This tag is for questions seeking an idiom that fits a meaning. If you're also seeking a phrase, see the "phrase-requests" tag too.

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74
votes
28answers
32k views

Idiom or word for a very crowded place

There is a popular idiom in Russian for describing a really crowded place: "(there's) no room for an apple to fall" ("яблоку негде упасть"). I struggle to think of anything similar in English, and ...
5
votes
13answers
15k views

Is there an idiom for people who boast too much?

I am looking for idioms or informal/slang/colloquial expression for some people that make you think that they are able of building a skyscraper, constructing a spaceship, playing the piano better than ...
26
votes
15answers
5k views

Is there a word/idiom for someone who thinks long and hard before spending money?

My colleague and I were discussing about certain types of customers in the IT industry. You have to work extremely hard to convince them so that they think about opening their wallets . However, they ...
41
votes
18answers
5k views

English equivalent for the Persian proverb “The mountain just gave birth to a mouse”

I'm looking for an idiom or expression to describe a well-known person/ organization/ politician/ government whose achievements in a given situation are smaller than what they had claimed or promised ...
24
votes
15answers
12k views

Idioms that mean making decision between two good options

I am looking for expressions that mean "to decide between two good options." For example, you have to choose between getting a car that you like or a super car that's very expensive but you are not ...
15
votes
7answers
2k views

Gender-neutral equivalent for “Take it like a man”

I'd like to find some gender-neutral equivalents of the phrase Take it like a man I'm not looking only for existing phrases -- any interesting ideas for expressing the sentiment "be tough", ...
8
votes
7answers
836 views

What are “good men that do nothing” called?

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -Edmund Burke Is there an idiom, phrase or preferably a single word that we can call people that could have helped ...
5
votes
6answers
4k views

What is the idiom for “as anyone can see” or “clearly”?

I keep wanting to say "the handwriting on the wall," but that's not correct. The place I'm trying to use it is, "Alice likes Bob, Carol likes Bob, Alice thinks Bob likes her, but Bob dates Carol, and ...
121
votes
17answers
32k views

Is there an English idiom for trying to do two things at the same time and failing at both of them due to splitting your effort?

I'm basically searching for the opposite of putting all your eggs in one basket, where the risk is total failure because you did not hedge your efforts. I'm searching for a phrase that encompasses ...
89
votes
24answers
16k views

Idiom for someone who buys all the best gear to do something before they even have a basic proficiency?

I'm looking for an idiom to describe someone who decides to take up a new hobby, then buys an excessive amount of gear before they've even started. Perhaps they believe they need this gear to master ...
44
votes
25answers
7k views

Is there a similar English phrase for this Tamil proverb - “Lavish outside home yet starving inside of it”?

In Tamil, a south Indian language, there is a saying which roughly translates into English as: Lavish outside home, starving inside of it. Background : This proverb has a mocking tone and ...
18
votes
8answers
4k views

Is there an English idiom for Bengali idiom “সবজান্তা গামছাওয়ালা”(wise towelsman)?

In the Bengali language there is an idiom, "sobjanta gamchawala" (wise towelsman), meaning a man whose occupation is merely to sell towels, but claims to know everything and gives valuable advice on ...
22
votes
11answers
5k views

What do you call an 'unselfish' action made with a selfish reason?

There are many examples of this, and I'd like to give a few: A person who puts a lot of effort to help the community and earns reputation points. But that reputation is the motivation behind helping ...
18
votes
14answers
3k views

Idiom for someone “not from this world”?

Are there idioms (or single words) in English for people who behave like they have come from another world where everything is perfect and know nothing about the reality? They usually come up with ...
29
votes
13answers
22k views

Is there a slang word or idiom for someone who borrows money from friends or relatives and never (or rarely) pays them back?

Edit - My question doesn't refer to bank loans or credit card accounts. Nor does it refer to getting things out of other people's generosity. It is specifically about money and the putative duplicate ...
16
votes
7answers
1k views

A wife who knows and accepts her husband's infidelity

What do you call a wife or woman who knows their spouse or partner is unfaithful but pretends either to (1) not care or (2) to not know? In this scenario it's important that the cheating spouse or ...
11
votes
9answers
2k views

American Equivalent of “Bog Standard”

I'm searching for an American English phrase that is the most readily equivalent to the British expression bog standard (which means, as I understand, plain, ordinary or unremarkable). I'm tempted to ...
12
votes
11answers
32k views

Is there an expression that means something bad as a precursor to something good?

If someone is the bearer of bad news you might say, Don't shoot the messenger. If you have something that seems unfortunate at first but ends out wonderful you might say it's a blessing in disguise. ...
10
votes
3answers
17k views

Word or phrase for literally and figuratively?

Say, for example, you and a group of people were all sailing out in the ocean and something happens...then you say, "I guess we are all in the same boat" You are literally in the same boat with ...
6
votes
10answers
33k views

Phrase for something that is always out or reach/you almost have but never can get

I believe there is a two-word phrase for something that is always just out of reach for you and which you cannot ever seem to get. (It is not Tantalus or anything having to do with Tantalus, please). ...
7
votes
6answers
550 views

Is there a proverb for “if there's a simple solution for solving a problem don't choose a more complicated one”? [duplicate]

Is there an idiom/ phrase/ expression or proverb that conveys this meaning: "As long as there is a more simple solution for solving a problem don't choose a more complicated one." or: "when you can ...
7
votes
4answers
845 views

What is the English counterpart to 'Binboyusuri' - keep jiggling one’s legs during conversation sitting on the chair?

There are persons who keep jiggling their legs sitting on the chair during conversation or being interviewed. This motion is annoying and seen as the indication of the speaker’s tension, weakness to ...
4
votes
2answers
239 views

Word for the situation of being unable to pass opposing pedestrian, as you both start to step same direction

Is there a word or expression in English, which describes the situation, when you can't pass a stranger, who is walking towards you on the street, because you both start to step the same direction? ...
1
vote
3answers
124 views

Opposite of 'damned with faint praise'?

Is there an opposite of 'damned with faint praise'? Meaning to subtly endorse something by making overly mild criticism.
71
votes
25answers
14k views

What is deliberately using complex sentences to confuse people called?

I'm wondering if there's a word, phrase, or idiom to describe the action of deliberately confusing people by using complex sentences. For example, some politicians will throw out some big words and ...
30
votes
8answers
6k views

An idiom meaning “sticking fingers in your ears does not change the fact”

I am looking for an idiom which means sticking fingers in your ears does not change the fact; the fact remains so, even if you don't listen to the one who is mentioning it.
27
votes
10answers
7k views

An idiom for a stupid action which is beneficial in the end, or for the person who performed said action

My friend works for an investment firm, and his colleague mistakenly double-submitted a long bid for stock on a very risky day. The entire firm was on edge the whole day, watching the stock price. In ...
26
votes
10answers
3k views

A word or idiom for being offended for someone else

Is there a word or idiom to describe being offended for some one else? For example, Person A makes an off-the-cuff remark that person B is 'trailer trash'. Person B knows that person A means it as ...
20
votes
11answers
3k views

Phrase to mean one is described by his name [duplicate]

I found in some other languages such as Chinese an interesting idiom which describes some people; for example, when you see a person is named "Smart" and he/she is really smart, one would say: "a name ...
36
votes
17answers
4k views

What is the player called who has a turn?

What is the player called who has a turn? I am guessing something like turning player. But I would like some confirmation or maybe is there an idiom for it? Explanation: In a round based game what ...
29
votes
7answers
6k views

An English idiom for “solve a problem that has been solved”?

In Polish, and I believe in a number of other European languages, there is an idiomatic expression which translates to "to force a door which is already open". It is used to describe a situation when ...
19
votes
14answers
2k views

What is the expression to describe that you are surrounded and have few ways to act?

Something like "circle is narrow" (just total random)? For example I'm trapped by circumstances and don't know how to get away with that. Because every way of acting seems not to be good. Thank you ...
18
votes
6answers
2k views

English equivalent to the Bengali Idiom “ bamon hoye chand dhorar shokh” which means wish of a lowly person to become equal to aristocratic people

A poor boy wishing if he could have dinner in a five star restaurant, a beggar wishing if he could travel in a BMW - all these are example of the Bengali idiom which if translated literally means, a ...
16
votes
18answers
3k views

Term for when doing a job or work following all the rules and regulations

Sometimes a work is done by any means necessary, often against rules. I am looking for a word or idiom that means doing work according to or following rules and regulations. Example : You're ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

People who sell their virginity for money

I'm Vietnamese and I'm writing an essay about prostitution. I want to ask the word to express properly the people who sell their virginity for money. In Vietnamese, we use a phrase literally means ...
25
votes
17answers
4k views

English equivalent to the Indian saying “Like a thief being stung by a scorpion”

The title is the literal translation of a south Indian proverb, used to describe situations where a person who's already guilty will be proven so, if he voices himself against something. Examples: ...
23
votes
14answers
3k views

Less vulgar alternative to “bee up my butt”

In my corner of the world, the two exressions given in the accepted answer to this question have become conflated. Now, to "have a bee up one's butt" is to have a sudden and obsessive need to do ...
16
votes
12answers
2k views

Idiom request for wasting time or money

I am looking for an idiomatic expression that expresses the idea of the negative consequences for having wasted your time or your money for instance, and now that you really need them you don't have ...
16
votes
23answers
4k views

Suitable saying for “different people like/dislike different things”?

Suppose I have some problem when someone takes an action 'X' on me which I find highly offensive and which makes me feel bad but it may/may not effect other individuals if used on them. A friend of ...
13
votes
6answers
3k views

Alternatives to “break a butterfly on a wheel” [duplicate]

The phrase "to break a butterfly on a wheel" is very evocative, but I can't bring myself to use it: I find the "wheel" too disturbing. So: what are some good alternatives? (For those who are ...
6
votes
10answers
30k views

What's the word for two people who like/love each other but neither one confesses it?

Two people like each other or are in love but neither one has expressed it openly, so they each wonder about the other and consequently frustrations might begin to build... What's that called? EDIT: ...
15
votes
8answers
3k views

What do you call a frustrating and inexplicable ending?

I used to be a fan of the TV show Dexter, I say “used to be”, because until the last season it was a thoroughly enjoyable (and) guilty pleasure of mine. However, season 8 ruined it for me. The twists ...
10
votes
11answers
2k views

Idiom for someone who got a tiny fraction of power and abuses it?

Is there any idiom for a person who somehow obtained a (usually small) power to control people and is using it in every possible way to make problems for people around him?
9
votes
11answers
10k views

Idiom request: Putting too much effort, but the return is so low that it was not worth the effort

I am looking for an idiom. You put too much effort, but there is so little gain that it would not be worth the effort. Update: More specifically, some guy wants to save money and gas, thus he skips ...
5
votes
9answers
944 views

Equivalent for the Persian idiom “Khaste Nabaashid”

We Persian speakers have a common idiom, Khaste Nabaashid, and usually say it to someone who finished a task or is in the middle of doing that. The literal translation of the idiom is something like ...
33
votes
17answers
4k views

Secular alternative to “preaching to the choir”?

Is there a secular alternative to the phrase "preaching to the choir"?
8
votes
5answers
25k views

English equivalent of the Hindi phrase “छुपा रुस्तम” (chupa rustam)

I'm looking for English word[s] that come close to छुपा रुस्तम (chupa rustam), literally "hidden warrior". It's attributed to a person who is very clever but does not appear so. If I remember ...
6
votes
6answers
528 views

Is there a good alternative to “low man on the totem pole”?

Since "low man on the totem pole" is potentially ambiguous (and is possibly offensive to some), are there any good alternative idioms to mean someone of low rank who gets stuck with undesirable things?...
6
votes
8answers
3k views

Describing someone who has a great potential but is not aware of it

What's the best idiom/phrase/word to describe someone who has a great potential to do something while he/she is not aware of that potential. For this reason, (s)he underestimate her/his capabilities ...
6
votes
6answers
800 views

What would be a good word for expressing “a gesture of sympathy/empathy”

I've had someone say "I'm sorry!" to me to express a gesture of sympathy/empathy, whereas my answer to that was "Don't apologise for things you cannot control..." The only thing I can think of in ...