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Top 100 Idioms in English with Their Meanings and Examples

Top 100 Idioms in English with Their Meanings and Examples

Have you ever come across quirky phrases in English movies or books that seem to have a hidden meaning? Those are idioms, and they are a fascinating part of the language. Understanding idioms can greatly improve your grasp of English. In this article, a list of popular English idioms, explain what they mean, and give you examples of how to use them. This will help you speak and write English more naturally and fluently. 

What are Idioms? 

Idioms are phrases or expressions that have a figurative meaning different from the literal meaning of individual words. They are commonly used in everyday language to convey ideas in a more interesting and vivid way. 

Why Use Idioms? 

Idioms are an essential part of the English language. They help to make communication more engaging and relatable. Using idioms can also show a strong command of the language and add color to your speech and writing. They can express complex ideas quickly and effectively, making your language more expressive and dynamic. 

The list of top 100 idioms with meaning and examples




Cry wolf 

To keep asking for help when you don't need it 

If you keep crying wolf, no one will believe you when you're really in trouble. 

Hit the pillow 

To go to bed after a long day 

After working late, I can't wait to hit the pillow. 

Pie in the sky 

Something good that is unlikely to happen 

Winning the lottery is just a pie in the sky dream. 

Cry over spilt milk 

To be upset about a bad thing that cannot be changed 

There's no use crying over spilt milk; let's move on and find a solution. 

A penny saved is a penny earned 

Saving money is just as important as making money 

He always saves a portion of his income because he believes a penny saved is a penny earned. 

Drink like a fish 

To drink excessive amounts of alcohol 

He needs to cut down on his drinking; he drinks like a fish. 

Acid test 

Something that proves the value of something else 

The acid test of a good product is how it performs in the real world. 

Bite your tongue 

To stop yourself from saying something you really want to say 

She had to bite her tongue to avoid arguing with her boss. 

Put all your eggs in one basket 

To depend on one resource for success 

Investing all your money in one stock is like putting all your eggs in one basket. 

Every rose has its thorn 

Every good thing has some bad aspects 

He has a great job, but he works long hours; every rose has its thorn. 

As cool as a cucumber 

Very relaxed and calm 

Despite the pressure, she remained as cool as a cucumber during the presentation. 

Head in the clouds 

Dreamy and unaware of what is going on around you 

He always has his head in the clouds, thinking about his next big idea. 

Monkey on your back 

A difficult problem or burden 

Debt can be a real monkey on your back if you don't manage it properly. 

Hard nut to crack 

A difficult problem or person 

Negotiating with him is tough; he's a hard nut to crack. 

Have a bun in the oven 

To be pregnant 

She just announced that she has a bun in the oven. 

Have a heart of gold 

To be very kind and generous 

She always helps those in need; she has a heart of gold. 

In the red 

Losing money or being in debt 

After the poor sales quarter, the company is in the red. 

Like a bat out of hell 

Moving very quickly and wildly 

When the fire alarm went off, they ran out of the building like a bat out of hell. 

Kill two birds with one stone 

To solve two goals with one action 

By carpooling to work, we can save money on gas and reduce our carbon footprint, killing two birds with one stone. 

Ants in one's pants 

To be unable to stay still due to excitement 

The kids had ants in their pants waiting for the birthday party to start. 

Elephant in the room 

An obvious problem that no one wants to discuss 

Everyone knew about the budget issues, but it was the elephant in the room during the meeting. 


An original idea or invention 

The new software is the brainchild of our lead developer. 

Hold your horses 

To wait a moment or be patient 

Hold your horses, we need to think this through before making a decision. 

Fish out of water 

Someone who is in an uncomfortable situation 

He felt like a fish out of water at his new job. 

Busy as a bee 

Someone who is extremely busy 

She's busy as a bee with all her volunteer work. 

The cat's pajamas 

Something that is outstanding or excellent 

Her new car is the cat's pajamas. 

Let the cat out of the bag 

To reveal a secret 

She let the cat out of the bag about the surprise party. 

Wild goose chase 

Doing something that is pointless 

Trying to find that rare book without a title was a wild goose chase. 

Like a moth to a flame 

Attracted to something that is dangerous 

He was drawn to the risky investment like a moth to a flame. 

A bull in a China shop 

Someone who is clumsy and upsets other people or plans 

He handled the negotiations like a bull in a China shop. 

Straight from the horse's mouth 

Directly from the original source 

I heard the news straight from the horse's mouth. 


Someone who notices everything 

With her eagle-eyed attention to detail, she spotted the error immediately. 

Lion's share 

The largest part or most of something 

He took the lion's share of the credit for the project. 

A wolf in sheep's clothing 

Someone who pretends to be good but is actually bad 

Be careful of him; he's a wolf in sheep's clothing. 

Snake in the grass 

An untrustworthy person 

Watch out for her; she's a snake in the grass. 

Bite the bullet 

To endure something difficult 

He had to bite the bullet and accept the lower-paying job. 

Beat around the bush 

To avoid getting to the point 

Stop beating around the bush and tell me what happened. 

Add fuel to the fire 

To make a bad situation worse 

His comments only added fuel to the fire. 

All ears 

Listening intently 

Tell me the story, I'm all ears. 

All in the same boat 

Everyone is facing the same challenges 

We're all in the same boat, so let's support each other. 

At the drop of a hat 

Immediately, without any hesitation 

She would help you at the drop of a hat. 

Barking up the wrong tree 

Making a false assumption 

If you think I'm responsible for the mistake, you're barking up the wrong tree. 

Bend over backwards 

Try very hard to help someone 

He bent over backwards to make sure we were comfortable. 

Between a rock and a hard place 

Facing two difficult choices 

I'm between a rock and a hard place with this decision. 

Blow off steam 

To release pent-up emotions 

After a long day at work, I need to blow off some steam at the gym. 

Break a leg 

Good luck 

Break a leg at your performance tonight! 

Burn bridges 

To destroy relationships 

Be careful not to burn bridges when you leave your job. 

Burn the candle at both ends 

To overwork yourself 

She's been burning the candle at both ends studying for her exams. 

By and large 

Generally speaking 

By and large, the event was a success. 

Call it a night 

To stop working for the night 

I'm exhausted; let's call it a night. 

Calm before the storm 

A quiet period before chaos 

The office was unusually quiet, the calm before the storm. 

Cross that bridge when you come to it 

Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary 

We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

Devil's in the details 

Small things in plans that are often overlooked 

The plan looks good, but the devil's in the details. 

Don't count your chickens before they hatch 

Don't assume something will happen before it does 

Don't count your chickens before they hatch; wait until you get the official offer. 

Every dog has its day 

Everyone gets a chance eventually 

Don't worry, every dog has its day. 

Find your feet 

To become comfortable in what you are doing 

It took a few weeks, but I finally found my feet at the new job. 

Fit as a fiddle 

In good health 

Even at 80, she's as fit as a fiddle. 

Flash in the pan 

Something that is only temporarily successful 

His success was just a flash in the pan. 

Get a second wind 

To have a burst of energy after tiring 

After the break, she got a second wind and finished the race. 

Get cold feet 

To become nervous 

He got cold feet and canceled the wedding. 

Get your act together 

To start acting in a more organized or effective way 

You need to get your act together if you want to succeed. 

Give someone the benefit of the doubt 

To believe someone even though it may not seem true 

I gave her the benefit of the doubt despite the rumors. 

Go back to the drawing board 

To start over 

The project failed, so we need to go back to the drawing board. 

Go down in flames 

To fail spectacularly 

The company went down in flames after the scandal. 

Go on a wild goose chase 

To pursue something that is unattainable 

Searching for the missing file was like going on a wild goose chase. 

Hang in there 

To persevere 

Hang in there; things will get better. 

Hit the nail on the head 

To be exactly correct about something 

You hit the nail on the head with your analysis. 

Hit the road 

To leave 

We need to hit the road if we want to make it on time. 

Jump the gun 

To start too soon 

He jumped the gun and submitted the report before it was finished. 

Keep an eye on 

To watch someone or something carefully 

Can you keep an eye on the baby while I cook dinner? 

Leave no stone unturned 

To look everywhere 

We need to leave no stone unturned in our search for the missing child. 

Make ends meet 

To manage on a given income 

They struggle to make ends meet on a single income. 

Make the best of a bad situation 

To deal with a difficult situation as best as possible 

Even though we missed our flight, we made the best of a bad situation by exploring the city. 

Off the top of your head 

Without thinking too much 

I can't give you the exact number off the top of my head. 

On the fence 


He's on the fence about whether to accept the new job offer. 

Pull a rabbit out of a hat 

To do something surprising and seemingly impossible 

She pulled a rabbit out of a hat by finding a solution at the last minute. 

Pull yourself together 

To calm down and behave normally 

You need to pull yourself together and face the situation. 

Put a sock in it 

To tell someone to be quiet 

He told his noisy neighbor to put a sock in it. 

Raining cats and dogs 

Raining very heavily 

It was raining cats and dogs, so we stayed inside. 

Rock the boat 

To do something that causes problems 

Don't rock the boat; we need to keep things stable for now. 

See which way the wind blows 

To consider a situation before making a decision 

Let's see which way the wind blows before finalizing our plans. 

Sit tight 

To wait patiently 

We'll sit tight and wait for the results. 

Smell a rat 

To suspect something is wrong 

I smell a rat; this deal seems too good to be true. 

Snowed under 

Overwhelmed with work 

I'm completely snowed under with deadlines this week. 

Stab someone in the back 

To betray someone 

He stabbed his friend in the back by revealing his secret. 

Take the bull by the horns 

To face a challenge directly 

She took the bull by the horns and confronted her boss about the issue. 

Taste of your own medicine 

When you experience something bad that you have done to others 

He got a taste of his own medicine when his prank backfired. 

The best of both worlds 

A situation in which you can enjoy the advantages of two very different things at the same time 

Working from home offers the best of both worlds: flexibility and comfort. 

The bottom line 

The most important aspect 

The bottom line is that we need to increase sales to stay profitable. 

The last straw 

The final problem in a series 

Losing his job was the last straw; he decided to move back home. 

The whole nine yards 

Everything possible or available 

They went the whole nine yards to make sure the event was perfect. 

Throw in the towel 

To give up 

After months of trying to fix the problem, he finally threw in the towel. 

Up in the air 


Our vacation plans are still up in the air due to the pandemic. 

Water under the bridge 

Past events that are no longer considered important 

We had our differences, but that's water under the bridge now. 

Wear your heart on your sleeve 

To openly show your emotions 

He's not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. 

When pigs fly 

Something that will never happen 

He'll apologize when pigs fly. 

Wrap your head around 

To understand something complicated 

It took me a while to wrap my head around the new system. 

Now, discover some of the most common and amusing idioms featured in various movies, TV series, and books. 

  1. Break the ice 
    Movie: Titanic 
    Example: Jack wins a ticket to board the Titanic, and his lively personality helps him break the ice with fellow passengers. 
  2. Bite the bullet 
    TV Series: Breaking Bad 
    Example: In a pivotal scene, Jesse decides to bite the bullet and confront his past mistakes. 
  3. A piece of cake 
    TV Series: Friends 
    Example: Joey claims that acting is a piece of cake for him. 
  4. Spill the beans 
    Book: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling 
    Example: Hagrid inadvertently spills the beans about the secret chamber at Hogwarts. 
  5. Hit the nail on the head 
    Movie: The Pursuit of Happiness 
    Example: Chris Gardner hits the nail on the head when he identifies the root cause of his struggles and works towards solving it. 
  6. Under the weather 
    TV Series: Grey's Anatomy 
    Example: Dr. Meredith Grey often works through being under the weather, showing her dedication to her patients. 
  7. Cut to the chase 
    Movie: Inception 
    Example: To keep the audience engaged, the film often cuts to the chase, diving straight into the action-packed dream sequences. 
  8. Let the cat out of the bag 
    Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 
    Example: Scout accidentally lets the cat out of the bag about her father's role in defending Tom Robinson. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Idioms 

1. What is an idiom? 
An idiom is a phrase or expression whose meaning is different from the literal meanings of the individual words. For example, "kick the bucket" means "to die," which is not apparent from the meanings of "kick" and "bucket." 

2. Why are idioms used in English? 
Idioms add color and expressiveness to the language. They can convey complex ideas in a simple, relatable way and often reflect cultural nuances. Using idioms can make speech and writing more engaging and lively. 

3. How can I learn idioms effectively? 
To learn idioms effectively, immerse yourself in English content such as books, movies, TV shows, and newspapers. Take note of idioms you come across, understand their meanings, and practice using them in sentences. Additionally, language apps and learning platforms like Typezap can be valuable resources 

4. Are idioms used in formal writing? 
Idioms are generally used in informal writing and speech. They can add a conversational tone to your writing. However, they are usually avoided in formal writing, such as academic papers or professional reports, where clarity and precision are more important. 

5. Can idioms be translated into other languages? 
Idioms often do not translate well into other languages because their meanings are not literal. Instead, try to find equivalent idioms in the target language that convey the same idea or emotion. 

6. Do native English speakers use idioms frequently? 
Yes, native English speakers commonly use idioms in everyday conversation. They are a natural part of the language and can be heard in various contexts, from casual chats to media and literature. 

7. What are some examples of common English idioms? 
Some common English idioms include "break the ice" (to start a conversation), "hit the nail on the head" (to be exactly correct), and "let the cat out of the bag" (to reveal a secret). 

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