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:

made of money
be rich.

She can't have another car.Her husband is not made of money!

Category | money

made out of whole cloth
The phrase made out of whole cloth means entirely false - without factual basis; entirely fabricated.

A variation of this idiom:

made from whole cloth


This idiom comes from the days when garments were handmade and very expensive because they were made "out of whole cloth". Sometimes, tailors would falsely advertise garments being made "out of whole cloth," when actually they were sewed together from different cuts (a patched garment).

His account of the accident was made out of whole cloth.
I don't believe what he says. It is made out of whole cloth to me.

Category | clothes

magic touch
a special skill to do something very well.

Her magic touch is so obvious in the decoration of her house.

Category | general

magic wand
a quick and an easy way to solve a problem

The manager warned that he had no magic wand to solve the problem.

Category | general

make a clean breast of
to tell the truth; to confess.

After he had lied about the stolen money, he was urged to make a clean breast of it.

Category | parts of the body

make a fast buck
(also make quick buck) to earn money without much effort.

If you have got any idea of how to make a fast buck, please tell me!

Category | money

make a man of someone
(also make a man out of someone) to make a young person become more experienced or act like an adult and take responsibility.

A couple of years in a foreign country will make a man of him.

Category | men and women

make a monkey out of
(also make a fool out of someone) to cause a person, group, or action to appear foolish or inferior; to subject someone or something to ridicule.

Don't make a monkey out of me. You'll regret it.

Category | animals

make a mountain out of a molehill
To exagerate the severity of a situation; to make a lot of fuss about nothing.

You're making a mountain out of a molehill. You didn't mean to hurt her.

Category | nature

make a pig of oneself
said about someone who eats too much or too fast.

He made a pig of himself at lunch.

Category | animals

make an honest buck
The phrase to make an honest buck is an idiomatic expression that means to make an honest living.

After being behind bars for almost five years, he finally tasted freedom and started making an honest buck.

Category | money

make chin music
talk or chatter.

The boss was furious because he found them sitting there making chin music instead of doing the job.

Category | music

make good money
If you make good money, you earn a decent income or enough money to live comfortably.

The word 'good' in the phrase 'make good money' implies a substantial sum.

A similar idiom:

Pay good money for something.

You may make good money by selling your service online.
He makes good money at his job.
She is a competent web designer; she makes good money.
The startup makes good money online.
He is a hardworking businessman; He consistently makes money.
You can't make good money if you follow this career.

Category | money

make heavy weather of something
The phrase to make heavy weather of something to find something hard to do and make a fuss about it although it is not difficult.

See a related idiom:

heavy weather

He's making heavy weather of his share of work.

Category | weather

make love, not war
A hippie anti-war slogan encouraging love and peace.

Why don't you stop fighting! Make love not war!

Category | love

make one's way
To move in a particular direction; advance in life by one's own efforts.

1. He made his way to the police station and told all about the murder.
2. He had to make his own way in the world as his family was very poor.

Category | travel

make somebody's mouth water
When the smell or sight of food is extremely good it makes your mouth water.

The smell of that roast chicken is making my mouth water.

Category | parts of the body

make waves
to cause trouble.

Please don't make waves. We're trying to settle all our problems.

Category | nature

make yourself at home
If you say to someone make yourself at home, this means that you ask them to consider themselves as if they were in their own homes.

Alan: Can I get in?
John: Yes please, make yourself at home!

Category | home

man cannot live by bread alone
used to mean that things like poetry, art, music, etc are necassary for people just as food.

People need to read some poetry! Man cannot live by bread alone.

Category | men and women

man in the street
(Also, woman in the street)
This idiom is used to describe an ordinary person.

Generally speaking, politicians are rarely concerned with the needs and interests of the man in the street.

Category | men and women

man of his word
The idiom man of his word refers to someone whom you can trust because he keeps his promises and always do what he says.

You can count on me. If I say that I'm going to help you, I will do it. I'm a man of my word.

Category | men and women

man of means
Also a woman of means.

The phrase a man of means refers to someone who is very rich.

What a beautiful car! He must be a man of means.

Category | men and women

man of straw
A weak person.

When his wife needed his support, he run away and left her facing all the problems all alone. That is why, she called him a man of straw after all.

Category | men and women

man's home is his castle
This idiom suggest tha people are free to do whatever they want to in their own home

He was furious when they told him not to listen to his favorite music in his own home. He told them that a man's home is his castle.

Category | home

mark my words
Listen to me; used before a statement one wishes to emphasize.

Mark my words, this boy is going to become a great poet.

Category | general

marked man
(Also marked woman)

The idiom marked man refers to someone who is singled out as a target for vengeance or attack.

As a witness to the murder, he knew he was a marked man.

Category | men and women

marry money
to marry a rich person.

She married money and got rich.

Category | money

match made in heaven
The phrase a match made in heaven refers to two people, so well-suited to each other that their marriage is likely to be happy and successful.

The phrase may also refer to a very successful combination of two people or things.

As soon as they met, they liked each other and decided they should get married. They were really a match made in heaven.

Category | love

matter of time
The phrase it is only a matter if time is used to say that something will certainly happen.

It is only a matter of time before he resigns.

Category | time

meat and potatoes
The phrase 'meat and potatoes refers to the essential parts or aspects of something.

Used as an adjective the expression 'meat-and-potatoes' refers to:

- Something that is basic and simple
- Or someone who prefers plain things to fancy and complicated ones.

It would be fantastic if he just got to the meat and potatoes of his speech.

To learn how to trade in the stock market, you have to practice the meat and potatoes of the business.

He is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.

The meat-and-potatoes argument is that pollution will destroy the earth sooner or later.

Category | food

meat and two veg
The male genitals.

Everybody could see his meat and two veg because his trousers were so tight.

Category | sexuality

Mecca for someone or something
If a place is a Mecca for someone or something, it is a place that a lot of people visit because it is known for something that they want to see or do.

Mecca is the religious city of Islam. It is a city where Muslims go for pilgrimage.

Milan is a Mecca for fashion.

Category | religion

meet one's death
(Also meet one's end) To die.

A friend of mine met his death when he got hit by a car.

Category | death

meet your Waterloo
If someone meets their Waterloo they are defeated by someone who is stronger or by a problem that is very difficult to surmount.

The phrase to meet one's Waterloo refers to the Battle of Waterloo near Belgium in 1815 where the French army under the command of Napoleon was defeated. The phrase entered the English language as a phrase signifying a great test with a final and decisive outcome - generally one resulting in failure and proving vincibility for something or someone who had seemed unbeatable.

See more about the battle of Waterloo on Wikipedia

He met his Waterloo when he was challenged by the young contestant.

Category | war

memory like a sieve
To have a memory like a sieve means to have a very poor memory.

He's got a memory like a sieve

Category | furniture

men in blue
The phrase men in blue or boys in blue refers to the police or policemen.

The men in blue are chasing the drug dealer.

Category | men and women

men make houses, women make homes
It's often the men who build or acquire houses for their families, but it's usually women who provide the things that make a house into a home.

When her husband bought the house, she took charge of decorating and tidying it up. It's true that men make houses, women make homes.

Category | home

Mexican standoff
The phrase Mexican standoff is used to refer to confrontations in which no one seems to emerge as a winner.

Synonyms of the phrase include 'deadlock, gridlock, halt, and impasse.'

The origin if the 'Mexican standoff'

According to Wikipedia, the idiom dates back to the 19th century. It is believed that it probably refers to the Mexican–American War or post-war Mexican bandits in the 19th century.

The earliest record of the expression was March 19, 1876, in a short story about Mexico, an American being held up by a Mexican bandit:
"Go-!" said he sternly then. "We will call it a stand-off, a Mexican stand-off, you lose your money, but you save your life!"
— F. Harvey SmithSunday Mercury, New York, 1876

Historically, reporters have referred to the Soviet Union – United States nuclear confrontation during the Cold War as a Mexican standoff since both powers were equally equipped to destroy each other militarily, especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

This expression is also used in business where one party asks for something such as a concession of some sort and is giving nothing of value in return. When the other party sees no benefit in agreeing, they refuse to negotiate and thus create a standoff situation.

In cinema, the phrase Mexican standoff is also a movie plot device used in situations where characters face each other at gunpoint.

"A marathon videoconference call between OPEC and other producers lasted until early Friday morning, when it apparently devolved into a Mexican standoff. The cartel, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia say Mexico’s refusal to agree blocked the proposed accord." <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/mexican-standoff-imperils-proposed-10m-barrel-opec-oil-cut-2020-04-10" target="_blank">Market Watch</a>

It is useless to continue the negotiations; I think it will be a Mexican standoff.

Category | nationalities

middle of the road
having a centrist attitude or philosophy; not extreme, especially politically.

A typical middle of the road compromise is to leave the problem as it is.

Category | general

mince one's words
If you mince your words, you speak vaguely or indirectly.

This idiom is often used in the negative form to mean the opposite.


He doesn't mince his words.

Meaning that he says what he means clearly and directly, even if this may upset people.

The phrase can be also used without a possessive adjective.


He doesn't mince words.

A related idiom is the following:

beat around the bush.

The article does not mince words. It reports that the situation is catastrophic.

My grandfather doesn't mince his words. He always speaks directly and forcefully about what he thinks.

Please, don't mince words and tell me what you think of the situation.

I don't like the politicians who mince words.

Category |

minting it
(also minting money) earning a lot of money quickly.

The restaurant is minting it thanks to the new manager.

Category | money

minting money
(also minting money) Earning a lot of money quickly.

Since the arrival of the new manager, the restaurant is minting money.

Category | money

misery loves company
The phrase misery loves company means that if someone is miserable, they like others to be miserable too so that they can feel better about themselves.

I see that you got into a lot of trouble, but since your colleague is in trouble too, that makes you feel better. Misery loves company, doesn't it?

Category | love

miss the boat
To fail to take advantage of an opportunity.

The price discount ended yesterday and I just missed the boat on a great deal.

Category | travel

Mister Right
A perfect, ideal or suitable mate or husband.

She waited for years and years, hoping someday to find Mister Right.

Category | general

moment in the sun
A brief instance in which an otherwise obscure, unremarkable, or humble person draws attention.

That band got their moment in the sun during the 70s.

Category | time

moment of truth
A deciding instant; the time when a test determines or makes it apparent whether something will succeed.

This is the moment of truth, answer the questions of the test.

Category | time

money for jam
(also be money for old rope) said about a job when it is an easy way of earning money.

Selling ice-cream is money for jam when it is very hot.

Category | money

money for old rope
(also be money for jam) Said about a job when it is an easy way of earning money.

Selling ice-cream is money for old rope when it is very hot.

Category | money

money spinner
a business or product that makes a lot of money for someone.

Internet commerce is becoming a real money-spinner.

Category | money

money talks
money talks suggest that with money people can get whatever they want.

She got what she wanted. Well you know money talks!

Category | money

music to someone's ears
Some good news; a spoken expression or a sound which is pleasing; a welcome remark or information.

The kind flattering way he used to talk to her was music to her ears.

Category | music

my gut tells me
The phrase my gut tells me is an idiomatic expression that means my instincts tell me.

Literally, the term gut means belly or stomach. The whole phrase makes reference to one's gut reaction or gut response to something.

My gut tells me that he is trying to deceive us.

Although his idea seems to be a sound one, my gut tells me that it won't work.

Category | parts of the body

my way or the highway
This expression is used to say that people have to do what you say; otherwise, they will have to leave or quit the project.

He has a "My way or the highway" approach to leading his government and his party.

Category | travel

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