Questions tagged [idioms]

Idioms are a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. Use [idiom-requests] if you are searching for an idiom with a particular meaning.

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The use of idioms in academic essays [closed]

I sometimes heard idioms during conversations, but Can we use idioms like 'more often than not' or 'look over their shoulder' in an academic essay such as the IELTS exam?
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What is the origin of the idiom "I did her"?

I've been watching a TV show called Two and a Half Men and there's a part where Allan says to Charlie: Why what'd you do? and Charlie replies I did Rose. I've researched this and found that the ...
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Differences between Watch out! The car is coming and Watch out! The baby is going to fall! [migrated]

Why in the first one I should use present continuous after watch out and in the second one Going to +V.ing?
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Can you actually "make" a girlfriend or boyfriend? [migrated]

I think I hear young people say this a lot but it sounds weird to my ear. I always say "dated/had" or "started to date/go out with". How acceptable and widely used is "make a ...
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2 answers
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What's the origin of the idiom "fish for a compliment"

I have been searching for the origin of the phrase "fish for a compliment", but I couldn't find anything on the internet. Goose egg! The Free Dictionary defines the idiom fish for ...
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4 answers
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Idiom for doing everything oneself

I am trying to find a generally acknowledged idiom for completing all steps of a task. I have heard versions referring to comedy: I did everything, Premise, Setup and Punchline Volleyball: I did ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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"Ink" as a term for coffee?

I've stumbled upon a thesaurus entry for the word "ink" that connects it to various words to describe coffee or caffeine, none of which I have -ever- heard in my life! I'm a coffee-drinker, ...
1 vote
1 answer
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Talk vs open up

Look at these two newspaper article titles(I know you must be thinking that the first one no journalist would write this way): 1: "Klopp talks about what went wrong with his team". 2: "...
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2 answers
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Is there an idiom which means one too many?

In my professional work, I often want to use a phrase which means: Here is an additional idea, but it may be one consideration too many and thus not useful / should be discarded. For example in ...
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1 answer
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What is an "avuncle-off"?

In Adrian Tshaikovsky's book Shards of Earth For a moment Solace though the pair were going to have an avuncle-off right here at the table. Even if I know that an "avuncle" is a mother's ...
2 votes
1 answer
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What is the meaning of "Patch on your jeans"?

What does it mean to say "those guys are not a patch on our jeans" as Biden said here: I’ve long said — and I mean this — I have never, ever, ever been more optimistic about America’s ...
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"In the right direction" or "to the right direction" or "at the right direction" [migrated]

May I know why "in" is used in this sentence: Tom asked Bill where the train station was? Bill told him north, pointing him in the right direction. Why does it not use : pointing him to ...
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2 answers
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"A portion of my proceeds, it goes to charity" - Is adding pronoun here to refer to the subject appropriate?

Research: I have been listening to lots of English, and I've noticed that sometimes English native speakers tend to add pronouns to refer to the subject of their sentence, and their real subject takes ...
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11 answers
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American English idiom meaning "painful to resist the gods"

There seems to be a British English idiom that matches the usage I seek: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/kick-against-the-pricks Kick against the pricks is also the translation ...
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1 answer
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Should I use "I'm noting down ..." or "I'm taking ... to note."?

In this example, I am writing down in my notebook some high-level terms that were used in other people's conversation. I want to tell my friend that I am doing so. In the following two sentences, ...
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1 answer
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Four word, two part phrase containing 'head empty'

I'm trying to recall this phrase that implies someone is carefree, well-meaning but either not very bright in general or is momentarily mentally vacant (from tiredness perhaps). I may have seen it ...
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1 answer
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Which literary device is "the only place to put the pieces were the bags under my eyes"?

I am writing a few paragraphs about Rupi Kaur's poetry. I've been trying to think about which literary device is used in this example. In milk and honey, written by Rupi Kaur, she states: "the ...
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What does "a chip of strawberries" mean?

In Chapter 10 of Ulysses, there is another confusing quote among all the other innumerable "poetic" and "literary" and "metaphorical" ones: Blazes Boylan walked here and ...
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10 answers
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Alternative idiom to "ploughing through something" that's more sad and struggling

I thought that "to plough through" something means that you're going through a difficult time, feel down, but do your best to keep going. But when I looked it up, I find definitions like: ...
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1 answer
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Expression for "embracing the accusations"?

Is there an expression that refers to the phenomenon of embracing accusations/rumours made against you? So, for example, if a child is told constantly that they are bad, they might grow up to be a bad ...
2 votes
1 answer
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Why does to "to live a dog's life" have opposite meanings in the UK and US

In the US, to "lead a dog's life" means to be to be comfortable, even pampered. In the UK it means to have a terrible, harassed life. This is especially odd because the UK is notoriously dog ...
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How might we understand the phrase "on goal"?

The sentence is, He [the goalie] is pretty much incapable of thwarting even the most fainthearted attempts on goal. Source - Own Goal The meaning seems clear: the goalie is failing to prevent goals....
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1 answer
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How to say I would join but cant give an exact time. Basically, things would be a bit unpremediated and would need to play it by the ear? [closed]

How do I say that since I am caught up in things and I cannot predict how they would go, I would have to be improvising on a given schedule and everyone else should go ahead without me? I could be a ...
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1 answer
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What is a dry county in this context?

I'm reading Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, which contains this passage (emphasis added): These were said to be individuals who beat the tar out of each other, husbands belting wives, mothers ...
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3 answers
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Is "can be able to" idiomatic among native speakers at all? If not, what's its origin?

I've heard the expression can be able to consistently from a couple of folks from India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Here are a couple of paraphrased examples: By signing up to our service,...
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1 answer
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What does "it's a whole lot of cake with not a lot of icing" mean? [closed]

"That/this/it's a whole lot of cake with not a lot of icing" I don't have great context for this but I don't know if saying this sentence can be construed as offensive, etc.
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What is this type of idiomatic way to talk, or does it have a different name? [closed]

Sometimes my friend will say things with alternative words, like: Firefox literally sips memory in that case they were trying to say Firefox doesn't use a lot of system resources, but it sounds much ...
10 votes
9 answers
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Does English have an equivalent to the Aramaic idiom "ashes on my head"?

When Aramaic speakers (Assyrians) exclaim "ashes on my head!", it means something horrible has happened - Such as death of a loved one and as well as a bad incident or accident (involving ...
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4 answers
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Is there an idiom that means "one cunning person always can be outsmarted (tricked) by another"?

I'm looking for an idiom (or other fixed expression) meaning that when there is one cunning person who thinks much of himself, there will be another one who can outsmart him.
2 votes
1 answer
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Idiom/metaphor for a constant figure in a certain place

I was wondering if there were any idioms or cliched metaphors commonly used to describe someone who you can always expect to see in a certain place because they spend a lot of time there (or even ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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How common is the phrase: "Blessed be nothing"?

The phrase itself is found in one of Emerson's essays: "Blessed be nothing," and "the worse things are, the better they are," are proverbs which express the transcendentalism of ...
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What prepositions does ‘are concerned’ take? [closed]

What is the most appropriate preposition to go with the verb phrase are concerned in the following sentence from some test or homework? Although ballet and modern dance are both concerned [ in / to / ...
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1 answer
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Is there a word that means exactly physically carrying things (baggage, person etc.) on the head or shoulders?

Example sentence Bill ____ the demon. Single word (verb) is better, two words (VP) are okay. The word has to mean carrying something physically on the head or shoulders.
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1 answer
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Hook, line and sinker [closed]

I learned that "hook, line and sinker" is used to emphasize that someone has been completely deceived or tricked. I'd like to know whether it is appropriate to use the phrase in a formal ...
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1 answer
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Meaning of "after the pips"

For 100 years, the BBC has parceled up disaster and defeat, then distributed them, after the pips and before the weather forecast, to the British. "After the pips" should be something ...
-1 votes
1 answer
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Is it "apply to" a position or "apply for"?

Is it apply to a position or for a position? Is position here a place you apply "to" (if it is actually the place) or a reason, in which case it would be apply "for" (if it is the ...
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4 answers
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Phrases/idioms to say you should have done a certain thing without using "regret"

Are there any suitable phrases/idioms to describe that I should have done a certain thing and I regret not having done it? For example, I have one regret from my school days, which is that I didn't ...
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1 vote
2 answers
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"Under the glass" means "not in public"?

I heard a woman who is a native English speaker saying "someone will say something like that in public or under the glass." I've not heard of the idiom, "under the glass", but ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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"That ain't no small potatoes." Are there any similar, yet vulgar, idioms?

It is said that back in the middle ages, university students from various regions who communicated with one another in Latin came up with this intriguing phrase: "Lingua Latina non verpa canina ...
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1 answer
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Meaning of " go with the billet " [closed]

Here is the passage : Upstairs, ghosts have been seen flitting about the house. These I haven’t seen, but they’ve been reported for years, and apparently they go with the billet. Now, I wouldn’t ...
1 vote
2 answers
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Idiom for bringing people to an enormous problem/situation/thing to do their work

I have read the question English equivalent of the Greek “When Muhammad does not go to the mountain…”? and it is neither an answer to this question, nor are there any answers to the question posed ...
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A cup of a tea's time

is it understandable to ask "a cup of tea's time" to one of your colleagues? meaning, I won't bother you longer than 5-10 minutes. That's a common way to approach it in my country (Italy), ...
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To "take a first pass"

I was wondering what are the correct ways to use the "take a first pass" idiom, in the context of "doing a first round of revision" of a document? Something like: I did a first ...
2 votes
1 answer
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Entry of "bury one's head in the sand" into English

How did the phrase "bury one's head in the sand" meaning "to ignore a bad situation hoping it will disappear" (coming from the misbelief that ostriches do this to hide from ...
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A question about usage of 'right proper' or 'right and proper' in UK / US English

Am I correct in thinking that 'right proper' is a phrase used adjectivally, as in 'A Right Proper Murder', and 'right and proper' adverbially, as in the entries in Urban Dictionary? right and proper ...
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1 answer
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What does "pack a buck for miles" mean?

I am reading "Where the Crawdads sing" and I stumbled upon this sentence "pack a buck for miles". Does this mean some money (e.g., US dollar)? "The Land . . . being marshy ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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What is the meaning of "As bare as a bird’s tail?"

I initially found it in a 17th century [English-Dutch Dictionary][1], page 37 I then found it in https://www.bartleby.com/ As bare as a bird’s tail. 1361 Twelve Mery Gestys of the Widow Edyth, 1525, ...
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Idiom for mistaking the part for the whole

"Missing the forest for the trees" is close, but moreso refers to failing to consider the whole because you're so focused on the parts. What I'm looking for is an idiom that describes ...
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1 answer
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Another way to say, finding the right one?

I'm trying to build a learning material about interviewing and hiring tips. I'm thinking of a catchy title that appeals to the general corporate audience. Something that everyone gets but is not corny....
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So nearly so as to

While reading the book Introduction to Mathematical Logic by Alonso Church, I have met with the idiom 'so nearly so as to' of which meaning I hardly grasp from context: Again the sentence "Sir ...

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