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

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Learn English Idioms

A list of English idioms with definitions and examples:

gain ground
to become popular, to make progress, to advance.

The new product gained ground in a very short time.

Category | nature

gas up
to fill a vehicle with gasoline.

I have to stop at the next station to gas up.

Category | general

get a life
This is an idiom that indicates that someone's life is boring and pointless and that they should make their life more interesting.

Stop complaining! Get a life.

Category | life

get away with something
The phrase get away with something means to do something bad and not get punished for it.

You can't get away with your mischief!

Category | crime

get in someone's hair
Annoy someone.

I know that the children get in your hair, but you should try not to let it upset you so much.

Category | parts of the body

get into deep water
to be in trouble.

He got into deep water when he joined that gang.

Category | nature

get off my back!
The phrase get off my back is an idiomatic expression that means stop annoying or harassing me.

Get this foolish girl off my back.

Get off my back. Stop criticizing me.

Category | parts of the body

get off the track
To start talking about a different topic, instead of talking about the real one.

Instead of discussing the real reasons for their conflicts, they are getting of the track.

Category | general

get on in years
Old; advanced in age.

Although she's getting on in years, she still looks young.

Category | age

get on like a house on fire
said about two people like each other and become very close friends in a very short time.

The two ladies are getting on like a house on fire.

Category | relationship

get out of a jam
get out of a bad situation.

I need some help getting out of a jam.

Category | food

get religion
If you get religion, you decide to become religious or to behave in an ethical way and end one's immoral behavior.

After the terrible accident he had had, Allan got religion and joined the church.

Category | religion

get something down to a fine art
If you get something down to a fine art, you become skilled at it.

The expression is also used with the verb have:

have something down to a fine art

Some other related expressions are:

be good, skilled, talented at something
be able to do something.
have a flair for something.
have a genius for doing something.
be accomplished
be an expert at something


This idiom refers to 'art' as a skill, especially a skill acquired through practice.

You should practice these equations until you have them down to a fine art.

Teaching English to very young learners is our job - We have it down to a fine art.

We have the organization down to a fine art after long years of experience.

Allan has been doing this job for ten years and he thinks he got it down to a fine art.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8eQFdlqLrGU" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

<img src="/images/voc/idioms/get-something-to-a-fine-art.jpg" title="What does get something down to a fine art mean?" alt="What does get something down to a fine art mean?"/>

Category | art

get something off your chest
To reveal something that is worrying you or making you feel guilty in order to feel relieved.

She felt relieved when she got it off her chest. She had felt guilty for years.

Category | parts of the body

get the picture
If you get the picture, you understand the situation without the need for more explanation.

OK, I get the picture! You don't want to lend me the money I need.

Don't say anything more! I get the picture.

I got the picture without listening to the whole story.

Category | art

get the sack
to be dismissed from employment.

Because he was always late, he got the sack.

Category | work

give me five
If you say give me five, you want someone to slap your open hand as a greeting or to show joy.

"Give me five!" shouted Alan after he scored a goal.

Category | numbers

give somebody a leg up
to help someone to achieve something, especially at work.

They agreed to give her a leg up.

Category | parts of the body

give somebody the elbow
The phrase to give somebody the elbow is an idiomatic expression that means to end a romantic relationship or a friendship with someone.

She gave him the elbow because she couldn't bear the way he used to treat her.

Category | parts of the body

give someone the cold shoulder
If you give someone the cold shoulder, you deliberately ignore them.

Other related idioms:

To turn one's back on.
To cut someone dead.

He gave her the cold shoulder because he was dissatisfied with her behavior.

Category | parts of the body

give the devil his due
Literally, the phrase 'give the devil his due' means to pay the devil what you owe him. Figuratively, the phrase is used to mean that one has to acknowledge the positive qualities of a person who is unpleasant or disliked.

The origin of the phrase

The phrase 'give the devil his due' comes from Shakespeare's play 'Henry V Part 1, 1597'. It is used in a conversation between Prince Henry and his friend Poins:


Sir John stands to his word, the devil shall have
his bargain; for he was never yet a breaker of
proverbs: he will give the devil his due.


Then art thou damned for keeping thy word with the devil.


Else he had been damned for cozening the devil. (Act 1, Scene 2)

(Act 1, Scene 2)

I don't like the man, but I am obliged to give the devil his due. He is a skilled worker.

That girl is so mean, but I have to give the devil his due - she is so beautiful.

He is a racist politician. But I'll give the devil his due. He's been elected twice to office due to his successful economic policy.

<img src="/images/voc/idioms/give-the-devil-his-due-idiom.jpg" alt="Give the devil his due - idiom" title="Give the devil his due"/>

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5oNlmAbwFTA" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Category | religion

give the gun
The phrase give it the gun means to make a motor or engine run faster; to speed up.

The burglars gave the motor the gun and drove off.

Category | war

give the kiss of life
To give the kiss of life means to help a person who has stopped breathing by giving them artificial respiration, that is to say, by blowing into their mouth and pressing their chest.

He saved a victim of an accident by giving him the kiss of life.

Category | life

give your eye teeth for something
said when you want to have or do something very much.

She'd give her eye teeth for a straight blond hair.

Category | parts of the body

go against the flow
to do the opposite of people do and not accept things as thy are.

In his last speech, the leader of the opposition went against the flow and declared that reducing taxes will harm the economy.

Category | relationship

go back on one's word
If you go back on your word, you break a promise that you have made.

They promised to give us a discount on the new product, but they went back on their word and asked us to pay the full price.
I hate to go back on my word, but I won't lend you the money I promised.
The president went back on his word. He didn't lower taxes for lower-income families.
I promised to help. I can't go back on my word.

Category | language

go bananas
to become very angry.

He went bananas when he heard the news.

Category | food

go by the name
The phrase go by the name of means to be known by a specific name, a name that is not your real name.

She goes by the name of Lisa.

Category | names

go home in a box
to die and be shipped home.

Those soldiers are too young. It's a pitty that they go home in a box.

Category | home

go in one ear and out the other
said about something which is heard and then quickly forgotten.

Stop talking to him. Whatever you say to him just goes in one ear and out the other.

Category | parts of the body

go steady with someone
To date one person regularly and exclusively.

Lisa has been going steady with that guy for a year now.

Category | love

go through the roof
become very angry.

She went through the roof when she realized she had lost everything.

Category | home

go to hell in a handbasket
go to a bad state of affairs quickly.

He said that all their plans for the project went to hell in a handbasket because of the recession.

Category | religion

go to war (over someone or something)
To declare a war over someone or something.

The US administration has gone to war over teenagers' pregnancy for decades in vain.

Category | war

go under the knife
If you go under the knife, you have surgery ( i.e., a medical operation.)


The phrase "go under the knife" was first recorded in 1880 according to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.

"The knife" in the phrase may refer to surgical instruments such as scalpels, scissors, and saws.

She is going under the knife tomorrow.
You'd better get other opinions before going under the knife.
Surgery just wasn't an option for me. I'm terrified of the thought of going under the knife.

Category | health

go viral
If something such as a video, an article, an image goes viral, it spreads rapidly and widely on the Internet.


The phrase originates from the late twentieth century. It has become widely used from the beginning of the twenty-first century.

The term viral is an adjective used to describe something related to or caused by a virus. When people are contaminated by a virus, the disease spreads fast and millions of people might be infected.

Very much like viral diseases, going viral involves the spread of information quickly and widely. Social media have contributed to the rapid spread of information. Videos of celebrities, cute puppies, articles, blog posts, pictures, and the like may become viral if liked and shared by people.

Viral marketing is another phrase that uses the concept of the rapid spread of information. This is a type of advertising that relies on an audience to share the message of a product or service.

I can’t believe how this poor-quality video went viral.
The image of the princess went viral on social networks.
Within hours the video of the puppy went viral.

Category | health

go with the flow
To do what people do and accept things as they are.

Don't worry too much! Take it easy and go with the flow!

Category | relationship

God forbid
(also Heaven forbid)said when you hope that something does not happen.

God forbid that they encounter a problem on their way home.

Category | religion

God knows
this idiom means "only God knows." Said when you have absolutely no knowledge of something.

God knows what he's going to do after his divorce.

Category | religion

God's honest truth
The phrase God's honest truth refers the absolute, unquestionable truth. The idiom is used to suggest that something is the complete truth.

His criticism was too harsh on him, but it was simply God's honest truth.

Category | religion

going Dutch
The phrase 'going Dutch' means that each person attending a paid activity should pay their own expenses.

A similar idiom is 'Dutch treat'

The origin of the phrase

The origin of the phrase 'going Dutch' or 'Dutch treat' goes back to the hostilities between England and the Netherlands during the 17th century. The phrase has a negative connotation. It implies that the Dutch were stingy.

Some women prefer to go Dutch on a first date.

Jane: Who paid for the meal?
Ann: We both decided we were going Dutch.

Category | nationalities

golden age
Period of prosperity.

The golden age of Hollywood.

Category | age

golden opportunity
ideal moment to do something.

She missed a golden opportunity to prepare herself for a career as a doctor, when she didn't continue her studies at university.

Category | colors

good fences make good neighbors
(also good walls make good neighbors) this means that people should respect other people's property and privacy and mind their own business.

Our neighbor should prevent his children from messing up our lawn. Good fences make good neighbors.

Category | relationship

grease someone's palm
If you grease someone's palm, you bribe them discretely.

The origin of the idiom

This idiom evolved from the expression to grease the wheels. Wheels normally need grease so that they can turn smoothly without squeaking and getting stuck. Similarly, greasing someone’s palm metaphorically means slipping money into their hand discreetly in order to get things done.

Howard got the document signed by greasing the clerk's palm.
John greased the waiter's palm to get a hotel room without a reservation.
The company they run greased the minister's palm to get their products in the market without any formal control.
<blockquote>I was never guilty of disloyalty to King Lewis, but I killed my wife's mother, pardieu!—which the judge seemed to think almost as vile, till I sent a friend to grease his palm with the last sou of my patrimony.
<a href="https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/grease_someone%27s_palm" target="_blank"><em>1891, Arthur Quiller-Couch, chapter 11, in The Blue Pavilions:</em></a></blockquote>

Category | parts of the body

green around the gills
If you look green around the gills, you look pale or sick.


The phrase appeared in the mid-1800s but the origin is unclear.

Gills refer to the organ through which fish breathe. They are normally red not green. If a fish has green gills, it is probably sick.

A variation of this idiom is green about the gills.

There is something wrong with him. He looks green around the gills.
The passengers looked green around the gills after the trip!
When she got back from her date, she looked clearly green around the gills.

Category | health

green light
permission to go ahead with something such as a project.

As a result of the severe drought, the government has given the green light for importing cereals.

Category | colors

green with envy
consumed by envy; envious to the point where it is noticeable to others.

She was green with envy when she saw my new car.

Category | colors

green-eyed monster
envy, jealousy, covetousness

1. "O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on."
William Shakespeare
2. His success aroused the green-eyed monster in his friend.

Category | colors

greener pastures
The phrase greener pastures is an idiomatic expression that refers to a more promising situation.

The young ambitious girl emigrated to Canada seeking greener pastures where she can develop her career.

Category | nature

grin like a Cheshire cat
(Also smile like Cheshire cat.) To smile very broadly. This is an allusion to a fictional cat popularised by Lewis Carroll's depiction of it in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and known for its distinctive mischievous grin.

He knew that she was fearing a scandal. He stood in front of her, grinning like a Cheshire cat, waiting for more money in return for his silence.

Category | animals

grouse about someone or something
To complain.

He was grousing about his son's laziness.

Category | animals

gum up the works
The phrase gum up the works means to prevent a process, a system or a machine from working smoothly.

He is not careful enough and always gums up the works.

Category | work

gun it
The phrase gun it means to accelerate or speed up quickly or suddenly. This idiom is usually said while traveling in a car.

You'll have to gun it if you want to arrive on time dude!
Let's gun it and get out of here. I don't like the place!
Gun it! The suspect is getting away!

Category | war

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What are idioms?

Related materials

Recommended books: