What are Idioms?

Idioms exist in every language and have developed over time. An idiom is a phrase whose meaning isn’t obvious from looking at the individual words. For example, if you say someone has “cold feet,” it doesn’t mean their feet are actually cold. Rather, it means they’re apprehensive about something. They are words or phrases that aren’t meant to be taken literally.

English Idioms

English idioms and proverbs are an important part of everyday English. If you don’t know them, it’s almost impossible to understand the context, so it’s a good idea to master some of these expressions.  As a result, it will also make your English sound more native. The key to understanding English idioms is never to look at them or read them in a literal sense—the words just won’t make sense together. Instead, you need to learn them in context so you can understand their true meaning.

15 Common English Idioms and Expressions

1. Blessing in disguise

Something that seems bad or unlucky at first, but results in something good happening later.

Example: When her boyfriend dumped her, it was a blessing in disguise for Sarah, because otherwise she would never have met the man who is now her husband.

2. The best of both worlds

A situation in which you can enjoy the advantages of two very different things at the same time.

Example: She works in the city and lives in the country, so she gets the best of both worlds.

3. Give someone the cold shoulder

To intentionally ignore someone or treat someone in an unfriendly way.

Example: He has been giving me the cold shoulder since this morning.

4. Let the cat out of the bag

To allow a secret to be known, usually without intending to.

Example: I wanted to keep my new job a secret, but my mother let the cat out of the bag.

5. Once in a blue moon

Not very often.

Example: I work in a foreign country. So, I only see my parents once in a blue moon.

6. On cloud nine

To be extremely happy and excited.

Example: The grandmother was on cloud nine to see her grandson after a long time.

7. Through thick and thin

If you support or stay with someone through thick and thin, you always support or stay with them, even if there are problems or difficulties.

Example: My best friend has stayed with me through thick and thin.

8. Pull someone’s leg

To tell someone something that is not true as a way of joking with the person.

Example: Don’t be upset. I was just pulling your leg.

9. Under the weather

If someone is or feels under the weather, they feel ill.

Example: I missed school as I was feeling a bit under the weather.

10. Miss the boat

To lose an opportunity to do something by being slow to act.

Example: He missed the boat when he did not apply for the job in time.

11. Actions speak louder than words

What you do is more important and shows your intentions and feelings more clearly than what you say.

Example: Politicians are all the same, all talk but no work; do they realise that actions speak louder than words?

12. Bite off more than you can chew

Try to do something that is too difficult for you.’

Example: I think she has bitten off more than she can chew by signing up so many new projects.

13. Break the ice

To make people who have not met before feel more relaxed with each other

Example: Word games are great to break the ice with new students.

14. Costs an arm and a leg

To be extremely expensive.

Example: New cars cost an arm and a leg. I simply can’t afford one.

15. It’s a piece of cake

Something that is easy to do.

Example: My homework was a piece of cake.

Practice these idioms when you are learning English at Studio Cambridge or impress your friends and your teachers by explaining what they mean.