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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183
votes
36answers
75k 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 ...
129
votes
9answers
18k views

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

(Perhaps this only happens to me, but I doubt it.) 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 ...
76
votes
20answers
6k 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 ...
76
votes
12answers
5k 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 ...
67
votes
28answers
10k 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 ...
67
votes
30answers
8k 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 ...
49
votes
10answers
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 ...
45
votes
24answers
4k 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 ...
44
votes
25answers
11k 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 ...
43
votes
10answers
3k 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. ...
42
votes
9answers
3k 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 ...
36
votes
10answers
4k 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
12answers
8k 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 ...
33
votes
18answers
7k 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.
32
votes
13answers
103k 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 ...
31
votes
5answers
11k 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 ...
30
votes
15answers
5k 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 ...
30
votes
6answers
71k 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 ...
30
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 ...
29
votes
14answers
4k 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 ...
28
votes
17answers
6k 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 ...
27
votes
14answers
2k 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 ...
26
votes
17answers
11k 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 ...
26
votes
10answers
7k 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 ...
25
votes
14answers
15k 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?
25
votes
4answers
1k views

It's so cold that if it rains it'll snow

I want a replacement for rains in the above, as it doesn't really make sense since it won't rain, it will snow. I think I could use precipitates but I wouldn't use that in conversation as it seems ...
24
votes
10answers
5k 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 ...
24
votes
9answers
2k views

“Saving on the parrot's chocolate is futile”

In Catalan there is an expression "ser la xocolata del lloro" that can be translated as "saving by not giving chocolate to the parrot is futile", conveying the meaning that when a household wants to ...
23
votes
32answers
7k views

Alternative ways to say “I cannot answer that question”? [closed]

I'm getting bored of repeating the same "I can't answer that" phrase over and over. I'm trying other phrases, like "I'll leave that to your imagination," but that one sounds too weird. Specifically, ...
23
votes
26answers
21k views

Common phrases for something that appears good but is actually bad

What are common phrases that describe something that appears good but is actually bad? Edit: Because people say bad is vague I will try to sum up the phrase meaning a little better. something that ...
23
votes
12answers
2k views

Expression that means something like “killing the sheep to keep them from being kidnapped”

I'm looking for an expression that conveys an excessive risk management approach that ends up having a worse effect than what it is trying to protect against.
23
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.
21
votes
22answers
24k views

An idiom meaning someone's doing something useless and has no result at the end

In my native language, we use an idiom to warn someone that they're doing something which has no result at the end: Trying to convince him is like squashing water ... Is there any idiom in ...
21
votes
15answers
4k views

What do you call someone who exploits people and their confidence using ‘clever speech’? [closed]

I am referring to someone who makes people ‘buy’ what he says and gets things done by them through nothing but clever speech – something one can describe as crafty or beguiling, but not fraudulent. I ...
21
votes
15answers
6k views

What is a term for someone who doesn't know what they haven't experienced?

I'm struggling to find a word or short term for a person or group of people who do not experience jealousy/remorse/etc. due to a lack of something. For example, people from the middle ages could not ...
21
votes
8answers
954 views

What is a better way to name “The Wrong Question”?

On StackOverflow.com I often find that people ask questions about problems that arise due to poor design choices (typically due to a lack of knowledge about the particular programming language). For ...
20
votes
11answers
2k views

Colorful term for someone with a long-overdue library book [closed]

I'm trying to find a humorous term for someone who still has an overdue library book after a number of years. I first came up with "delinquent lendee", but I'm sure there's something more apropos or ...
20
votes
10answers
5k views

A word for the heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can't have

There is a phrase in French that exactly means this: "la douleur exquise" It literally means "the exquisite pain" and expresses the pain of wanting the affection of someone unattainable. I think it ...
19
votes
9answers
12k views

Antonym of “highlight”

What's the opposite of highlight? I don't mean the verb to highlight or to emphasize something, so downplay isn't an option. Instead I'm looking for the opposite of "the highlight of the movie, ...
19
votes
8answers
4k views

Alternative to “We'll just have to agree to disagree”

Is there a polite alternative to "We'll just have to agree to disagree" that can be used as an exit strategy from a relatively friendly debate when a person feels they've said all they have to say and ...
19
votes
6answers
7k views

What do you call those divisions of a book bigger than a paragraph but smaller than a chapter?

In printed books, or at least in novels, there are often major breaks within a chapter more important than paragraphs. Often they are separated by a greater amount of whitespace than paragraphs and ...
18
votes
9answers
2k views

Terminology for fake photograph

I think there is a good chance that a new word or phrase has been coined to mean fake photograph. Is there a single word to express it?
18
votes
11answers
2k views

What is a person who never leaves a tip called?

Ever wonder why the waiter at the restaurant you went to last week is now giving you dirty looks. Well, perhaps you didn't leave them a tip! Then, the question is: What is a person who never leaves a ...
18
votes
10answers
3k views

Is there a word or phrase meaning to plant my idea in someone else’s mind?

Is there a word or phrase that means to plant my idea in someone else’s mind so they think it is their own idea? Just like what happened in the movie Inception.
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Opposite of “to my credit”?

In writing a question for Programmers StackExchange, I wanted to write a sentence similar to "To my credit, I did foo, bar, and baz," except foo bar and baz are bad things so they are actually the ...
17
votes
13answers
3k views

What metaphor or phrase can describe an object that is aesthetically pleasing yet totally useless?

Is there a conventional metaphor or phrase that just hits this meaning:good-looking yet useless?
17
votes
10answers
2k 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
5answers
1k views

Two kinds of “borrow”

In Hebrew there is a difference, although often overlooked in spoken Hebrew, between the word "to borrow" for something that is intended to be returned "as is" such as a tool or a vehicle, and the ...
16
votes
14answers
3k views

What do you call it when the video is not smooth?

What is the English phrase to describe a video that is not running smoothly, but rather has interruptions in it, becoming sort of like a gif? Usually these things happen due to technical problems such ...
16
votes
11answers
2k views

Is there an equivalent of “reverie” where one is lost in unpleasant thoughts?

To say "the noise outside shook her from her reverie" implies she was lost in pleasant daydreams. What if she was lost in worry or unpleasant thoughts? Is there an equivalent term (single word or ...