What exactly is an idiom? If you are a native speaker, you probably use these phrases or expressions in your everyday language without even knowing what they are called. In case you haven’t been to an English class lately or you are not a native English language speaker and you are trying to master the language, it is important to know what idioms are to have a full mastery of the language.
Here’s a quick refresher: An idiom is defined as “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning that is not deductible from those of the individual words” or in other words, it is a commonly used expression whose meaning does not relate to the meaning of the words.
A couple examples of idioms are “She has a bun in the oven” (which means she is pregnant) and “Let’s paint the town red” (which means let’s go out and have a good time).
There are thousands of idioms used in the English language, and it is important to understand them in order to have a full grasp of the English language. Here are ten of the most popular idioms.
Never judge a book by its cover
- This is one of the most commonly used idioms that I have heard in my lifetime. Essentially this idiom means that you shouldn’t speak badly about somebody until you really get to know the person or in other words, don’t base your opinion of someone solely on his or her appearance.
A piece of cake
- When something is described as a piece of cake; it means that the task is very easy or simple. For most people-when you eat a piece of cake, it is very easy to digest (even though it is full of calories and sugar). Hence, this idiom has developed to describe anything that is done easily or without effort.
Go the extra mile
- This idiom essentially means to make the extra effort or do something special that a situation or circumstance wouldn’t necessarily require. Alternatively, it can mean work hard to achieve your goal.
Go down in flames
- This expression means to end or fail spectacularly or in a really big way.
Once in a blue moon
- When we say something happens once in a blue moon, we mean that it happens very rarely or not very often at all.
Hang in there
- This idiom means to wait and be patient, or to not give up.
- Ah, this idiom is one of my favorites (and probably one of the ones that I use most frequently). It means to continue to stay awake when you are exhausted or to continue to expend energy when you have no energy left to give. Also, it can mean driving your car when there is no (very little) gas left in the tank.
Bite off more than you can chew
- To bite off more than you can chew, means to take on more than you can handle or alternatively, that you are overwhelmed by the new tasks that you have agreed to. An example of this would be taking on a promotion with many more responsibilities, but not having enough time to complete everything.
Feeling under the weather
- Again, this is one of the most common idioms you will here on a daily basis in the United States. To feel under the weather means to feel ill or sick and unable to engage in your normal daily activities.
To sit on the fence
- This idiom means to remain neutral and to not take sides. In other words, it means to stay in the middle ground of a situation. An example of this would be a friend who doesn’t want to take sides when their two friends are engaged in an argument
Idioms are very important expressions and commonly used phrases in the English language. Can you come up with any on your own? There are thousands more which you can research on the internet if you are looking to expand your knowledge base and vocabulary.
Many people speak them everyday without even realizing that they are using an idiom. If you are not a native English speaker, it is extremely important that you become familiar with idioms because they are very common in the United States.