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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Idiom for tinkering and then returning to what you had at first?

I'm trying to think of a good idiom/phrase for the process of questioning what you have, tinkering with it and finally returning to what you had at first. Specifically returning accidentally, then ...
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The "few would argue" idiomatic phrase

Taken literally from a modern US English viewpoint, the phrase "few would argue that" would mean that the statement the phrase appears before is widely held to be false. The specific wording ...
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Is there any expression for 'things that are innocent but appear or look bad'?

Is there any phrase or expression or idiom for a situation where things are actually innocent but appear bad. Example: A young girl is not supposed to go to a boy´s home if his parents are not there. ...
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Biding their time to reveal their hidden depths

Is there a phrase for what a person is or is doing who is underrated by people but then shows themselves to contain hidden depths? Not quite a diamond in the rough. Sort of like dark horse. Hmm? Not ...
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What is the origin of the phrase "(play) out of [their] skin"?

The phrase "play out of their skin" is frequently used in sports commentary, and to a lesser extent in describing exceptional performance in other areas, especially where physical exertion and/or some ...
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Working vs walking on both sides of the street

Dictionary.com renders "work both sides of the street" as: To take two contrary positions at once; have it both ways Similarly, idiom.thefreedictionary.com has "work both sides of the street" as: ...
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What's the meaning of the idiom "to lie flat" when applied to a document or project?

I'm encountering this idiom in a government/business context. For example, someone will say that changes to Document A affect Person X's workload, so we'd like to get that document "lying flat" for a ...
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Words/phrases like "kindred spirit" that refer to both the speaker and the subject of the sentence

The google definition of kindred spirit is "a person whose interests or attitudes are similar to one's own." That means that if I were to say to someone "You are a kindred spirit", I am describing ...
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Metaphors for Computation: Usage of "Before" and "Below"

Are "before" and "below" interchangeable? In context, the example is medical expenses before the AGI floor when the intended meaning apparently is medical expenses below the AGI floor The ...
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What is the origin of '__ cents on the dollar'?

A question about the origin of the phrase __ cents on the dollar already exists on this site, but that question was interpreted by the answerers as a request for a relatively simple explanation of its ...
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Words or idioms to describe burden of knowledge but not doing or caring about it

I want to capture the pain which comes from having knowledge that will improve the situation or make the world a better place but being apathetic towards it. They care, but not enough. They can act ...
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Do most native speakers understand most idioms?

I wrote to a friend, who is a native speaker of English about visiting her father. I wrote Should I give him a ring before visiting? Here giving someone a ring is an English idiom which means ...
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Why Are Baseball Metaphors Popular for Corporate Jargon?

Why are sports metaphors (football, baseball) so popular in western corporate cultures? I find that sports metaphors are frequently used as popular jargon there. It seems like they're less used in ...
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“Fools that they are”

I have a question about the interposition “fools that they are” in the following: “Fools that they are, they never knew thy guiltless pride, thy true spirit.” Using Google’s Ngram Viewer, I found ...
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"It's not a lottery ticket I'd like to buy." - idiom or metaphor?

Is "It's not a lottery ticket I'd like to buy" an example of an idiom or a metaphor in this extract? Or could it be something different altogether? Context: Despite the chance that people ...
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Idiom for Change in Game-plan or strategy

In light of the coronavirus, I am making a professional presentation about how my company can change its strategy to suit the new situation. Is there a fun idiom or phrase I can use to title this ...
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Is there a word for when you tell show something and it doesn't work?

E.g. "This hasn't been working all day", and then when you show it, it works
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You should swallow all the class material

In my language, when someone studies and learns something in a perfect way, we say something that literally translates to, "she has swallowed all the material I have taught her". It means she has ...
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slang for black market food in WWII

In researching a story set in the U.S.A. during World War II, I came across a slang term for food procured through the black market (not rationing stamps). Now I can’t find where I read it. In the ...
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Idioms for when doing something needless when you really have many important things to do first

Are there English idioms for voicing the needlessness of engaging in a particular, low or no priority action when you already have a number of high priority tasks on your hands?
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What does the exact phrase "on part with" mean?

I encountered that phrase in the following context. The first numbered item in an unofficial translation of the "Casablanca Protocol"of 1965 says: "(1) Whilst retaining their Palestinian nationality, ...
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Confused of "beat around the bush"

I have searched "beat around the bush" but it seems that it has two meanings based on my understanding. First is it's like you're insinuating or implying a topic/question to someone so it is not ...
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1 answer
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Meaning of "to live one's own bit"

Speaking of Richard Henry Dana, at the end of his study, D. H. Lawrence states: Dana lived his bit in two years, and drummed out the rest. Could we say that "lived his bit" is akin to &...
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Is there a phrase for a person who supports something which is bad for them and is held up as proof that the bad policy is good?

Is there a phrase which describes the situation in which a person supports something that is detrimental for them, and then held out as evidence that the detrimental policy is correct? For example: ...
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Can we use binomial 'wine and dine' even if we just eat usual?

This question came to my mind after reading a sub-chapter on my book about binomials. The book also defines each binomial to help the reader understand. Here's the sentence, by the way: She has to ...
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Why ships and countries are 'her' in the old texts but not 'it'?

I have read both of these two good questions and answers and I got the answer of my question, that in the modern English "it" is used more than "her" while referring to a ship or ...
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Can "raise a point" and "make a point" mean the same thing generally?

I personally think "to raise a point" means "to mention some point of interest" while "to make a point" means "to state or demonstrate something of particular ...
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proverbial idiom that fits the point that "Main contractor asking (polite forcing) subcontractor to spoon feed his own duty in its entirety"

In business, a main contractor is the one who takes up the responsibility of the whole project which he understands he can undertake in its entirety, some without and part with help of a subcontractor....
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"Set in stone in 1979..." or "Carved in stone in 1979" at beginning of sentence?

If I start a sentence with "Set in stone in 1979, the government ban on so-and-so..." or "Carved in stone in 1979, the government ban on so-and-so...", are both of these examples correct in grammar? ...
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What does „stocks of things, recent stuff” mean?

My friend has a problem with the phrase in the title. We’re both non-natives of English and despite my advanced level I’ve never seen such a phrase. It was said by a bilingual child while telling ...
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Is there a term to describe a word or idiom that translates literally as one thing, but is actually a specific word?

Is there a term to describe a word or idiom that translates literally as one thing, but is actually a specific word in the translated language? My best example would be 'pomme de terre' from French ...
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Is there a term for hyperbolic words or expressions that are no longer used for exaggeration?

I recently encountered two instances of apparently hyperbolic terms that were used without any realisation that the traditional implications were far more serious / demanding / extreme. Someone said ...
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Is there any idiom or expression for someone who gets something without any kind of effort?

Is there any idiom or expression for someone who gets something without any effort? like a guy got a job without doing anything.. I want a idiom by which i can mock him
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1 vote
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I have problems with some Irish slang

I am translating a text set in Ireland and there are some Irish phrases that I do not understand. 1- Bartley Butt-end-of-the-village: I could only find one reference in the internet. Does this mean a ...
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Word for participating in solving a puzzle?

Is there a word or short phrase for collaboratively solving a puzzle, or to describe the individual's role in that collaboration? Looking for something specific to solving something, ideally puzzles, ...
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Explanation of idiom "Can't sit on one's hair"

Reading a book by Salman Rushdie ("Shame") and there's such an expression, I guess it should be an idiom, but I can't find its explanation. So, the author describes his younger sister. ...Who is ...
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Resource to search for missing words in common (short) expressions and idioms

Sometimes I have a partial expression that's stuck in my head and I have a really hard time trying to figure out what the missing portion of it is. For example, today I woke up with the expression "[...
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About the usage of "had" in this sentence?

Epistemologically speaking, it is facts about the relationship had with the trusted that determines the justification of trust, it is not the mere absence of defeating reasons. (Source) It seems to ...
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Phrase, idiom, expression suited for putting one's own requirement saying that it is instruction coming from someone else

Context My boss one day called me in his office and said that now i have to include tasks 3,5,6 to complete the entire assignment. Traditionally, the usual sequence of task was from 1 through 10, but ...
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Idiom for meeting one's match

I'm translating a comic book, and I got stumped on a certain idiom, not sure what I could use in its place in the English translation. The Polish "Trafiła kosa na kamień" (lit: the scythe hit a rock)...
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What is the meaning of expression "There's more fours than fives"?

Does anyone know what this expression means? My father loaded trucks in the 1950s with a guy who said this. The only explanation I ever got was that it was some kind of gay slur. But for the life of ...
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1 vote
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“Curdle me sour”

I am reading a children’s book called gerinimo Stilton, the curse of the cheese pyramid. I found an expression “curdle me sour” in the book. I thought it was an idom so looked it up. I got nothing ...
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bear oneself out

This is part of a TED talk "How the blockchain will radically transform the economy": The last uncertainty that we often face is one of the most open-ended, and it's reneging. What if you don't ...
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4 answers
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Have...going for one/oneself

There's this expression shown in Oxford: have — going for one Used to indicate how much someone has in their favour or to their advantage. Why did she do it? She had so much going for her In this ...
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Is 'the hills near the wolves' an idiom in English?

In John Berger's 1984 collection of essays and poetry, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos, we read: The transition from a nomadic life to a settled one is said to mark the beginning of what ...
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Figurative use of words

I love creative writing and especially figurative language. So, very often I dig dictionaries to find the idiomatic uses of words that would potentially 'add spice' in a way I want. All dictionaries ...
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Tables have turned or Tables are turned?

I often get confused while using this idiom. Can anyone give the use case for each of them? Or is that only one phrase is correct among them and the other one is wrong?
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What does "burning under your nails" mean?

The context that I have encountered is: "Ask anything else that burns under your nails". For the above case, does it imply ANY question in my mind or just the ones that bugs me or does it mean simply ...
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Using the idiom "peace of mind"

Which usage is more appropriate, or are they equal? It afforded me the luxury of travelling and the peace of mind in knowing that I could work anywhere. It afforded me the luxury of travelling and ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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The good/better/best part of

The good part of the year. The better part of the year. The best part of the year. The nice part of the year (If we say so). What is the difference, if any? My research: According to the dictionaries,...
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