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:

rabbit hole
A rabbit hole refers to a world that is particularly bazar, troubling and wonderfully surreal. It is a world that is typically difficult to remove oneself from.
The phrase is mostly used with the verbs ‘fall’ and ‘go’.
- Fall down the rabbit hole.
- Go down the rabbit hole.


The phrase rabbit hole comes from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). It refers to the hole down which the heroine falls. Alice sees a rabbit in the garden and literally falls down the rabbit hole. What happens after that is that she finds herself in a place called wonderland, a place ’where logic and proportion have fallen cold and dead.’

The idiom rabbit hole is also used to describe online activities which are extremely captivating and time-consuming.

- School's starting up again, time to go down the rabbit hole once more.
- You have to be ready to go down the rabbit hole if you decide to start your own business.
- She doesn’t want to become addicted to drugs, so she decided to avoid going down that rabbit hole.

Category | animals

race against time
To race against time means to hurry to do something before a deadline.

They had only two days to finish the job, so they had to race against time.

Category | time

rack one's brain
(also rack one's brains) to think very hard about something.

I've racked my brain all day long, but I still can't remember where I put the keys.

Category | parts of the body

rags to riches
The phrase rags-to-riches refers to any situation in which a person rises from poverty to wealth.

He was homeless and went on to create the largest and most successful service company in the country. It's really a rags-to-riches story.

Category | money

rain cats and dogs
to rain heavily. It's raining cats and dogs.

How come that you are going out in that storm? It's raining cats and dogs.

Category | animals

rain or shine
(also come rain or shine) whatever happens; no matter whether it is rainy or sunny.

I'll be on time, rain or shine.

Category | nature

raise eyebrows
To cause surprise or mild disapproval.

The way the children behaved raised a few eyebrows the hosts.

Category | parts of the body

raw deal
said when someones is ill treated.

Mary got a raw deal. She was innocent, but she had to pay a big fine.

Category | relationship

read the riot act
if you read the riot act to someone, you warn or reprimand them energetically or forcefully

The principal read the riot act to the trouble makers

Category | law

red flag
A sign or signal that something is wrong cue, it is a warning, or alert.

She considered that playing with her feelings was a red flag. She wouldn't tolerate anyone to do so.

Category | colors

red handed
be discovered in or just after the act of doing something wrong or illegal

She was caught red-handed, stealing a ring.

Category | colors

red ink
a euphemism for financial loss.

There is too much red ink in the company's financial statement.

Category | colors

red-letter day
a particularly significant day (personal or sectarian), usually very positive, sometimes very negative.

Monday was a red letter day for her. She accomplished a lot and had fun doing it.

Category | colors

reinvent the wheel
to waste one's time doing something that has already been done satisfactorily.

Just use our guide book to and don't try to reinvent the wheel.

Category | technology and science

religious about doing something
If someone is religious about doing something, they are strict and conscientious about it.

He is religious about respecting the law.

Category | religion

ride shotgun
To ride shotgun means to sit in the front passenger seat of a vehicle during a trip. Figuratively, the phrase refers to the support or aid given to someone in a situation or project.

The expression riding shotgun is derived from shotgun messenger, a colloquial term for express messenger. A special armed employee of the express service using the stage for transportation of bullion or cash would sit beside the driver, carrying a short shotgun (or alternatively a rifle), to provide an armed response in case of threat to the cargo.

More about riding shotgun on wikipedia

Would you like to come to the party and ride shotgun? We really need your help!

Category | war

right as rain
This idiom is used to mean that everything is perfectly fine; all right

1. Take these medicines and soon, you'll be right as rain.
2. She had had a lot of problem with her parents. But as soon as she got married, everything was right as rain for her.

Category | weather

right down to
considering even minor things or people.

We are all concerned with obeying the law, from the minister down to the common man.

Category | general

right on the button
to be exactly right.

Her remarks were right on the button.

Category | general

right-hand man or woman
The right-hand man or right-hand woman refers to a close trustworthy assistant who helps and supports you in everything you do.

Origin of the idiom

Culturally, the right hand has always been considered superior. For example, in monotheist religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, the right hand is associated with good people and the left with the evil people. The Qur'an and the Bible contain a lot of positive references to the right side and the right hand, and negative references to the left.

In addition to that, the position on the right of the political leader or in social meetings has always been the position of privilege and of honor.

He is her right-hand man. She can't do anything without his support.
You should find a person you can trust and rely on. You really need a right-hand man.
She was his right-hand woman. Shed was by his side and supported him in everything he did.

Category | men and women

ripe old age
Very old age.

After living to a ripe old age, she died yesterday.

Category | age

road rage
Aggressive behavior exhibited by drivers in traffic, often as a result of stress.

Many road accidents are the result of road rage.

Category | travel

rock the boat
If you rock the boat, you cause problems or disturbances.


The literal meaning of this idioms refers to the fact that if you make a boat move from side to side, this would cause it to rock and probably capsize.

Here are some famous people using this phrase:

"Only the guy who isn't rowing has time to rock the boat." Jean-Paul Sartre

"There are always a lot of people so afraid of rocking the boat that they stop rowing. We can never get ahead that way." Harry S. Truman

You are new here! Please, don’t rock the boat.
I don't think it's the right time to rock the boat. Let's wait and see.
Don't rock the boat! Everything is fine here.
Don't rock the boat in the meeting by bringing up controversial topics!

Category | travel

roll one's sleeves up
The phrase to roll one's sleeves up literally means to turn one's sleeves upward. Figuratively, the idioms means to prepare for hard work.
roll one's sleeves up

1. She rolled her sleeves up and started doing the housework.
2. Let's roll up our sleeves, work together, and try to get the work done.

Category | clothes

Rome wasn't built in a day
said to emphasize that great work takes time to do. Nothing of importance can be done in a short period of time.

Don't expect immediate outstanding earnings fom your new buisiness. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Category | time

roof something over
to build a roof over something.

After the earthquake they had to roof the shed over.

Category | home

root and branch

They have reorganized their business root and branch.

Category | nature

rough time
The idiom rough time means a hard or bad time.

It was such a rough time.

Category | time

round the clock
The phrase round the clock refers to something happening or done all day and all night.

Another variation of this idiom is:

around the clock

They have been working round the clock to solve the problem.

Category | time

run a red light
The phrase to run a red light is an idiom that means to continue driving through an intersection having a red traffic light without stopping.

I was so late to work and to make matters worse I got a ticket for running a red light yesterday.

Category | colors

run amok
To behave in a frenzied and out-of-control manner.

Other variations of the same idioms include:

- run riot.
- run wild.
- go amok.

Origin of the idiom "run amok"

The word "amok" comes from a Malay word which means "frenzied". It is increasingly viewed now as psychopathological behavior. The syndrome of "amok" is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV TR). The phrase is often used in a less serious manner when describing something that is wildly out of control or causing a frenzy for example, "a dog tearing up the living room furniture might be termed as 'running amok'".

My dog often runs amok.
The weeds are running riot in the lawn.
The kids were running wild in the house.

Category | sport

run for one's life
To run for your life means to run away to save one's life.

A lion escaped from the zoo. Run for your life.

Category | life

run out of steam
If you run out of steam, you lose the energy, enthusiasm or interest to continue doing something.

After having worked for twenty years as a the manager of the company, he seems to run out of steam.

Category | technology and science

run ragged
If you are run ragged, you are completely tired of excessive effort or work.

This idiom is also used with a pronoun:

- To run someone ragged
- To run oneself ragged

I've been run ragged trying to finish the report before the deadline.

With this job, I am always run ragged at the end of the day, but I feel pleased with my self because I feel I've done something worthwhile.

The kids have run me ragged. I can't stand it anymore.

They’ve been running him ragged asking him to do more for the company.

<img src="/images/voc/idioms/run-ragged_640.jpg" alt="run ragged" title="run ragged"/>

Category | sport

run with the hare and hunt with the hounds
To support both sides of an argument.

She never takes a clear position in any dispute. She always tries to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.

Category | animals

running battle
The phrase running battle refers to an argument that continues over a long period of time.

He was fired because he had a running battle with his boss.

Category | war

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