An idiom is a group of words which, when used together, has a different meaning from the one which the individual words have. Idioms are used to express something that other words do not express as clearly or as cleverly. Like using a symbol or image to describe something in a clear and effective way.
Since the use of idioms is such an interesting way to get a point across, they’re employed quite often to make the discourse more interesting and earthy. Many of the most common idioms we use today were originally coined by great writers as unique metaphors, for example, the Idiom ‘Break the ice’ was coined by the Earl of Oxford, William Shakespeare. ‘Breaking the ice’ means getting to know someone better, usually by making small talk. Many such Idioms have been with us since ancient times, Idioms have largely been used in literature and in holy texts.
“Since at least the Middle Ages, philosophers and philologists have dreamed of curing natural languages of their flaws by constructing entirely new idioms according to orderly, logical principles” Joshua Foer.
Idioms are a major part of our culture. Every language, dialect and locality has its own intricate and expressive set of idioms. We often see overlaps too. For example, ‘All is well that ends well’ is a commonly quoted idiom. Its Hindi counterpart— ‘अंत भला सो भला’ or ‘Ant Bhala Toh Sab Bhala’ have the same root and mean the same thing. Often, we have idioms in Hindi that have almost congruent English idioms and vice versa. For example, the English equivalent to the saying ‘Bandar Kya Jaane Adrak Ka Swaad’ (which means, a monkey wouldn’t know what ginger tastes like) is ‘casting pearls before swine’. In both the cases, the animals are portrayed as being naïve and oblivious to the worth of certain things.
A native speaker may be able to use these idioms fluently but for a student learning a new language, things could get extremely confusing.
Here, we will explain 20 Idioms, their meanings and more importantly how to use them:
Raining cats and dogs: –
Meaning: Raining heavily.
Example: There’s no way will make it to the mall, it’s raining cats and dogs.
Straight from the horse’s mouth: –
Meaning: Acquiring information from the most reliable source.
Example: I don’t trust the police, I’m going to ask the victim and hear it Straight from the horse’s mouth.
Flying off the handle
Meaning: To become enraged/angry suddenly.
Example: When I finally managed to speak to him, he flew off the handle and shouted down the phone.
Bite the bullet
Meaning: To perform a painful task or endure an unpleasant situation.
Example: The accused man bit the bullet as the judge handed down his sentence.
There’s method in my madness
Meaning: Even though your action seems random, you have a purpose to them.
Example: At the start of his presentation, it seemed that he’s out of his mind, but when he finished, we saw that there’s method in his madness.
Armed to the teeth
Meaning: To be extremely well equipped.
Example: The bank robber was armed to the teeth when he was caught.
Pot calling the kettle black
Meaning: People should not criticize someone else for a fault that they have themselves.
Example: The senator accused the newspaper of misrepresenting the facts, which many people have pointed out is the pot calling the kettle black
The world is my oyster
Meaning: The world is full of possibilities and you can do anything.
Example: You have so much talent at such a young age—the world is your oyster!
Knight in shining armor
Meaning: Heroic, an idealized male who typically comes to the rescue of a female.
Example: He saved me from humiliation – he’s my knight in shining armor.
Once in a blue moon
Meaning: Something that happens very infrequently.
Example: Peter only comes out for a drink once in blue moon now that he has kids.
Live off the fat of the land
Meaning: To get the best of everything without having to work hard for it.
Example: If I had a million dollars, I’d invest it and live off the fat of the land.
Barking up the wrong tree
Meaning: Pursuing a line of thought or course of action that is misguided.
Example: I am not the person who spread those rumors about you, you are barking up the wrong tree.
Dead as a doornail
Meaning: Implying that something is so dead it’s as if it were never alive in the first place.
Example: The idea to start an online business is dead as a doornail now.
Blow one’s own trumpet
Meaning: Boast about one’s own achievements.
Example: You have to be humble in your behavior and for that, the first thing to do is to stop blowing your own trumpet.
Extend the olive branch
Meaning: To extend the olive branch is to take steps towards achieving peace with an enemy (or simply someone with whom you have fallen out).
Example: Tell her you love her but you love your family too and are going to offer an olive branch and try to heal the rift.
Cost an arm and a leg
Meaning: Extremely expensive.
Example: College tuitions cost an arm and leg nowadays.
Piece of cake
Meaning: Activity that is easy or simple.
Example: The math assignment was a piece of cake for me.
Missed the boat
Meaning: Missed an opportunity or chance.
Example: He missed the boat for running the Prime minister this year.
Spill the beans
Meaning: To let secrets out.
Example: Deepika spilled the beans about the diamonds her husband stole.
It takes two to tango
Meaning: Two parties involved in a certain action or situation, especially a wrong that has been committed, are usually both responsible in some way (as opposed to it being the fault or responsibility of one alone).
Example: I’ve tried everything to stop our marriage falling apart. But it takes two to tango and so far, our relationship has been one-sided.