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:

pack a wallop
(also pack a punch) to provide energy, power, or excitement.

This drink really packs a wallop.

Category | general

paddle one's own canoe
To act independently and decide your own fate; to do something by oneself.

He's been left to paddle his own canoe when he started his business.

Category | travel

pain in the neck
an annoyance.

The teacher's last assignment is really a pain in the neck.

Category | parts of the body

paint something with a broad brush
The phrase paint something with a broad brush means to describe something in general terms, without mentioning specific details and without paying attention to individual variations.

When asked about his policy to reform the educational system, the president painted his plan with a broad brush.

Category | art

party hearty
The phrase to party hearty means to have a good time; to celebrate.

Another variation of this idiom is:

Party down!

Category | parts of the body

pass the buck
to blame others for something you shoud accept reponsibilty for.

It's not my fault. Don't try to pass the buck!

Category | general

pass the hat around
(also pass the hat round) to collect money by asking people or organizations.

They passed the hat round as they needed money to rebuild the poor neighbors' house.

Category | clothes

patience of Job
To have the patience of Job means to have a great amount of patience.

The idiom has a religious origin. Job was considered a prophet in the Abrahamic Religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He suffered from horrendous disasters that took away all that he held dear, including his offspring, his health, and his property.

In spite of their extreme poverty, they managed to raise ten children. They really have the patience of Job.

Category | names

patient as Job
The phrase patient as Job means very patient.

The idiom alludes to the biblical figure Job. He is presented as a good and prosperous family man who is beset with horrendous disasters that take away all that he holds dear, including his offspring, his health, and his property. He struggles to understand his situation and begins a search for the answers to his difficulties

Another variation of the idiom is :

As patient as Job.
Have the patience of Job.

You have to be as patient as Job to have a talk with that nasty woman.

Category | names

pay dearly
to suffer because of a particlar action.

If you don't work hard, you will pay dearly for it.

Category | general

pay good money for something
If you paid good money for something, you paid a substantial amount of money for it. The phrase is used to express dissatisfaction at not receiving full value for your money, or voicing criticism that what you paid for does not really deserve that much cash.

A similar idiom:

Make good money.

I paid good money for these jeans, and I’ve only worn them once.
We paid good money to get the best service.

Category | money

pay lip service
an insincere loyalty, respect, or support for something

He says he supports the idea of voluntary work, but in fact he's just paying lip service.

Category | parts of the body

pay through the nose
If you pay through the nose for something, you pay a lot of money for it. The price you pay is more than is reasonable.

A related idiom:

cost an arm and a leg


The origin of this expression is unclear. One hypothesis is that this phrase is linked to tax payment. In the ninth century, the Danes conquered Ireland and imposed a tax called "Nose Tax." Excessive taxes were imposed on each “nose”. Accordingly, one had to pay through the nose. If someone failed to pay his nose tax, it was said that they had their noses slit in punishment.

If you want to buy that leather jacket, you will have to pay through the nose.

She paid through the nose for her new car.

He paid through the nose to get his computer fixed.

Category | money

pay your dues
The phrase pay your dues means to earn respect or a position by a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

They want me to resign, but everybody knows that I paid my dues to get this position.

Category | money

pick of the bunch
(also the best of the bunch) the best.

The dress she's wearing is the pick of the bunch.

Category | general

pick up the tab
The idiom to pick up the tab means to pay the bill.

Another variation of this idiom is pick up the check.

John picks up the tab whenever he has dinner with his friends.

Category | money

picture of (good) health
in a very healthy condition.

The doctor told him that he is a picture of good health.

Category | health

picture paints a thousand words
(also a picture is worth a thousand words) a picture will be far more descriptive of something than words can ever be.

Just show him the photos and he will understand. You know a picture paints a thousand words.

Category | general

pipe dream
The phrase a pipe dream refers to a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

His plan is unrealistic. It is no more than a pipe dream.

Category | dreams

play a joke
(also play trick) to deceive someone for fun.

On April fool's day some people play practical jokes on their friends.

Category | relationship

play away from home
to be unfaithful; to have sex with someone who is not your usual partner.

She stuck on her decision to divorce because she discoverd her husband playing away from home.

Category | sexuality

play ball
to cooperate and agree to work with others.

The manager asked him to play ball if he wants things to go well.

Category | sport

play cat and mouse
to tease, confuse or fool someone by trying to trick them into making a mistake so that you have an advantage over them.

The famous businessman spent his time playing cat and mouse with the judge.

Category | animals

play hardball with someone
The phrase to play hardball with someone means to act rough and ruthless with someone.

The manager decided to play hardball because it's getting tough.
I want to get my money back from him. So, I decided to play hardball.

Category | sport

play second fiddle
to take a subordinate or weaker position than someone else.

Bill doesn't want to play second fiddle to his colleague any more. He feels he is more trained and more experienced.

Category | relationship

play the field
to have many sexual relationships.

He's not the kind of person to think of getting married. He's quite happy to play the field.

Category | sexuality

poetic justice
The phrase poetic justice refers to a situation in which virtue is rewarded and vice is punished, in such a way that this justice seems proper and ironic.

The phrase originates from the English drama critic Thomas Rymer who coined the phrase in The Tragedies of the Last Age Considere'd (1678) to describe how a work should inspire proper moral behaviour in its audience by illustrating the triumph of good over evil.

More on poetic justice

It is poetic justice that the economic crisis is affecting the bankers who are blamed for causing it in the first place.

Category | art

poetry in motion
If something is poetry in motion, it is something that is graceful and beautiful to observe.

The girl was like poetry in motion when she was dancing.

Category | art

poison pill
The phrase poison pill refers to is a type of defensive tactic used by companies against a takeover.

Many companies have used poison pill strategies against hostile takeovers.

Category | health

poke one's nose in
The phrase poke one's nose in or into something means to be nosy ; to interfere with something. It has the sense of intruding in another's private life.

To poke means to prod or jab especially with something pointed such as a finger, a stick, an elbow...

Another variation of this idiom is:

stick one's nose into something

I felt as if my new neighbor was poking her nose into my private life.

I didn't dare stick my nose in and ask her what was wrong as she was so nervous.

You shouldn't go poking your nose into other people's lives!

It's none of your business; don't stick your nose into my private life!

Category | parts of the body

possession is nine points of the law
Possession is nine points of the lawis a phrase used to suggest that if you really possess something, you will easily claim its ownership than someone who just says it belongs to him or her.

The phrase comes from the early English property system, where the right to possession of property was endorsed by the king in the form of nine traditional writs. These writs evolved into the nine original laws defining property ownership, hence the expression "possession is nine points in the law."

The jacket you are wearing is presumed to be yours, unless someone can prove that it is not. Possession is nine points of the law.

Category | law

poverty is no sin
The phrase poverty is no sin means that we shouldn't condemn people for their poverty.

Another variation of this idiom is poverty is not a crime

It is a pity that the police are chasing those beggars. Poverty is no sin.

Category | religion

poverty is not a crime
(Also poverty is no sin)
This expression is used to mean that it is not a crime to be poor and that we shouldn't condemn people for their poverty.

I don't know why the police are chasing those poor people out of town. Poverty is not a crime.

Category | crime

preach to the choir
The phrase preach to the choir or preach to the converted means to ​try to convince people of something that they already ​believe.

You are just preaching to the choir. It is pointless to convince us of the value of exercising. We all agree that exercising is good for our health.

Category | religion

pressed for time
If you are pressed for time, it means that you are in a hurry.

I am sorry, I can't talk to you right now; I'm pressed for time.

Category | time

prick of conscience
The phrase a prick of conscience is an idiomatic expression that indicates a feeling of guilt. The phrase makes reference to a feeling that causes a sharp mental pain or remorse.

Another variation of the idiom is prick somebody's conscience. It means to make someone feel guilty.

The picture of the dead Syrian boy lying face down in the sand on a Turkish beach pricked my conscience.

Category | crime

public enemy number one
The idiom public enemy number one refers someone or something that people hate.

That terrorist is considered public enemy number one.

Category | numbers

pull in one's horns
(also draw in one's horn) To become less impassioned, aggressive, or argumentative; to back down from a fight; to yield or capitulate.

They stopped making investments. They pulled in their horns.

Category | music

pull somebody's leg
to tease or fool someone when trying to convince them to believe something which is not true as a joke.

Are you pulling my leg? Is it really your house?

Category | parts of the body

Pull the other leg
used when you do not believe what someone has just said.

Sue, writing poems? Pull the other leg - she can't even write a correct sentence!

Category | parts of the body

Pull the other one
used to tell someone that you don't believe what they have just said.

Sue, writing poems? Pull the other one - she can't even write a correct sentence!

Category | numbers

pull the plug
The phrase pull the plug means to put an end to an activity, preventing it from continuing.

They are going to pull the plug on the new TV show because it didn't get any sponsors.

Category | technology and science

puppy love
A childish or youthful infatuation with another person.

As they were still very young nobody took their puppy love seriously.

Category | love

push someone's buttons
(also press someone's buttons) draw a strong emotional reaction from someone, especially anger or sexual arousal.

Don't push my buttons with your silly comments.

Category | technology and science

put the cart before the horse
To put things in the wrong order

To attempt to remove the armaments before removing these substantive conflicts of interest is to put the cart before the horse.

Category | travel

put a smile on someone's face
The phrase to put a smile on someone's face is an idiomatic expression that means to please someone or make someone happy.

Another variation of this idiom is to bring a smile to somebody's face or to bring a smile to somebody's lips

Look at Jane! She looks so sad. Let's go and put a smile on her face.
I know the surprise party will bring a smile to his lips.

Category | parts of the body

put money on somebody or something
to bet money or to believe that someone will accomplish something or that something will happen.

He will pass the exam - I'd put money on it.

Category | money

put neck on the line
If you put your neck on the line, you do something risky.

The phrase can be used without the word 'neck'. If something is on the line, there is some kind of risk.

Although I put my neck on the line for my colleague, he didn't even call to thank me. I may get fired if they find out what I did.
Never put your neck on the line for no good reasons.
Her political future is on the line because of involvement in criminal activities.

Category | parts of the body

put on a brave face
to pretend that a problem doesn't bother you.

He looks calm, but I suspect he's just putting on a brave face.

Category | parts of the body

put one's heart into something
The phrase to put one's heart into something is an idiomatic expression that means to put all your energy and sincere effort into something; to work hard in order to do or get something.

Other variations of this idiom are:

  • To put one's soul into something.
  • To pour one's heart into something.

They are putting their hearts into producing innovative products that would utterly change people's lives.

Category | parts of the body

put one's mind to it
To apply oneself; to exert a directed effort.

You can do anything, if you put your mind to it.

Category | parts of the body

put one's shoulder to the wheel
to start hard work; to begin to toil.

Category | parts of the body

put the cat among the pigeons
To create a disturbance and cause trouble.

The principal put the cat among the pigeons when he informed the students that the excursion was cancelled.

Category | animals

put the pedal to the metal
To press the gas pedal to the maximum extent; to exert maximum effort.

You have to put the pedal to the metal if you want to get there on time.

Category | travel

put words in somebody's mouth
To attribute to somebody something he or she did not say; to claim inaccurately that somebody said or intended something.

I hope I'm not putting words in your mouth. Did you just tell me to go home early?

Category | parts of the body

put years on
If something puts years on somebody, it makes them look or feel much older.

Hi financial problems put years on him.

Category | age

put yourself in someone's shoes

If you put yourself in someone’s shoes, you try to see how it feels when you put yourself in their place. When you do so, you feel empathy by trying to look at a situation from a different angle - as if you were the other person.


This phrase has been credited as a Native American aphorism. Some, however, think that it has its origin in Mary T. Lathrap's poem published in 1895. The original title of the poem was Judge Softly, later titled Walk a Mile in His Moccasins:
Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.
Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.

Here are similar idioms:

- Put oneself in someone's place.
- Fill someone's shoes.
- Be in somebody's shoes.

- What could I have done to solve the problem? Just put yourself in my shoes.
- Never judge someone before putting yourself in their shoes.

Category | clothes

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

What are idioms?

Related materials

Recommended books: