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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107
votes
17answers
13k 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 ...
93
votes
15answers
17k 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 ...
71
votes
28answers
15k 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 ...
51
votes
8answers
6k 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 ...
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
5k 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
9k 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
6k 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.
24
votes
6answers
4k 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 ...
23
votes
15answers
6k 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
12answers
9k 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 ...
19
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 ...
19
votes
9answers
1k 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
1k 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
973 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
2k 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
2k 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
800 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 ...
13
votes
7answers
1k 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
1k 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
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", ...
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
6k 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 ...
11
votes
20answers
2k 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
1k 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
11answers
2k 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
12k 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
851 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
1k 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 ...
8
votes
10answers
1k 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
6k 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 ...
7
votes
11answers
4k 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
11answers
1k 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 ...
7
votes
4answers
889 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 ...
7
votes
7answers
553 views

Word or idiom to describe someone who always tries to inflate his skills/properties/experiences when talking with others? [duplicate]

Is there a word or idiom to describe someone who is always trying to create a good impression when talking about himself? Someone who is always trying to show that he is better than others even if he ...
7
votes
5answers
814 views

Idiom: to hesitate when something is nearly finished

I have an idiom on the tip of my tongue, or at least I think I do — the meaning I want is roughly “to hesitate or falter on a task, when it’s almost completed”. The phrase that first came to my mind ...
7
votes
6answers
467 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
2answers
6k 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
14k 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: ...
6
votes
7answers
836 views

Idiom/word/saying request: Accepting a situation out of desperation

How can I say for example: Individual retailers run out of business when a big fish came to town. So they had accepted that they cannot compete and closed their stores. In the novel To Kill A ...
6
votes
6answers
812 views

idiom request for “classic is good”

I am looking for an idiom for telling "Classic is good.". The term "Classic is good" by itself tells what I want actually, but I want a more intense saying instead.
6
votes
1answer
215 views

Equivalent of local idiom “The potter drinks from a broken jar”

There's an idiom in a native language which literally means "The potter drinks from a broken jar". i.e. a potter will not spend a lot of time making a beautiful jar for himself to drink from, he uses ...
6
votes
3answers
466 views

An idiom/phrase for someone whose opinions must be accepted by other people

(As a follow-up to the question,) Suppose there is a group of people, and suppose in this group opinions and ideas of a specific member of the group is always accepted by other members and they obey ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

Origin of “eat my hat”

I recently came across this expression: eat my hat I googled and found some results. I agree that eating a hat is not easy. But why hat? They could have chosen shoes, gloves, shirt, to name a ...
5
votes
6answers
795 views

What is the English idiom for eventually getting it right after many mindless attempts

I made up an idiom that I think describes what I want to say quite nicely: "If one shoots enough arrows at the target, one is sure to hit the bull's eye." An actual English idiom I know of that ...
5
votes
5answers
773 views

avoiding an oncoming vehicle — what is the specific term for this in English?

Is there a specific term to refer to what you need to do in the following situation? You are driving on a road and an oncoming vehicle is moving towards you in the same lane you are using. If ...