VOCABULARY - IDIOMS


Idiomatic Expressions - List in Alphabetical Order


idioms

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:

face (that) only a mother could love
a very ugly face.

Look at that poor girl. That's a face that only a mother could love.

Category | relationship

face that would stop a clock
The phrase a face that would stop a clock refers to an ugly face.

He was a wicked-looking man, with a face that would stop a clock.
She refused to marry a rich good looking young French who proposed to her. Instead, she chose to live with a muscular thug with a face that would stop a clock.


Category | time

face the music
said when someone accepts to confront the unpleasant consequences of one's actions.

After failing to manage the crisis, the manager had to face the music.

Category | parts of the body

fact of life
Something that cannot be avoided.

It is a pity that drug abuse has become a fact of life in the Olympic Games.

Category | life

facts of life
the details about sex and reproduction.

His parents told him the facts of life when he was ten years old.

Category | sexuality

fair-haired boy
(also blue-eyed boy) a person highly regarded and by someone or a group and treated with special favor

Before he was fired out, he had been the fair-haired boy of the boss.

Category | colors

fair-weather friend
someone who is your friend only when the times are good.

Don't rely on him.He's a fair-weather friend.

Category | relationship

fall for someone
to fall in love with someone.

He fell for her because she's so beautiful.

Category | love

fall from grace
The idiom fall from grace refers to a loss of status, respect, or prestige.

The idiom comes from a Christian reference to the transition of the first man and woman from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience.

The politician has fallen from grace and has become very unpopular.

Category | religion

fall head over heels for someone
to be in love with someone very much; hopelessly smitten.

They fell head over heels in love with each other.

Category | love

fall in love
to begin feeling attracted to someone and love him or her.

When Jane and Math met for the first time, they fell madly in love.

Category | relationship

fall in love with someone
To come to have feelings of love directed at another person or a thing

They fell in love with each other from the moment they saw each other.

Category | love

fall off the back of a lorry
A euphemism for something acquired illegally or stolen.

He was trying to sell me a new laptop which I suspect fell off the back of a lorry.

Category | travel

fall on deaf ears
Of a request, complaint, etc, to be ignored.

Every time I ask him to do something for me, it falls on deaf ears.

Category | parts of the body

fall out of love
to stop being in love with someone.

She fell out of love with him when she knew he had been hiding secrets from her.

Category | love

fall prey to
(also fall victim to) to become a victim.

When she married him, she fell prey to his greed.

Category | animals

fall through the cracks
to be missed; to escape the necessary notice or attention

Complete every item, and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Category | general

fan the flames
to make a bad feeling or situation become worse or more intense.

His racial declarations fanned the flames of the ethinc war.

Category | nature

father figure
The phrase father figure usually refers to an older man who is respected and who is characterized by power, authority, or strength.

The kids respected him as a father figure.

Category | relationship

feast for the eyes
visually pleasing sight.

Look at that painting. It's really a feast for the eyes.

Category | parts of the body

feel blue
to feel sad.

She felt blue after her divorce.

Category | colors

feel it in one's bones
The phrase to feel something in one's bones means to have an intuition or hunch about something or to have a strong conviction as a result of one's own practical experience or instinct.

He is going to fail. I can feel it in my bones.

Category | parts of the body

feel like a million
(Also feel like a million bucks, feel like a million dollars)
To feel like a million means to feel well and healthy, both physically and mentally.

It is a wonderful day! I feel like a million dollars.

Category | numbers

feel your age
The phrase feel your age means to realize that you are growing old.

I really felt my age at work. All my colleagues looked very young.

Category | age

fifth wheel
Anything superfluous or unnecessary.

I felt like a fifth wheel when they started looking at each other affectionately.

Category | travel

fight fire with fire
If you fight fire with fire, you use the same methods and tactics that your opponent is using against you.

Shakespeare referred to the same meaning in King John, 1595:

Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire;
Threaten the threatener and outface the brow
Of bragging horror


After the competitive offers from rival firms, our company has decided to fight fire with fire and reduce prices.

Category | war

fight like cat and dog
to argue and fight violently.

Those two children always fight like cat and dog.

Category | animals

fight the good fight
If you fight the good fight, you try very hard to do what is right so as to have a clean conscience.

The origin of this idiom comes from the Bible, Timothy 6.12 (King James Version):
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.


The phrase was also quoted in a classic favorite hymn and Christian song written by Rev. John Samuel Bewley Monsell and published in Hymns of Love and Praise for the Church’s Year (1863):

Fight the good fight with all thy might;
Christ is thy Strength, and Christ thy Right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.


He said what he had to say. He fought the good fight and left with a clear conscience.

Category | war

fill someone's shoes
The phrase to fill someone's shoes is an idiomatic expression that means to take over someone's function or responsibilities and fulfill them satisfactorily

My father will retire soon and he expects my elder brother to fill his shoes at the store.

Category | clothes

find one's way around something
If you find your way around something, you discover a way to move around it without getting lost.

A similar idiom is:

"know one's way around something."

Meaning, to be very familiar with a particular place or activity.

Don't worry. I am sure I can find my way around this task.
He is apparently a professional. He knows his way around affiliate marketing.


Category | travel

fine art
The phrase fine art refers to something requiring highly developed techniques and skills.

They are good at the fine art of web development.

Category | art

fine-tune
to make small adjustments to something until optimization is achieved

They need to fine-tune their plan before they start the project.

Category | music

fish for compliments
To try to induce someone to make a compliment.

He is fishing for compliments.

Category | animals

fish story
The phrase fish story refers to an exaggerated story.

Origin


This idiomatic expression comes from the usual exaggeration by fishermen of the size of the fish that got away.

Another variation of this idiom:

fish tale

I don't believe you. What you are trying to tell me is just a fish story.
It is an incredible story, but this is no fish tale.
Don't try to fool me with your fish story.


Category | animals

flimflam artist
The phrase flimflam artist refers to a swindler, especially one who goes after a big game and prepares for it carefully.

The origin of the word flimflam is perhaps comes from a Scandinavian origin (compare Old Norse flim "a lampoon".)

Don't trust him! He is a flimflam artist.

Category | art

fly in the face of
If an action flies in the face of conventions, it seems to be in direct opposition to them.

His new collection of poems is very daring and certainly flies in the face of tradition.

Jane's opinions fly in the face of conventions.


Category | parts of the body

Food for thought
Information or knowledge that is worthy of contemplation.

The ideas developed in this book have certainly given me food for thought.

Category | food

for a song
very cheaply.

She bought the house for a song.

Category | money

for all I care
used to suggest that you don't care.

You can go to the party alone, for all I care

Category | general

for love nor money
said when it is difficult to get something or persuade someone.

You can't get help for love nor money these days.

Category | money

for my money
in my opinion.

For my money, Bill is the best one to choose as a partner.

Category | money

for Pete's sake
The phrase for Pete's sake is used to expresses frustration, exasperation, annoyance.

The phrase is a variant of for Christ's sake, for God's sake.

Pete refers perhaps to Saint Peter

For Pete's sake, turn off the TV! I need some rest.

Category | names

for the ages
The phrase for the ages is an idiomatic expression that refers to something that will be memorable and noteworthy; standing the test of time.

His speech wasn't a speech for the ages. It was barely a speech for the evening.

Category | time

for the life of me
This idiom is used colloquially to mean "if one's (own) life depended on it." It

I couldn't for the life of me remember where I met her.

Category | life

for the love of God
The phrase for the love of is used to express surprise, exasperation, annoyance, or some similar feeling

For the love of Mike, or for the love of Pete are variations of this phrase.

For the sake of... is another way to use this idiom.

For the love of God, stop shouting!

Category | love

Forbidden fruit
Illicit pleasure or something desired that cannot be had.

She has always been his forbidden fruit because she's his teacher.

Category | food

Freudian slip
The phrase Freudian slip (also called parapraxis) refers to a mistake in speech that shows what the speaker is truly thinking.

Jane: He is such a bighead. Have you heard what he has just said?
Nancy: Yes, sure. Instead of saying "nobody's perfect," he said, "nobody else is perfect." That's a Freudian slip.


Category | names

frog in one's throat
To have a frog in one's throat means to be unable to speak clearly because one's throat is dry or blocked.

The idiom may refer to real hoarseness or the inability to speak because of fear.

The origin of the phrase


Why do we say frog in your throat?

The story goes that because people used to drink from ponds and streams, there was a fear that they could swallow frog’s eggs which may hatch in one's throat. This was believed to cause choking feeling in the back of the throat.

The legend has it that quacks (that is unqualified traveling doctors) used to sell fake cures for throat problems. They deceived people by having an assistant who pretended to have a ‘frog in his throat’. The fake doctor would give medicine to the assistant causing him to cough up a live frog and all of a sudden recover his voice!
frog

I can hardly talk! I have a frog in my throat because of the cold weather.

A: Have you noticed that Jane had a frog in her throat? She was so terrified that she couldn't utter a word.
B: Yes, she couldn't believe that she was caught red-handed and that she would spend the rest of her life in jail.


Whenever he had to speak in public, he gets a frog in his throat.


Category | animals

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