What is the difference between a phrase and an idiom?

  • 2
    Have you looked up the words in the dictionary?
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 12:21

1 Answer 1


A phrase is “a small group of words standing together as a conceptual unit”, but an idiom is “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words”. So, the difference is that an idiom has an established meaning not directly linked to the individual words. Any idiom is a phrase.

As an example, “raining cats and dogs” is both an idiom and a phrase. “A herd of cats” is a phrase but not an idiom.

  • 7
    "A girl's best friend" definitely is an idiom if the speaker is using it to refer to diamonds. :-)
    – Hellion
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 21:45
  • @Hellion: yeah, I should have thought about diamonds. I've edited :)
    – F'x
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 22:26
  • 1
    So in other words, an idiom must have at least 2 words?
    – Pacerier
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 12:52
  • @Pacerier Probably not... like "bullshit" (originally)
    – d'alar'cop
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 12:19
  • Is bullshit an idiom? Isn't it just a word?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 18:01

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