Idioms title

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

Full list of idioms

A bad break

A bad hair day

A bad workman always blames his tools

A big ask

A bigger bang for your buck

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

A bite to eat

A blessing in disguise

A bull and cow

A bunch of fives

A chip on your shoulder

A diamond in the rough

A dime a dozen

A doubting Thomas

A drop in the bucket

A fate worse than death

A feather in one's cap

A fish out of water

A flash in the pan

A fly in the ointment

A fly on the wall

A fool and his money are soon parted

A fool's paradise

A foot in the door

A golden key can open any door

A hot potato

A house divided against itself cannot stand

A knight in shining armour

A leopard can't change his spots

A little bird told me

A load of cobblers

A load of codswallop

A lot on your plate

A man after my own heart

A miss is as good as a mile

A penny for your thoughts

A penny saved is a penny earned

A picture paints a thousand words

A piece of cake

A pig in a poke

A place in the sun

A red rag to a bull

A safe pair of hands

A sea change

A sight for sore eyes

A skeleton in the closet

A shot in the arm

A slap on the wrist

A sledgehammer to crack a nut

A sorry sight

A stitch in time saves nine

A stone's throw

A taste of your own medicine

A thorn in my flesh

A toss up

A wolf in sheep's clothing

About face

About time

Absence makes the heart grow fonder


Ace in the hole

Achilles' heel

Across the board

Act your age

Actions speak louder than words

Adam's ale

Add fuel to the fire

Add insult to injury

Against the clock

Ain't my first rodeo

Al fresco

Al desko

All at sea

All kidding aside

All bark and no bite

All Greek to me

All in all

All in a day's work

All set

All the way

All thumbs

All together now

Alley cat

Alpha Mom

Alphabet soup

Amber nectar

Amped up

An act of God

An arm and a leg

An axe to grind

An open and shut case

Ankle biter

Apples and pears

As high as a kite

At the drop of a hat

Away with the fairies

Baby brain

Baby bump

Baby snatcher

Back seat driver

Back to square one

Back to the drawing board

Bag lady

Baker's dozen

Barking up the wrong tree

Barnet Fair

Basket case

Bat from the pavilion end

Be a sport

Be glad to see the back of

Beach bum

Bean counter

Beat around the bush

Beauty contest / Beauty parade

Bedroom tax

Bells and whistles

Bend over backwards

Between a rock and a hard place

Between the wars

Beyond price

Big fish in a small pond

Binge watch

Bite off more than you can chew

Bite the dust

Bite your tongue

Blood blister

Blood is thicker than water

Blow a raspberry

Blue plate special

Boat race

Bottle and glass

Bought the farm

Brahms and Lizst

Brass monkey weather

Brass tacks

Break a leg

Breast is best

Bricks and mortar

Brighton Pier

Bring your A game

Brown bread

Brown out

Brum brum

Bucket list

Burn the midnight oil

Bust a move

Buy a lemon

Calendar year

Can't cut the mustard

Canteen culture

Carbon footprint

Carpe diem

Cast iron stomach

Cat got your tongue?

Caught between two stools

Caught by the short hairs (or short and curlies)

Chaise Lounge

Charley horse

Chasing tail

Cheek by jowl

Chicken feed

Cherry ripe

Chew someone out

Children should be seen and not heard

China plate

Chow down

City bike

Click bait

Close but no cigar

Cloud cuckoo land

**** and bull story

Code monkey

Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey

Come hell or high water

Comfort women

Company man

Cop an attitude

Corduroy road

Country house hotel

Crack someone up

Cream crackered

Cross that bridge when you come to it

Cross your fingers

Crunch time

Cry wolf

Curiosity killed the cat

Currant bun

Cut corners

Cut to the chase

Daily grind

Daisy roots

Date rape

Day surgery

Daylight saving time

Dead ringer

Dead white European male

Designated driver

Dial down

Dicky Dirt

Discussing Uganda

Dog and bone

Dog days of summer

Donkey's years

Don't bite the hand that feeds you

Don't count your chickens before they hatch

Don't cry over spilt milk

Don't give up the day job

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

Don't put all your eggs in one basket

Double denim

Double header

Down to the wire

Dressed to the nines

Drink like a fish

Drive someone up the wall

Dropping like flies

Dry run

Duvet day

Ear popping


Eighty six

Elbow grease

Elephant's trunk

Elvis has left the building

Enhanced interrogation techniques

Ethnic cleansing

Every cloud has a silver lining

Everything but the kitchen sink

Evil twin

Excuse my French

Eyebrow raising

Face card

Face the music

Factory farming

Fairytale ending

Far cry from

Feeding frenzy

Fell off the back of a lorry

Field day


Find your feet

Fire the imagination

First among equals

First footing

First World problem

First World

Fixed in your ways

Flea market

Flea pit

Flesh and blood

Flip the bird

Flog a dead horse

Flotsam and jetsam

Foam at the mouth

Food fight

Fools' gold

Frock up

Frog and toad


Full monty

Full of bull

Funny farm

Gee gee

Gender bender

George Raft

Get a gold star

Get down to brass tacks

Get off on the wrong foot

Get on board

Get out of hand

Get out of the wrong side of the bed

Get over it

Get your head around

Ginger Beer

Give him an inch and he'll take a mile

Give the benefit of the doubt

Give the slip

Glass ceiling

Gnat's bollock

Go belly up

Go for broke

Go out on a limb

Go the extra mile

Going to hell in a handbasket

Good Samaritan

Graveyard shift

Greasy spoon

Great minds think alike

Great scot

Gregory Peck

Gut feeling

Had a good war

Hair of the dog

Half inch

Happy sad

Harry spankers

Has the cat got your tongue?

Haste makes waste

Hat trick

Have a blast

Have a Captain Cook

He makes my flesh (or skin) crawl (or creep)

Head over heels

Hear it on the grapevine


Hell bent

Help yourself

Hidden in plain sight

High and mighty

High on the hog

High season

Hit the books

Hit the hay

Hit the nail on the head

Hit the sack

Hobson's choice

Hocus pocus

Hold your horses

I can't be doing with it

I can't think straight

I'm good to go

If it's not one thing, it's another

In cahoots with

In a nutshell

In like Flynn

In limbo

In the bag

In the buff

In the heat of the moment

In the same boat

In your face

Inside job

It never rains but it pours

It takes two to tango

It's a small world

It's all gone Pete Tong

It's not rocket science

Ivy league

Jack Palancing

Jam jar

Jelly belly

Jimmy Riddle

Joshing me

Jump on the bandwagon

Jump the shark

Just deserts

Keep an eye on

Keep at bay

Keep body and soul together

Keep your chin up

Khyber pass

Kick the bucket

Kill two birds with one stone

Knee jerk reaction


Knock on wood

Know the ropes

Lame duck

Last but not least

Last straw

Lend me your ear

Let bygones be bygones

Let sleeping dogs lie

Let the cat out of the bag

Let your hair down

Let's rewind

Level playing field

Like a chicken with its head cut off

Link rot

Link farm

Liquor someone up

Little devil!

Little fish in a big pond

Loaf of bread

Long in the tooth

Loose cannon

Lord Fred

Lose your head

Lose your touch

Magic mushroom

Make a scene

Make no bones about

Man cave

Many happy returns

Mate's rates

Mea culpa

Mellow yellow

Men in suits

Method to my madness

Mince pies

Mind your language

Miss the boat

Mrs. Mop

Mumbo jumbo

Mum's the word

Mutt and Jeff

My old china

My old Dutch

Nail it

Nest egg

Never-never land

New arrival

New kid on the block

New York minute

Nine to five

Nip slip


No dice

No room to swing a cat

No rush

No saint

No spring chicken

Nose around

North and south

Not all there

Not playing with a full deck

Off one's rocker

Off the hook

Off the record

Old chestnut

On a hiding to nothing

On a wing and a prayer

On cloud nine

On the ball

On the fence

On the record

On the same page

On your Tod

Once in a blue moon

Open warfare

Out of sight

Out of the blue

Out on the town

Over my dead body

Over the top

Paint the town red

Partner up

Pass the buck

Pedal to the metal

Peachy keen

Peeping Tom

Peg out

Pen and ink

Perfect pitch

Phone it in

Photo bomb

Pig out

Pig's ear

Pigs might fly

Pipe down

Plates of meat

Play Devil's advocate

Play the field

Play safe

Pommy bashing

Porky pies

Potatoes (or taters) in the mould

Potty mouth

Practice makes perfect

Prick up your ears

Pull the plug

Pull the wool over someone's eyes

Pull your horns in

Pulling your leg

Put a sock in it

Quality time

Queer street

Queer the pitch

Rabbit and pork

Rags to riches

Raining cats and dogs

Red letter day

Red tape

Rest up

Riding shotgun

Ring fencing

Rise and shine

Rome was not built in one day

Rosie Lea

Ruby Murray

Rule of thumb

Run out of steam


Salad days

Saved by the bell

Scarper Flow


Scrape together

Scrub up

See eye to eye

Sexton Blake

Shoot down in flames

Shoot straight

Shoot through

Shovel ready

Side boob

Silver bullet

Silver fox

Silver surfer

Silver threads amongst the gold

Silver tongued

Sit tight

Sixth sense

Skid row

Smell a rat

Smell something fishy

Sniff test

Son of a gun

Sparrow fart

Spitting image

Spoiler alert

Stab in the back

Steal someone's thunder

Step up to the mark

Stitch up

Straight from the horse's mouth

Stranger things have happened

Suck it up

Swing by

Swipe right

Syrup of figs

Take a butchers

Take a raincheck

Take with a grain of salt

Talk of the devil!

Tea leaf

That Friday feeling

That sucks

The acid test

The apple of my eye

The author of your own misfortune

The ball is in your court

The best of both worlds

The best thing since sliced bread

The Big Pond

The bull in the bowler hat

The empty chair

The fog of war

The glorious twelfth

The hair of the dog

The heebie-jeebies

The God Squad

The icing on the cake

The last straw

The nitty-gritty

The sound of leather on willow

The tail is wagging the dog

The town bike

The whole nine yards

The wheels have come off

Third time lucky

Third time's a charm

Throw the towel in

Tie the knot

Til the cows come home

Titfer tat

To cut a long story short

Tongue in cheek

Top banana

Tour de force


Trouble and strife

Turn a blind eye

Twist someone's arm

Twenty three skidoo

Two and eight

Uncle Dick

Uncle Tom

Under the weather

Unlucky in love

Up a blind alley

Up the creek without a paddle

Ups a daisy

Us versus them

Use your loaf

Van Gogh's ear for music

Variety is the spice of life

Vatican roulette

Wardrobe malfunction

Washed up

Water under the bridge

Wear your heart on your sleeve

Well hung

Wet behind the ears

Where there's muck there's brass

Whipper snapper

Whistle and flute

White elephant

Wild and woolly

Wind someone up

Wine and dine

Winter drawers on

Work out

Word for word

Worse for wear

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Wouldn't be caught dead

X marks the spot

Yarn bombing

Yellow belly

You are what you eat

You can lead a horse to water

You can't judge a book by its cover

You can't teach and old dog new tricks

You can't take it with you

Your guess is as good as mine

Your name is mud

Your number is up

Zip your lip

© Gary Martin