loud, which is considered unlucky.
Example:
People often said 'break a leg' to Olivier, but he didn't really need it.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   theatre   the_human_body  
" Bring your A game "
Meaning:
Perform to the best of your ability.
Example:
The cup game tomorrow is the biggest in the club's history. Everyone in the team needs to bring his A game.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   sport   effort  
" Bucket list "
Meaning:
A list of things you plan to do before you 'kick the bucket' (die). Often a list of fanciful ideas rather than of concrete plans.
Example:
I've always wanted to go to Japan. I guess I'll add that to my bucket list.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century - popularized by the title of the film The Bucket List (2007).
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   death   household_items  
" Bust a move "
Meaning:
Dance in a stylish way.
Example:
That new cheerleader is amazing - she's really busting some moves.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, amongst younger generations.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   dance  
" Buy a lemon "
Meaning:
Waste money by purchasing a car that is frequently faulty.
Example:
I thought that my new VW was top of the range but it's never out of the repair garage - a real lemon.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   food   fruit  
" Can't cut the mustard "
Meaning:
Unable to meet the demands put upon you.
Example:
He got that promotion too soon. He can't really cut the mustard.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   food  
" Chaise Lounge "
Meaning:
The American spelling for the piece of furniture known elsewhere as a chaise longue.
Example:
You must be tired. Why don't you lie down on the chaise lounge?
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century. The misspelling of 'chaise longue' causes some amusement in France.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   household_items   language  
" Charley horse "
Meaning:
Stiffness or cramp in the arm or leg.
Example:
He was just on the verge of scoring his first hundred and then got a charley horse and couldn't hold the bat.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Little-known outside the USA.
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More idioms about:   animals   the_human_body  
" Chew someone out "
Meaning:
Verbally scold someone.
Example:
Little Jimmy ran out right in front of that car. His mother really chewed him out for that.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Quite widely used but more so in the USA than elsewhere.
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More idioms about:   conflict  
" Chicken feed "
Meaning:
Something of little importance, especially a small sum of money.
Example:
The newsagent is really ripping off the kids who deliver the papers for him. He's paying them chicken feed.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   money  
" Chow down "
Meaning:
Begin to eat.
Example:
Okay boys, I know you're hungry so chow down.
Where did it originate?:
USA, around WWII, from an Anglo-Indian slang source.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
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More idioms about:   food  
" City bike "
Meaning:
A bicycle designing especially for urban riding.
Example:
It's more comfortable in a car but in London you get around much quicker on a city bike.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-20th century.
Where is it used?:
Predominantly used in urban areas in USA and UK.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   travel   vehicle  
" Close but no cigar "
Meaning:
Very near to success but falling short.
Example:
Ten hits in a row gets you a prize. Nine for you Jack. Sorry - close but no cigar.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   luck  
" Come hell or high water "
Meaning:
Despite any great difficult or obstacle.
Example:
I'm going to get to Cornwall by nightfall, come hell or high water.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   nature   religion  
" Cop an attitude "
Meaning:
Adopt an aggressive stance.
Example:
The whole gang stood there defiantly glaring. They really copped an attitude.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid to late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   conflict  
" Crack someone up "
Meaning:
Make someone laugh.
Example:
He's hilarious. He cracks me up.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid to late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   comedy  
" Curiosity killed the cat "
Meaning:
Being inquisitive can lead you into a dangerous situation.
Example:
I heard a noise outside and went to have a look. It turns out I should have ignored it, it was a bear. Curiosity killed the cat they say.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century. Probably deriving from a much older British phrase - 'care killed the cat'.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   animals   proverbial   cliche  
" Cut to the chase "
Meaning:
Leave out all the unnecessary details and get straight to the point.
Example:
Okay, that's enough sales talk. Let's cut to the chase - what does it cost?
Where did it originate?:
'Cut to the chase' refers to western 'B' movies, which often ended in a chase, which is what most of the audience had come to see.
Where is it used?:
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" Date rape "
Meaning:
The rape by a man of his partner on a date.
Example:
There's been so many stories of date rape in the news lately that Suzy arranged to meet her date in a busy pub.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century. Previously referred to as 'acquaintance rape'.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   sex   crime  
" Designated driver "
Meaning:
Someone who agrees not to drink alcohol at a social event in order to be sober enough to drive others home.
Example:
It really wasn't my turn to be designated driver this week but I was late arriving and by the time I got there all the others were already drunk.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1980s
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   drink   travel  
" Dial down "
Meaning:
1. Adjust a device to reduce sound or temperature. 2. Reduce one's emotional reaction to something.
Example:
1. It's boiling in here. Just dial down the thermostat would you? 2. Okay, so your favourite didn't win X-Factor. No need to bite the carpet - just dial it down a notch.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   emotion  
" Don't give up the day job "
Meaning:
Said to someone who is a poor performer at a task - suggesting that they wouldn't be able to succeed at it professionally.
Example:
Your singing is way off key mate - don't give up the day job will you.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1950s
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but not particularly commonplace.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   work  
" Double header "
Meaning:
A sports expression denoting two events held at the same time.
Example:
The semi-finals are always played together as a double-header to give no team an advantage.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   number   sport  
" Dropping like flies "
Meaning:
Many people either falling ill or dying.
Example:
In the Black Death in 1348 Londoners were dropping like flies.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   death   animals  
" Dry run "
Meaning:
A rehearsal.
Example:
We need more practice. Let's have another dry run.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   theatre  
" Ear popping "
Meaning:
Sound that is loud or that catches the attention.
Example:
Led Zeppelin were good on stage and ear-poppingly loud.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   excess   the_human_body  
" Eighty six "
Meaning:
Referring to an item on a menu that is no longer available.
Example:
I would have had the mushroom risotto but they're eighty-sixed it.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   number   food  
" Elvis has left the building "
Meaning:
The primary performer has left. There's no point waiting around.
Example:
Go away. We're closed. It's all over. Nothing to see here. Elvis has left the building. Do I need to go on?
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but more common in the USA than elsewhere.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   music   building   name  
" Enhanced interrogation techniques "
Meaning:
Euphemism for torture.
Example:
The CIA might call water-boarding an enhanced interrogation technique - most people call it torture.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
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More idioms about:   euphemism  
" Ethnic cleansing "
Meaning:
The singling out and killing of a specific ethnic group.
Example:
The ethnic cleansing of the Croats in the Bosnian War left the country open wide to the Serbs.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   conflict  
" Evil twin "
Meaning:
An imaginary double, humorously referred to in order to explain the uncharacteristic bad behaviour of a normally moral person. Usually used light-heartedly. The expression formed as an allusion to plots in films involving actual evil twins.
Example:
Jane's such a good girl and I took it as read that she would come to the wedding dressed appropriately, but she's turned up in full goth makeup. At first I thought it must have been her evil twin.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 2004.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but mostly amongst the young and hip.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   family   slang  
" Face the music "
Meaning:
Accept he unwelcome consequences of one's own actions.
Example:
Jack pretended he had a Ph.D. to get the job. Now it's come out that he hasn't he'll have to face the music and resign..
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   music  
" Factory farming "
Meaning:
Rearing livestock under industrial conditions.
Example:
I'm dead against factory farming of pigs. I prefer to see them out in the open air, rooting about for their food.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   animals   business   nature  
" Feeding frenzy "
Meaning:
A frantic competition or exploitation - like a group shark attack.
Example:
When Princess Diana was killed there was a feeding frenzy of journalists trying to get the story.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   food   nature   excess  
" First World "
Meaning:
The industrialised affluent and wealthy nations.
Example:
The rise of China and India means we may have to redefine the First World before long.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   number   location  
" First World problem "
Meaning:
A relatively trivial problem only affecting the affluent.
Example:
Jack's complaining again that his 48 inch screen is giving him eyestrain. That's a First World problem if there ever was.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   number   location  
" Flip the bird "
Meaning:
To aggressively raise your middle finger at someone as a sign of displeasure.
Example:
I stopped the car a little too close when he crossed the road and he flipped the bird as a response.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   conflict   the_human_body  
" Food fight "
Meaning:
Chaotic collective behaviour where items of food are thrown about wildly.
Example:
It was supposed to be a quiet wedding reception but some of the girls got drunk and started a food fight. There were canapes and buns flying everywhere.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   conflict   food  
" Fool's gold "
Meaning:
Something that appears valuable but really isn't, like iron pyrites - a worthless mineral that resembles gold.
Example:
The investment promised 80% returns but turned out to make a loss - just fools gold I guess.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   stupidity   trickery  
" Fuddy-duddy "
Meaning:
An old-fashioned and foolish type of person.
Example:
He irons his socks. He's a real fuddy-duddy.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
More idioms about:   stupidity   reduplication  
" Full of bull "
Meaning:
Talking hot air.
Example:
He claims that he was taught to to wire walk by his parents in the circus, but he's full of bull - I know his father was a greengrocer.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
More idioms about:   animals   trickery  
" Gender bender "
Meaning:
A person who adopts a deliberately androgynous appearance, by use of uni-sex make-up, hair-style and clothing. Probably influenced by 'bender' being an earlier slang term for homosexual.
Example:
With his eye-liner and lurex catsuits, David Bowie was the archetype gender bender.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1970s.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   sex   slang   reduplication  
" Get a gold star "
Meaning:
Earn a merit point for doing well.
Example:
Well done Juliet. 100% in your maths test = you are due a gold star.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century. First found in the US magazine The Ladies' Home Journal.
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More idioms about:   effort   colour  
" Get off on the wrong foot "
Meaning:
Make a bad start in a relationship or task.
Example:
My new boss overheard me calling her obese - that really got us off on the wrong foot.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   the_human_body  
" Give him an inch and hell take a mile "
Meaning:
allow someone a small concession and they will take advantage and try to take more.
Example:
Give Janice and inch and shell take a mile. We said she could stay in the spare room for a couple of nights but she's been here a month already.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century. First seen in the journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   proverbial  
" Go down like a lead balloon "
Meaning:
Be received badly.
Example:
The headmaster's idea that all the students spend their lunch hour collecting litter went down like a lead balloon.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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" Go for broke "
Meaning:
Put every resource into getting a particular result.
Example:
We needed a goal so we went for broke to score and forgot about defence.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   business   excess  
" Go out on a limb "
Meaning:
Take a risk to support someone or something.
Example:
He knew his boss was an army man, so saying that he was against the war was really going out on a limb.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   nature   luck   cliche  
" Go the extra mile "
Meaning:
Going beyond what is usually required. Make an extra effort.
Example:
He needed have picked me up from the airport. I'm grateful that he went the extra mile.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   travel   effort  
" Going to hell in a handbasket "
Meaning:
Deteriorating and headed for complete disaster.
Example:
When the British went over the top at the Somme the soldiers didn't realise they were headed for hell in a handbasket.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   religion   household_items   hyperbole  
" Graveyard shift "
Meaning:
Working hours that extend overnight.
Example:
I'm on shift-work. One week of days and then one on the graveyard shift.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   work   time  
" Greasy spoon "
Meaning:
A small cheap cafe selling fried food.
Example:
We had been driving all night. A fried breakfast in a greasy spoon was just what I fancied.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   food   household_items   slang  
" Have a blast "
Meaning:
Have an especially good time.
Example:
We are loving our holiday here in the West Indies. Were having a blast.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   excess  
" Hell bent "
Meaning:
Determined to achieve something at all costs.
Example:
Susie broke her ankle a mile from the end of the marathon but she was hell bent to finish and stumbled over the line on crutches.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 18th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, although more common in the USA than elsewhere.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   religion   excess  
" Hidden in plain sight "
Meaning:
Something that defies apprehension by being too obvious.
Example:
After robbing the jewellers the thief just stood in the crowd and watched the police search all the local alleys. I guess hiding in plain sight worked for him.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   surprise   trickery  
" High and mighty "
Meaning:
Proud and arrogant.
Example:
Ever since he inherited that fortune he won't come to the pub with the gang any more. All high and mighty if you ask me.
Where did it originate?:
Britain, 15th century. First used in a description of Henry V.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   pride  
" Hit the books "
Meaning:
To study, especially for a test or exam.
Example:
I've done no work for the end of terms exams. I need to hit the books bigtime.
Where did it originate?:
USA
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   effort  
" Hit the nail on the head "
Meaning:
Make the precise correct point.
Example:
Churchill hit the nail on the head when he called Hitler a dictator.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   language  
" Hold your horses "
Meaning:
Be patient.
Example:
I know you want to get off home but hold your horses, there's another ten minutes before the school bell is due.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   animals   patience  
" Holy shit! "
Meaning:
An expression of extreme surprise or disbelief.
Example:
Two lottery wins in our street in one week! Holy shit - that's next to impossible.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   surprise   slang  
" In like Flynn "
Meaning:
To be easily successful, especially concerning sex or romance.
Example:
Since he had that lottery win and the nose job, he's in like Flynn with the girls.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1940s.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but more common in the USA than elsewhere.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   sex   name   slang  
" In the bag "
Meaning:
Something that is secured.
Example:
I knew when they sent all the other interviewees home that my job application was in the bag.
Where did it originate?:
USA,, early 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   business   cliche  
" In your face "
Meaning:
Aggressive confrontation.
Example:
The police kept interrogating him. They were in his face for hours.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1970s.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   conflict   the_human_body  
" It takes two to tango "
Meaning:
It takes two people to cause a problem between them.
Example:
Maybe Jack did provoke the argument but he couldn't argue on his own could he? - it takes two to tango.
Where did it originate?:
USA, from a popular 1952 song of the same name.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   number   dance   adage  
" Ivy league "
Meaning:
The joint name given to Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Yale, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Harvard universities.
Example:
He had a good start to his academic career. He was an ivy leaguer.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1930s.
Where is it used?:
USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   education  
" Joshing me "
Meaning:
Tricking me.
Example:
I know you didn't box with Mike Tyson. Stop joshing me.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   conflict  
" Jump on the bandwagon "
Meaning:
Join a popular trend.
Example:
The Beatles started getting popular in America in February 1964. By March millions had jumped on the bandwagon.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
" Jump the shark "
Meaning:
Introduce a ridiculous or unbelievable plot device into a TV series in order to boost flagging ratings.
Example:
Melodrama turned into jumping the shark when one of the main characters was killed by a milk truck in order to boost Christmas ratings.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1977. Deriving from the American TV series Happy Days.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
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More idioms about:   animals  
" Keep your chin up "
Meaning:
Remain positive in a tough situation.
Example:
Sorry to hear that you were made redundant on the day your buried your mother. Keep your chin up mate.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Although derived in the USA this idiom is more commonly heard now in Britain.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   effort   emotion   the_human_body   proverbial  
" Knock on wood "
Meaning:
Knuckle tapping on wood in order to avoid bad luck or to continue having good luck.
Example:
I have never broken a bone - touch wood.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 20th century. Other variants, like 'touch wood' are earlier.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   nature   luck  
" Level playing field "
Meaning:
Fair competition where no side has an advantage.
Example:
There were six of them and only four of us, so it wasn't really a level playing field.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   sport   nature  
" Like a chicken with its head cut off "
Meaning:
In a frenzied manner.
Example:
He was shouting and swearing because they had lost the contract - he was running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but not particularly common.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   emotion   animals   excess   hyperbole   madness  
" Link farm "
Meaning:
A website that exists primarily to display links to another website, with the intention of improving the search status of the second site.
Example:
That site is just a list of links to Jim's Facebook page. Google will spot that as a link farm for sure.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Mostly among the younger generation.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   technology  
" Link rot "
Meaning:
The tendency of WWW addresses to become out of date and point to unavailable pages.
Example:
That website's not been edited for years, there are dead link rot links all over it.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Mostly among the younger generation.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   technology  
" Liquor up "
Meaning:
To supply or to drink alcoholic drink.
Example:
They decided to get liquored up in the pub, even before they got to the party.
Where did it originate?:
Britain, 16th century (to supply liquor). USA, 19th century (to drink liquor).
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but not commonly used everywhere.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   food   drink  
" Little fish in a big pond "
Meaning:
Someone considered unimportant compared to their more significant peers.
Example:
Jimmy's first school only had seven pupils and he was the star, but when he got to high-school he was a little fish in a big pond.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   animals   nature   water  
" Magic mushroom "
Meaning:
A type of mushroom with hallucinogenic properties - sometimes known as 'shrooms'.
Example:
Henry's turned into a real dope head - stoned every night. If it's not the wacky backy it's the magic mushrooms.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1950s, although the plants themselves have been used for centuries.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   nature  
" Man cave "
Meaning:
A shed or some other retreat that men decorate in the way they choose (with or without their male friends) and use to relax in traditional male pursuits.
Example:
After I retired Sheila was getting so fed up with me being around the house that she made me turn the outhouse into a man cave. Now the guys come round each afternoon to play cards and watch tv and I've made a sculpture out of beer cans.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide. A fairly recent coinage but spreading rapidly around the world.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   relaxation   building  
" Mellow yellow "
Meaning:
Dried banana peel, used as an intoxicant.
Example:
He's tried everything else - grass, acid, speed, magic mushrooms. Now he's started on mellow yellow.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1960s. Referred to in the Donovan song of the same name, as 'electrical banana'.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, as the song title although few are aware of the drug connection.
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More idioms about:   colour   reduplication   euphemism  
" Men in suits "
Meaning:
Conventionally minded and dressed men who hold positions of authority. Also called just 'suits'.
Example:
Everyone in the office wanted a Santas and Elves party on Christmas Eve, but the suits said no.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1930s.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   business   clothes  
" New York minute "
Meaning:
A short space of time.
Example:
I know we need to leave soon, but I can get ready really quickly. I'll be with you in a New York minute.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   location   time   hyperbole  
" New kid on the block "
Meaning:
Someone new to the group or area.
Example:
Let's go and play with him. Its hard being the new kid on the block.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   location   childhood  
" Nip slip "
Meaning:
The inadvertent exposure of a womans nipple.
Example:
Wearing a low cut dress like that, a nip slip was almost inevitable.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA and UK and not amongst the older generations.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   sex   clothes   body   slang   reduplication  
" Nitty-gritty "
Meaning:
The important aspects of a situation; the heart of the matter.
Example:
The solicitor spent ages listing the business details of Grandad's will. We were all waiting for him to get to the nitty-gritty when we found out how much money we would inherit.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   slang   reduplication  
" No dice "
Meaning:
A refusal to accept a proposition.
Example:
You want me to work all weekend for no extra pay? Sorry, no dice.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1920s.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide. but more common in the USA than elsewhere.
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More idioms about:   conflict  
" No spring chicken "
Meaning:
Said of people who are no longer young but may behave as though they were.
Example:
Dad's marrying again, to a woman in her 60s. Mind you, he's no spring chicken either.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century. Young chickens are considered more tasty to eat than those slaughtered later in the year.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   animals   date  
" Off the record "
Meaning:
Something said in confidence that the one speaking doesn't want repeated.
Example:
The minister won't talk to reporters since his last off the record briefing got into the papers.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1930s.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   language   business   secrets  
" On a wing and a prayer "
Meaning:
In a difficult situation and reliant on luck to get out of it.
Example:
Jean was out on her feet after two miles. She was on a wing and a prayer to get to the end of the marathon.
Where did it originate?:
USA. From a 1940s film script.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   luck   religion  
" On cloud nine "
Meaning:
Blissfully happy.
Example:
The day after George proposed to her, Mildred won the lottery. She's on cloud nine.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   number   weather   happiness  
" On the ball "
Meaning:
With a good understanding of a situation and a readiness to act.
Example:
I gave him the predicted profits and he immediately knew they were wrong and sold the stock. He was really on the ball financially.
Where did it originate?:
USA. Deriving from the expression 'keep your eye on the ball'.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   excellence  
" On the fence "
Meaning:
Unwilling to give one's view about which side you support.
Example:
Increase taxes or reduce spending. Who knows? I'm sitting on the fence on that one.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   conflict  
" On the record "
Meaning:
Something said in confidence that the one speaking is happy to have repeated.
Example:
As finance minister I'm on the record as supporting increased spending on welfare, and you can quote me on that.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   language   business  
" Out of sight "
Meaning:
Still used with its literal meaning of 'beyond the range of sight' but more commonly used in its hippie-era meaning of 'excellent; extraordinary'.
Example:
The other runners were good, but Usian Bolt was out of sight.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century coinage before being re-used in the 1960s.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   excellence  
" Paint the town red "
Meaning:
Go on a boisterous or exuberant spree
Example:
It's the last day of term and everyone wants to party. Why don't we paint the town red?
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, although considered rather old fashioned language
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More idioms about:   location   colour   excess  
" Pass the buck "
Meaning:
Avoid responsibility by giving it to someone else.
Example:
The government has been in power for six years now but every time there's a crisis they pass the buck and blame the previous administration.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 20th century. Later popularised by president Harry Truman.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   conflict  
" Peachy keen "
Meaning:
Excellent; wonderful.
Example:
Wow, that 20-year old whiskey is peachy keen..
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   fruit   excellence   slang  
" Pedal to the metal "
Meaning:
To go at full speed, when driving a vehicle.
Example:
Well never make it to the hospital in time at this speed. Put the pedal to the metal and hurry things up.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1970s
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   excess   travel  
" Peg out "
Meaning:
1. To die, especially to die of old age. 2. To complete a circuit of the board in the card game cribbage.
Example:
1. Gran had been bedridden for months and finally pegged out yesterday. 2. Just six more holes to go - if I get three nines I'll be able to peg out.
Where did it originate?:
1. USA, mid 19th century. 2. Britain, mid 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   death   sport  
" Phone it in "
Meaning:
Perform an act in an uncommitted disinterested manner.
Example:
John Goodman was so bored with his lead role in the Flintstones movie he virtually phoned in his performance.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
" Photo bomb "
Meaning:
Spoil a photograph by unexpectedly appearing in the picture and taking the attention away from the intended subject - usually as a prank.
Example:
Jack is so annoying. We were all posed for my graduation picture and he photobombed us wearing a pink cowboy hat.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 21st century.
Where is it used?:
A recent derivation, not yet taken up by the older generations.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   slang  
" Pig out "
Meaning:
To overeat in a slovenly manner.
Example:
I told the babysitters not to pig out but when we got back there were nine pizza boxes on the floor.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but mostly by the younger generations.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   animals   food   excess  
" Pipe down "
Meaning:
An instruction to shut-up or be quiet.
Example:
Okay kids, the lesson has started. Pipe down and I'll begin.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century. Probably deriving from an earlier British Navy source.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, if a little dated.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   language  
" Play safe "
Meaning:
Avoid risk.
Example:
We could have invested in that new stock but we decided to play safe and wait for a more secure place for our money.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   sport   risk  
" Play the field "
Meaning:
Indulge in a series of sexual relationships.
Example:
Jim has three girlfriends on the go at once. He's always played the field but that's a bit much.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   sex  
" Potty mouth "
Meaning:
A foul mouthed person.
Example:
I couldn't believe that string of swearwords that Jill gave the teacher - she's a real potty mouth.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but not particularly common.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   language   the_human_body  
" Pull the plug "
Meaning:
Bring something to an end.
Example:
The new government prefer to spend on defence. They've pulled the plug on all new welfare spending.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 20th century. The allusion was to pulling an electrical plug out of its socket.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   technology  
" Pull the wool over someones eyes "
Meaning:
Deceive someone.
Example:
He convinced us all that he was going straight, then the police found him with ten stolen watches. He really pulled the wool over our eyes.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   the_human_body  
" Pulling your leg "
Meaning:
Tricking someone as a joke.
Example:
You believed her when she said she was the Queen's cousin? I think she was pulling your leg mate.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   trickery   the_human_body  
" Quality time "
Meaning:
Time spent with a child, spouse or friend in an uninterrupted and attentive way.
Example:
I've been working 12 hours a day this week and haven't been home once for the toddler's bedtime. This weekend I'm going to give them some quality time and take them to the zoo
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   family   happiness  
" Rest up "
Meaning:
Take a break from one's efforts.
Example:
You did well to get this far in the marathon before collapsing. Rest up now and wait for the paramedics to get here.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   relaxation  
" Revenge porn "
Meaning:
The malicious posting of sexual images online to harm the reputation of an ex partner.
Example:
After she ended it he posted some really nasty pictures of her from when they were together. No other words for it than revenge porn.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but not amongst the older generations.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   sex   conflict  
" Riding shotgun "
Meaning:
Riding in the front passenger seat of a car.
Example:
I prefer to drive but since my drink conviction I have to ride shotgun.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid 20th century. Initially heard in the dialogue of cowboy films.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   travel  
" Sad ass "
Meaning:
A reference to an inept or undesirable person or thing.
Example:
Since the coal mines and steelworks have closed many places in the Rust Belt have become real sad-ass towns.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mainly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   slang   failure  
" Shoot straight "
Meaning:
To talk or deal honestly.
Example:
I've worked with Jabril for twenty years and never had reason to doubt his word. He's a real straight-shooter.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1930s.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
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More idioms about:   honesty  
" Shovel ready "
Meaning:
A building project in which all the preliminaries have been arranged.
Example:
Planning consent is done. The site is cleared. The project is shovel ready.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA and Britain.
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More idioms about:   building  
" Silver bullet "
Meaning:
A simple and seeming effortless solution to a difficult problem.
Example:
We are thousands in debt. That loan seemed to be the silver bullet that would sort out our problems, but it really wasn't.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1950s.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   colour  
" Silver surfer "
Meaning:
An older person who uses the World Wide Web.
Example:
Granny didn't want the iPad we bought her but since we showed her how to Skype the kids in Australia she's become a real silver surfer.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 20th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   colour   technology  
" Skid row "
Meaning:
The rundown area of a city inhabited by the destitute.
Example:
Lost my job, Jill left me, started drinking - pretty soon I was on skid row.
Where did it originate?:
USA, early 20th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but most common in the USA.
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More idioms about:   money  
" Spoiler alert "
Meaning:
Said, or printed, as a warning that the following will give away the ending or important plot development of a drama.
Example:
I've just been to see Shakespeare's Othello. Spoiler alert - Othello dies.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1980s.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, mostly by the young.
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More idioms about:   conflict  
" Straight from the horses mouth "
Meaning:
Heard from the authoritative source.
Example:
There's going to be an election in May. My sister is the Prime Ministers secretary so I got that straight from the horses mouth.
Where did it originate?:
Uncertain origin, probably 20th century USA.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   animals   honesty   luck   secrets  
" Suck it up "
Meaning:
Accept a bad situation.
Example:
Listen Jedd, it's over, Janine will never be coming back. Suck it up and move on.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century.
Where is it used?:
More common in the USA than elsewhere, but spreading Worldwide.
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More idioms about:   conflict  
" Take a raincheck "
Meaning:
An offer that is declined now but may be reconsidered later.
Example:
I can't go bowling tonight, I've work to finish, but I'll take a raincheck for next time.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 19th century. A reference to the tickets given at rained-off sports games to allow the customer to return at a later date.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
" That sucks "
Meaning:
1. An expression of sympathy. 2. Said of something that the speaker rates very lowly.
Example:
1. I heard that your child has leukaemia. That sucks - I'm so sorry. 2. His singing is out of tune and he just can't dance. The whole performance sucks.
Where did it originate?:
USA
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA, bit spreading Worldwide in recent years.
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More idioms about:   disgust   sympathy   slang  
" The Big Pond "
Meaning:
Nickname of the Atlantic Ocean between the UK and the USA.
Example:
London's getting boring - I'm planning to hop the big pond and have a weekend in New York.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1840s. Previously called, in both UK and USA as 'The Great Pond'.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA and Britain.
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More idioms about:   location   nature  
" The God Squad "
Meaning:
enthusiastic Christian believers.
Example:
Every friday we the doorbell goes and it's the Jehovah's Witnesses or some other god squad folks.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1960s
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   religion  
" The acid test "
Meaning:
1. A scientific test to distinguish between gold and base metals. 2. A conclusive test to determine the validity of a claim.
Example:
1. We found a mineral that looked valuable but it might be fools gold - we need to give it the acid test. 2. The acid test of the quality of a singer is to ask them to sing unaccompanied.
Where did it originate?:
USA, mid-19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   science  
" The heebie-jeebies "
Meaning:
A state of nervous anxiety or fear.
Example:
I didn't like staying in that old house overnight. The creaks and bumps gave me the heebie-jeebies.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 20th century. The origin isn't known but heebie-jeebie was formerly the name of a dance.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   medical   reduplication   dance  
" The icing on the cake "
Meaning:
Something that makes a good situation even better.
Example:
Winning the race was great. Getting a medal and a prize was the icing on the cake.
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   food   excellence  
" The tail wagging the dog "
Meaning:
A small and usually insignificant factor (or person) dominates over one that is normally more powerful and influential.
Example:
Even small countries like Estonia have a veto in European Union voting and can't be over-ruled. I'd call that the tail wagging the dog.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1870s.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   animals   slang  
" Throw the towel in "
Meaning:
Give up, especially to avoid further punishment when facing certain defeat.
Example:
AltaVista tried to hang on and compete with Google, but eventually they just couldn't compete and were forced to throw the towel in.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1910s. The allusion is to a boxing match where throwing the towel in indicates a concession
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   conflict   sport   household_items  
" Top banana "
Meaning:
The leading, most important, person in a group or organisation.
Example:
Russia is supposed to be a democracy but everyone knows Putin is top banana and what he says goes.
Where did it originate?:
USA. Derived from burlesque shows where the top comic was given a banana.
Where is it used?:
Mostly USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   fruit   business  
" Uncle Tom "
Meaning:
A derogatory term for a black man who is servile towards white men.
Example:
Randy never stands up for us blacks. In the old days we'd have called him an Uncle Tom - these days people call him a coconut (that is, brown on the outside but white on the inside).
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1920s. Derived from the name of the hero in the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but most common in the USA.
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More idioms about:   family   name  
" Up shit creek without a paddle "
Meaning:
In serious difficulty, with no hope of respite.
Example:
We were halfway across the Australian outback when we realised our water bottle had leaked. We really were up shit creek.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1890s. Note: Shit creek isn't a real place.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   nature   misfortune   slang  
" Wardrobe malfunction "
Meaning:
Referring to an item of clothing slipping out of place to expose part of the body.
Example:
Her top slipped down in front of the boys. She said it was a wardrobe malfunction but I think it was deliberate.
Where did it originate?:
USA. First said by Justin Timberlake to explain the inadvertent exposure of Janet Jackson's breast during the half-time show at the 2004 Super Bowl.
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   clothes   household_items   slang  
" Washed up "
Meaning:
1. Deposited on a beach by the tide. 2. Finished and failed, with no further chance of success.
Example:
1. Come and see, there's a shark washed up on the beach. 2. She used to be a great actress until she started on the booze. Now no one will hire her - she's all washed up.
Where did it originate?:
1. Britain, 17th century. 2. USA, 1920s.
Where is it used?:
1. Worldwide. 2. Mostly USA.
" Wild and woolly "
Meaning:
Uncultured and lawless.
Example:
If you are looking for entertainment that's wild and woolly, have you considered cage fighting?
Where did it originate?:
USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   excess  
" Work out "
Meaning:
1. Calculate using arithmetic. 2. Take exercise (also spelled 'workout').
Example:
1. We decided to share the bill for the taxi. My part worked out to four pounds. 2. I've joined the gym. My plan is to work out once a week.
Where did it originate?:
1. Britain, 16th century. 2. (As 'workout') USA, late 19th century.
Where is it used?:
Both forms used Worldwide.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   number   sport  
" You are what you eat "
Meaning:
What you eat affects you health.
Example:
Burgers every evening? That's not a good plan - don't you know you are what you eat?
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1920s.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   food   medical   adage  
" Your name is mud "
Meaning:
You are discredited or in disgrace. The very mention of your name produces scorn.
Example:
Since the hundreds of reports of his abuse of children, Jimmy Saville's name is mud in the UK.
Where did it originate?:
USA. The allusion is to Dr. Samuel Mudd, the man who was accused of the shooting of President Abraham Lincoln
Where is it used?:
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More idioms about:   name   disgust  
" Zip your lip "
Meaning:
Say nothing; keep your mouth shut. Often shortened to 'zip it'.
Example:
I saw Kevin put sneezing powder in the staff room but he told me to zip my lip about it or it would spoil the joke.
Where did it originate?:
USA, 1940s. Deriving from the allusion to closing a garment with a zipper.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but most common in the USA.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   the_human_body   cliche   clothes  

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