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:

wag one's chin
to talk.

Stop wagging your chin and do something.

Category | parts of the body

wait and see
to wait to see what will occur after.

The new manager hasn't announced his new plan yet. We'll have to wait and see.

Category | general

wait for the ball to drop
To wait in expectation of an occurrence.

When the scandal was publicly revealed, he waited for the ball to drop as he was involved.

Category | sport

wait for the other shoe to drop
To await a seemingly inevitable event, especially one which is not desirable.

He was waiting for the other shoe to drop once some of his companions had been captured by the official authorities,

Category | clothes

wait on someone hand and foot
to serve someone well, satisfying all personal needs.

She can't take care of herself. She always needs someone to wait on her hand and foot.

Category | parts of the body

wake up on the wrong side of bed
To feel grumpy, irritable; to be easily annoyed.

She must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. She didn't stop shouting all day long.

Category | home

walk of life
an occupation, role, social class, or lifestyle.

People in this neighbourhood come from different walks of life.

Category | general

walk on air
very excited or happy.

He was walking on air after he passed the exam.

Category | nature

walk on eggs
To walk on eggs is an English idiom.It means to be very careful in dealing with a person or situation.

This idiom draws an analogy between walking on fragile eggs and discussing a dangerous or sensitive subject.
walk on eggshells

Other variations of this idiom include:

  • walk on eggshells

  • walk on thin ice

I was walking on eggs when I told her the truth.


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5S0BS9keSZM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Category | food

walk on eggshells
To be overly careful in dealing with a person or situation; to be careful and sensitive, in handling very sensitive matters.

He was walking on eggshells when he was talking to him about his wife.

Category | food

walk the talk


To do what one said one could do, or would do, not just making empty promises.

To do things consistent with what one claims.

This phrase indicates that failing to match behavior with talk results in loss of credibility and trust.

Another variation of this idiom:

talk the talk... walk the walk.

1. If our company promises to protect the environment, we have to walk the talk.

2. Some leaders only talk the talk but aren't prepared to take any risks and walk the walk

3. The world belongs to those who are ready to walk the talk and take the next step in their journey.
<h4>Quotes about walking the talk:</h4>
"Most people will talk the talk, few will walk the walk; be amongst those few." Steve Maraboli

“Walk that walk and go forward all the time. Don't just talk that talk, walk it and go forward.” Chris Gardner

"I think it's because most of us talk one way and live another. There are a few people who truly, truly walk the talk." Olympia Dukakis

"I challenge you to make your life a masterpiece. I challenge you to join the ranks of those people who live what they teach, who walk their talk." Anthony Robbins

<h4>Related product</h4>

<a href="https://teespring.com/just-walk-the-talk?pid=2&cid=6046" target="_blank"><b>Walk the Talk T-shirt is available. BUY it NOW</b></a>

<a href="https://teespring.com/just-walk-the-talk?pid=2&cid=6046" target="_blank"><img src="/images/shop/just-walk-the-talk-idiom-t-shirt.jpg" title="walk the talk T-shirt - BUY it NOW"/></a>

Category | sport

Walter Mitty
A person, generally quite ordinary with unexceptional qualities, who is prone to fantastic daydreaming of personal triumphs.

This term comes from James Thurber's short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1939), describing a meek, mild man with a vivid fantasy life. The character's name has come into more general use to refer to an ineffectual dreamer.

See more about Walter Mitty

If you are a Walter Mitty with Everest dreams, you need to bear in mind that when things go wrong up there, you may lose your life.

Category | names

war of nerves
(Also battle of nerves.)
War of nerves refers to a conflict using psychological techniques rather than direct violence in order to weaken the enemy.

"In the future, war will not merely be one of men and machines, it will be a war of wills and a war of nerves." Sir John Anderson.

Category | war

war of words
An argument between two people or groups.

The war of words between the two tcountries hasn't ceased to for a long time.

Category | war

war zone
The idiom war zone refers to an area where war or some extreme violence is taking place.

It is heart breaking to see images of dead or injured children from a war zone.

Category | war

waste breath
To speak in a manner which is needless or futile; in discussion or argument to make points which are not appreciated or heeded.

Please don't waste your breath asking me ridiculous questions.

Category | general

watch one's mouth
to be careful about what one says, especially with regard to disrespectful or profane language.

Watch your mouth when you speak to him. He's the boss.

Category | parts of the body

watch the clock
To keep noticing the clock because you are eager to stop what you are doing.

If you are someone who watches the clock, then this job is not for you.

Category | time

watch this space
an indication that a development will follow.

He has ambitious plans. Watch this space!

Category | general

watch your language
The phrase watch your language is an idiom that means pay attention to what one is saying.

Other variations of this idiom:

  • Watch your mouth

  • Watch your tongue

Don't talk that way! Watch your language.

Category | language

wax and wane
to increase and decrease.

His love for politics has waxed and waned over the years.

Category | general

weak at the knees
If you are weak at the knees, you are affected by a strong emotion and you feel as if are going to fall down.

She felt weak at the knees every time he spoke to her.

Category | parts of the body

wear the pants
If a woman wears the pants, she exercises authority or is the person in charge in a relationship.

The British version of the phrase is:
- Wear the trousers.


This idiom is generally used to describe women who have control in a relationship. It dates from the mid-1500s, a time when women wore exclusively skirts and men wore only pants or breeches. Although fashion has changed considerably and women wear not only skirts but also pants and shorts, the phrase is still used to mean assuming authority or responsibility in a relationship.

One of the earliest uses of the phrase dates back to at least 1612 in an epigram by John Harrington, who was also the inventor of the flush toilet, published posthumously in 1633. John Harrington uses the phrase in a story about a couple arguing "who ware the breeches."
“Of A Household Fray Friendly Ended.
A Man and wife strove earst who should be masters
and having chang’d between them household speeches
The man in wrath brought forth a paire of wasters,
& swore those 2 should prove who ware the breeches.

- He may seem authoritative, but the truth is that it's his wife who really wears the pants in that relationship.
- She wants to give the impression that she wears the trousers but it's her husband who has the final say.

Category | clothes

wear your heart on your sleeve
to display one's feelings openly.

Alan always has his heart on his sleeve. Everybody knows how he feels.

Category | clothes

weather permitting
If the weather is fine.

Weather permitting, we will be able to go on a picnic tomorrow.

Category | weather

weather the storm
To experience a very difficult situation and survive it.

They lost everything they had, but somehow they weathered the storm.

Category | weather

weekend warrior
A person who indulges in a sport or pastime on an infrequent basis, usually on weekends when work commitments are not present.

The most common foot related injury I see for the weekend warrior is heel pain

Category | sport

weep buckets
(also cry buckets) to cry a lot.

She cried buckets, because that was such a sad event.

Category | general

well-oiled machine
The phrase well-oiled machine refers to something that operates well.

Their office ran like a well-oiled machine.

Category | technology and science

wet blanket
The phrase wet blanketrefers to a person who spoils other people's enthusiasm or enjoyment.

Don't invite John to the party. He's only going to be a wet blanket.

Category | furniture

what beats me
said when you do not understand a situation or someone's behaviour.

What beats me is how he passed the exam.

Category | sport

what's the magic word?
The question "what's the magic word?" is an idiomatic expression used for reminding a child to say 'please' when asking for something.

Bobby: Can I have another candy, mummy?
Mother: What's the magic word?
Bobby: Please.

Category | language

wheels fall off
Said about something that has failed, often after a laborious, tiring process.

Our team was doing well for a while, but they got tired and then the wheels fell off.

Category | travel

when it rains, it pours
(Also, it never rains but it pours) said when bad things occur in large numbers.

First, he had a terrible accident. Then, his wife had a heart attack. Really when it rains, it pours.

Category | nature

when pigs fly
If you say when pigs fly you mean that something will never happen.

This phrase is used presumably due to the unlikelihood that pigs will ever evolve wings.

Category | animals

whet your appetite
The phrase whet one's appetite for something means to increase one's desire to have it or know more about it.

This is a book that will whet people’s appetite for literature.

Category | food

white as a sheet
(also as white as a sheet) said about someone whose face is very pale because of illness, shock or fear.

Joe looks as white as sheet. He must be very ill.

Category | health

whiter than white
said about someone who is totally fair and honest.

That little boy is whiter than white. He never does anything wrong.

Category | colors

who pays the piper calls the tune
one who pays for something controls it.

If he pays for everything, he will have power over us all. You know, who pays the piper calls the tune

Category | music

wild-goose chase
The phrase a wild-goose chase refers to a pursuit of something unattainable or non-existent

The idiom was mentioned in the William Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, scene 4 by the character Mercutio:
"Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done; for thou hast more of the wild goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five."

She began to suspect whether she had been sent on a wild-goose chase.

Category | animals

woman of ill repute
The idiom a woman of ill repute refers to a prostitute.

He started a new relationship with a woman of ill repute.

Category | men and women

words fail me
The phrase words fail me is an idiom that expresses shock, surprise or dismay, especially when one cannot find words to express ones thoughts and feelings about something one has just seen or heard about.

John: Have you seen how she treats badly her husband?
Liz: Yes, words fail me. I've never seen anything quite like that!

Category | language

work like a beaver
(Also work like a mule; work like a horse; work like a slave)

To work like a beaver means to work very hard.

You work like a beaver; you need to relax.

Category | work

work like a charm
If something works like a charm, it works works very well.

The phrase contains the word charm which means a magic spell.

I installed the application on my cell phone and it works like a charm.

Category | work

work like a dream
If something works like a dream for you, it works perfectly well.

The plan worked like a dream.

Category | dreams

work your fingers to the bone
to work extremely hard.

He works his fingers to the bone to help his five children grow up in a healthy environment.

Category | work

worth its weight in gold
The idiomatic expression worth its weight in gold refers to someone or something that is valuable.

When this phrase is applied to a person, the pronoun its is replaced by a personal pronoun, such as his or her.

The new manager cut down the company's expenses by 30%. She is really worth her weight in gold.

Category | money

wouldn't be caught dead
If you wouldn’t be caught dead doing something, you would never do it because you would feel ashamed or embarrassed


This phrase dates back to the 1900s.

The idea that even if you were dead, you wouldn’t like to be seen or caught doing something may seem illogic. But the phrase still makes sense. It shows the enormity of the embarrassment felt. The metaphor demonstrates that one would not do something because just because it is bad, but also because it may cause some sort of shame or embarrassment. This implies that because of the shame or embarrassment one may feel if caught, seen, or found doing something, one wouldn’t do it whether alive or dead.

Other variations of the phrase include:
- wouldn't be seen dead.
- wouldn't be found dead.

I would not be caught dead in such a miniskirt.
He wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like this.
Politicians wouldn’t be caught dead doing anything that might destroy their image.

Category | death

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

What are idioms?

Related materials

Recommended books: