100 Common English Idioms Phrases and their Meaning

Idioms and Phrases with Meanings:


Idiom Meaning
Above board Honest and open
At arms length To keep at a distance
At the eleventh hour At the last moment
At sixes and sevens In a disordered manner
An apple of discord A cause of quarrel
At home Comfortable
Alpha and omega The beginning and the end
At sea Confused and lost
At one’s beck and call At one’s service
An acid test A critical test
Add fuel to the fire To aggravate the situation
At a snail’s pace Very slowly
A bone of contention A source of quarrel
A bolt from the blue Something unexpected
A burning question An important topic
A big gun An important person
A bosom friend A very close friend
A brown study Dreaming
A close shave Narrow escape
A wee bit A little
At one’s wits end In a state where one does not know what to do
An axe to grind A personal interest in the matter
A thorn in the flesh A constant source of annoyance
A man of straw A man of no substance
At one’s beck and call Under his control
At daggers drawn Bitterly hostile

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Idiom Meaning
By leaps and bounds Rapidly
By hook or by crook By fair or foul means
Bring to light Disclose
Burn one’s fingers Get into trouble by interfering in other’s affairs
By fits and starts In short periods, not regularly
Between the devil and the deep sea Between two dangers
Burn the midnight oil Work or study hard
Bury the hatchet End the quarrel and make peace
Bark up the wrong tree Accuse or denounce the wrong person
Be in a tight corner In a very difficult situation


Idiom Meaning
Chew the cud Ponder over something
Call a spade a spade Speak frankly and directly
Come off with flying colours Be highly successful
Cat and dog life Life full of quarrels
Cockand bull story Made up story that one should not believe
Cry for the moon Ask for the impossible
Cross one’s t’s and dot one’s i’s Be precise, careful and exact


Idiom Meaning
Die in harness Die while in service


Idiom Meaning
Feather one’s own nest Make money unfairly

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Idiom Meaning
Gain ground Become popular


Idiom Meaning
Hard and fast rules Strict rules
Hoping against hope Without hope
Hit the nail on the head Do or say the exact thing
Harp on the same string Dwell on the same subject
Have a card up one’s sleeve Have a secret plan in reserve


Idiom Meaning
In hot water In trouble
In the long run Eventually; ultimately
In the nick of time Just at the last moment
In cold blood Deliberately; without emotion
In high spirits Very happy
Let the cat out of the bag Reveal a secret


Idiom Meaning
Kill two birds with one stone To achieve two results with one effort
Keep one at bay Keep one at a distance
Keep one’s fingers crossed The anxiety in which you hope that nothing will upset your plans

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Idiom Meaning
Laugh one’s head off Laugh heartily
Leave no stone unturned Use all available means
Like a fish out of water In a strange situation
Leave one in the lurch Desert one in difficulties; leave one in a helpless condition
Like a cat on hot bricks Very nervous


Idiom Meaning
Make up one’s mind Decide
Make a clean breast of it Confess – especially when a person has done a wrong thing


Idiom Meaning
Nip in the bud Destroy in the early stage
No avail Without any result


Idiom Meaning
On tenterhooks In a state of suspense and anxiety
Out of the wood Free from difficulties and dangers
Out of the way Strange
Out of the question Impossible

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Idiom Meaning
Pay off old scores Take revenge
Put a spoke in one’s wheel To upset one’s plans
Play second fiddle Take an unimportant part
Put the cart before the horse Put or do things in the wrong order


Idiom Meaning
Rank and file Ordinary persons
Read between the lines Understand the hidden meaning
Rain cats and dogs Rain heavily

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Idiom Meaning
Sitting on the fence Hesitate between two decisions
Spread like wild fire Spread quickly
Show a clean pair of heals Run away
Smell a rat Suspect something foul
Stick to one’s guns Remain faithful to the cause


Idiom Meaning
To all names To abuse
To get rid of Dispose of
To cut a sorry figure To make a poor show
Take one to task Rebuke
Turn a deaf ear Disregard / ignore what one says
To beat about the bush Talk irrelevantly
To burn one’s boats Go back on a decision
To burn candle at both ends To waste lavishly
To build castles in the air Make imaginary schemes
To bell the cat To face the risk
To blow one’s own trumpet To praise one’s own achievement
Turn over a new leaf Change for the better
Through thick and thin Under all conditions
The gift of the gab Talent for speaking
Throw out of gear Disturb the work
Tooth and nail With all one’s power
Take to one’s heels Run away
Take a leaf out of one’s book Imitate one
To eat humble pie To apologize humbly; to yield under humiliating circumstances
To eat your words To take back what you have said
To make both ends meet To live within one’s income
To play ducks and drakes To act foolishly or inconsistently
To take the bull by the horns To tackle a problem in a bold and direct fashion
To move heaven and earth To make a supreme effort
The pros and cons The various aspects of a matter in detail

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Idiom Meaning
Under his thumb Under his control


Idiom Meaning
Wash one’s dirty linen in public Discuss unpleasant private matters before strangers
With a high hand Oppressively


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