Questions tagged [idiom-requests]

This tag is for questions seeking an idiom that fits a meaning. If you're also seeking a phrase, see the "phrase-requests" tag too.

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133
votes
17answers
86k 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 ...
129
votes
17answers
18k views

Is there any English/American equivalent for the Hungarian phrase “beating the nettle with someone else's penis”?

I am trying to translate this comically vulgar Hungarian phrase, often (but not exclusively) used in a political context. It means to make someone else carry out one's rash or risky ideas, usually ...
96
votes
23answers
22k views

Idiom for someone who buys all the best gear to do something before they even have a basic proficiency?

I'm looking for an idiom to describe someone who decides to take up a new hobby, then buys an excessive amount of gear before they've even started. Perhaps they believe they need this gear to master ...
82
votes
28answers
116k 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 ...
81
votes
25answers
36k 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 ...
78
votes
23answers
24k views

How to degender “separate the men from the boys”?

How can one degender the phrase "separate the men from the boys"? Examples of how this phrase has traditionally been used: Math teacher: "The ability to do proofs of this type is what separates ...
77
votes
24answers
17k views

A fun, catchy way to say the opposite of a 'no-brainer'?

A no-brainer is "something that requires a minimum of thought" (Merriam-Webster). I could use some help with a catchy way of saying the opposite. Sample sentence: "I have to make a decision and it ...
73
votes
21answers
15k views

Idiom criticizing a person who has unsolved problems but tries to give someone advice about them

Is there an idiom or expression that refers to a person who has some unsolved problems and tries to give some pieces of advice to, or guide, others for solving the same problems? We Iranians have a ...
69
votes
27answers
70k views

Polite alternative for “none of your business”

It seems it's rude and impolite to say directly to someone "none of your business". So, what's the more gentle alternative(s) for situations in which we should say "hey, this is none of your business!...
67
votes
22answers
28k views

Is there an idiom or typical expression for an unfunny joke? [closed]

Could you tell me some suitable idioms to express this situation: A guy told you a joke, but it's not funny at all. In Japanese, we say "He slipped" or "His joke was so cold that the air got ...
67
votes
9answers
9k views

Is there an English idiom that means “you can always find a law to convict anyone”?

There's an infamous phrase in Russian (attributed to Stalin's Chief Prosecutor Vyshinsky): "Был бы человек, а статья найдется" Translated literally, this means "if there was a man, an article {...
64
votes
20answers
23k views

Phrase for a small, legitimate fix for part of a system so broken the fix is unimportant [duplicate]

Looking for a phrase/metaphor describing a situation where a proposed solution, though valid, is targeted for one of many problems in an entity plagued by so many problems as to render the individual ...
60
votes
14answers
33k views

Is there an English equivalent for the expression “Playing the flute to a buffalo”?

There is a saying in India, "Playing the flute to a buffalo" (is wasteful), generally used in the context of knowledge imparting to a stupid person. At the end of the day, stupidity still remains. Is ...
59
votes
11answers
7k 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
13answers
8k views

English equivalent for the Persian idiom “send someone out in pursuit of black chickpeas”

"To send somebody out in pursuit of some black chickpeas" is a Persian idiom that implies 'to make or ask someone to run an errand so that you be able to have/ buy some time in order to deal with your ...
50
votes
18answers
14k views

English equivalent for the Persian proverb “The mountain just gave birth to a mouse”

I'm looking for an idiom or expression to describe a well-known person/ organization/ politician/ government whose achievements in a given situation are smaller than what they had claimed or promised ...
48
votes
15answers
7k views

An English equivalent of Arabic idiom ‘Show us the breadth of your shoulders’

The Arabic idiom “OK, now you can show us the breadth of your shoulders.” has a meaning similar to get lost, but with a more humorous edge. The idea of the idiom comes from when the recipient turns ...
48
votes
11answers
9k views

Equivalent English phrase for “don't roll around where you've fallen”

In my language, we have a phrase which roughly translates to "don't roll around where you've fallen". It indicates that a person has said or done something stupid. Then when someone points this out, ...
48
votes
17answers
8k views

Is there an expression to indicate the strategy of wearing someone down with numerous small irritations?

I would use rope-a-dope, but it's got connotations of pretending to lose that I don't need. I'm trying to describe the behavior of someone who sends twenty detailed emails a day about various projects,...
46
votes
25answers
9k 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 indicates ...
46
votes
29answers
11k views

Is there an English equivalent to the Persian saying “Now that it's my turn, the sky fell down”?

Suppose there are many people standing in a line to receive an expensive item as a free gift, and everyone receives it except for the last person in the line. The last one is told, "Sorry, the gifts ...
46
votes
9answers
13k views

Is there an idiom for “winning a contest because you were the only participant”?

Is there an idiom for winning a contest because you are the only participant and there is no competitor?
45
votes
23answers
36k 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 ...
45
votes
24answers
9k views

Is there an equivalent term to “Cold Turkey” for starting something instead of quitting something?

Cold Turkey is an idiom most commonly used when quitting something that is very difficult, like smoking or drugs all at once instead of gradually. Can you also start something "Cold Turkey" or is ...
45
votes
14answers
10k views

Is there a widely-accepted opposite of “as the crow flies”?

"As the crow flies" describes the distance between two points if one could go in a straight line without needing to follow the constraints of existing roads and paths. Is there a standard phrase for ...
45
votes
9answers
16k views

English equivalent of Polish saying “A yokel can leave a village, but village will never leave yokel”

Consider another nice Polish saying "Chłop ze wsi wyjdzie, ale wieś z chłopa nigdy" that literally means "A yokel can leave a village, but village will never leave yokel". Could you please help me ...
44
votes
17answers
14k views

What's a good idiom or saying to say “don't leave your current job before getting another”?

Someone asked me why I am looking for a new job while I am currently working. This got me thinking if there is a idiom that says something about it being wise to not leave your current job until you ...
43
votes
19answers
7k views

Is there any equivalent for this Persian expression “____ is like an unopened watermelon”?

The Persian expression/ simile "____ is like an unopened (=uncut) watermelon" implies that you never know what the given (risky) issue/ choice will turn out to be until you proceed to experience or ...
43
votes
17answers
16k views

Idiom for situation where you can either gain a lot or lose a lot

I couldn't find a short idiom for a risky situation where you can either gain a lot, or lose a lot, but there is no in between. In French, we use "quitte ou double", which was the name of a game ...
42
votes
6answers
10k views

Word(s) to say if someone doesn't want one thing they surely don't want some second thing

I have been going crazy trying to find this word and I just cant seem to be successful. The word is to state something kind of obvious. Here is an example on where/how to use it: Parent: "Do you ...
42
votes
15answers
7k 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 ...
40
votes
15answers
6k views

What is the equivalent of Persian idiom “When the reed blooms”?

In Persian, we say "When the reed blooms" when we want to express that an event: Never happens. (This is only the opinion of the speaker so it's not a fact) It's very unlikely to happen. It's going ...
40
votes
6answers
9k views

Term for Gift that Turns out to be a Burden

What is the English term for when someone thinks they are doing something nice for you but it ends up making things worse. EX: Someone buys you an elephant -- nice gesture and cool! But now you have ...
38
votes
14answers
17k views

Is there a word or an idiom for people who only spend their families' money and fool around?

Is there a word or an idiom for rich people who spend only their families' money and do not bother to work, just fool around?
38
votes
16answers
8k views

What is the player called who has a turn?

What is the player called who has a turn? I am guessing something like turning player. But I would like some confirmation or maybe is there an idiom for it? Explanation: In a round based game what ...
37
votes
11answers
5k views

Intentionally committing hypocrisy, to show a wrong-doer why you think what they do is wrong

I am looking for a word/idiom to describe the act of doing something against your beliefs so another person can experience the receiving end of the act. You dislike being blinded by high-beams ...
36
votes
11answers
8k views

A word for really thin book pages

I have recently got a book which is almost 700 pages in A4 format. To save the costs, it was printed on very thin paper and with low-coverage ink. I am looking for a single word or an idiom for very, ...
35
votes
17answers
14k views

Secular alternative to “preaching to the choir”?

Is there a secular alternative to the phrase "preaching to the choir"?
34
votes
20answers
17k views

Is there an English equivalent for the Persian proverb “to play with tail of lion”

The Persian proverb to play with tail of lion is used informally. We use it to say that a certain situation is very dangerous. By saying it, we alert the the listener that the act which he or she is ...
34
votes
13answers
69k views

Is there a slang word or idiom for someone who borrows money from friends or relatives and never (or rarely) pays them back?

Edit - My question doesn't refer to bank loans or credit card accounts. Nor does it refer to getting things out of other people's generosity. It is specifically about money and the putative duplicate ...
34
votes
7answers
12k views

An English idiom for “solve a problem that has been solved”?

In Polish, and I believe in a number of other European languages, there is an idiomatic expression which translates to "to force a door which is already open". It is used to describe a situation when ...
33
votes
18answers
10k views

English equivalent of “c'est gratuit”

In French, we have an idiomatic expression to say that something was done for no reason. For instance, if a guy passes by and insults or spits on someone in the street for no reason, we would say "c'...
33
votes
13answers
29k 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 ...
33
votes
14answers
16k 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. Eliye ...
33
votes
11answers
6k views

Is there an English equivalent of the Italian idiom “non confondiamo l'oro con la tolla!”?

In Italy we say "non confondiamo l'oro con la tolla!" (= don't compare gold to tin!) when someone compares a (concrete or abstract) high-value thing to a low-value one. For example: Joe: "LaTeX è ...
32
votes
14answers
13k views

Famous phrase for something which is forbidden or impossible, but can be done if desired enough

In some languages (for example Russian) there is a very famous phrase about something that is forbidden or not possible, but can be done if very desired. Если нельзя, но очень хочется, то можно ...
32
votes
16answers
5k views

Is there any equivalent to this Persian proverb? “A bad or faulty item should inevitably be kept by its owner”

We use a proverb that implies "A bad property (i.e., a thing belonging to someone) or item should inevitably be tolerated/kept by its owner" when we want to say "This bad item won't be accepted by ...
31
votes
30answers
13k views

Is there an idiom available, that is exactly opposite to “Cake walk” or “Child's play”? [closed]

Is there an idiom available, that is exactly opposite to "Cake walk" or "Child's play"? I am looking for something exactly synonymous with "Very difficult" or "strenuous". Example Sentence: This ...
31
votes
11answers
10k views

Idiom for making fun of something people are ashamed of?

What is the idiom that can describe the action of making fun of somebody's already sensitive and weak spot for which s/he is already troubled or ashamed? For instance, mocking somebody about his/her ...
31
votes
14answers
11k views

English idiom for learning a skill by observing someone else doing it

I've had this silly obsession for a while: I can't seem to find a proper phrase in English that is as expressive and 'colorful' as the idiom in my native language that describes learning a new skill ...

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