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:

oceans of
A large amount of something.

Oceans of guests were at the party.

Category | nature

odd duck
An unusual person, especially an individual with an idiosyncratic personality or peculiar behavioral characteristics.

This boy is an odd duck in many ways. Unlike his peers, he has no hobbies.

Category | animals

odds and ends
various often worthless small items.

I have to get rid of a few odds and ends before moving to the new house.

Category | general

of a certain age
Said about people who are not young.

This shop sells clothes for women of a certain age.

Category | age

of advanced age
The phrase of advanced age or advanced years describes someone as old.

The conference is about the effect of advanced age on fertility and pregnancy in women.

Category | age

of age
Old enough to be considered an adult.

He's of age now, he can buy his own car.

Category | age

of the first water
of the best.

She is of the first water, a fine lady indeed.

Category | nature

off the beaten track
To a place or places not commonly visited.

His trip was altogether off the beaten track which had never been traversed any European.

Category | travel

off the shelf
ready made for purchase; in a form that is ready to be used.

It is often cheaper to buy off the shelf goods.

Category | furniture

off the wagon
The phrase off the wagon is an idiomatic expression that refers to someone who no longer abstains from a habit or an addiction like alcoholic drinks.

The opposite of this expression is "to be on the wagon", meaning maintaining a program of self-improvement or abstinence from some undesirable habits.

The origin of the idiom "off the wagon"

The expression probably comes from the early 20th-century American idiom on the water-wagon. This expression referred to someone who was drinking water instead of alcoholic drinks as an attempt to stop drinking. The expression likely preceded its opposite to fall off the wagon.

1. In spite of falling off the wagon several times, he eventually succeeded in quitting.
2. John is trying to stop drinking. Would he be able to resist or would he fall off the wagon?

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Category | travel

old wives' tale
a wrong traditional theory or belief, often about health.

The idea of drinking alcohol to relieve you from flu is an old wives' tale.

Category | men and women

on a shoestring
If you do something on a shoestring, you do it with a very small amount of money.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the first occurrences of the phrase in print was in an 1882 issue of The Century Magazine:
"[He] could draw to a shoe-string, as the saying went, and obtain a tan-yard!"

The connection of the idiom to a small amount of money is unclear. One explanation refers to the fact that shoestrings used to be sold cheaply with little profit margin.

The term shoestring collocates with other words as follows:

- To be on a shoestring.
- To be on a shoestring budget.
- To get by on a shoestring.
- To live on a shoestring.
- To do something on a shoestring.

1. The property was bought on a shoestring budget.
2. They lived on a shoestring for years.
3. John started his new business on a shoestring budget.

Category | clothes

on all fours
On all fours mean on one's hands and knees.

He was on all fours, with his daughter on his back.

Category | numbers

on in years
Old; advanced in age.

My wife is dead and I am getting on in years.

Category | age

on the face of it
on the surface.

On the face of it, she seems innocent. But when the police investigated her case, they discovered that she was guilty.

Category | parts of the body

on the horns of a dilemma
To face a choice between two equally undesirable alternatives.

I found myself on the horns of dilemma and I didn't know which direction to choose.

Category | music

on the run
Fleeing or running from the police.

The murderer is still on the run.

Category | crime

on the same wavelength
thinking in the same pattern or in agreement.

They've done a good job because they were on the same wavelength.

Category | technology and science

on the table
being discussed or considered.

Everybody agreed to leave the plan to build a new school in our town on the table.

Category | furniture

on the take
This idiom is used to describe a person who is in a position of authority and takes or seeks to take bribes or illegal income.

This is a country where many officials are on the take.

Category | crime

on the wagon
To abstain from drinking any alcoholic drink, usually in the sense of having given it up

No, thank you! No alcohol for me I am on the wagon.

Category | travel

once bitten, twice shy
If someone is said to be once bitten, twice shy, it means that once someone was hurt by something or someone, they will be afraid to try it again.

Since Leila broke up with her boyfriend, she has become very cautious about starting any new relationship. Once bitten, twice shy, you know!

Category | numbers

once in a blue moon
The phrase once in a blue moon is an idiomatic expression that means not very often or very rarely.

Blue moon refers to an additional full moon that appears very rarely during a year.

The phrase has nothing to do with the actual color of the moon. It just means that something happens very rarely.

Once in a blue moon, her husband brings her a gift.

She sees him once in a blue moon.

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Category | time

one go
If you do something at/in one go, you do it in one attempt.

Chiefly British.

I managed to do the job that was assigned to me at one go.

She wrote the report in one go although she was so tired.

Category | numbers

one of a kind
The phrase to be one of a kind is an idiomatic expression that means to be unique or special.

She was an extraordinary woman. She was really one of a kind.

Category | numbers

one's word is law
The idiom one's word is law means that what someone says must be obeyed.

There's no point trying to do things differently. The manager's word is law around here. Just do what he asks you to do.

Category | law

one-day wonder
The phrase one-day wonder refers to something or someone that attracts great interest for a short time but is subsequently forgotten.

Variations of this idiom include:

nine-day/seven-day/one-day wonder

1. The news of his sudden resignation was only a nine-day wonder.
2. Their performance was just a one-day wonder.

Category | time

Occurring once; one-time.

It is a one-off event.

Category | numbers

out of the blue
something which is totally unexpected.

She sent him a letter, out of the blue, telling him that she was in love with another guy.

Category | colors

over my dead body
If you say something will happen over your dead body, you mean that you will not allow it to happen.


The phrase has been in use for centuries. One of the earliest uses was by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1850:
“I’ll give my last drop of blood, but they shall not take you from me. Whosoever gets you must walk over my dead body!”

This hyperbolic adverbial phrase is used as a defiant phrase showing the strength of one's resistance to something. What it means is that someone is ready to do whatever they can to stop something from happening.

One may imagine that the expression was first used in serious situations a long time ago. Warriors would defend whatever they cared about and would not surrender until they were killed. To get what they want, the other person would have to kill the knight and walk over his body.

The phrase is also used jokingly. For instance, a mother would respond to her overweight son who wants more chocolate: “that will be over my dead body”

He says he will become our new manager. Over my dead body!
Sure, you can marry my daughter! Over my dead body.
You want more chocolate. Well, that will be over my dead body.

Category | parts of the body

over my dead body
Under no circumstances; absolutely not.

See the full definition and the origin of the phrase

He wants to get all the money for himself. Well, it will be over my dead body!

Category | death

over the hill
too old to perform as well as before.

You say you are over the hill, but see how you run as fast as your son!

Category | age

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