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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121
votes
17answers
33k 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 ...
118
votes
17answers
15k 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 ...
89
votes
23answers
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 ...
74
votes
28answers
33k 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 ...
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 ...
65
votes
22answers
13k views

Is there an idiom or typical expression for an unfunny joke?

Could you tell me some suitable idioms to express this situation: A guy told you a joke, but it's not funny at all. In Japanese, we say "He slipped" or "His joke was so cold that the air got ...
63
votes
22answers
10k views

Idiom criticizing a person who has unsolved problems but tries to give someone advice about them

Is there an idiom or expression that refers to a person who has some unsolved problems and tries to give some pieces of advice to, or guide, others for solving the same problems? We Iranians have a ...
57
votes
8answers
8k 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 ...
57
votes
11answers
5k views

English proverb for “They danced, but didn't take a bow”, as for failing good work on a final step

There is proverb in Ukrainian, "They danced and danced, but didn't take a bow" (Танцювали, танцювали, та не вклонилися). It is used to point out that someone has put a significant amount of time and ...
51
votes
13answers
6k views

English equivalent for the Persian idiom “send someone out in pursuit of black chickpeas”

"To send somebody out in pursuit of some black chickpeas" is a Persian idiom that implies 'to make or ask someone to run an errand so that you be able to have/ buy some time in order to deal with your ...
48
votes
15answers
7k 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 ...
45
votes
29answers
9k views

Is there an English equivalent to the Persian saying “Now that it's my turn, the sky fell 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 ...
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 ...
44
votes
24answers
7k views

Is there an equivalent term to “Cold Turkey” for starting something instead of quitting something?

Cold Turkey is an idiom most commonly used when quitting something that is very difficult, like smoking or drugs all at once instead of gradually. Can you also start something "Cold Turkey" or is ...
44
votes
9answers
10k views

English equivalent of Polish saying “A yokel can leave a village, but village will never leave yokel”

Consider another nice Polish saying "Chłop ze wsi wyjdzie, ale wieś z chłopa nigdy" that literally means "A yokel can leave a village, but village will never leave yokel". Could you please help me ...
44
votes
16answers
6k views

Is there an expression to indicate the strategy of wearing someone down with numerous small irritations?

I would use rope-a-dope, but it's got connotations of pretending to lose that I don't need. I'm trying to describe the behavior of someone who sends twenty detailed emails a day about various projects,...
43
votes
18answers
6k 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 ...
42
votes
21answers
10k views

What do you call the facial expression or the state just before bursting into tears?

What do you call this facial expression that forms just before bursting into tears? (Especially when a baby has been treated in a way he/she didn't expect and consider it unfair or feels neglected. Of ...
38
votes
15answers
6k views

Are there English equivalents for “as beautiful as butt inside out”?

There is an old saying in Ukrainian folklore, which literally sounds like “[someone is] as beautiful as ass inside out” (“Гарна як срака навиворіт”). It is used when one wants to point a person's ...
37
votes
15answers
5k views

What is the equivalent of Persian idiom “When the reed blooms”?

In Persian, we say "When the reed blooms" when we want to express that an event: Never happens. (This is only the opinion of the speaker so it's not a fact) It's very unlikely to happen. It's going ...
37
votes
14answers
7k 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?
36
votes
11answers
6k views

A word for really thin book pages

I have recently got a book which is almost 700 pages in A4 format. To save the costs, it was printed on very thin paper and with low-coverage ink. I am looking for a single word or an idiom for very, ...
36
votes
20answers
5k views

Is there any equivalent for this Persian expression “____ is like an unopened watermelon”?

The Persian expression/ simile "____ is like an unopened (=uncut) watermelon" implies that you never know what the given (risky) issue/ choice will turn out to be until you proceed to experience or ...
36
votes
11answers
3k views

Intentionally committing hypocrisy, to show a wrong-doer why you think what they do is wrong

I am looking for a word/idiom to describe the act of doing something against your beliefs so another person can experience the receiving end of the act. You dislike being blinded by high-beams ...
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 ...
33
votes
18answers
8k views

English equivalent of “c'est gratuit”

In French, we have an idiomatic expression to say that something was done for no reason. For instance, if a guy passes by and insults or spits on someone in the street for no reason, we would say "c'...
33
votes
17answers
5k views

Secular alternative to “preaching to the choir”?

Is there a secular alternative to the phrase "preaching to the choir"?
32
votes
13answers
13k 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 ...
30
votes
13answers
23k 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 ...
30
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 ...
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.
30
votes
11answers
4k views

Any equivalent to this Persian proverb “The yellow dog is the jackal's brother”?

Suppose you have a new boss and your former boss was a vicious and dictator one. Now you are visiting the new boss for the first time. He seems to be a nice person to you, but one of your colleagues ...
29
votes
27answers
7k views

Idiom or expression that would imply “someone is a habitual liar”

I'm looking for an idiom or expression for describing people who tell lies out of habit (so you cannot trust them at all). I know that these people are called "compulsive liars", but I'm not looking ...
29
votes
16answers
4k views

Is there any equivalent to this Persian proverb? “A bad or faulty item should inevitably be kept by its owner”

We use a proverb that implies "A bad property (i.e., a thing belonging to someone) or item should inevitably be tolerated/kept by its owner" when we want to say "This bad item won't be accepted by ...
28
votes
14answers
5k views

English equivalent for “Don't burn your house to smoke out a rat!” [duplicate]

In my language there's a saying which literally translates to Don't burn your house to smoke out a rat! It advises us to use solutions that are appropriate to the magnitude of the problem. ...
28
votes
11answers
6k views

Idiom for making fun of something people are ashamed of?

What is the idiom that can describe the action of making fun of somebody's already sensitive and weak spot for which s/he is already troubled or ashamed? For instance, mocking somebody about his/her ...
28
votes
22answers
5k views

Is there any curse/ swear equivalent for this Persian curse? “ May your head be covered by soil!”

There is a curse/ swear in Persian that literally means " May your head be covered by soil" and implies that " you'd better die and be buried /be underground!"( you are not important). We use it in ...
28
votes
16answers
6k 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 ...
27
votes
20answers
5k views

Is there any idiom or expression that would mean “all my efforts wasted”?

I'm looking for an idiom or expression that would mean "all one's efforts wasted". I have found "to have one's cake dough". Can I use it for "all my efforts wasted" too? ( A non-native friend told me ...
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 ...
27
votes
12answers
6k views

Idiom for a person who is above any question

I read somewhere a sentence which said about a political leader that he is the "holy something" whose actions cannot be questioned. The context was to describe that even though this man does bad ...
27
votes
7answers
3k views

English equivalent to “a small fruit in an elephant's mouth”

In the Indian language of Malayalam, there's a saying "Aana vayil ambazhanga", which literally translates to: A small fruit in an elephant's mouth. It means: Having too small an amount for ...
27
votes
7answers
6k 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 ...
27
votes
12answers
5k views

Is there a word, phrase, or idiom for a person who stays too late at an event such as a dinner party?

Something like "latecomer" but for departing rather than arriving. For example, "Bob was always the _____ at social outings." Other variations with verbs or non - noun idioms are useful to me as ...
26
votes
19answers
6k views

What is the problem that gets worse after you try to solve it?

Example sentence - This problem is a _____ which gets complicated every time you try to solve it. Is there such a word that represents a problem which will become worse if/when one tries to solve it?...
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 ...
26
votes
10answers
4k 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 ...
25
votes
9answers
3k views

What's the English idiom for wanting something without the effort necessary to get it? [closed]

What's the English idiom for wanting something without the necessary effort to get it? In German, we say "wash me but don't get me wet."
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: ...
25
votes
8answers
5k views

What's the English equivalent for the Italian slang expression “magna magna”

"Magna magna" is a typical Italian slang expression used by common people to give vent to their frustrations and disappointment with politicians when cases of corruption and personal interest in ...