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100 American Idioms

We have prepared 100 American idioms in order to help you learn English better. These idioms are the most common in use today. And we hope that you “won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

List of  Idioms

  1. “to have one’s finger in too many pies” - To be involved in too many things at the same time. (so you can’t do any of them well)
  2. “to kill two birds with one stone” - To manage to do two things at the same time.
  3. “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” - It is better to accept or be content with what one has than to try to get more and risk losing everything.
  4. “come hell or high water ” - No matter what happens.
  5. “I’ve got a bone to pick with you” - People will say this when they want to make a complaint against you. Usually because your actions or words have made them angry or upset.
  6. “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” - It means that you should not plan on everything going exactly as you expected until you see the results for yourself.
  7. “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” – This means that different people possess different standards of beauty and that not everyone agrees on who is beautiful and who is not.
  8. “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” - Don’t be ungrateful when you receive a gift.
  9. “don’t give me that cock and bull story”  – An unbelievable tale or story.
  10. “to hit the nail on the head” - When someone completely understands what you have said.
11-20

  1. “loose cannon” – Someone who is unpredictable and can cause damage if not kept in check or watched carefully.
  2. “mum’s the word” – To keep something secret. Don’t tell anyone.
  3. “sitting on the fence” – A person who doesn’t want to make a decision.
  4. “over the top” – To an excessive degree; beyond reasonable or acceptable limits.
  5. “pulling your leg” – Tricking someone, or joking.
  6. “put a sock in it” – To tell someone to be quiet.
  7. “raining cats and dogs” – Raining very heavily.
  8. “saved by the bell” – Saved by a last minute intervention. Saved at the last possible moment.
  9. “the ball is in your court” – It is your turn to make the decision.
  10. “tie the knot” – Get married.
21-30

  1. “to turn a blind eye” – To knowingly refuse to acknowledge something which you know to be real.
  2. “when pigs fly” – Something that will never happen.
  3. “you can’t take it with you” – Enjoy life with what you have and don’t worry about not having a lot, because once you’re dead, money or things are of no use to you then.
  4. “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” – This implies that a person will only do what he wants to do.
  5. “cut from the same cloth” – This means that two or more people are very alike or act in a very similar way.
  6. “a chip on your shoulder” – This means to blame other people for something bad that has happened to you and to continue to be angry about it.
  7. “to give someone the cold shoulder” – To behave towards someone in an unfriendly way. Sometimes for reasons that this person does not understand.
  8. “a slap on the wrist” – The punishment did not fit the crime.
  9. “a piece of cake” – Something that is very easy to do.
  10. “a shot in the dark” – An attempt to do something without knowing much about it.
31-40

  1. “once bitten, twice shy” – This means that when you have had a bad experience you are much more careful to avoid similar experiences in the future.
  2. “barking up the wrong tree” – Looking for something in the wrong place.
  3. “all bark and no bite” – When someone talks tough but really isn’t. When people threaten to do things that they are not willing or able to do.
  4. “all bets are off” – Agreements that have been made no longer apply.
  5. “air your dirty laundry in public” – To reveal aspects of your private life that should really remain private.
  6. “asleep at the wheel” – They are not doing their job or taking their responsibilities very carefully.
  7. “the lights are on but nobody’s home” – Something that you say when you think someone is stupid, or when someone does not react because they are thinking about something else.
  8. “adding salt to the wound” – When you say or do things that make the situation worse or cause people to suffer more.
  9. “a chain is no stronger than its weakest link” – An organization (especially a process or a business) is only as strong or powerful as its weakest person.
  10. “up the creek without a paddle” – To be in a very difficult situation that you are not able to improve or rectify.
41-50

  1. “to farm (something) out” – To have someone else do something, to send something away to have it done.
  2. “give away the farm” – Business managers should not give away information that could damage themselves.
  3. “bought the farm” – To die. He died.
  4. “push the envelope” – To go beyond the limit of what has usually been done or was the accepted standard.
  5. “pay the piper” – To accept the unpleasant results of something you have done.
  6. “lay a guilt trip on” – To make or try to make someone feel guilty.
  7. “a blessing in disguise” – Something good that isn’t recognized at first.
  8. “a dime a dozen” – Something that is easy to get.
  9. “a taste of your own medicine” – You are going to do something bad to someone just like they have done to you in order to teach them a good lesson.
  10. “add fuel to the fire” – Whenever something is done to make a bad situation even worse.
51-60

  1. “out of my hands” – There is nothing else you can do because it’s out of your control.
  2. “someones hands are tied” – If someone’s hands are tied, they are not free to behave in the way that they would like. You are being prevented from doing something.
  3. “win (something) hands down” – To win easily.
  4. “two heads are better than one” – Some problems may be solved more easily by two people working together than by one working alone.
  5. “a drop in a bucket” – Something that isn’t very important because it is very small.
  6. “all Greek to me” – Meaningless and incomprehensible like someone who cannot read, speak, or understand any of the Greek language would be.
  7. “beat a dead horse” – To waste time doing something that has already been attempted.
  8. “beat around the bush” – To avoid talking about a difficult or embarrassing subject because you are worried about upsetting the person you are talking to.
  9. “cross your fingers” – To hope that something happens the way you want it to.
  10. “cry over spilt milk” – Cry or complain about something that has already happened and you usually can’t change.
61-70

  1. “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” – You shouldn’t make judgments based only on appearances.
  2. “I could eat a horse” – To say that you could eat a horse means that you are very hungry.
  3. “X marks the spot” – You say this when you find what you have been looking for.
  4. “you are what you eat” – In order to stay healthy you must eat healthy foods.
  5. “practice what you preach” – You shouldn’t say one thing and then do another. To behave the way you tell other people to behave
  6. “that’s water under the bridge” – Anything from the past that isn’t significant or important anymore.
  7. “variety is the spice of life” – The more experiences you try the more exciting you life will be.
  8. “holy cow” or “holy smoke” – What a surprise! That’s unbelievable!
  9. “the best of both worlds” – You get the advantages of two different things at the same.
  10. ” to go the whole nine yards” – To go the distance. To continue doing something dangerous or difficult until it is finished. To go all the way.
71-80

  1. “there’s more than meets the eye” – More interesting or complicated than someone or something appears at first. Part of the story has not been told.
  2. “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” – There are many ways to do it, I know another method. There are several possible ways of achieving something.
  3. “caught between a rock and a hard place” – You have to make a difficult decision between two things that are equally unpleasant.
  4. “laughing all the way to the bank” – They have made a lot of money very easily, often because someone else has been stupid.
  5. “taking off the gloves” or “the gloves are off” – People start to argue or fight in a more serious way.
  6. “burn a hole in one’s pocket” – Money that someone wants to spend quickly. It applied to people who couldn’t control the spending urge.
  7. “dig in your heels” – To refuse to do what other people are trying to persuade you to do, especially to refuse to change your opinions or plans.
  8. “kick up your heels” – To do things that you enjoy.
  9. “to put one’s foot down” – To exert your authority to prevent something from happening.
  10. “caught with one’s pants down” – You are caught doing something bad or forbidden. Or you are caught unprepared.
81-90

  1. “a stick-in-the-mud” – Someone who has old-fashioned ideas and does not want to try new activities. A person who doesn’t like change and wants things to stay the same.
  2. “a doubting Thomas” – A skeptic who needs physical or personal evidence in order to believe something.
  3. “a taste of your own medicine” – You do something bad to someone just like they have done to you in order to teach them a lesson.
  4. “bite off more than you can chew” – To take on a task or job that is way too big for you to do.
  5. “break a leg” – ‘Break a leg’ means to make a strenuous effort. This idiom is also a way of wishing someone good luck. It is usually said to actors for good luck before they go on stage, especially on an opening nights.
  6. “a leopard can’t change his spots” – You cannot change who you are.
  7. “actions speak louder than words” – What one does is more important than what one says.
  8. “you could hear a pin drop” – This idiom is used when someone says something and everyone in the room becomes quiet.
  9. “bury the hatchet” – This idiom is used when two people have had a disagreement or a fight and decide to forget about it and become friends again.
  10. “back to the drawing board” – When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.
91-100

  1. “Bury one’s head in the sand” – To avoid reality; ignore the facts of a situation. Refuse to face something by pretending not to see it.
  2. “curiosity killed the cat” – Curiosity can be dangerous. Something that you say in order to warn someone not to ask too many questions about something.
  3. “have one’s head screwed on (right)” – Someone who has their head screwed on (right) is a sensible and realistic person.
  4. “blood is thicker than water” – Family relations are more important or stronger than all other relationships.
  5. close but no cigar” – To be very near and almost accomplish your goal, but then fall short and get nothing for your efforts. Or what they tell you or what they do is nearly correct but not completely.
  6. Keep one’s head above water” – To keep out of difficult financial problems, to stay out of trouble .
  7. “dropping like flies” – If people are dropping like flies, large numbers of them are dying or becoming ill or injured within a short period of time.
  8. “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” – Don’t risk everything all at once. To risk losing everything by putting all your efforts or all your money into one plan or one course of action.
  9. “run around like a chicken with its head cut off” – To do something in a frenzied manner.
  10. “Rome wasn’t built in one day” – All great works take time to finish.

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