100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples

Let’s learn idioms + examples of how they are used!

Here are 100 common English idioms with meanings and example sentences:

1. A blessing in disguise

  • Meaning: Something that seems bad or unlucky at first but turns out to be good.
  • Example: Losing that job was a blessing in disguise because it pushed me to start my own business.

2. A dime a dozen

  • Meaning: Very common and easy to find.
  • Example: Those souvenir keychains are a dime a dozen at the tourist shops.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

“Those souvenir keychains are a dime a dozen.” = very common

3. All ears

  • Meaning: Fully listening and paying attention.
  • Example: Go ahead, I’m all ears. Tell me what’s been on your mind.

4. All in the same boat

  • Meaning: In the same situation or predicament.
  • Example: Everybody on staff got a pay cut – we’re all in the same boat.

5. Barking up the wrong tree

  • Meaning: Accusing or blaming the wrong person.
  • Example: If you think I took your book, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I haven’t seen it.

6. Beat around the bush

  • Meaning: Avoiding the main topic or being indirect.
  • Example: Stop beating around the bush and tell me why you didn’t show up to my birthday party.

7. Bite the bullet

  • Meaning: To face a difficult or unpleasant situation bravely.
  • Example: I have to bite the bullet and tell him the truth, even though it might hurt him.

8.Bury the hatchet

  • Meaning: To reconcile or make peace after a conflict.
  • Example: After years of not speaking to each other, they finally decided to bury the hatchet and become friends again.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

After years of not speaking, they finally decided to bury the hatchet.

9. By the skin of your teeth

  • Meaning: Just barely or narrowly escaping a difficult situation.
  • Example: I passed the exam by the skin of my teeth; I got the minimum required score.

10. Call it a day

  • Meaning: To stop working or to end an activity.
  • Example: We’ve been painting all afternoon; let’s call it a day and continue tomorrow.

11. Cold feet

  • Meaning: Feeling nervous or hesitant about doing something.
  • Example: I was going to ask her out, but I got cold feet at the last moment.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

“I was going to ask her out, but I got cold feet.” = got nervous and didn’t do it

12. Cost an arm and a leg

  • Meaning: To be very expensive.
  • Example: That luxury car must have cost him an arm and a leg.

13. Cry over spilled milk

  • Meaning: To worry or complain about something that has already happened and cannot be changed.
  • Example: Yes, we made a mistake, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk. Let’s focus on finding a solution.

14. Cut corners

  • Meaning: To do something quickly or take shortcuts, often sacrificing quality.
  • Example: Don’t cut corners on this project; it needs to be excellent to impress the new client.

15. Drive someone up the wall

  • Meaning: To irritate or annoy someone greatly.
  • Example: Her constant humming drives me up the wall; I can’t concentrate with that noise.

16. Silver lining

  • Meaning: something positive in a difficult situation.
  • Example: Losing my job was tough, but the silver lining was that I found a new career opportunity.

17. Face the music

  • Meaning: To confront the consequences of one’s actions.
  • Example: You made a mistake, and now you have to face the music and accept the criticism.

18. Get a taste of your own medicine

  • Meaning: Experience the same negative treatment you have given to others.
  • Example: After constantly making fun of others, he finally got a taste of his own medicine when they started teasing him.

19. Get the ball rolling

  • Meaning: To start a process or activity.
  • Example: Let’s get the ball rolling on this project and assign tasks to the team members.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

“get the ball rolling” = start a process

20. Give someone the benefit of the doubt

  • Meaning: To believe someone’s statement or excuse without being too suspicious.
  • Example: I don’t have any evidence, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and trust his explanation.

21. Go the extra mile

  • Meaning: To put in extra effort or do more than what is expected.
  • Example: If you want to succeed in this competitive industry, you need to go the extra mile.

22. Hit the nail on the head

  • Meaning: To identify or describe something accurately.
  • Example: She hit the nail on the head when she said that our team needs better communication.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

“hit the nail on the head” = say something exactly right

23. In the heat of the moment

  • Meaning: In a moment of intense emotion, when we act or speak impulsively without thinking.
  • Example: I didn’t mean to say those hurtful words; I said them in the heat of the moment.

24. It’s a piece of cake

  • Meaning: Something is very easy or simple to do.
  • Example: Don’t worry about the test; it’s a piece of cake. You’ll do fine.

25. Keep your chin up

  • Meaning: To remain positive and optimistic during difficult times.
  • Example: Even though he faced many rejections, he kept his chin up and continued to pursue his dream.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

“keep your chin up” = stay positive even in a difficult situation

26. Kill two birds with one stone

  • Meaning: Accomplish two things at the same time with a single action.
  • Example: By taking the train instead of driving, she kills two birds with one stone – saves money and helps the environment.

27. Let the cat out of the bag

  • Meaning: To reveal a secret or confidential information.
  • Example: She accidentally let the cat out of the bag and spoiled the surprise party.

28. Like a fish out of water

  • Meaning: Feeling uncomfortable or out of place in a particular situation.
  • Example: As a city person, I feel like a fish out of water when I visit rural areas.

29. Make a long story short

  • Meaning: To give a brief summary or conclusion.
  • Example: He rambled on about his trip, but to make a long story short, he had an amazing time.

30. Miss the boat

  • Meaning: To miss an opportunity or chance.
  • Example: I didn’t apply for the scholarship on time, so I missed the boat.

31. Not my cup of tea

  • Meaning: Something that is not to your liking or preference.
  • Example: I tried skiing, but it’s not my cup of tea – I don’t enjoy the cold.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

It’s not my cup of tea = I don’t like it

32. On cloud nine

  • Meaning: Feeling extremely happy or joyful.
  • Example: When she got the job offer, she was on cloud nine; it was her dream job.

33. Once in a blue moon

  • Meaning: Happens very rarely.
  • Example: We eat at home most of the time; we go to restaurants once in a blue moon – for special occasions.

34. Out of the blue

  • Meaning: Unexpectedly or without any warning.
  • Example: I hadn’t spoken to her in years, and then out of the blue, she called me yesterday.

35. Over the moon

  • Meaning: Delighted or extremely happy.
  • Example: She was over the moon when she received her acceptance letter from the university.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Over the moon = extremely happy

36. Pull someone’s leg

  • Meaning: To tease or joke with someone.
  • Example: He’s just pulling your leg; he doesn’t really mean what he said.

37. Put the cart before the horse

  • Meaning: Doing things in the wrong order.
  • Example: You’re putting the cart before the horse by buying furniture before finding a place to live.

38. Raining cats and dogs

  • Meaning: Raining heavily.
  • Example: We can’t go outside; it’s raining cats and dogs.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Raining cats and dogs = raining very heavily

39. Not ring a bell

  • Meaning: Not sound familiar or trigger a vague memory.
  • Example: I don’t think I know him – his name doesn’t ring a bell.

40. Rule of thumb

  • Meaning: A general principle or guideline.
  • Example: As a rule of thumb, it’s better to arrive early for meetings.

41. Shoot yourself in the foot

  • Meaning: To do something that harms oneself unintentionally.
  • Example: He shot himself in the foot by quitting his job without having another one lined up.

42. On the fence

  • Meaning: To remain neutral or undecided in a dispute or issue.
  • Example: I can’t decide which car to buy, so I’m on the fence for now.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Sitting on the fence = undecided

43. Skeletons in the closet

  • Meaning: Hidden or embarrassing secrets from the past.
  • Example: The journalist investigated the famous singer, trying to find some skeletons in the closet.

44. Take a rain check

  • Meaning: To postpone or reschedule a plan or invitation.
  • Example: I’m sorry, I can’t make it to the concert tonight. Can I take a rain check?

45. The ball is in your court

  • Meaning: It’s your turn to take action or make a decision.
  • Example: I’ve given you all the information; now the ball is in your court.

46. The best of both worlds

  • Meaning: Enjoying the benefits of two different things at the same time.
  • Example: Working part-time allows me to have a career and spend time with my family. It’s the best of both worlds.

47. Show someone the ropes

  • Meaning: teach someone the details of a task or procedure
  • During my first week on the job, my co-workers showed me the ropes.

48. The whole nine yards

  • Meaning: Everything, or the full extent of something.
  • Example: I’ll make sure you have everything you need—equipment, resources, the whole nine yards.

49. Through thick and thin

  • Meaning: Supporting or being loyal to someone during good times and bad times.
  • Example: We’ve been friends for over 20 years, through thick and thin.

50. Throw in the towel

  • Meaning: To give up or surrender.
  • Example: After struggling with the homework for hours, he finally threw in the towel.

51. Turn a blind eye

  • Meaning: To ignore or pretend not to notice something.
  • Example: The teacher turned a blind eye to the students whispering during the exam.

52. Under the weather

  • Meaning: Feeling sick.
  • Example: I won’t be able to come to work today; I’m feeling under the weather.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Under the weather = Feeling sick

53. Off The Hook

  • Meaning: Freed from an obligation
  • Example: I was going to give a class on Saturday, but they found another teacher to do it, so I’m off the hook.

54. Up in the air

  • Meaning: Uncertain or not confirmed.
  • Example: The date for the meeting is still up in the air; we need to schedule it.

55. When it rains, it pours

  • Meaning: Bad things often happen in clusters or all at once.
  • Example: First, my car broke down, then I lost my wallet. When it rains, it pours!

56. Wrap your head around something

  • Meaning: To understand or comprehend something complex or difficult.
  • Example: It took me a while to wrap my head around the new software, but now I understand how to use it.

57. Throw someone for a loop

  • Meaning: Distract, confuse, or surprise someone suddenly.
  • Example: I think I answered all the questions in the job interview pretty well – except for the random one about my personal life. I wasn’t expecting it, so it threw me for a loop.

58. At the drop of a hat

  • Meaning: Immediately or without hesitation.
  • Example: He’s always ready to help at the drop of a hat.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

At the drop of a hat = immediately

59. At the end of your rope

  • Meaning: Completely annoyed, exhausted, or desperate, with no more patience or energy.
  • Example: After dealing with two disobedient kids all day, I was at the end of my rope. 

60. Pipe down!

  • Meaning: Be quiet!
  • Example: Hey kids, pipe down! This is a library and people are trying to study.

61. Cross that bridge when you come to it

  • Meaning: To deal with a problem or worry about something when it actually happens.
  • Example: I’m not sure what to do if I fail the test, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

62. Drop the ball

  • Meaning: To make a mistake or fail to do something properly.
  • Example: He dropped the ball by forgetting to send the important email on time.

63. Elephant in the room

  • Meaning: An obvious problem or issue that no one wants to address.
  • Example: We need to talk about the budget cuts; it’s the elephant in the room.

64. Get off on the wrong foot

  • Meaning: To start a relationship or situation poorly or with a misunderstanding.
  • Example: We got off on the wrong foot, but we can still work things out and improve our communication.

65. Go down in flames

  • Meaning: To fail spectacularly or experience a significant defeat or failure.
  • Example: Their new product launch went down in flames, and they lost a lot of money.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Go down in flames = Fail spectacularly

66. Go with the flow

  • Meaning: To adapt to a situation or accept things as they come.
  • Example: I don’t have a specific plan for the weekend; I’ll just go with the flow and see what happens.

67. Hang in there

  • Meaning: To persevere or keep going despite difficulties or challenges.
  • Example: I know it’s tough, but hang in there; things will get better.

68. In hot water

  • Meaning: In trouble or facing difficulties due to a mistake or wrongdoing.
  • Example: He found himself in hot water after missing an important deadline.

69. Jump on the bandwagon

  • Meaning: To join or support something that is currently popular or successful.
  • Example: Everyone is using that new social media platform, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon.

70. Kick the bucket

  • Meaning: Die (very informal)
  • Example: I’d love to visit Jamaica someday before I kick the bucket.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Kick the bucket = die (very informal/casual)

71. Swallow something hook, line, and sinker

  • Meaning: To believe something completely – usually something that is not true.
  • Example: When I got back late from the party, I told my mom I had been studying for a final exam at a friend’s house. She swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

72. Show your true colors

  • Meaning: Reveal the true nature of your character
  • Example: When things get stressful, that’s when people start to show their true colors

73. On thin ice

  • Meaning: In a dangerous situation.
  • Example: He’s on thin ice with his boss after making multiple mistakes.

74. Play it by ear

  • Meaning: To decide or act based on the situation as it develops, rather than having a fixed plan.
  • Example: We don’t have a specific itinerary; we’ll just play it by ear and see what we feel like doing.

75. Save your breath

  • Meaning: To stop wasting your time and effort saying things that won’t have any effect.
  • Example: Trying to convince him to change his mind is pointless; save your breath.

76. Steal the show

  • Meaning: To attract the most attention or praise.
  • Example: Her performance was incredible; she stole the show with her singing and dancing.

77. Take it with a grain of salt

  • Meaning: To receive/consider information with skepticism or doubt.
  • Example: I heard a rumor, but I took it with a grain of salt until I had more information.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Take it with a grain of salt = Not completely believe it

78. clear as mud

  • Meaning: information or communication is NOT clear at all.
  • Example: My friend tried to explain how to get to his house, but his directions were as clear as mud and we got lost.

79. jump the gun

  • Meaning: Do something too early, before the appropriate time
  • Example: She jumped the gun and announced the winner before the final results were officially declared.

80. get your wires crossed

  • Meaning: Have a miscommunication
  • Example: We must have gotten our wires crossed – I wanted you to come at 7 PM, not 7 AM.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Get your wires crossed = Have a miscommunication or misunderstanding

81. Throw caution to the wind

  • Meaning: To take a risk or act without considering the potential consequences.
  • Example: Despite her friends’ warnings, she decided to throw caution to the wind and quit her job to pursue her passion.

82. Lose your touch

  • Meaning: To lose the skill or ability that one once had.
  • Example: After years of not playing the piano, he realized he had lost his touch and struggled to play a simple melody.

83. Off the chain

  • Meaning: Refers to something that is exciting, exceptional, or out of control.
  • Example: The concert last night was off the chain! The energy in the crowd was unbelievable.

84. Eyeball it

  • Meaning: To estimate or measure something by using one’s judgment or visual assessment.
  • Example: We didn’t have a ruler, so we had to eyeball the length of the table and hope it would fit in the room.

85. Spice things up

  • Meaning: To add excitement or variety to a situation or relationship.
  • Example: Let’s try a new restaurant tonight to spice things up.

86. Bring home the bacon

  • Meaning: To earn a living or provide financial support for one’s family.
  • Example: She works two jobs to bring home the bacon and support her children.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Bring home the bacon = Earn money to support a family

87. Nip something in the bud

  • Meaning: To stop or prevent a problem or situation from developing further.
  • Example: My 5-year-old started telling lies; we had to discipline her to nip that habit in the bud.

88. The last straw

  • Meaning: The final event or action that makes a situation unbearable or prompts a strong reaction.
  • Example: When he forgot their anniversary, it was the last straw for her, and she decided to end the relationship.

89. A whole new ballgame

  • Meaning: A completely different situation or set of circumstances.
  • Example: We had to change our lifestyle after we had kids – it was a whole new ballgame.

90. Burn the midnight oil

  • Meaning: To work or study late into the night.
  • Example: I’m exhausted because I was burning the midnight oil yesterday.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Burn the midnight oil = Stay up very late, usually working or studying

91. Between a rock and a hard place

  • Meaning: Trapped in a difficult or impossible situation, having to choose between two unfavorable options.
  • Example: She was between a rock and a hard place when both job offers required her to relocate.

92. Play devil’s advocate

  • Meaning: Argue an opposing perspective in order to generate critical thinking or debate.
  • Example: I know everyone’s in favor of this plan, but let me play devil’s advocate – what will we do if it all goes wrong?

93. Put your foot in your mouth

  • Meaning: To say something embarrassing, inappropriate, or offensive by accident.
  • Example: I put my foot in my mouth when I asked her if she was pregnant, but she wasn’t.

94. Get a grip

  • Meaning: To regain control over one’s emotions or behavior.
  • Example: He needs to get a grip and stop letting his anger affect his relationships.

95. Piece of work

  • Meaning: Used to describe someone who is difficult, eccentric, or challenging to deal with.
  • Example: I love my cousin, but she’s a real piece of work – she gets offended over the slightest things.

96. Put someone on the spot

  • Meaning: To ask someone a difficult question or request an immediate response, often in a public or challenging situation.
  • Example: During the meeting, the boss put him on the spot by asking him to present his idea without any preparation.
100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English

Put someone on the spot = ask someone a difficult question in front of others

97. a night owl

  • Meaning: Someone who likes to stay up late.
  • Example: My son’s a night owl – he never goes to bed before 2 AM.

98. has seen better days

  • Meaning: Something is old and in not-so-great condition.
  • Example: I’ve had this car for over fifteen years… it’s seen better days.

99. get bent out of shape

  • Meaning: Become angry, upset or offended, especially about something which in your opinion doesn’t justify such a reaction.
  • Example: My roommate is a neat freak, and he gets bent out of shape if I leave a single spoon on the kitchen counter.

100. Play your cards right

  • Meaning: Use your resources in a way that leads to success.
  • Example: Your supervisor really likes you. If you play your cards right, you could get promoted soon.

Now you know 100 common idiomatic expressions and their meanings. I hope these idioms + examples are helpful!

You’ll learn lots more idioms & examples in my 300+ Idioms Course!

This course is an EFFECTIVE way to learn and practice common idiomatic expressions in the English language. It’s not just a list of idioms – instead, each lesson helps you learn the expressions more actively.

The lessons start by showing you examples of idioms in sentences, and you’ll try to guess what they mean from the context. Then, you can watch a video where I teach the idioms’ meanings. Next, try a quiz to see how well you remember the idiomatic expressions. Finally, there are short-answer questions to help you practice using these common idioms yourself – and you can get feedback and correction from an Espresso English teacher!

100 Idioms: Meanings & Examples Espresso English