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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (3)

3
votes
3answers
118 views

Idiom: to be at loggerheads

Idiom to be at loggerheads with someone over sth The meaning is to be in strong disagreement with someone struggling constantly as in The two governments are still at loggerheads over the island. ...
5
votes
5answers
153 views

“ain’t got the brains God gave a squirrel” - a (few) simpler alternative(s)

ain’t got the brains God gave a squirrel or ain’t got the sense God gave geese. I have taken a liking to this phrase, however, to my colleagues, most of who are from Latin America and SE-Asia, ...
4
votes
1answer
65 views

What did it originally mean to 'bow and scrape'?

It is said, including in the OED, to refer to bowing, and at the same time drawing back the right leg so that it made a scraping noise. I don't recall seeing anyone scraping. I lived in Japan for a ...
27
votes
5answers
23k views

“jury-rigged”, or “jerry-rigged”

As far back as I can remember, the usage went something like "Their jury was rigged, and that's how he got away." Or, "They Jerry-rigged the controller at the last moment and it worked!" I used to ...
17
votes
16answers
4k views

Is there any idiom which is exactly opposite of 'head start'?

I am searching for an idiom which means to have a disadvantage that makes your chances of winning bleak It should appropriately fit in this analogy: Head Start - Win ___ - Lose
4
votes
3answers
4k views

History and meaning of the expression “gave at the office”?

I recently heard somebody say that they "gave at the office" in response to a request from some charity. It also seems to have a more general usage when refusing a request for help of any kind. What ...
2
votes
1answer
187 views

Charles Bukowski's “best dick” [closed]

I am reading Charles Bukowski's Pulp and as non-native English speaker I am finding decoding certain expressions challenging. For example the main character, Nicky Belane, often refers to himself ...
5
votes
5answers
9k views

An idiom for deriving pleasure from another's suffering

I believe it is what the Germans call "Schadenfreude". English itself has no such equivalent word. (Although it has been adopted as a loanword.) Does an idiom exist that describes it?
4
votes
2answers
355 views

What does the phrase “Follow that!” mean?

I've heard that nice phrase and assume it is kind of an idiom. The possible usage I can recall: Follow that! I just did [insert something here]. Is that true and if so what does it mean?
3
votes
2answers
3k views

What is the origin of 'common or garden'?

Why do we speak, for example, of a 'common or garden' bicycle, meaning one that simply does the job of a bicycle without alloy wheels, Sir Bradley Wiggins pedals or any other bells and whistles. ...
0
votes
2answers
359 views

Etymology of “ramp up”?

The idiom "ramp up" is frequently used in English to mean "increase the size/amount of"; for example: The company ramped up its advertising to try and sell more products. What, though, it the ...
7
votes
5answers
4k views

“Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” meaning and etymology

In my experience, referring to someone in an organization as "chief cook and bottle washer" has multiple possible meanings: person has a wide variety of duties in the organization person is very, ...
0
votes
0answers
19 views

explain the idiom [duplicate]

I am the novice English learner. Please explain me the idiom "What are you up to" I've already google it. But i still want you people to explain this with examples. Thanks
3
votes
3answers
157 views
-1
votes
1answer
60 views

“in God's name” usage in English [closed]

When people say "what in God's name are you doing?", I couldn't understand.
2
votes
2answers
115 views

What is the origin of the phrase “grease the skids”?

What is the origin or derivation of the phrase "greasing the skids?" The phrase connotes preparation, in such a way as to make the subsequent activities easier. Definitions are available various ...
9
votes
2answers
4k views

Is “make due” now considered acceptable?

Whilst plodding through Patrick Rothfuss' "The Name of the Wind", I came across: Our dinner was nowhere near as grand as last night's. We made due with the last of my now-stale flatbread, dried ...
13
votes
12answers
2k views

Is there a suitable antonym for 'Achilles heel'?

I'm trying to juxtapose antonyms in a effort to describe something. The first draft of an excerpt reads something like this: I will tell of their triumphs and downfalls... I would like to ...
7
votes
4answers
24k views

What does “no love lost” mean and where does it come from?

I have trouble with the idiom "no love lost". I understand that it is used when people are at odds or don't get along, but I don't understand why. Interpreted literally it sounds like there should be ...
-2
votes
2answers
204 views

An old-fashioned synonym for “arrogant” and “thinking too high of oneself”

I can't remember this idiom which I once heard and means "arrogant". As I haven't heard it for a long time, say some 30 years, I presume it is outdated. It's a two-word idiom and sounds somewhat ...
8
votes
3answers
849 views

“Short for” vs. “Stands for”

US stands for "the United States". US is short for "the United States". What are the subtle differences between them?
6
votes
9answers
3k views

The meaning of “blue canoe” in the lyrics of “Where to Now, St. Peter” sung by Elton John

In his song Where to Now, St. Peter, Sir Elton John sings: I took myself a blue canoe, And I floated like a leaf Dazzling, dancing half enchanted In my Merlin sleep. Crazy was the ...
0
votes
1answer
132 views

The meaning and etymology of the exclamation “Lawdy me!”

What does a speaker mean if he/she exclaims "Lawdy me!"? I noticed this exclamation when I was reading a short story "the Conscience of the Court" by Zora Neale Hurston. There was one brown-skinned ...
5
votes
3answers
4k views

How should “Home sweet home” be punctuated?

A quick survey of the internet reveals many instances of "home sweet home", no punctuation. But doesn't "home, sweet home" make the most sense?
3
votes
3answers
245 views

How does the word “gas” relate to cheating and deception?

According to A Collection of College Words & Customs by Benjamin Homer Hall, written in 1856 I believe, gas is defined as cheating or deceiving someone. Any ideas why that may be?
1
vote
1answer
51 views

“Would-be” meaning “potential”: must it be hyphenated?

Suppose I write, "Giving exams in class thwarts would-be cheaters." Must "would-be" have a hyphen? Or would it be preferable to write it without a hyphen? (It seems easier to read with the hyphen.) ...
1
vote
1answer
36 views

bottom dropped out

I heard this expression and I don't know what it means. I googled it and it was mostly financial meanings. But mine is not. I'm writing the context exactly. The bottom kind of dropped out when I ...
7
votes
5answers
963 views

What does “Anyone who is married” mean in “Anyone who is married should know that facts and logic are not always helpful to one’s cause”? [closed]

I’m drawn to the phrase, “anyone who is married” taken from Benn Steil's recently published book, The Battle of Bretton Woods that deals with the battle engaged by Maynard Keynes and Harry White, each ...
2
votes
12answers
4k views

What is the opposite of “preaching to the choir”?

I have found "Whistling into the wind" online but I do not think it fits because it seems to mean that your words are not heard, whereas the opposite should mean that you're being informed by someone ...
3
votes
4answers
5k views

What is the origin of the phrase “needle in a hay stack”?

What is the origin of the phrase "needle in a hay stack"? Initially I thought it was a game once played but I haven't found any mention of it outside of it's idiomatic use.
1
vote
1answer
97 views

Get-go attitude vs. go-getter

I want to write a recommendation for a friend in LinkedIn, and I want to emphasise that he was a real hard worker. So, does "he has a get-go attitude" means that someone is a "go-getter"?
15
votes
9answers
7k views

What is the origin of “hissy fit”?

I can't seem to find any definite earliest example of this expression, or a reason why "hissy" was chosen to describe a tantrum. Does anyone hiss when they are angry? When and why was the phrase ...
2
votes
3answers
7k views

Synonym for “raise the bar”

Is there another way to express "raise the bar"? The context I'm looking for would fit this sentence: A firewall raises the bar for would-be attackers.
15
votes
10answers
4k views

Idiom: in my neck of the woods, AmE

Idiom: in my neck of the woods (AmE) The meaning of this expression is: in the region where I live. I once tried to find out how a word that referred to a part of the body could later develop into ...
11
votes
5answers
9k views

What is the origin of the phrase “'til the cows come home”?

What is the origin of the term 'til the cows come home? While discussing this with friends tonight, the group had two possible explanations: Cows return to their barn for milking at a given time ...
1
vote
1answer
98 views

Super Bowl commercial

Help please! What does the boy on the bus say? Is that an idiom? https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-cl=85114404&v=dKUy-tfrIHY
1
vote
5answers
123 views

I need an alternative for “her whole life” [closed]

In my story a young girl only understands the life of a dancer, but once her dream comes to an end she doesn't know what to do with herself. I need a better way of saying She danced all day ...
-1
votes
2answers
51 views

Does “the truth is deceptive” make any sense or should it be “ truth can be deceiving”? [closed]

Does "the truth is deceptive" make any sense or should it be " truth can be deceiving" ?
1
vote
2answers
94 views

Is “throw guns into a hot stove” a common phrase or just one-off figurative expression?

Today, Scott Simon, the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition news program, interviews former NATO Ambassador Ivo Daalder about the cease-fire between the Ukrainian government and Russian separatists, and ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

“22 Acacia Avenue” British idiom

What is the meaning of this British idiom? I was watching BBC's Top Gear and the presenters were cracking jokes about people who live in the 22 of the avenues. And that the people who live there like ...
2
votes
3answers
471 views

To have the world “at your fingertips”

I was watching a YouTube video about eating disorders when the American TV presenter ended a pep talk with the following words: If I had the chance today to spend six weeks somewhere, to better ...
12
votes
12answers
2k views

Idiom for something that is well designed but not commercially viable?

Is there a word for something that has been well-designed, looks good but can't sell. This can be an object or an idea..
3
votes
2answers
8k views

Meaning of “living within means”

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.— Oscar Wilde. What does living within means mean?
6
votes
7answers
7k views

Is the use of “all set” exclusive to certain regions?

I grew up in the Northeastern US where the use of the phrase "all set" to mean "ready" or "finished" is common. An example would be, "Are you all set with that?" (perhaps while pointing to an ...
0
votes
1answer
64 views

Question on “the fabric of X” in sentences

I see a lot of sentences with "the fabric of X" in them. For example, "The veteran feels trusted, respected and understood -- re-integrated into the fabric of his or her homeland." "Half a century ...
16
votes
4answers
24k views

Which is the correct idiom: “First thing's first” or “First things first”?

I've gotten into a debate over which usage of an apostrophe in the phrase "first thing(')s first" is correct. My thinking is that one would take the first thing and give it priority, hence the first ...
25
votes
8answers
3k views

Are there similar expressions to the Japanese saying “I want to die on a tatami mat”?

Today most people die in a hospital bed, though many would prefer to die in their own home being watched over by their loving family. We have an old saying, “to die on a tatami mat”, meaning to die ...
1
vote
0answers
65 views

Origin of “kill the ghost”, “killing the ghost”

A British friend of mine who used to work with us came back from London for a short visit to the town.Before going back home again he showed me photographs of the town beach and hotel saying he came ...
0
votes
2answers
80 views

What does it mean to “gum the spoon”?

I recently found out about a new term. It's "gum the spoon". What does it mean? By the various contexts I found, I conjecture that it means to add saliva onto the spoon or to hold the spoon in one's ...
9
votes
5answers
49k views

Is being “low on the totem pole” good or bad?

The background for this question is that I'm watching the latest episode of NCIS, and in this episode it is mentioned that the term "Low on the totem pole" actually is a good thing, reserved for the ...