Idioms title

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

"proverbial" idioms...

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

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

" A bad workman always blames his tools "
Meaning:
A proverb that suggests a poor workman tends to look for an excuse for his poor work.
Example:
It was really Andy’s fault that the wall he built fell down but he tried to claim that the cement mixer was faulty.
Where did it originate?:
The expression is found in British collections of proverbs from the 16th century.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but less commonly than 50 years ago.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   work   aphorism  
" A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush "
Meaning:
It’s better to have a lesser but certain advantage than the possibility of a greater one that may come to nothing.
Example:
The questions in the final round looked hard so we opted out of the big prize and took the smaller $2,000 second prize. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush you know.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
One of the most widely used proverbs throughout the English-speaking world.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   animals   nature   risk  
" A fool and his money are soon parted "
Meaning:
A foolish person is very likely to lose his money.
Example:
He’s off to the casino again - ’a fool and his money...’ I say.
Where did it originate?:
Britain - 16th century.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   money   stupidity   aphorism  
" A golden key can open any door "
Meaning:
Money always has a telling influence.
Example:
He’s not really good enough to be an F1 driver but he got in the team because he brought a major sponsorship deal with him. As they say, a golden key can open any door.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but somewhat uncommon.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   money   adage  
" A house divided against itself cannot stand "
Meaning:
Failure is certain if those on the same side argue amongst themselves.
Example:
The Tory party can’t stop arguing over Europe. Don’t they know that a house divided cannot stand.
Where did it originate?:
Biblical.
Where is it used?:
Widespread but uncommon. Rather formal for everyday speech.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   family   biblical   adage  
" A leopard can’t change his spots "
Meaning:
You cannot change your innate self.
Example:
He was a bully at school and he’s a bully now - a leopard can’t change its spots.
Where did it originate?:
Biblical.
Where is it used?:
Widespread but rather formal form of expression. Not widely used by the young.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   biblical   animals   habit  
" 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?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   location   america  
" Children should be seen and not heard "
Meaning:
Old proverb suggesting that children should not impinge on the adult world.
Example:
Grandma is a bit strict. We shouldn't judge her though - things were tougher in her childhood. She was expected to be seen and not heard.
Where did it originate?:
Where is it used?:
Rarely used seriously any longer. Now more likely be heard in black and white movies than in real life.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   childhood  
" 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?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   animals   cliche   america  
" Don't bite the hand that feeds you "
Meaning:
Don't hurt someone that helps you.
Example:
Shouting at the people who are offering you somewhere to stay isn't a good plan. Have you never heard of the proverb Don't bite the hand that feeds you?
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   the_human_body  
" Don't count your chickens before they hatch "
Meaning:
Don't count on receiving some benefit until you actually have it.
Example:
I know you felt good about that exam, but you haven't passed until you get the result - don't count your chickens.
Where did it originate?:
Britain, 16th century proverb.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   patience   luck   animals  
" Don't cry over spilt milk "
Meaning:
Don't fret pointlessly about some mistake or loss when it can't be remedied.
Example:
Well, the vase is smashed. There's no point crying over spilt milk.
Where did it originate?:
Britain, 17th century proverb.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   food   drink   cliche  
" Don't look a gift horse in the mouth "
Meaning:
When you receive a gift accept it with good grace and don't find fault with it.
Example:
I gave her a $700 phone and she said it wasn't the right colour. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth!
Where did it originate?:
Britain, 16th century proverb.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   animals  
" Don't put all your eggs in one basket "
Meaning:
Don't risk all your property on a single venture.
Example:
Well, that horse is a good runner but I wouldn't bet all your money on it to win. That would be putting all your eggs into one basket.
Where did it originate?:
Britain, 16th century proverb, from an Italian original.
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   food  
" 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?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   america  
" 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   america  
" Let bygones be bygones "
Meaning:
Allow a disagreement or argument to be put in the past.
Example:
I never thought I'd be saying this after you slept with my wife, but that was thirty years ago, let's let bygones be bygones.
Where did it originate?:
Britain, 16th century proverb
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   time  
" Let sleeping dogs lie "
Meaning:
Avoid restarting a conflict.
Example:
I knew he was stealing from me but, he is proud and he really needs the money. I preferred to let sleeping dogs lie and to say nothing.
Where did it originate?:
Britain. 19th century but much earlier as a similarly-worded proverb.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but like many proverbs, now considered rather old-fashioned.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   animals  
" You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink "
Meaning:
You can encourage someone to to do something but, in the end, what they do is their own choice.
Example:
I bought her a car; I even paid for the driving lessons, but she still travels everywhere by bus.
Where did it originate?:
Britain, 12th century. One of the oldest proverbs in the English language
Where is it used?:
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   animals  
" You can't teach an old dog new tricks "
Meaning:
Once animals (and people) are set in their ways they struggle to assimilate new ideas.
Example:
I tried to learn Mandarin after I retired but I got nowhere with it. I guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
Where did it originate?:
Britain, 16th century proverb. One of the oldest proverbs in English.
Where is it used?:
Worldwide, but like many proverbs, now mostly used by the older generation.
Hear the idiom spoken:
More idioms about:   animals   education  

 We are also on Facebook

 Copyright Gary Martin, 2018