Idioms are a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.

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Etymology of “throw good money after bad”?

The idiom "throwing good money after bad" refers to spending more money on something problematic that one has already spent money on, in the (presumably futile) hopes of fixing it or recouping one's ...
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2answers
62 views

How do I refer to an idiom in text?

What is the best way to refer to the idiom "Keeping up with the Joneses"? I'm referencing the idiom in a paper, but not sure if I should include it in quotes or not in quotes, but italics.
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2answers
2k views

Why is it “have someone wrapped around your LITTLE finger”?

I just had occasion to write she's got him wrapped around her finger (under complete control). I'd never really thought about this one before, but my guess would have been the idiom had some ...
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5answers
143 views

I'm looking for a slang word or idiom for someone who insists on intruding his presence on two others who would rather be alone

This person usually pretends not to see that he is unwelcome at the moment, but it may be that he just doesn't notice it. Depending on the circumstances, one of the two persons (typically lovers) ...
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6answers
3k views

In what way is “are us” used?

In what way is "are us" used? Like: what does "toys are us" mean.. Or what does "heavy weights are us" mean? Does "are us" always refer to several people? Or can one also use it when referring just ...
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1answer
2k views

What is “soft skill”?

Please elaborate what does it mean by soft skill in term of English language.
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3answers
1k views

Is “duck and dive” only a British idiom?

I was interested in the phrase “duck and dive,” which is put in parentheses, in the following comment of a video ran by the Guardian with a caption, “Senator Marco Rubio's in-speech water break” - ...
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3answers
7k views

What is this idiom: “I'm going to start taking names and…”?

There is some idiom that starts out like, "I'm going to start taking names and..." I can't remember the rest of it. What is it and when is it used?
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0answers
72 views

Looking for an Equivalent to the AWL for Academic Idioms

Coxhead developed and evaluated something called the "Academic Word List" for English Language Learners. This is a list of (supposedly) the most common "academic" terms to be used by students from ...
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3answers
3k views

What does it mean to be “in suspense”?

What does it actually mean to be "in suspense"? It's not a place, or a verb. How would you define "suspense"?
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12answers
26k views

Why do people say “break a leg” to actors?

Frequently, before going on stage, someone will say "break a leg" to an actor, which is a peculiar acting saying meaning "good luck!" How did this expression come about?
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1answer
85 views

Synonymous idiom for: You can't run before you can walk

I'm looking for an alternative way of saying "You can't run before you can walk." This is equivalent to saying "you can't take on higher level things before you have mastered the basics". I am ...
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1answer
109 views

delutherer, deluderer

My dad (who is Irish) has been using the word "delutherer" since I was tiny. It derives from "to delude" and is used to affectionately/teasingly denote someone who is trying to trick you or cajole you ...
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4answers
919 views

Where does the Irish idiom “at all at all” come from?

It's a common stereotype of Irish-English speakers that they end sentences with "at all, at all" as in You want a drink at all, at all? You have any money at all, at all? My question is ...
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1answer
60 views

correctly dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s in the expression “dotting the i's and crossing the t's” [duplicate]

I've found questions here at ELU related to the meaning of the expression (I'm clear on that), but this is about the best way to punctuate the expression in the title. Possibilities: a. It's ...
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1answer
75 views

19th century American equivalent of outlandish praise such as “crazy mf!”

Is there an 1850's working-class and/or Black equivalent of "crazy Mf!" used as praise?
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5answers
1k views

What is a saying for someone who does good in the street, but is bad at home?

In Spanish there is this saying "Candil de la calle, oscuridad de tu casa". Which is basically said to people who do good outside, e.g. at work or school, but does nothing good at home for his or her ...
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3answers
21k views

Is it 'what it looks like' or 'how it looks like'?

I live in a country where English is not the native language. Oftentimes I hear my coworkers say they want to know or determine "how it looks like". This is grammatically closer to our native ...
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2answers
621 views

How did the phrase “hear you out” or “hear me out” come about?

How did the phrase "hear you out" or "hear me out" come about? The phrase means "listen to whatever I have to say before you pass judgment on me," or "tell me whatever you want; I don't mind and ...
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2answers
1k views

Is it 'seeing as' or 'seems'?

A friend of mine just posted this status on Facebook: Decisions, decisions - schoolwork...watch olympics....schoolwork...watch olympics......?? Olympics is so going to win this dilemma haha ...
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1answer
67 views

Using Verbpathy as a Tool to Connect with English [closed]

Does anyone use the tool of "verbpathy" in their own English studies? This is a device that lets the language learner connect with the positive, negative, or neutral aspect of a word, phrase or ...
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2answers
106 views

“No less than” vs. “None less than”

Is the expression none less than similar to the idiom no less than? Which form is preferable to use in the following example: None less than the country's president attended today's meeting. OR ...
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1answer
65 views

Telephone as an idiom [closed]

Is "telephone" considered an idiom? If we pull apart the meanings, "tele" means "far;" or "distant" and "phone" means "sound." So, it would, on the face of it, mean "far-sound." But that is not ...
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1answer
66 views

“No less than” idiom root

I know that "No less than somebody/something" means that this somebody/something is important. What I don't understand is why this idiom means so!! What I literally understand is that "No less than" ...
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1answer
59 views

Why is there an 'A' in phrase 'Times are a changing'? [duplicate]

I am not sure if the phrase Times are a changing is used exclusively within or related to the Bob Dylan song but the A is bugging the hell out of me every time I see it. Why is there an indefinite ...
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4answers
5k views

Is “forth and back” more proper than “back and forth”?

I think the term "back and forth" gets thrown around a lot without much thought. From Dictionary.com: forth    [fawrth, fohrth] adverb 1. onward or outward in place or space; forward: to ...
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5answers
11k views

What's the origin of “water under the bridge”?

What's the origin/background of the phrase "water under the bridge"? To what does it allude? I understand it means to let bygones be bygones--to move on from the past. But I don't think I understand ...
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5answers
2k views

What does “What price [noun]?” mean?

I've come across phrases like "What price freedom?" a lot. I speak British English and it doesn't read nicely to me. It seems some words are missing. Does it mean "What is the price of X?"? Where did ...
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7answers
5k views

Where does “Going out on a limb” come from?

I know that the phrase, "I'm going out on a limb here" means either to take a risk or hazard a guess, but where does it come from? As in, what did it originally refer to before it became an idiom?
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1answer
79 views

Origin of Spread Oneself Too Thin

Three questions: What is the origin of the English idiom, "spread oneself too thin?" Is this used as frequently in the U.K. as it is in the U.S.? What about Australia and New Zealand: Is it as ...
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2answers
8k views

Where does the phrase “Scare the Dickens out of…” originate from?

Where does the phrase "Scare the Dickens out of..." originate from? And does it refer to Charles Dickens?
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5answers
2k views

Word or phrase for someone who annoys you as soon as they walk in and start talking

Looking for both a journalistic and perhaps playful term. In a journalistic sense, how would I describe a CEO figure who holds a company meeting and the employees are either annoyed, bored, or rolling ...
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1answer
45 views

When did “down” or “down with” in the sense of approval start to be used?

Uses include: "She's down," an absent member of a group is known to think something is a good idea or wants to do it and "I'm down with that," I like that idea, I want to do that, include me in, etc. ...
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3answers
50 views

Word or phrase designating the consensus reached at the last conversation about a topic

I vaguely remember hearing a term for this, but can't remember what it was. The word or phrase refers to the consensus reached at the end of the last conversation about a topic, just before the group ...
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6answers
330 views

Something as an “antechamber” for something else

In Italian there is the expression "something as an antechamber for something else", meaning something can precede and somehow cause something else. For example: Data show prisons are far from ...
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2answers
84 views

How far (technically) is a “stone's throw?”

A "stone's throw" means a short distance. Questions: (1) How far--technically-- is a stone's throw in terms of its usage? (i.e., Can you use it for a few feet as well as a mile away?) (2) Is it ...
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2answers
80 views

“…Which I have a basic knowledge of”

Russian, which I have a basic knowledge of Is the entire phrase which I have a basic knowledge of idiomatic in English? Or is it just an Italian phrase construction I inadvertently transposed ...
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2answers
1k views

Knock On Wood in the UK?

In the US, it is common to use the idiomatic expression "knock on wood" to keep "a good thing going." Is it the same in the UK, or do they use a different idiomatic expression?
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2answers
59 views

What's going on with *nuthin' doin'*?

The phrase nuthin' doin' in American slang means "There's nothing interesting or exciting going on". How does doin' come to mean "happening"?
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2answers
116 views

What does “Obama goes big” mean?

The article of New Yorker (November 21) begins with the following sentence under the title “Obama Goes Big on Immigration”: For a two-term President whom his critics used to call “the ...
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3answers
139 views

Can One Jump To Good Conclusions?

Jump To Conclusions is noted in the free dictionary's entry for jump a few different ways: To form an opinion or judgment hastily: jump to conclusions. to proceed abruptly, ...
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1answer
257 views

What does it mean to wax a cross?

On the TV show Archer, the saying "get some wax for your cross" is used. What does it mean? I'm guessing from context it means that you carry around a cross so often you need wax for it.
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1answer
60 views

Origin, logic, and range of use of the verb ‘untrack’ and the phrase 'get untracked'

One of the terms that appears in Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) but not in the Tenth Collegiate (1993) or earlier editions of the Collegiate series is untrack: untrack vt ...
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3answers
957 views

What does “step up” mean?

Japan steps up cooling operation. This is from BBC.
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7answers
323 views

Is the idiom “what price [something]?” used here in the sense of “how about [something]?” - or not?

An excerpt from the movie 49th Parallel (1941), a dialogue between heroes. (the bulk of it by an anthropologist (A) writing about Indian tribes of Canada) (A) Yes, I've discovered some rather ...
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4answers
1k views

What does “stuff one's nose into another's orifices” mean?

According to Maureen Dowd's article in New York Times (May 20) under the headline, “Remember to forget,” the European Court of Justice ruled last week that Google and other search engines can be ...
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4answers
14k views

Origin of the idiom “go south”

What's the origin of the idiom go south? Why is it go south only? Why not go southwest or go east? Are the direction-related idioms go south, go north, go east, and go west correlated? Example, go ...
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5answers
8k views

Is the valediction “see you later, alligator” used in English?

I have been reading a book about real English expressions and idioms. The first chapter deals with greetings. According to the section On departure, See you later, alligator is one of the ...
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23answers
7k views

Are there metaphoric English expressions meaning “keeping composure at a fatal moment, never panicky”?

We have a Japanese old saying, “俎板の上の鯉-manaita no ueno koi, a carp laid on a chopping block” for describing (1) a critical situation you cannot avoid, and (2) a person who is self-poised at such a ...