This tag is for questions seeking a phrase that fits a meaning. If you're specifically seeking only a single word, see the "single word requests" tag too.

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232
votes
37answers
89k views

Is there a non-sexual phrase for sleeping with someone?

The phrase "sleeping with someone" often means "having sex." What is the origin of this sexual connotation? Is there a non-sexual equivalent of this phrase to express sleeping with someone without ...
177
votes
9answers
36k views

Is there a word or phrase for the feeling you get after looking at a word for too long?

Sometimes after looking at a word for a while, I become convinced that it can't possibly be spelled correctly. Even after looking it up, sounding it out, and realizing that there's simply no other ...
113
votes
17answers
27k 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 ...
106
votes
6answers
15k views

How to say “It's not rocket science” before rockets existed

Prior to the invention of rockets, was there a phrase equivalent to: "it's not rocket science"? If so, what was it? Here I am looking for a phrase that makes a comparison with a difficult job/task, ...
86
votes
19answers
9k views

How to say that food is hot (temperature) without the listener thinking that I mean “spicy”?

There is an excellent discussion of spicy vs. hot here: Difference between "spicy" and "hot" However, having read the previous question, I did not see any answer that tells how to ...
85
votes
13answers
6k views

Is there English counterpart(s) to Japanese old saying, “Present salt to your enemy.”?

We have a popular Japanese saying, “敵に塩を送る” — literally, “present (supply) salt to one's enemy”, meaning ‘play fair and square, not taking advantage of the weak point of your rival.’ It’s different ...
77
votes
28answers
13k views

Is there an American English equivalent of the British idiom “carrying coals to Newcastle”?

I'm an American living in the Netherlands who is learning Dutch. There's an idiom in Dutch that describes performing a needless/futile activity, "water naar de zee dragen," which literally translates ...
73
votes
28answers
26k 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 ...
70
votes
25answers
13k 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 ...
60
votes
12answers
10k views

What's a less offensive substitute for “rep-whores”?

This is a frequently thrown-around term on Internet forums in general and Stack Exchange specifically. Although it conveys a lot of meaning, I'd much prefer a phrase with a less offensive origin. ...
56
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 ...
56
votes
11answers
2k views

Is there an English phrase for an inability to actually *leave* already?

There is a Hungarian expression, küszöbgörcs, which literally means "threshold-cramp", and is used to describe that long conversation you have in the entryway, with all the guests awkwardly holding ...
51
votes
19answers
8k views

The act of baiting someone into (incorrectly) calling bullshit

Is there a single word, or commonly-used term, to describe the act of baiting another person into calling bullshit, when in fact you're not bullshitting? Conceptually, this either a sub-type, or the ...
50
votes
25answers
21k views

Is there a secular, non vulgar alternative to “for heaven's sake”?

I know for heaven's sake, for Pete's sake, for God's sake and for Christ's sake. All of those, however are religious references. The only non-religious equivalent phrases I know are for fuck's sake ...
49
votes
24answers
7k views

Are there counterpart English expressions to Japanese proverb, "the nail that pops up is always hammered down?

I was once reminded by Robusto-san of a Japanese popular saying, ‘出る釘は打たれる - the nail that pops up is always hammered down,’ when I complained about sequential down-votes that I received. I wondered ...
48
votes
10answers
4k views

Is there a term which covers ATM cards, credit cards, and debit cards?

I work in accommodation for international travelers, and people can pay with various kinds of cards: In some countries such as USA, credit cards are very common, but debit cards are not so common. ...
47
votes
12answers
40k views

What is the term for when you become more aware of something?

For example, when you buy a car, you start becoming more aware of cars with a similar make and model. The number of that type of car hasn't increased, but your awareness of it has. Similarly, when ...
46
votes
9answers
5k views

What is the opposite of the Devil's Advocate?

If I am arguing against a proposal that I may actually agree with, then I am playing Devil's Advocate. However, what if I do not necessarily agree with the proposal but am arguing for it, with the ...
43
votes
13answers
4k views

Is there a visual equivalent of the word “overhear”?

I love the word overhear. I often want to communicate a similar concept, but visually - with somebody looking over my shoulder at my computer screen, for example. "My husband (overheard) me shopping ...
42
votes
24answers
6k 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 ...
39
votes
20answers
9k 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
5k 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
14answers
6k views

What can be used as formal euphemism of “hack”?

I'm writing a technical document, and I need to convey the fact that we had to find a non-optimal, non-orthodox solution that was adopted as the best available alternative (a hack) to solve an ...
37
votes
13answers
195k views

More formal way of saying: “Sorry to bug you again about this, but …”

I was wondering if there was a more formal and polite way of saying: Sorry to bug you again about this, but we still have not received a response about X .... (if we still have not received any ...
37
votes
17answers
6k views

Word for dismissing someone's opinions as racist, sexist, etc, instead of debating back

I'm looking for either a single word or phrase that would describe either someone or the action of dismissing someone's opinions as something "socially unpopular", without giving any reasoning why, ...
36
votes
10answers
9k views

“To shoot out of cannon into sparrows”

In Russian we have idiom/saying "To shoot out of cannon into sparrows" (literal translation) which is used to convey an idea of applying too drastic measures to small problems. I believe there should ...
36
votes
9answers
5k views

Person who pretends to not understand unless one speaks in exactly the words they expect [duplicate]

I just realized there are some people around my workplace who always try to correct me when using a certain word, saying that that's not how I should speak, and I should use other words (the ones ...
36
votes
4answers
4k views

Term for something that is supposed to increase safety, but really just increases fear?

Some examples: A news station giving daily "terrorist reports". It doesn't actually say how to protect yourself, just gives information on how horrible they are & why you should be afraid. A ...
35
votes
6answers
179k views

Polite alternatives to “as soon as possible”

I’ve found myself writing the phrase “as soon as possible” just too often. Sometimes I wonder if it sounds a little rude. How can I convey the same meaning in a more polite way but without losing ...
34
votes
18answers
10k views

Is there a word for being so polite as to appear insincere?

I'm looking for a term in English to describe being so polite that one appears to be insincere.
34
votes
10answers
7k views

A little brain fart

What is a nicer, less immature saying? I love using 'A Freudian slip', but that is only applicable in certain situations.
33
votes
21answers
11k views

How to jokingly express an “if you pay me, I'll say it” attitude?

Let's assume I am an expert in an academic field. I have my opinions, however if I were invited and paid to give a lecture I would be willing to support opposing views. Question: What would be a ...
33
votes
14answers
10k views

What is it called when something appears so obvious, no one expects it?

I honestly can not think of any examples that cannot be countered. Perhaps something like if a person brought a weapon out in the open to an airport - no one actually thinks it would be a weapon ...
33
votes
15answers
7k views

What's it called when you lose contact with reality when watching a movie?

Sometimes, when I watch a (real good) movie, I feel like the movie "sucks me into the screen". I feel that I am really inside the movie, really watching real persons acting in real situations. I do ...
32
votes
13answers
12k 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 ...
32
votes
14answers
6k views

How to describe a person who has done well in every task except one, but he has done extremely bad in that 'one' task

I mean, "How to describe a person who has done well in every task except one, but he has done extremely bad in that 'one' task which adversely affects the overall result. I don't literally mean one ...
32
votes
2answers
2k views

Revealing that someone else is gay — counterpart to “come out”

If I reveal to my friend that I am gay, I'd say I came out to my friend. How would I say that my friend told his friend (without asking me for permission) that I am gay? My friend [insert ...
32
votes
5answers
24k views

Replacement for “God forbid”

I wanted to use the phrase "God forbid" the other day, but really wanted to avoid the religious connotations that may come along with it. I was stumped while thinking of a replacement or variation. I ...
31
votes
14answers
5k views

Is there a verb for remaining silent?

Dutch has the verb zwijgen, which means remaining silent. Ik zwijg means I remain silent or I say nothing. It is also often used as an imperative, similar to shut up. I have been discussing this ...
30
votes
17answers
10k views

Opposite of 'Midas touch'?

I'm wondering what word or phrase could be used for the counter examples of 'Midas touch' effect. The Midas touch, or the gift of profiting from whatever one undertakes, is named for a legendary ...
30
votes
7answers
4k views

Phrase when you offer someone something but it's really them who are paying for it

In Dutch, there is an idiom iemand een sigaar uit eigen doos geven, which literally means to give someone a cigar from [their] own box. The idiom is used when you offer someone something, but it's ...
29
votes
10answers
19k views

Opposite of “literal”

I was listening to the radio today, and someone said, "The couple came across a literal 'pot of gold.'" It made me think: how do you say the opposite of that? I'm looking for a statement or phrase ...
28
votes
13answers
6k views

What do you call a disgusting mixture you don't want to drink?

What do you call a drink (usually an alcoholic one, say a long drink or a cocktail) that you don't want to have, because you consider it a low quality, disgusting mixture, maybe even of suspicious, ...
28
votes
15answers
7k views

What would you call a person who is self-righteous, brags about her/his moral values and is imposing when it comes to her/his ideas?

I want to describe, in a phrase, a number of traits in a person. I'm looking to describe a self-righteous, pious person who cannot stop bragging about her/his moral values while trying to impose ...
28
votes
6answers
3k views

Is there a word for the time span between an old king and a new king?

A king suddenly dies, and during the immediate aftermath, the realm is without an official leader (leaving the throne susceptible to usurpers) and the heir is still being notified or is traveling and ...
28
votes
14answers
3k views

Phrase for observing a rule in a malicious way

I know this phrase, but for some reason it is blocked in my mind. What is the term for observing a rule, but doing so in a way that subverts it? I'm almost certain that malicious is one of the words ...
27
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. ...
27
votes
19answers
9k views

A verb that means “to prove someone is guilty of a crime”

Preface: I don't think there is a single-word (verb) that expresses the concept I am asking for, in which case I'd settle for the least ambiguous and most common phrase or idiom that describes the ...
27
votes
14answers
38k views

What is a word/idiom for 'unable to decide'?

Let's say I have an important decision to make and I can't decide between two competing things (like break up with a girl or not break up with her). What would be a word/idiom to express that?
27
votes
17answers
26k views

Word/phrase to mean something that just happens once

What is the word/phrase to mean something that just happens once? For example, I have often been told/expected to do this and not to do that. I become aimless and gradually lose the idea of who ...