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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109
votes
17answers
14k views

Is there any English/American equivalent for the Hungarian phrase “beating the nettle with someone else's penis”?

I am trying to translate this comically vulgar Hungarian phrase, often (but not exclusively) used in a political context. It means to make someone else carry out one's rash or risky ideas, usually ...
100
votes
15answers
20k 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 ...
84
votes
24answers
15k 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 ...
71
votes
28answers
18k 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 ...
69
votes
25answers
11k 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 ...
52
votes
8answers
7k views

Is there an English idiom that means “you can always find a law to convict anyone”?

There's an infamous phrase in Russian (attributed to Stalin's Chief Prosecutor Vyshinsky): "Был бы человек, а статья найдется" Translated literally, this means "if there was a man, an ...
44
votes
15answers
6k views

An English equivalent of Arabic idiom ‘Show us the breadth of your shoulders’

The Arabic idiom “OK, now you can show us the breadth of your shoulders.” has a meaning similar to get lost, but with a more humorous edge. The idea of the idiom comes from when the recipient turns ...
41
votes
28answers
8k views

Is there an English equivalent to the Persian saying “Now that it's my turn, the sky came down”?

Suppose there are many people standing in a line to receive an expensive item as a free gift, and everyone receives it except for the last person in the line. The last one is told, "Sorry, the gifts ...
35
votes
17answers
3k 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 ...
34
votes
13answers
6k views

Is there a word or an idiom for people who only spend their families' money and fool around?

Is there a word or an idiom for rich people who spend only their families' money and do not bother to work, just fool around?
32
votes
17answers
3k views

Secular alternative to “preaching to the choir”?

Is there a secular alternative to the phrase "preaching to the choir"?
31
votes
13answers
10k views

Idiom for “just because you give something a different name, it doesn't change what it is”

I'm looking for a way to idiomatically express the sentiment that just because you give something a different name, or precede it with a disclaimer, it doesn't change what it is, e.g.: "I mean this ...
26
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
16answers
5k views

Is there an idiom for “I'm not an expert when it comes to kinds of feces”

There is an idiom in my language, which literally sounds like "I'm not an expert when it comes to kinds of feces". Which means that one considers all the instances of some group as equally bad, not to ...
26
votes
7answers
5k 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.
25
votes
6answers
5k 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 ...
25
votes
7answers
5k views

Is 'I f*cked the dog' an actual idiom and are there alternatives

I am a non-native speaker from Germany. In German there's one idiom that goes: Sich die Eier schaukeln Literally translated, this means "to rock the eggs", where "the eggs" are testicles. This ...
23
votes
12answers
11k views

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

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; a slang word or idiom for a ...
23
votes
15answers
7k 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 ...
22
votes
11answers
4k 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 ...
20
votes
33answers
5k views

What's the English equivalent of “Drilling one's head”?

In Arabic (Specifically, north-western Levantine), there's a saying that goes like He drilled my head about/with that lunch meeting (بخشلي راسي باجتماع الغدا) Which means something along the ...
20
votes
20answers
3k views

What's an expression for a cunningly-fake friend?

I'd like to warn somebody of one of their harmful managers, or even a so-called fake friend, so I say it like this: Don't trust him! He is nothing but a cunning person who is trying to harm ...
19
votes
9answers
2k views

A modern equivalent for “at the coalface”

I let you believe that I am one of the nation's top geneticists, when actually I am a moderately successful scientist who is now coasting on past research, doing the odd bit of examining or ...
17
votes
10answers
2k views

What is a synonym for “superstition” but without the negative connotation?

In my native language (Latvian) there is a word that denotes a superstition, but in a more positive way, somehow. It’s hard to explain, so let me give some examples: If you swing on the swings a ...
17
votes
2answers
997 views

Term for Only “Unbelieved Warner”

I'm looking for a word, phrase, or idiom to describe a person or fictional device. In stories, especially horror and fantasy, there can be a character who is dismissed when they try to tell others ...
16
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 ...
16
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
15
votes
17answers
3k views

Idiom that means trying to save something that is beyond saving

It's on the tip of my tongue. Example: "Replacing the hard drive of this computer would be [idiom]. It's going to fail completely soon enough."
15
votes
8answers
924 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 ...
14
votes
7answers
1k 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", ...
14
votes
10answers
2k views

Is there an English equivalant to the Russian saying “the baker never buys his bread”?

I heard a good Russian(?) saying that I like, which is, "the baker never buys his bread," as in, "bakers aren't wealthy people, but at least they always have bread." Kind of like if you were a shop ...
13
votes
7answers
2k views

An idiom for “beginning in the wrong end”

Say that in order to determine what B is, you analyze A. But then someone analyzes B in order to determine what A is. In my language, we would say that this procedure "begins in the wrong end". What ...
13
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
13
votes
8answers
2k 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 ...
13
votes
5answers
7k views

What are the polite and neutral versions of “cut the bull*’?

I was wondering what are the polite and neutral versions of cut the bullshit? Suppose one calls his mobile customer service for signal problem, but the representative endlessly tries to promote ...
12
votes
20answers
3k views

Is there a phrase or idiom for “being defeated by future problems”?

One needs to anticipate and plan for problems before starting a large project. What is it called when one becomes so caught up with planning for possible problems that one never sets out? ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

Etymology of the word “broker”

I’ve had this personal hypothesis in the back of my mind for many years now about the etymology of the word “broker”. I have gathered a few pieces of the puzzle (many of them in French and a few of ...
10
votes
12answers
3k views

Idiom for someone who forgets their roots

I am having difficulty finding English idiom(s) for these situations: A person who was previously poor then becomes arrogant because she/he is rich now. A person who has been helped (because she/he ...
10
votes
11answers
15k 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
4answers
925 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 ...
9
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 ...
9
votes
3answers
8k 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Idiom meaning that something doesn't happen often, but happens more than needed when it does?

I remember that there was an idiom that describes something that doesn't happen often, but happens more than needed when it finally does. Hypothetical scenario that could be described by such an ...
8
votes
11answers
2k views

Idiom/expression for changing the subject in a conversation

Is there an idiom/expression in English for changing the subject in a conversation (and if possible, in a sarcastic way)? For example, there is an expression in Turkish: gelelim fasulyenin ...
8
votes
15answers
592 views

“He is an opportunist, there's no need to give him more excuses or opportunities!”

We have a saying in my country: He doesn't need music to start dancing. He is already dancing without music! Which figuratively means: He doesn't need any special, real, or necessary excuses ...
8
votes
10answers
2k views

Phrase for criticism/insults concealed with humor

Passive aggressive people will sometimes veil insulting, critical, derogatory or generally aggressive comments with humor. The patina of humor makes the comment seem like a joke, not to be taken ...
8
votes
10answers
7k views

“You get what you deserve nothing more nothing less”

In this world we reside, what we acquire depends on what we can acquire. In other words, if we have the money to, we can buy a house; if we have the necessary educational qualifications to, we can get ...
8
votes
6answers
515 views

“Soldier sleeps - the service continues” (Russian idiom/saying)

What are English equivalents for following Russian idiom: "soldier sleeps - the service continues"? In Russian it means that "you have a rest, but your work is still being done". UPD from comments: ...
7
votes
11answers
6k 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 ...
7
votes
4answers
900 views

Is there an opposite of tightfisted that also contains reference to a hand?

Is there an opposite of tightfisted that also contains reference to a hand? The opposite of 'tightfisted' is always 'generous'. I want a word, idiom, or phrase that means generous but with reference ...