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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4k views

The meaning of the expression “Never laugh at live dragons”

I'm a big Tolkien fan and have read LOTR and The Hobbit many times. However, there's one quote from The Hobbit that I've never fully understood, and that is the phrase, "Never laugh at live dragons". ...
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What is the idiom or expression used to say that “what someone has done is nothing special”?

Something like praising someone ironically when they have messed up or they don't derserve it.
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Question about how to use the word suicide [duplicate]

I got this note from a literary agent and am curious about usage of the word suicide. I had written, "my father was a suicide." Which sounds a little archaic but wanted to avoid saying "...
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8answers
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encapsulating a positive thing among many negative things

Is there a phrase that encapsulates 'this is a positive thing among many negative things'? Context: I need to find a name for an article I am writing - which is about how a person turned everything ...
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Origin of the of the phrase “feeling blue”

Where did the expression "feeling blue" come from?
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1answer
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No test that you wouldn't have had done before

No test that you wouldn't have had done before https://youtu.be/4nm6Xaxvqd0?t=200 (3:20) Is this phrase grammatical? There's no idiom such as would (not) have or have done. What about No test you ...
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Origin of phrase 'come on'

Is the origin/first usage of the phrase 'come on' known? I know there is a similar 'kom op' in Dutch (same meaning, as well as a literal translation of the words), but I don't know which took it from ...
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3answers
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Proper response to “Do the needful”, when the “needful” might not be clearly defined

I have worked in various places where "do the needful" is quite the common idiom. However, in some situations, both parties might not be quite aligned precisely with what falls under the scope of "...
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1answer
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Is there an Idiom for someone who tried but failed because it was too much for him

I'm wondering if there's an idiom similar to an idiom in Czech. In Czech, it's 'Vylámat si na něčem zuby' ~ 'To break one's teeth on something'. To try and do something but failing nonetheless. It's ...
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Is there an idiom for when two things are the same, like tomayto-tomahto, that works well in written form?

"Tomayto-tomahto" /təˈmeɪ.t̬oʊ - təˈmɑː.təʊ/ is a spoken idiom playing on the different US and UK pronuncation of the word "tomato", used to express when two seemingly different ...
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A to the B to the C: some kind of slang [closed]

I've often heard, especially in songs where slang is commonly used (pop, rap, etc.), people use a weird structure: something like "A to the B to the C...", where A, B, C, etc. are usually ...
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'Got more sense'. What does it mean? [closed]

Can you elucidate the meaning of the third sentence in the dialogue: A: “I am no more sick than you are,” said the woman in bed. B: “Oh, yes you are!” A: “I just got more sense than you have, that’s ...
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When was ad hoc introduced in English?

When was ad hoc introduced in English? I found this, but it is only a vague speculation. Originally, ad hoc is a Latin phrase, and it is speculated that the term was first used in English in the mid-...
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What does 'to be a story' means?

Could you explain to me, please, what the expression "You are a story" means, used in the following dialogue: A: “You mustn’t pay any attention to old Addie,” she now said to the little girl....
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Idiom meaning inferring too much from the available evidence

Suppose there is a little bit of evidence available, such as a red stain on the wall, and one starts to deduce "facts" from that, for example, that someone cut their finger by a knife ...
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1answer
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define “the dangerous age”

How many years-old is "the dangerous age"? Where does the term come from? (Google doesn't seem to know.) "I've reached the dangerous age, and lady, I'm going to have fun." X ...
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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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How to understand the meaning of this as…as sentence seems to be self-contradictory?

This time I encountered a seemingly self-contradictory sentence from a book: It's easy to see that locate is as simple as find is complicated. Apparently, simple and complicated are two words with ...
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1answer
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Is there an idiom/phrase that describes the act of trying to fix something unfixable? [duplicate]

Most of you probably heard the phrase "gild the lily", which describes the act of trying to improve something that is already perfect. What I'm looking for is the opposite of that, is there ...
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1answer
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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 "sow (one's) ...
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Full Swing / Go With A Swing [closed]

In what context do we usually use 'Go With A Swing /Full Swing'? Can I use it when I'm having a casual conversation with my family and friends?
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Around how old is “a woman of a certain age”?

"A woman of a certain age" is a common saying. It means more than "a woman of a given age", "a woman who could be any age" or "female, without respect to age". It's usage instead seems to suggest a ...
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Where does “nickel tour” come from?

I heard "Nickel tour" is to show you around. From usingenglish.com we can read: If someone gives you a nickel tour, they show you around a place. ('Fifty-cent tour' is also used.) I also read it ...
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9answers
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Why do you “cut” a check?

It's not the end of the deal, right? It's not just you cut a check and you walk away. In this sentence, why does one say "cut" a check? How and when did this comes to be? Is it a popular idiom ...
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Where does the expression “to shine someone on” come from? And does it have racist origins?

Someone suggested to me that the idiom "to shine someone on" is racist in origin. I'm not talking about shine on or shine or any of those other uses. What I'm referring to is shining someone ...
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The growing popularity of “on the cusp”

The term cusp is an old one and it was first used in astrology and later in other contexts: 1580s, in astrology, "first entrance of a house in the calculation of a nativity," from Latin ...
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Idiom to express 'being good at something'

I am currently working on a translation project for university (nothing profressional) and I have a question regarding the translation of a French expression which goes "je ne crains personne&...
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Where and when did the phrase “turkey of the year” originate? [closed]

Was it intended as a denunciation, a serious insult, a jocular dig, or something else? Does it have the same meaning today as it had then?" Definitions of “turkey” (when used to refer to a ...
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a person who is proud of being wrong

How do you describe a person who is proud of being wrong /someone who revels in not knowing the correct answer to a simple question? I think it might be 'inverted ....' but all suggestions welcome.
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What is meaning of “a long way from being”?

Question: Is it bad? Answer: "I've suggestions but this is a long way from being bad" What does this a long way from being mean? Does it mean "much more than just bad" or does it mean "not bad at ...
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Why is the phrase “cake walk” informally used to describe an easy to achieve task, while its origin says a different story?

From Oxford Dictionaries Online: cakewalk ˈkeɪkwɔːk/ noun 1. (informal) an absurdly or surprisingly easy task. "winning the league won't be a cakewalk for them" 2. historical a ...
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Full Steam Ahead … malappropriated when applied to Trains?

Would the phrase "Full Steam Ahead" be appropriate to use in reference to trains? I know there where plenty of steam powered trains, but I thought it was a nautical term. Would it have been used by ...
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For whom the bell tolls - origin of “ask not” instead of “never send to know”

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls" is a popular cliche. My understanding is that it comes from John Donne's Meditation XVII (1623). But in Donne's poem, the line is any man's death diminishes me, ...
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What did James Baldwin mean by “as clean as a bone”?

In his interview with The Paris Review, James Baldwin in answer to the question "As your experience about writing accrues, what would you say increases with knowledge?", says: You learn how ...
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What's the origin of the phrase “bubble gum and shoe strings”

I'm not entirely sure if the idiom should be "bubble gum and shoe strings" or "bubble gum and matchsticks"; however from the context it looks like it refers to a cheaply done repair job, which may be ...
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1answer
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many a: distributive idiom

According to Garner's fourth edition, there is many a person is the correct verbal agreement because many a is a distributive rather than aggregate idiom. What does the author refer to by the ...
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What does it mean to “draw a line under something”?

The intuitive answer to me would be to "emphasize" something. This explanation seems different from others I've seen, however, that say it means to "finish something". Help on this?
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What does “punch line” mean?

I read this sentence and I don't understand what "punch line" means here: Most people recognize this Amazon: Jeff Bezos's hyperproficient Borders-killer; one of the few dot-com initial public ...
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“Come Hell or high water” vs “Lord willing and the creek don't rise”

Recently I've wondered about two idioms which have a strange relationship. Come Hell or high water and Lord willing and the creek don't rise Grammatical accuracy, alternative formulations, ...
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What does “fully qualified” mean by itself and how it can be used?

I know this phrase from usage with DNS as Fully Qualified Domain Name but that's the only use case I'm aware of. So, 1. I'm wondering what "Fully Qualified" means by itself and how it is applicable ...
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What's the origin of the phrase “show true colours?”

I wonder if someone knows the actual origin and oldest printed record of the idiom "show true colours?" Other than this popular theory (seems not real to me): This phrase dates back to the ...
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What does “Help and Company” exactly mean?

I have just watched a movie named "The Equalizer 2". There is a scene when the main character asked an old friend's wife to lift him to a station and then she said "Help and Company". What does it ...
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Song lyric: “But this half-pint imitation put me on the blink”

"Bewitched", sung by Ella Fitzgerald and others, begins: After one whole quart of brandy Like a daisy, I'm awake With no Bromo-Seltzer handy I don't even shake Men are not a new sensation I've done ...
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Equivalent of local idiom “The potter drinks from a broken jar”

There's an idiom in a native language which literally means "The potter drinks from a broken jar". i.e. a potter will not spend a lot of time making a beautiful jar for himself to drink from, he uses ...
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Is there an idiom that conveys the meaning of the French “mi figue mi raisin”?

The French idiom “mi figue, mi raisin” (literally: “half fig, half grape”) refers to someone or something that is neither entirely good, nor entirely bad. I guess the meaning of the expression can be ...
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Angel from Montgomery

Regarding the John Prine song entitled Angel from Montgomery, I’ve read online that Angel From Montgomery might be related to a pardon from Governor but was wondering if that’s a standard idiom or ...
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Idiom: People caring about minor stuff while something terrible is happening

Imagine a situation in which the whole place is on fire, a bomb is about to explode, everyone is running for their lives and someone is checking his looks on the mirror... pretty inappropriate for the ...
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Can a phrase be both a metaphor and an idiom?

A friend and I were discussing if the idiom 'rain check', as in 'taking a rain check' could be considered a metaphor. We both agree that this phrase satisfies the common idiom and metaphor criteria ...
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