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:

keep a civil tongue
(also keep a civil tongue in one's head) to speak politely.

Please don't talk like that to each other. Keep a civil tongue!

Category | parts of the body

keep a weather eye on
If you keep a weather eye open on something you observe it very carefully to remain alert to changes.

Similar idioms include:

  • keep half an eye on something

  • keep one's wits about one

The boss wants us to keep a weather eye open on the sales.

He had access to his son's bank statements so that he could keep a weather eye on his finances.

Category | weather

keep an eye on
keep an eye on something/someone means to watch or look after something or someone.

Please keep your eye on my son while I go to the toilet.

Category | parts of the body

keep body and soul together
to be able to pay for your food, clothing and somewhere to live.

He earns barely enough to keep body and soul together.

Category | parts of the body

keep count of something
If you keep count of something, you remember or record a number as it changes over a period of time.

Another variation of this idiom:

- Keep a count of something

See also lose count of

Origin of the phrase

The word 'count' comes from Old French "conter" meaning “add up" or "tell a story”.

Because his doctor advised him to lose weight, he is trying to keep count of the number of calories he eats.
She has been keeping count of how many times he has ignored her calls.
Can you keep a count of the students as they board the bus?
Try to keep count of what you spend on your credit card.

Category | numbers

keep one's eye on the ball
to remain alert to the events occurring around oneself.

To be successful in this business, you'll have to keep your eye on the ball.

Category | sport

keep one's eye open
(also keep one's eye peeled/skinned) to remain alert and watchful.

Please keep your eyes peeled for the children.

Category | parts of the body

keep one's eyes peeled
to be on the alert, to be watchful

I will keep my eyes peeled for your call.

Category | parts of the body

keep somebody in stitches
to keep somebody laughing hard or amused.

The show kept me in stitches the whole time.

Category | general

keep tabs on
to monitor; to keep track of; to watch.

If you are careful to keep tabs on your finances, you should be able to stay within a budget.

Category | general

keep the wolf from the door
To have enough money to be able to ward off poverty or hunger.

They were really very poor, but they had enough to keep the wolf from the door.

Category | animals

keep up the good work
The phrase keep up the good work is used to encourage a person to continue doing the good things they are doing now.

Well done! I couldn't have done it better myself. Keep up the good work.

Category | work

keep up with the Joneses
If you keep up with the Joneses, you try to do the same things as your neighbors to appear as successful as they are and not be outdone by them.

Failing to "keep up with the Joneses" is seen as showing some kind of inferiority.

The origin of the idiom

The idiom was first mentioned in the comic strip "Keeping Up with the Joneses", created by Arthur R. "Pop" Momand in 1913. The strip describes the McGinnis family, who struggle to "keep up" with the lifestyle of their neighbors, the unseen Joneses. The Joneses were unseen characters throughout the strip's run, often spoken of but never shown. The idiom 'keeping up with the Joneses' has remained popular long after the strip's end.

It should be noted that the term "Jones" is one of the most common family names. It is used as a generic name for neighbors or peers.

More about this idiom on Wikipedia

He works day and night just to keep up with the Joneses.
I'm sick of everyone trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Why are some people trying to keep up with the Joneses by buying expensive cars and clothes that they can't afford?
While trying to keep up with the Joneses, they are all the more likely to end up poor.
Do you want what your neighbors have so much that you struggle to keep up with the Joneses? If you do, you have to change your perspectives!

Category | names

keep your chin up
The phrase keep your chin up is an idiomatic expression used to encourage someone who has to bear some difficult circumstances.

Related idioms:

chin up!
keep a stiff upper lip.

All the above phrases are used to encourage someone to maintain confidence and optimism when facing problems. People who keep their chin up may be said to apply the stoics philosophy which preaches endurance of pain or hardship without complaining or showing any sign of feelings.

After failing her first test, Bill told his daughter to keep her chin up.
Keep your chin up. You're still young.
Don't get depressed! Keep your chin up. Things will get better.
He keeps his chin up despite his severe illness.

<img src="https://www.myenglishpages.com/images/voc/reading/keep-your-chin-up.jpg" alt="Keep your chin up quote by Marilyn Monroe" title="Keep your chin up"/>

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/SXFtPDa9eh4" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Category | parts of the body

keep your head above water
be just able to make enough money to survive.

After his financial problems,he can hardly keep his head above water.

Category | parts of the body

keep your powder dry
Be cautious and prepared for the worst.

Trust in God, and keep your powder dry.

Category | war

kick the bucket
to die.

Sad news! He kicked the bucket.

Category | general

kill time
To kill time means to spend time doing nothing in particular.

He had nothing in particular to do, so he went for a walk downtown to kill time.

Category | time

kiss of death
If something is described as a kiss of death, it is certain to cause failure and ruin.


The phrase kiss of death is often linked to the phrase Judas kiss. This alludes to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot.

Judas betrayed Jesus by kissing him as a way to identify him to the Roman soldiers. This led to his arrest and crucifixion.

The biblical story indicates that Judas provides a sign to help the soldiers arrest Jesus. He says:
“Whoever it is I kiss, he is the one; take him into custody, and lead him away under guard.”—Mark 14:44.

The phrase kiss of death is also sometimes attributed to a mafia practice popularized in movies. In this practice, a kiss means that a member of the crime family has been marked for death.

The decision they took not to stand by him was the kiss of death for his career.
Because they suspected him of having become an informer, the boss gave him the kiss of death.
Leila’s marriage to that guy was the kiss of death for her happiness.

Category | death

kissing cousin
A distant relative.

I and Daniel are kissing cousins.

Category | relationship

knit one's brow
To frown or look worried, angry or puzzled.

She knitted her brows as she listened to the strange story.

Category | parts of the body

knock them dead
If you knock someone dead, you strongly impress them.


In its literal meaning, the phrase knock someone dead means to kill with a blow. But the phrase is mostly used figuratively, meaning to impress someone and affect them positively.

The phrase is often used in the theater. When comedians are about to perform, they are encouraged with the phrase knock them dead or with the abbreviated form of the phrase knock ‘em dead.

The relationship between the audience and comedians often reflects violent metaphors. In addition to the above phrase, performers often use terms like “killing” or “slaying” an audience when they perform well.

Knock the socks off is a variation of the phrase.

I would love to see you get up there and just knock 'em dead.
Their new album will knock them dead.
Knock 'em dead son, you're the best!

Category | death

know something inside and out
to know something very thoroughly.

He's still new to their system, but he knows databases inside and out and will understand the rest soon.

Category | general

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