Idiomatic Expressions - List in Alphabetical Order


List of idioms in alphabetical order

A list of idioms arranged in alphabetical order (with definitions and examples.) For a list arranged in categories, click here

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Learn English Idioms

A list of English idioms with definitions and examples:

easy come, easy go
said about something which is easily won or obtained and then soon spent or lost.

He lost a large amount of money in poker. But that's gambling; easy come, easy go.

Category | general

easy on the ear
something (music, voice...) pleasant to listen to.

His music is easy on the ear.

Category | parts of the body

easy on the eye
attractive, pleasant to look at.

Her paintings are easy on the eye.

Category | parts of the body

eat humble pie
If you eat humble pie, you admit that you were wrong.


Humble pie is from a mid-19th-century term umbles, meaning ‘offal’ (i.e., heart, liver, and entrails of the deer), which was considered to be an inferior food reserved to the servants (i.e., the humble people.) By contrast, the lords and their guests had the best portions of the meat.

Other Similar phrases:

- Eat dirt.
- Eat crow

The phrase "eat humble pie" is used in British English. In American English, another variation of the idiom is used: eat crow. The taste of crows is said to taste terrible. Hence the feeling of unease when you admit you were wrong about something.

In the beginning, she boasted that she would get the best grade. But then she was forced to eat humble pie.
The critics will have to eat humble pie and publicly apologize to us for underestimating our potential.

Category | food

eat like a horse
The phrase the eat like a horse is an idiomatic expression that means to eat large amounts of food.

John: Have you noticed how fat he has become?

Leila: No wonder he eats like a horse.

Category | animals

eat one's words
If someone has to eat their words, this means that they have to admit that they were not right about something they said earlier.

Eat one's words synonyms

Other words and phrases that have the same meaning include:

eat crow;

Her classmates considered her a stupid girl, but when she got the top mark in mathematics, she made them eat their words.

He said I wouldn't be able to pass the exam, but I proved him wrong and made him eat his words.

Whether you like it or not, our team has won. So now you have to eat your words.

The journalist had a negative prediction about the company, but after he saw how the new manager's strategy boosted the production he ate his words.

I had a low opinion of the team, but I certainly ate my words when they started to win every match they played.

Category | language

eat your heart out
The phrase eat your heart out is meant as a joke that you are even better than another person (often a celebrity).

I am singing in the school party next week - Madonna, eat your heart out!

Category | parts of the body

empty the tank
The phrase empty the tank means to make the utmost effort; to contribute to the absolute limit of one's energy and abilities.

A synonym of this idiom is the following:

To give one's all

You’ve got to empty the tank! You will have to win the next five games to get the championship.

Category | sport

escape the rat race
The phrase 'escape the rat race' is an idiomatic expression that means 'leave a job or way of life in which people compete endlessly and aggressively with each other to be successful'.

This idiom collocates with other verbs like:

- get out of the rat race.
- quit the rat race.
- be caught in the rat race.

The origin of the idiom

According to Wikipedia, one of the first uses of the phrase dates back to 1934 when it was used in reference to aviation training. In that context, a rat race originally referred to the way trainee fighter pilots had to copy all the actions performed by an expert pilot. Later, the phrase has gained the meaning of 'competitive struggle'.

The expression is often used to refer to excessive or competitive work. Generally speaking, if one is trapped in a style of life in which one works excessively to earn a living, then they are said to be caught in a meaningless rat race. Very much like rats in a laboratory where scientists controlling rats in mazes, individuals who are entangled in a rat race are controlled by outside forces, the pressures of contemporary business and society. This phrase implies that many people view work as an interminable purposeless race: a cyclical commute between home and work, akin to a rat running in circles or in a hamster wheel.

She was exhausted by her lifestyle. She seriously thought of getting out of the rat race and taking control of her life again.

It's so interesting to hear people's own stories about how they escaped the rat race.

I have escaped the rat race and I am enjoying my financial freedom.

All my friends have something in common; they have all escaped the rat race.

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Category | animals

every cloud has a silver lining
This expression is used to say that there is always something good even in an unpleasant, difficult or even painful situation.

The origin of this expression is most likely traced to John Milton's "Comus" (1634) with the lines,

Was I deceiv'd, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?

You should never feel hopeless. Every cloud has a silver lining, you know

Category | weather

every dog has its day
everyone has a time of success and satisfaction.

You may become successful in your business someday. Every dog has his day.

Category | animals

every man has his price
The phrase every man has his price means that everyone can be bribed if you know how much or what to bribe him or her with.

"I offered him ten thousand dollars to sign the agreement, but he refused."
"Just keep trying! Give him more. You know, every man has his price!"

Category | men and women

every man jack
The phrase every man jack means every person without exception.

All the volunteers contributed their time towards cleaning up the city, every man jack of them.

Category | men and women

every minute
describing the whole period that something lasted.

I enjoyed every minute of the match. It was just fantastic.

Category | time

every Tom, Dick and Harry
said about something that is common knowledge to everybody.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry knows what happened.

Category | names

every trick in the book
said when you try every possible way to achieve something.

She's tried every trick in the book to convince him in vain.

Category | general

everybody and his cousin
everybody; a huge crowd; too many people

Everybody and his cousin will be in line for opening night with free popcorn!

Category | relationship

everything but the kitchen sink
The phrase everything but the kitchen sink refers to everything imaginable.


The phrase is hyperbolic and somewhat humorous. It dates back to the 20th century. In World War II, it was used as military slang in reference to the strong bombardment in which the enemy fired everything they had except the kitchen sink.

The expression “everything but the kitchen sink” is a funny way of stating everything remotely imaginable. The sink is the most difficult to remove in a kitchen as it is big and connected by plumbing.

The phrase may have existed before 1944 but it was popularized in World War II. A variant of the phrase was recorded before World War II:

- "Everything but the kitchen stove."

An alternative phrase with similar meaning:

- "Everything under the sun."

She must have brought everything but the kitchen sink along on the trip, and I do not know how she could lift her suitcase.
He bought a cell phone that has everything but the kitchen sink.
She was so furious that she threw everything but the kitchen sink at him.

Category | home

expectant mother
a pregnant woman.

There are many good tips for expectant mothers in this little book.

Category | relationship

experience is the mother of wisdom
this idiom is used to mean that people learn from what happens to them.

You will never understand the love parents have for their children until you get your own children. Experience is really the mother of wisdom.

Category | relationship

eye candy
If you describe someone or something as eye candy, you mean that they are attractive or have considerable visual appeal.


The phrase appeared during the 1980s to describe attractive women on TV shows, movies, etc. The expression has a pejorative (i.e., negative) meaning. It refers to someone or something pleasing to the eye but has very little substance or meaning.

This idiomatic expression is contrasted with ear candy. The latter refers to light pop music that is enjoyable or pleasing but lacks depth.

Nose candy, meaning cocaine, is an earlier phrase that probably contributed to the emergence of the idiom eye candy.

1. The special effects added a lot of eye candy to that movie.
2. The movie is filled with charming eye candy, but the plot lacks depth.
3. It’s the perfect place to check some eye candy and meet famous people.

Category | food

eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
The phrase eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth refers to a principle found in Babylonian Law, in the Code of Hammurabi, as well as in monotheist religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. According to this principle a person who has injured another person is penalized to a similar degree.

If he killed the poor woman, he deserves to die. It's as simple as that - an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

Category | religion

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