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ELL 3
Chapter 1: Let's get together!
ELL 4

IDIOMS

  • A bit much : If something is excessive or annoying, it is a bit much.
  • A chain is no stronger than its weakest link : This means that processes, organisations, etc, are vulnerable because the weakest person or part can always damage or break them.
  • A day late and a dollar short : (USA) If something is a day late and a dollar short, it is too little, too late.
  • A fool and his money are soon parted : This idiom means that people who aren't careful with their money spend it quickly. 'A fool and his money are easily parted' is an alternative form of the idiom.
  • Babe in arms : A babe in arms is a very young child, or a person who is very young to be holding a position.
  • Babe in the woods : A babe in the woods is a naive, defenceless, young person.
  • Baby boomer : (USA) A baby boomer is someone born in the years after the end of the Second World War, a period when the population was growing very fast.
  • Back burner : If an issue is on the back burner, it is being given low priority.
  • Back foot : (UK) If you are on your back foot, you are at a disadvantage and forced to be defensive of your position.
  • Cake's not worth the candle : If someone says that the cake's not worth the candle, they mean that the result will not be worth the effort put in to achieve it.
  • Calf lick : A calf lick is the weird parting in your fringe where your hair grows in a different direction, usually to one side.
  • Call a spade a spade : A person who calls a spade a spade is one speaks frankly and makes little or no attempt to conceal their opinions or to spare the feelings of their audience.
  • Call it a day : If you call it a day, you stop doing something for a while, normally at least until the following day.
  • Daft as a brush : (UK) Someone who is daft as a brush is rather stupid.
  • Damp squib : (UK) If something is expected to have a great effect or impact but doesn't, it is a damp squib.
  • Dancing on someone's grave : If you will dance on someone's grave, you will outlive or outlast them and will celebrate their demise.
  • Dark horse : If someone is a dark horse, they are a bit of a mystery.
  • Each to their own : Different people have different preferences. In American English, 'Each to his own' is more common.
  • Eager beaver : A person who is extremely keen is an eager beaver.
  • Eagle eyes : Someone who has eagle eyes sees everything; no detail is too small.
  • Early bath : (UK) If someone has or goes for an early bath, they quit or lose their job or position earlier than expected because things have gone wrong
  • Face like thunder : If someone has a face like thunder, they are clearly very angry or upset about something.
  • Face only a mother could love : When someone has a face only a mother could love, they are ugly.
  • Face the music : If you have to face the music, you have to accept the negative consequences of something you have done wrong.
  • Face value : If you take something at face value, you accept the appearance rather than looking deeper into the matter.
  • Face your demons : If you face your demons, you confront your fears or something that you have been trying hard to avoid.
  • Game on : When someone says 'Game on!', it means that they are accepting a challenge or ready to get something done.
  • Game plan : A game plan is a strategy.
  • Garbage fee : A garbage fee is a charge that has no value and doesn't provide any real service.
  • Garbage in, garbage out : If a computer system or database is built badly, then the results will be bad.
  • Gardening leave : (UK) If someone is paid for a period when they are not working, either after they have given in their notice or when they are being investigated, they are on gardening leave.
  • Hail-fellow-well-met : Someone whose behavior is hearty, friendly and congenial.
  • Hair of the dog : If someone has a hair of the dog, they have an alcoholic drink as a way of getting rid of a hangover, the unpleasant effects of having drunk too much alcohol the night before. It is commonly used as a way of excusing having a drink early on in the day.
  • Hairy at the heel : (UK) Someone who is hairy at the heel is dangerous or untrustworthy.
  • Hale and hearty : Someone who is hale and hearty is in very good health.
  • I hereby give notice of my intention : Hereby is used sometimes in formal, official declarations and statements to give greater force to the speaker' or the writer's affirmation. People will say it sometimes to emphasise their sincerity and correctness.
  • I may be daft, but I'm not stupid : I might do or say silly things occasionally, but in this instance I know what I am doing (Usually used when someone questions your application of common-sense).
  • Jack Frost : If everything has frozen in winter, then Jack Frost has visited.
  • Jack the Lad : A confident and not very serious young man who behaves as he wants to without thinking about other people is a Jack the Lad.
  • Jack-of-all-trades : A jack-of-all-trades is someone that can do many different jobs.
  • Jam on your face : If you say that someone has jam on their face, they appear to be caught, embarrassed or found guilty.
  • Jam tomorrow : (UK) This idiom is used when people promise good things for the future that will never come.
  • Kangaroo court : When people take the law into their own hands and form courts that are not legal, these are known as kangaroo court.
  • Keen as mustard : (UK) If someone is very enthusiastic, they are as keen as mustard.
  • Keep abreast : If you keep abreast of things, you stay informed about developments.
  • Keep at bay : If you keep someone or something at bay, you maintain a safe distance from them.
  • Keep body and soul together : If you earn enough to cover your basic expenses, but nothing more than that, you earn enough to keep body and soul together.
  • Labor of love : A labor of love is a project or task undertaking for the interest or pleasure in doing it rather than the reward, financial or otherwise.
  • Lame duck : If something or someone is a lame duck, they are in trouble.
  • Land of nod : If someone has gone to the land of nod, they have fallen asleep or gone to bed.
  • Landslide victory : A landslide victory is a victory in an election by a very large margin.
  • Mad as a badger : If someone is as mad as a badger, they are crazy.
  • Mad as a bag of hammers : Someone who is as mad as a bag of hammers is crazy or stupid. ('Daft as a bag of hammers' is also used.)
  • Mad as a cut snake : (AU) One who is mad as a cut snake has lost all sense of reason, is crazy, out of control.
  • Mad as a hornet : (USA) If someone is as mad as a hornet, they are very angry indeed.
  • Mad as a March hare : Someone who is excitable and unpredictable is as mad as a March hare.
  • Nail in the coffin : A nail in someone or something's coffin is a problem or event that is a clear step towards an inevitable failure.
  • Nail-biter : If a game, election, contest, etc, is a nail-biter, it is exciting because the competitors are so close that it is impossible to predict the result.
  • Nature abhors a vacuum : This idiom is used to express the idea that empty or unfilled spaces are unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics.
  • Object lesson : An object lesson serves as a warning to others. (In some varieties of English 'abject lesson' is used.)
  • Odds and ends : Odds and ends are small, remnant articles and things- the same as 'bits and bobs'.
  • Off colour : If someone looks off colour/color, they look ill.
  • Off the beaten track : Somewhere that's off the beaten track is in a remote location.
  • Off the chart : If something goes off the chart, it far exceeds the normal standards, good or bad, for something.
  • Packed like sardines : If a place is extremely crowded, people are packed like sardines, or packed in like sardines.
  • Paddle your own canoe : (USA) If you paddle your own canoe, you do things for yourself without outside help.
  • Pain in the neck : If someone is very annoying and always disturbing you, they are a pain in the neck. Pain in the butt, or pain in the ass (USA), and Pain in the arse (UK) are less polite alternative forms.
  • Paint the town red : If you go out for a night out with lots of fun and drinking, you paint the town red.
  • Quart into a pint pot : (UK) If you try to put or get a quart into a pint pot, you try to put too much in a small space. (1 quart = 2 pints)
  • Queen bee : The queen bee is a woman who holds the most important position in a place.
  • Queen of Hearts : A woman who is pre-eminent in her area is a Queen of Hearts.
  • Queer fish : (UK) A strange person is a queer fish.
  • Rack and ruin : If something or someone goes to rack and ruin, they are utterly destroyed or wrecked.
  • Rack your brain : If you rack your brain, you think very hard when trying to remember something. ('Rack your brains' is an alternative.)
  • Ragged blue line : (USA) This term was used to signify the Union forces (who wore blue uniforms) in the American Civil war .
  • Rags to riches : Someone who starts life very poor and becomes rich goes from rags to riches.
  • Rain on your parade : If someone rains on your parade, they ruin your pleasure or your plans.
  • Sacred cow : Something that is a sacred cow is held in such respect that it cannot be criticised or attacked.
  • Safe and sound : If you arrive safe and sound, then nothing has harmed you on your way.
  • Safe as houses : Something that is as safe as houses is very secure or certain.
  • Safe bet : A proposition that is a safe bet doesn't have any risks attached.
  • Safe pair of hands : A person who can be trusted to do something without causing any trouble is a safe pair of hands.
  • Tables are turned : When the tables are turned, the situation has changed giving the advantage to the party who had previously been at a disadvantage.
  • Tackle an issue : If you tackle an issue or problem, you resolve or deal with it.
  • Take a hike : This is a way of telling someone to get out.
  • Take a leaf out of someone's book: If you take a leaf out of someone's book, you copy something they do because it will help you.
  • Take a nosedive: When things take a nosedive, they decline very quickly and head towards disaster.
  • U-turn: If a government changes its position radically on an issue, especially when they have promised not to do so, this is a U-turn.
  • Ugly as a stick: (USA) If someone is as ugly as a stick, they are very ugly indeed.
  • Ugly duckling: An ugly duckling is a child who shows little promise, but who develops later into a real talent or beauty.
  • Uncalled for: If someone does something bad and unnecessary without consideration for anothers feelings, what they do is uncalled for.
  • Vale of tears: This vale of tears is the world and the suffering that life brings.
  • Velvet glove: This idiom is used to describe a person who appears gentle, but is determined and inflexible underneath. ('Iron fist in a velvet glove' is the full form.)
  • Vent your spleen: If someone vents their spleen, they release all their anger about something.
  • Vicar of Bray: (UK) A person who changes their beliefs and principles to stay popular with people above them is a Vicar of Bray
  • Wait for a raindrop in the drought: When someone is waiting for a raindrop in the drought, they are waiting or hoping for something that is extremely unlikely to happen.
  • Waiting in the wings: If someone is waiting in the wings, or in the wings, they are in the background, but nearby, ready to act on short notice.
  • X factor: The dangers for people in the military that civilians do not face, for which they receive payment, are known as the X factor.
  • X marks the spot: This is used to say where something is located or hidden.
  • X-rated: If something is x-rated, it is not suitable for children.
  • Zero hour: The time when something important is to begin is zero hour.
  • Zero tolerance: If the police have a zero tolerance policy, they will not overlook any crime, no matter how small or trivial.
  • Zigged before you zagged: If you did things in the wrong order, you zigged before you zagged.
  • Zip it: This is used to tell someone to be quiet.
  • Zip your lip: If someone tells you to zip your lip, they want to to shut up or keep quiet about something. ('Zip it' is also used.)

ENGLISH TIPS

DICTIONARY

The Oxford Dictionary