Our collection of idioms provides a fun way to gain skills in this important area of English fluency. Each idiom is accompanied by a definition.
A Class Act
A CLASS ACT means that something or somebody is of particularly high quality. For example:
Dave's rap performance last night was a class act. He's one of the most original rap artists on the scene.
If something has class, it also means that it is somehow better quality or "cooler".
The new secretary's really got class. (Meaning she does a great job, and/or she is attractive.)
The new MP3 player really is in a different class; it has more functions and a cheaper price than any other model. (Meaning it is much better than similar MP3 players).
Clean Up Your Act
CLEAN UP YOUR ACT means that someone needs to do much better, especially because they are behaving unacceptably. For example:
John's been late for work almost every day this week, and he always stays out late with his friends. He needs to clean up his act, or he'll lose his job.
The recent scandal yet again shows that voters will continue to lose confidence in the government until it makes a real effort to clean up its act.
This idiom is similar in meaning to GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER (below).
GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER
GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER means that someone needs to improve, especially because they are inefficient or disorganized. For example:
"You have every chance to do well in this course, but you just need to change your attitude a bit. Get up early, go to class, finish your assignments on time, and get your act together."
After years of inefficiency the company has finally updated its business methods, and is showing real signs of getting its act together.
This idiom is similar in meaning to CLEAN UP YOUR ACT (above).
A PIECE OF THE ACTION
A PIECE OF THE ACTION means that someone wants to be involved in some popular or beneficial social activity. For example:
Due to the team's success in recent games ticket sales have soared, and it seems everyone wants a piece of the action. - (Meaning lots of people want to see the team.)
Studying online is more convenient and often more interesting, so it's not surprising that the number of students who want a piece of the action is growing rapidly. - (Meaning more and more students want to study online.)
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS means that what someone says is different from from what they do. It is often used when someone makes a promise but then doesn't keep it. For example:
"Dad, I promise I'll be on time for class and do all my homework as soon as I get it."
"Well that sounds great, but actions speak louder than words. Lets wait a couple of weeks and see if can you really do it."
"The director has been promising to hire a new teacher for two months, but we're still working overtime with no extra pay. I'm going to tell him that actions speak louder than words, and if he doesn't get a new teacher in 2 weeks, I'm getting a new job."
CLEAR THE AIR
To CLEAR THE AIR means to somehow resolve a difficult situation between people. It is especially used for talking openly about problems, or being patient and waiting for bad feelings to lessen. For example:
"Sharon's been ignoring me all week because of what I said to her, but we finally talked this morning and it really helped to clear the air."
After a long and stressful few weeks, the team realized they needed to work together and have agreed on a plan of action. Needless to say, this has cleared the air and everyone feels much more positive.
IN THE AIR
IN THE AIR means people have a general feeling or expectation that something will happen in the near future. This feeling among people is often not clearly defined. For example:
No one knew for sure what was going to happen that summer, but a change was in the air.
On the outside everyone seemed happy enough, but there was also a feeling in the air of being cheated.
GO APE is an informal expression meaning to just lose control and become really angry or excited. For example:
When I told him we had tickets to see the rock concert on Saturday, he just went ape. (Meaning he was really excited).
He's a really nice guy, but just don't talk about his old boss or he'll go ape. (Meaning he'll get angry).
A GREY AREA
A GREY AREA means something that is not clearly defined and needs careful judgement. For example:
"We have always had a professional attitude to copyrighted texts, but online copyright is still a bit of a grey area."
Many people think they know what right and wrong are, but on closer examination it's usually a grey area.
"It's a grey area isn't it?" (Meaning the speaker is talking about an unsure concept).
"I do well in math and most sciences, but chemistry is still kind of a grey area."
UP IN ARMS
UP IN ARMS means that there is strong opposition or anger against something. For example:
"We heard the news over the radio at lunch break and I tell you, we were really up in arms about it." (Meaning they strongly disagreed with the news on the radio).
When their children have to go to a run-down, under-funded State school, perhaps politicians will better understand why most of the country is up in arms about the education system. (Meaning the country is generally very dissatisfied with national education).
BE GLAD TO SEE THE BACK OF
BE GLAD TO SEE THE BACK OF means that you are happy someone or something unpleasant is finished or gone. For example:
Last night we had a farewell party for John, but to be honest I'm glad to see the back of him. (Meaning I'm glad he is gone).
Christmas came and went and Ruth was glad to see the back of it. (Meaning Ruth was glad Christmas was over).
Far from being glad to see the back of Kylie as some reports had suggested, there was sadness over her departure.
GET YOUR OWN BACK
GET YOUR OWN BACK means to get some kind of revenge, to do or get something in return for a bad thing someone did to you. For example:
The director has been unfair to the teachers all week, so here's your chance to prove you're right and get your own back.
I hope you haven't done anything silly just to get your own back because I went away.
Don't worry about what people might say about you. Anyone can complain, but in the long run courtesy and patience are the best way to get your own back.
TURN YOUR BACK ON
TURN YOUR BACK ON means to ignore or forget someone or something, especially a friend who needs your help. For example:
He needs to learn that you shouldn't turn your back on those kind of responsibilities. (Meaning you shouldn't ignore your responsibilities).
Real friends and family love you and they rely on you, so when they need you can't just turn your back on them.
"You know Gavin's OK. I remember when he was in trouble, I lent him a lot of money with no pressure to pay it back quickly. 6 years later he was still grateful, and didn't turn his back when I needed help.
GO BEHIND SOMEONE'S BACK
GO BEHIND SOMEONE'S BACK means to interfere in people's affairs without permission, usually in a dishonest or selfish way. For example:
I thought I trusted him, but I found out yesterday he went behind my back and told everyone about it.
No doubt he was only checking, but she somehow still felt upset that he thought she might go behind his back.
BE SOMEONE'S BAG
To be something that someone would be interested in or good at. For example:
"Given how good he is at tennis, I think raquetball could be Jerry's bag." The implication is that since Jerry is good at tennis and raquetball utilizes many of the same skills, raquetball could be Jerry's bag.
IN THE BALANCE
Yet to be decided. For example:
"With the game hanging in the balance, the star player lined up for a crucial penalty kick."
HAVE A BALL
To have fun or to have a great time. When you're having a ball, it means you are having a wonderful experience. For example:
You could tell a friend, "have a ball at the party!"
This phrase is used prior to the start of every American baseball game. It means to get started on something. For example:
"At the end of a meeting, a boss could tell his employers "play ball" as a way of saying "okay, go back to work!"
GET THE BALL ROLLING
To initiate momentum on a project or plan. For example:
A boss could say to an employee, "let's get the ball rolling on the renovation project," which would be indicate to the employee to shift their focus on the renovation project.
JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON
When you support something that is popular you are "jumping on the bandwagon." For example:
The New York Yankees have a lot of fans because people jump on the bandwagon to root for them since they are usually a very good team.
A LOSING BATTLE
A failing activity or attempt at something. For example:
If you're running for public office but are trailing by 30 points in the polls, you are fighting a losing battle.
KEEP SOMETHING AT BAY
Preventing something unpleasant from coming too near to you for fear that it will harm you. For example:
If a coach was asked why he doesn't play a particular player very often, he might say, "I'm keeping him at bay, I think it's in the best interests of the team to do so."
SPILL THE BEANS
Disclosing some piece of information, usually a secret. For example:
If a friend was reluctant to divulge something to you, you could say, "oh c'mon, spill the beans!"
BEGGARS CAN'T BE CHOOSERS
Those who are desperate are in no position to negotiate. For example:
If you gave a homeless person a candy bar and they asked for money instead, you could say, "beggars can't be choosers!"
ROUND THE BEND
Having lost one's sanity, particularly as a result of drug or alcohol use. For example:
"His excessive drinking is starting to send him round the bend."
GIVE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
In a situation where you're not sure which side to take, you take the side most favorable to the other party. For example:
A woman could tell her friend, "I thought my boyfriend was cheating on me, but he insisted that he wasn't so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and stopped worrying about it."
A SAFE BET
Something that is perceived to be a sure thing or very likely to happen or result in success. For example:
A boss could say to another boss, "let's have Daniel handle the reorganizing of this department, he's a safe bet."
FIT THE BILL
Possessing certain qualities which are needed. For example:
If the manager of a basketball team is looking for a powerful player over 7 feet tall and is introduced to someone who meets those critera, he might say "this player fits the bill."
BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW
To take on more responsibilities than you can handle. For example:
If you took too big of a bite, you might have to spit some back out.
If you take on too many responsibilities, you "bit off more than you could chew" and might have to go back on a previous committment.
BLACK AND BLUE
If someone is covered with bruises they are said to be black and blue. This phrase is used to symbolize someone being bruised up even if they were not physically bruised up. For example:
If an investor lost a lot of money in the stock market, he might say "the market left me black and blue today."
IN COLD BLOOD
An action that is committed without regret or remorse. For example:
If a killer shows no remorse for his crime, the judge might say "he killed in cold blood."
OUT OF THE BLUE
Something that happens suddenly and unexpectedly. For example:
If one received an unexpected raise from their boss, they might tell a friend, "oh, and I got a raise out of the blue today which was nice!"
CALL SOMEONE'S BLUFF
A poker term that means identifying when someone is lying or being deceitful in hopes of misleading you. For example:
"He was acting like an expert on astronomy, but when I asked him his thoughts on quantum physics I clearly had called his bluff, he didn't know how to respond."
ROCK THE BOAT
Stirring controversy or bringing sensitive issues to the forefront is "rocking the boat". For example:
"It implies that everything was smooth beforehand and by broaching that subject you "rocked the boat."
BY THE BOOK
Following the rules to their exact letter. For example:
If you do something "by the book," you're doing it exactly as intended with no deviation from a prescribed plan.
GIVE SOMEONE THE BOOT
To end relations with someone either profesionally or personally. For example:
A friend might ask, "are you still dating George?" To which one could reply, "no, I gave him the boot."
GET TO THE BOTTOM OF
Reaching a state of conclusion over an issue or subject. For example:
In a murder investigation, the lead detective could tell a peer that they will "get to the bottom of this case," meaning they will solve the case.
OUT OF BOUNDS
In sports, out of bounds means outside of the field of play. This phrase can be used to symbolize something that is off-limits. For example:
"I would ask Brett's sister on a date, but I'm afraid that might be out of bounds." In this case, the speaker is implying that trying to date Brett's sister would be off-limits or not allowed.
BREAD AND BUTTER
Someone's basic source of income or value. For example:
"I can't skip work on Fridays. That day is my bread and butter." That phrase implies the speaker makes a lot of money on Fridays.
THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD
This phrase indicates a brilliant invention or discovery. Sliced bread is assumed to be a brilliant idea. For example:
"That's the greatest idea since sliced bread," it serves to strongly compliment the merits of the idea.
GIVE ME A BREAK
When someone feels they are being attacked or over-utilized, they might say, "oh give me a break!"
This phrase can also be used as a response to something seemingly ridiculous. For example:
If your friend said, "I think Tottenham will beat Manchester United," you could say, "oh give me a break!" This would indicate that you think your friend is ridiculous for thinking Tottenham has a chance of winning the game.
HOLD YOUR BREATH
This phrase is often used to indicate that something is very unlikely to happen. For example:
If your friend said, "hey, maybe you'll win the lottery tomorrow!" You could respond, "well, don't hold your breath." What you are saying is "don't hold your breath until this happens because if you did it would be the last breath you took." The implication is that it, whatever "it" is, is "not going to happen."
CROSS THAT BRIDGE WHEN YOU COME TO IT
To avoid dealing with an issue until dealing with it becomes absolutely imminent. For example:
If your friend asked, "what are we going to do about getting a ride home later?" You could respond, "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," which is your way of saying that you would rather wait to worry about a ride until you actually need the ride.
THE BUBBLE HAS BURST
In investing, when a bubble bursts it means that correction occurs in which something that was previously viewed as being very valuable is no longer viewed as having as much value.
So if a football player was said to have tons of potential but by his fourth season had not performed exceptionally, you could say, "well, the bubble burst on that guy."
THE BUCK STOPS HERE
This phrase is similar to "a line in the sand." It means that there will be a time of reckoning. For example:
If something has been taking place which you do not condone and you intend to put a stop to it, you could say, "the buck stops here with me."
BURN YOUR BRIDGES
Alienating or destroying a once utilized connection. For example:
If you used to have a friend who could get you discounted electronics but are no longer friends with that person, you could say, "I burned bridges with that guy," which indicates you destroyed or ended the relationship you once had with him.
BURN YOUR BOATS
This phrase is similar to BURN YOUR BRIDGES above. It means you're cutting off ties to something that previously added value to your life. For example:
When you burn your boats, you disassociate yourself from something you once valued.
PUT ON THE BACK BURNER
Something you hold in low priority or something that does not require immediate attention. For example:
"That project is on the back burner for now, there are other important things I need to focus on."
SOMEONE MEANS BUSINESS
An indicator that someone is taking an issue very seriously. For example:
If a politician's top priority was to remove dog waste from the parks, you could say, "wow, that guy really means business when it comes to cleaning up the parks!"
AT THE TOUCH OF A BUTTON
When something is capable of happening "at the touch of a button," it means it could be done immediately. For example:
A boss might ask an employee, "how long would it take you to finish this job?" The employee could respond, "I could have it done at the touch of a button." In this instance, the employee is telling their boss that the project could be completed rather quickly.
HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT
Getting your way on both wishes. For example:
A man who wants to have a wife and also a girlfriend on the side would be trying to "have his cake and eat it too."
A CLOSE CALL
Something bad that nearly happens or a difficult decision. For example:
If lightining struck ten feet away, you would say, "wow, that was a close call!"
If you are trying to decide between two restaurants you could say, "I don't know... it's a close call."
IN THE CARDS
Almost certain to happen. If something is "in the cards", it will probably happen. "Not in the cards" is also a common phrase. For example:
If a guy asked a girl on a date she could reject him by saying "it's just not in the cards."
A CASH COW
Any product, business or idea that generates a steady stream of cash flow. For example:
"Those vending machines are a cash cow."
A FAT CAT
Someone who is wealthy and smug. For example:
An investment banker who spends thousands of dollars on dinner every night could be referred to as a "Wall Street fat cat."
MY TWO CENT'S WORTH
To share your beliefs or opinion in a conversation. For example:
"If you want my two cent's worth, I think he would make a terrible President."
CHALK AND CHEESE
Two things that have very little in common. Chalk and cheese have little in common with each other. For example:
If you say "those two people are like chalk and cheese," you're saying that they are not alike.
A CHANGE OF HEART
Reversing a decision or one's beliefs on something, usually over an emotional issue. For example:
"I had a change of heart and decided not to break up with her."
GET SOMETHING OFF YOUR CHEST
To share your feelings on something you were previously silent about. The statement implies that you are relieving yourself of holding in your thoughts about something. For example:
"There's something I need to get off my chest. I don't think I can work here any longer."
DON'T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS
Don't assume a positive outcome will happen until you know for sure. The full saying is "don't count your chickens before they hatch." This means that if you just count your eggs and assume there will be a chicken in every egg, you could be disappointed to learn that some eggs did not contain a chicken. For example:
A friend could say, "I'm really excited for my big Christmas bonus this year." But if receiving the bonus was not a foregone conclusion, another friend could respond, "don't count your chickens before they hatch!"
A CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER
A disposition to become easily upset. For example:
"When the reporter suggested that he thinks Darnell is a better player, Ricky became really upset. Clearly Ricky has a chip on his shoulder."
COME FULL CIRCLE
To return to the situation or beliefs you originally had. For example:
If a movie starts off in the past, comes back to the present and then ends back in the past, you could say that the movie "came full circle at its ending."
Completely clean. When used in reference to a person it means they are very honest or good-hearted. For example:
"Jim would never steal from the company, he's a squeaky clean sort of guy."
IN THE CLEAR
Not guilty of an offense or unobstructed by something undesirable. For example:
If someone is worried they might have their taxes audited but the date by which they expected to be audited comes and goes, they might say, "phew, I think I'm in the clear."
STEER CLEAR OF
To avoid something. For example:
"I would recommend steering clear of that road, there's a lot of construction going on right now."
ROUND THE CLOCK
All day and all night. For example:
If someone were to say "I've been working round the clock," they are saying they've been working non stop.
TURN BACK THE CLOCK
To recreate things as they were at an earlier time. For example:
If a couple is having some troubles in their relationship, one of them could say to the other, "let's turn back the clock and just go back to when things were simpler."
Predictable or reliable. The statement implies that something will happen as sure as another second on the clock will tick by. For example:
If an employee is never late to work, her boss might compliment her by saying, "you are like clockwork when it comes to showing up to work on time."
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE
Try to understand or pay attention to something. For example:
If someone said "wake up and smell the coffee," they're trying to get you to see things from their perspective.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
To see things from a different, opposing perspective. For example:
"Let's look at the other side of the coin for a minute and contemplate what will happen if we don't go forward with this plan."
LEFT OUT IN THE COLD
Failing to include someone as part of an activity. For example:
"The government's health care policy leaves seniors out in the cold."
WITH FLYING COLORS
With great success. For example:
If Sarah needed to score 80% to pass a test and she scored 97% on the test, you would say "she passed the test with flying colors."
IN INVERTED COMMAS
A phrase that indicates the phrase you're using to describe something is being used with sarcasm. For example:
You might say, "Bill thinks one day he's going to 'save the company' in inverted commas." What you're implying is that you don't believe Bill genuinely intends to save the company.
A TOUGH COOKIE
An underdog whose determination usually results in success. For example:
"No one thought Mark stood a chance in that fight, but he is one tough cookie and proved everyone wrong."
KEEP YOUR COOL
To remain calm in an adverse situation. For example:
When someone keeps their cool, they don't become emotionally upset or distracted in a scenario where most people might.
LOSE YOUR COOL
To become tempermental or nervous. For example:
"When the store clerk told Bill they were out of beer, he lost his cool and shouted that he would never return to the store again."
IN A TIGHT CORNER
In a difficult situation. For example:
"When Mary told me I had to choose between her or my career, I really found myself in a tight corner."
A COUCH POTATO
Someone who watches a lot of television and is therefore assumed to be lazy. For example:
"Did you invite Greg to the party?" "Yes, I did, but I doubt he'll come. That guy is such a couch potato."
TAKE ITS COURSE
Allowing something to happen without outside influence. For example:
The full saying is usually "let nature take its course" which means "just relax and let's just see how everything works out in the end."
UP THE CREEK
In a difficult position with no easy way out. For example:
The full saying is "up the creek without a paddle" which means you're in a bad situation and don't really have anything that can help you.
Pretending to be upset by something. For example:
"He acted really upset about not being invited on the trip, but I think he was just crying crocodile tears."
WHEN IT COMES TO THE CRUNCH
When an important decision must be made.
For example:"When it comes to the crunch, you always want to go with your star player."
A FAR CRY FROM
One thing that is very different from another thing, usually inferior. For example:
"You can't compare Cornell to Harvard. Cornell is a far cry from Harvard."
Without being prepared in advance. For example:
"The President was asked to give a speech off the cuff, so he wasn't at his best."
CAN'T CUT IT
Often shortened to "can't cut it," this phrase means you can't handle a certain task or issue. For example:
"Bill thought about joining the Marines, but he eventually concluded that he just can't cut basic training."
NOT CUT OUT FOR
Not fit to be a part of. For example:
"Debra thought she wanted to become a journalist, but after her first week of classes she determined she's not cut out for that career."
IN THE DARK
Ignorant of a certain fact or issue. For example:
"In the debate when the Senator was asked his opinion on nuclear waste disposal, it was clear by his stuttering that he is in the dark on that issue."
A SHOT IN THE DARK
A wild guess. For example:
"The final question was 'who won the World Cup in 1994?' I didn't have any clue, so I just took a shot in the dark and said Spain."
CALL IT A DAY
To declare the end of a day's work. For example:
"Alright, I think we got enough orders shipped out today. Let's call it a day and go get a beer."
LATE IN THE DAY
Too far along in a certain activity to attempt a certain action. For example:
"Jim thought we should kick a field goal, but it was too late in the day for that. Since we were down by 21, we had to try to go for a touchdown."
IN BROAD DAYLIGHT
Making no secrets or attempts to hide something. For example:
If you do something in broad daylight, you're doing it for anyone to see.
DON'T GIVE UP THE DAY JOB
A phrase used to tell someone they're not very good at something. For example:
If Cory invites his friend Chris to go golfing and realizes his friend Chris is very bad at golfing, he might say, "well Chris, don't give up your day job!" as a way of saying he'll never be able to make a career out of golf.
MAKE SOMEONE'S DAY
Doing something that makes someone happy. For example:
"You should go tell Jenny that you noticed she's lost some weight. I'm sure it will make her day."
WOULDN'T BE CAUGHT DEAD
A phrase that indicates a refusal to do something. For example:
If someone "wouldn't be caught dead" doing something, that's their way of saying they would never do it.
GET A RAW DEAL
To receive poor treatment or a bad outcome. If you get a raw deal, you had things go unfavorably. For example:
"I got a raw deal today at work: I found out they're closing my position at the end of the year."
A phrase used to emphasize an emotion. For example:
If you are "scared to death," you are really scared. If you are "bored to death," you are really bored.
Something that is very established or concrete. For example:
"That red hair runs deep in Jimmy's family genetics."
OUT OF YOUR DEPTH
Being unknowledgeable on a topic. For example:
"My physics class is so hard. I'm way out of my depth in there."
To get what one deserves. For example:
"I told Michael not to cheat on his taxes. Now he's getting his just desserts; the IRS is auditing him."
A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
Someone or something with great potential despite an appearance to the contrary. For example:
"She might not try very hard to look pretty, but I think Suzy is a diamond in the rough. If she focused more on her beauty, she would be a total knockout!"
TAKE IT EASY
The meaning of this common English phrase is very different than it may sound. In fact, it doesn't really make logical sense when reading it. The phrase is essentially the same as saying: "Relax."
It is said by a person to another person to calm them. It can also be used by a person when saying they are going to relax. "I am going to take it easy this weekend."
A BIG FISH IN A SMALL POND
Again, the meaning of this English phrase is different than it may sound. The phrase is actually a way of saying that someone is content to have a lot of influence in a relatively small group of people or place.
This phrase can be used to describe someone who is a mayor of a small town that is relatively unimportant in the world. “The mayor of that town is a big fish in a small pond.”
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
Here is another phrase that likely needs some clarity. It is a way of saying that someone is living bravely and doing what they truly want to, sometimes indulgently.
The phrase is usually used in the following manner: "He (or she) is living life in the fast lane." This usually has little to do with driving, as it may sound. It is true though, that people who choose to live life in the fast lane may also drive in the fastest lane on a highway.
A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME
Here is one that may surprise you, if you haven't heard it before. It is used when you want to tell someone something, but don't want to tell them how you found out about it.
Here is an example: Jon tells Sally that his company is doing really well. Sally tells her friend Joan to buy stock in the company. When Joan asks how Sally knows to do so, Sally says “A little bird told me.”
BUTTERFLIES IN THE STOMACH
This is another fun one that has very little to do with butterflies. The concept is based on how someone's stomach might feel when they are nervous.
The feeling is conceptually similar to having butterflies flying around. This can be used in the following way: "She is the star of the show, so she has butterflies in her stomach."
BENDING OVER BACKWARDS
This common phrase doesn't usually have much to do with a person physically bending over. The phrase is used to describe someone who is doing everything possible for a person or a situation. Here is a good example:
“He does everything he can for his girlfriend. He really bends over backwards for her.”
LIKE AN OPEN BOOK
This is an English phrase that is used to describe a person who is very open and not hiding anything. It can be used to describe a person or something about a person. For instance: "He is like an open book." Another possibility is: "His personal affairs are like an open book."
This kind of person would likely not hide their diary and would let friends read it. A variation of the "open book" concept is used when a person is not saying something, but a person can still "read" what they are not saying in other ways. "I could read her true feelings like an open book, so it was easy to know how much she loved me."
LEAP OF FAITH
This English phrase may sound rather daring and it likely should. It is usually used to refer to an act of bravery on some level. The act of bravery being spoken about may be relatively small. If so, then the phrase is used somewhat humorously.
Here are a couple of possible uses: "He took a leap of faith when he gave up watching television and started jogging instead." "She took a leap of faith when she tried a new flavor of ice cream."
PEDAL TO THE METAL
This is a really intriguing English phrase that likely sounds rather ridiculous when it's first heard. The phrase is actually based on driving an automobile. The concept is that of pushing the gas pedal in an automobile to the metal floor (under the carpet), causing the automobile to go as fast as possible.
The phrase is used when a person may ask another person to hurry up. For instance, "Put the pedal to the medal and finish packing, we have to get to the airport!" It is not a very polite way of asking and not highly recommended to use, but it is good to understand if a person says it. Another variation is to say "Floor it", again a reference to the same activity while driving an automobile.
NEWS TO ME
This is a relatively common English phrase used to state that something new and surprising has just been heard by a person speaking.
Imagine a headline on a newspaper. The phrase is commonly stated in ways similar to this: "He moved to Hawaii?! It's news to me!"
ON THE BALL
This is an interesting phrase that is essentially means to stay attentive and focused on a task. This can be used in various ways. One example would be: "He is really on the ball since he started eating salad every day." Another common way of using "On the ball" is to suggest that a person should "Stay on the ball."
This can also be used in a conversation referring to oneself. "I really have to stay on the ball to handle all of my tasks." The phrase is likely to have originated from sports. A person playing a game with a ball should generally stay focused "on the ball."
This is a phrase that is conceptually related to driving a vehicle. The phrase is essentially saying to avoid a certain person, place, or thing. This is similar to avoiding obstacles when using the steering wheel while driving a car.
The phrase can be used as a suggestion: "He recommends that people steer clear of the hot peppers at the salad bar." In this phrase, the person is recommending that people not eat the hot peppers. It can also be used a personal statement in a conversation: "I am steering clear of restaurants like that." This is simply saying that such restaurants are not being visited by the person speaking.
This phrase is basically referring to the concept of jumping from a sinking ship. It is usually used when talking about quitting a project or situation that seems too challenging to complete.
It can be used when talking about a person: "He is jumping ship on the project." This would basically mean the person is quitting the project. It can also be used in reference to a speaker in a conversation: "It seems like I am the only one trying, so I am thinking of jumping ship on the project."
EYES BIGGER THAN STOMACH
This is a common phrase that may be used at a meal. The phrase does not literally mean that a person's eyes are actually bigger than the person's stomach. It basically means that a person has ordered more food than they are actually able to reasonably eat.
The phrase is common with children because they may often order more food than they can eat at a restaurant. Here is an example in conversation: "My daughter ordered a lot of food, but her eyes are bigger than her stomach."
HOLD YOUR HORSES
This is a common phrase that is spoken to ask someone who is in a hurry to slow down or stop for a moment. It is a reference to a person driving a vehicle that is pulled by horses. “Holding” the horses means to stop the horses and wait.
Here is an example: “Hold your horses! Grab an umbrella before you walk out into the rain!”
A PIECE OF CAKE
This is a common phrase that is used to say that a task is relatively easy. When someone is doing something that is as easy as enjoying a piece of cake, it is really easy.
This is often used as a boastful exaggeration when a person is trying to make it appear that something challenging was easier than it actually was. Here is an example: “Winning the world championship was a piece of cake."
EASY AS PIE
This common phrase has basically the same meaning as the previous phrase. It refers to a task or activity being as easy to accomplish as enjoying a piece of pie.
Here is an example: “Algebra is as easy as pie.”
AT THE DROP OF A HAT
This is an English phrase that is used to say that only the slightest movement is necessary to start a process or activity. It is used to indicate that a person needs very little motivation to cause them to do something.
Here is an example: “When I win the lottery I will happily travel the world at the drop of a hat.”
BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE
This is an especially humorous English phrase because of the word “bark” being used in the same phrase with the word “tree.” While “bark” is a word for the outer layer of a tree, the “barking” here actually refers to the action of a dog barking. When a dog chases a squirrel or similar animal that runs up a tree, a dog occasionally chooses the wrong tree to bark at.
A person may also conceptually choose a tree or path that is not as effective as another for what the person wants to accomplish. Here is an example to better clarify: “He was barking up the wrong tree when he tried to use a screwdriver with nails.”