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Popular English Idioms

When you’re learning the English language and are spending more time with native English speakers hearing these idioms and phrases will become quite common. Don’t be alarmed by them, even though some may sound odd, abnormal and even scary. Instead you can find out what they mean in this list of popular idioms, and even start using some of them yourself (in the correct context).

So what is an idiom?

Before we get started on the list of weird, wacky and wonderful idioms, here’s a brief explanation of what an idiom is. An idiom is a phrase which means something different than its literal definition or meaning. It is a form of figurative language, i.e a figure of speech.

For example to have a bun in the oven means being pregnant and doesn’t have anything to do with buns or ovens. (Its literal meaning).

idioms Meaning How To Use it In A Sentence
It cost an arm and a leg Referring to something that is costly or expensive.  Our honeymoon cost me an arm and leg.
Let sleeping dogs lie Leave something (usually negative) alone. Don’t meddle in their business. Let sleeping dogs lie.
Curiosity killed the cat Usually used as a warning to not get involved and to not meddle or be overly curious or inquisitive. Don’t eavesdrop on their conversation, curiosity killed the cat.
Kill two birds with one stone Do more things at one time. Multitask. When I go to the store I’ll get Jeff’s gift as well, and kill two birds with one stone.
Once in a blue moon Very rare, not common. Not occurring frequently. He only calls once in a blue moon, that’s why I don’t have his contact details on my phone.
Straight from the horses mouth Getting information from an authoritative source, or the origin of the story. You can take what I’m saying seriously I heard it straight from the horses mouth.
Take with a grain/pinch of salt Don’t take it to heart. Take what someone is saying lightly without taking offence. Jeff always says that, just take it with a pinch of salt
A picture is worth one thousand words Images or visuals are more descriptive than actual words. The skiing resort was breathtaking, let me show you the photos, as a picture is worth a thousand words.
Piece of cake Very easy. Not requiring any effort.  I completed my homework in a hour. It was a piece of cake!
 Axe to Grind Having a conflict with someone. I have an axe to grind with Jeff, he didn’t show up for the meeting
Stones throw away Very close. Nearby. The park is a stone throw away from my house.
When Pigs fly This refers to something that is never going to happen.  When pigs fly I’ll go on a date with you.
Cut from the same cloth Being similar to, having similar characteristics. This generally refers to people who are similar in nature. Jeff and Henry are cut from the same cloth.

 

A needle in a haystack Very rare, not easy to find. Finding a well paying job in this economy is like finding a needing in a haystack.
Don’t judge a book by its cover Don’t judge people or things based on their appearances. She’s not as naive as you think, so don’t judge a book by its cover.
 A feather in ones cap A great accomplishment Getting a doctorate in science is a feather in ones cap.
Wild Goose Chase Doing something that is pointless. Why did you send me on a wild goose chase? You knew I wouldn’t find it!
Good Samaritan Someone who is good natured and does good things for other people (usually someone you don’t know who does something unexpected). I would’ve been stranded when my car broke down if it hadn’t been for that good Samaritan.
Do it in my sleep A very easy task. Not requiring too much effort. I can complete that project in my sleep.
In the same boat Being in a similar circumstance. I’m sorry I can’t borrow you any money, but we’re all in the same boat.

 

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