American Idioms: The English language is made of various parts of speech, which we learn throughout our school life. These include the subject of idioms that are a group of non-literal words or phrases used to describe something literal. Just like any other language, English has idioms and American idioms and phrases are very commonly used worldwide.
This article provides a list of American idioms a to z and defines various American idioms and meaning in detail for your increased convenience.
Enrich your Vocabulary by practicing the English Idioms that are commonly used in everyday conversations and understand their actual meaning.
Name of American Idioms
List of American Idioms
- A blessing in disguise
- A dime a dozen
- A slap on the wrist
- Absence makes the heart grow fonder
- Act your age
- Add fuel to the fire
- Add insult to injury
- All ears
- An eager beaver
- Ants in your pants
- Apply some elbow grease
- Armed to the teeth
- Bang for your buck
- Bare bones
- Barking up the wrong tree
- Bats in the belfry
- Beef up
- Behind the eight ball
- Better late than never
- Big fish in a little sea
- Bite the bullet
- Bought the farm
- Break a leg
- Breaking ground
- Bundle of nerves
- Burst into tears
- By the skin of your teeth
- Call it day
- Call the shots
- Cash in on it
- Catch your eye
- Cheap shot
- Come out of the closet
- Come what may
- Cut class
- Cutting corners
- Dead ringer
- Dirt cheap
- Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
- Don’t get bent out of shape
- Don’t let the inmates run the asylum
- Down to the wire
- Drop the ball
- Drown your sorrows
- Easy as pie
- Easy come, easy go
- Eat your heart out
- Eat your words
- Elbow room
- Everything but the kitchen sink
- Face the music
- Fall short
- For the birds
- Freeze someone out
- Full plate
- Game plan
- Get a kick out of it
- Get ahead of the game
- Get carried away
- Get cold feet
- Get it off your chest
- Get out of hand
- Get the ball rolling
- Get your act together
- Get your ducks in a row
- Gets my goat
- Give it your best shot
- Give me a hand
- Give you the benefit of the doubt
- Giving something a fair shake
- Go Dutch
- Go back to the drawing board
- Go behind one’s back
- Go belly up
- Go over with a fine-tooth comb
- Going forward
- Golden opportunity
- Graveyard shift
- Jack of all Trades
- Shoot the breeze
Meaning And Examples Of Some Commonly Used American Idioms
A blessing in disguise
Meaning: This American idiom is used to define an incident or happening that may seem to bear misfortune but turns out to be beneficial.
Example: He was sad because of the cancellation of their trip but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
A dime a dozen
Meaning: This idiom refers to an object or subject that is not rare and can be seen or accessed easily due to its abundance.
Example: These rings are fashionable but they are a dime a dozen.
A slap on the wrist
Meaning: This idiom refers to a sort of punishment that is not extreme. It is a gentle reminder for the person who is in the wrong.
Example: The news about the tournament came as a slap on the wrist.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Meaning: This American idiom is used to define the strong sense of longing and affection someone feels for another person when they are apart or far away from each other.
Example: Now that she’s away from me I understand that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Act your age
Meaning: We use this idiom to ask someone to behave according to their actual age. It can be said to someone who either acts younger or older in connection to their actual age.
Example: ‘Please act your age’, she said to the blonde girl.
Add fuel to the fire
Meaning: This idiom is used to define a situation where someone or something instigates an already fiery or lousy situation to worsen even further.
Example: All his remarks did was add fuel to the fire.
Add insult to injury
Meaning: This American idiom is utilized to describe an act or a statement made by someone that makes any already bad situation even worse.
Example: My file papers flew off the desk and to add insult to injury, my dog chewed them.
Meaning: We utilize this idiom to justify that someone is ready to lend their ears to hear about what the other person has to say. In simpler words, it means they are prepared to listen to the other speak.
Example: He was all ears to listen to my story.
An eager beaver
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to describe someone highly energetic or enthusiastic to complete a task at hand or volunteer for more.
Example: Matthew is such an eager beaver, it is hard to keep up with him.
Ants in your pants
Meaning: Ants in your pants are an idiom we use to describe restlessness and constantly move around or fidget. It symbolizes impatience in an individual.
Example: The class has ants in their pants because it is children’s day tomorrow.
Apply some elbow grease
Meaning: This specific idiom refers to a task that needs intense manual labor or physical strength to complete.
Example: If it does not work out, I suppose you should apply some elbow grease.
Armed to the teeth
Meaning: This idiom describes someone who is overly equipped or very well armed for a specific task at hand.
Example: All he is doing is going for a hike, what make him be armed to the teeth?
Bang for one’s buck
Meaning: Bang for one’s buck is used to describe an offer or a source of making a good amount of money for themselves.
Example: This offer is the best for you and definitely a bang for your buck.
Meaning: This idiom is used to indicate something basic, such as basic structure, basic effort, etc., as adapted or communicated by a person.
Example: The new company manager will discuss this matter, but remember it’s just bare bones, for now.
Barking up the wrong tree
Meaning: This is a prevalent idiom used to describe the course of action or the path someone chooses that is not worth the effort.
Example: He thinks she is a celebrity but somehow I feel like he’s barking up the wrong tree.
Bats in the belfry
Meaning: This idiom is used commonly in American English to define someone who is crazy or behaves in a way; not normal while employed to a task.
Example: She must have bats in the belfry if she thinks she can buy a house with that money.
Meaning: Beef up is another prevalent idiom used to describe adding depth or weight to something pre-existing.
Example: We need to beef up the safety measures before things get out of hand.
Behind the eight ball
Meaning: This idiom means to lag or fall behind at a task. It can also indicate an awkward position or being out of luck in the course of life.
Example: Do not let the bad grades put you behind the eight ball.
Better late than never
Meaning: This is an American idiom used to define the action of giving someone’s effort into completing or trying for something at the last hour to encourage them.
Example: Even if it’s been a while, it’s better late than never.
Big fish in a little sea
Meaning: This American idiom is commonly used to describe someone famous within a closely-knit group, but he is just another ordinary person to the ones outside.
Example: He might think high of himself but he’s just another big fish in a little sea.
Bite the bullet
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to describe the action of deciding to go about a task that they ignored for a long time.
Example: I hate video calling but for this opportunity I guess I’ll have to bite the bullet.
Bought the farm
Meaning: This idiom is used to reference death, especially of someone who has died by the crash landing of a plane.
Example: It was unfortunate but he bought the farm.
Break a leg
Meaning: This specific idiom is used as a phrase of encouragement to someone competing in a competition or tournament to do their best.
Example: Come on Neymar break a leg!
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to explain the act of starting a new venture or cultivating the urge to uncover something new that has not been discovered yet.
Example: His idea led towards breaking ground.
Bundle of nerves
Meaning: A bundle of nerves is an idiom used to describe someone highly anxious and fidgety due to stress and pressure.
Example: She was a bundle of nerves after her first class.
Burst into tears
Meaning: This particular idiom is used to describe the moment of extreme emotion when one cannot control their tears anymore and starts to cry.
Example: After watching the nostalgic video i burst into tears.
By the skin of your teeth
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to describe the act of succeeding barely. In simple words it means, the person in question barely managed to achieve something.
Example: She succeed but by the skin of her teeth.
Call it day
Meaning: This famous American idiom describes the decision to conclude a specific task for that particular day and get off work.
Example: The leader decided to wrap up and call it day.
Call the shots
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to describe someone who has a significant decision to make that might significantly influence a business’s success.
Example: He owns the bar and so he calls the shots.
Cash in on it
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to define the action of doing something to make money or gain financial benefits.
Example: The company is desperately trying to cash in on the publication of recent trends.
Catch your eye
Meaning: This idiom defines something or someone that grabs one’s attention in a place with many things or people.
Example: Did the blue bicycle catch your eye?
Meaning: This idiom is used to describe an attempt at justifying something with roughness against someone defenseless.
Example: I find all his comments uncomfortable and cheap shot.
Come out of the closet
Meaning: This is the idiom we use for someone who has decided to reveal themselves happening to have feelings for an individual of the same gender as themself.
Example: She made the decision to come out of the closet after 3 years of hiding his true feelings.
Come what may
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to describe the carefree attitude of going with the flow of life and accepting what comes in life’s original course.
Example: I want to live this life happily so, come what may.
Meaning: This idiom describes someone absent from a class or an important event in their educational institution.
Example: I went out with friends so I cut class to make time.
Meaning: This idiom is used to define taking a shortcut or cutting steps down from the initial process to reach their goal.
Example: All you have been doing is cutting corners to finish the task faster.
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to describe someone who looks exactly like someone else. It is utilized to point out physical similarities between two people.
Example: He’s definitely a dead ringer to his grandfather.
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to describe the cost or price of an item being extremely cheap and affordable.
Example: The clothes at the market were dirt cheap so I shopped to my heart’s content.
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
Meaning: This idiom is used to prevent oneself from acting boldly towards someone who has been offering them help in a specific task.
Example: She helped you for so long, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Don’t get bent out of shape
Meaning: This idiom describes the act of someone suggesting to the other not to put excess pressure on themselves so that they are badly (physically) exhausted.
Example: This is just to beginning don’t get bent out of shape, yet.
Don’t let the inmates run the asylum
Meaning: This is an idiom used as a warning against the least worthy people employed to run an operation. This idiom mocks these people due to their rank and ability compared to the power and high-quality work the process requires.
Example: I tell you this job is important, don’t let the inmates run the asylum.
Down to the wire
Meaning: This idiom is the specific one we use to describe someone who waits until the very end to do the tasks at hand.
Example: I forgot about my assignment and now its a down to the wire situation.
Drop the ball
Meaning: This idiom indicates, someone has missed a significant opportunity or made an irreversible mistake that ruined their reputation.
Example: I surely dropped the ball when I missed his appointment.
Drown your sorrows
Meaning: This idiom describes the act of drinking till someone forgets their worries.
Example: I think it’s time you drown your sorrows.
Easy as pie
Meaning: This idiom is a common simile used to describe a task as something that can be completed quickly and is simple.
Example: This task at hand was easy as pie.
Easy come, easy go
Meaning: This is an idiom used to describe something that comes easily without much effort and leaves as quickly as it arrives.
Example: It is the best job for you since it has no bounds and it’s easy come, easy go.
Eat your heart out
Meaning: This idiom describes the feeling of hurting one’s heart at the thought of someone or something unattainable.
Example: Do not let this eat your heart out, Amilia.
Eat your words
Meaning: This idiom is used as a strong symbol of acceptance. It is used in a situation where one takes their words back after being humiliated.
Example: She said she will never be enough and I had to eat my words, as usual.
Meaning: This is an idiom utilized to describe a place room where there is enough space for everyone to move around freely without colliding with each other.
Example: It would be great if the café we go to has more elbow room.
Everything but the kitchen sink
Meaning: This idiomatic expression is used to describe the act of something in abundance or large quantity.
Example: It was just a 3 day trip and he packed everything but the kitchen sink.
Face the music
Meaning: This is another widespread idiom used to describe someone who needs to come to turn to the crowd after committing something wrong and getting caught for it.
Example: After all the crimes you have committed, its time to face the music.
Meaning: This is an idiom used to describe the situation where a particular object is lesser than the number of people present.
Example: I asked him multiple times to keep extra glasses, now the guests are here, and we have fallen short.
For the birds
Meaning: This idiom is a common phrase used to describe something as worthless and undesirable.
Example: All you spoke in the meeting was for the birds.
Freeze someone out
Meaning: This idiom is used to describe behavior in an unfriendly or hostile way to exclude someone from an event.
Example: Her way of talking does not sound friendly; instead, it constantly freezes me out.
Meaning: This idiom describes someone who already has enough work to attend to and does not need additional work.
Example: I’m full plate for this week, no more work.
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to describe the action of pre-planning something or creating a strategy to win (especially in games).
Example: We have to build a great game plan to win this.
Get a kick out of it
Meaning: This is an idiom used to describe the act of trying to get some benefits out of a situation or task for oneself.
Example: I just joined the business short-term to get a kick out of it.
Get ahead of the game
Meaning: This idiom means to be one step ahead of the other contestants in a particular game.
Example: Come on, Jeffrey, it’s time to get ahead of the game.
Get carried away
Meaning: This is another most common American idiom we use to describe the feeling of spacing out or being unmindful of the surroundings or current situation.
Example: Hey, are you listening carefully? Please don’t get carried away.
Get cold feet
Meaning: This idiom indicates the feeling of being doubtful or skeptical about something that has been decided or following a set course of action.
Example: I get cold feet every time we have to cross this road.
Get it off your chest
Meaning: This is among the most common idioms in America used to describe the act of communicating or channeling one’s worries through a conversation or action to feel lighter.
Example: It’s absolutely okay to take a break, and you need to get it off your chest.
Get out of hand
Meaning: This is an American idiom used to describe the progression of any adverse situation to become worse; hence, the person can no longer control it.
Example: I informed the teacher before the situation got out of hand.
Get the ball rolling
Meaning: This is an idiom we use to start a meeting or task. It usually symbolizes the right time to begin a job.
Example: Okay, put the presentation on and get the ball rolling.
Get your act together
Meaning: This is an idiom utilized to comment on someone whose work is not organized. The person saying this idiom means to tell them to be organized and confident in their work.
Example: That is what you say every time, and Jo, get your act together.
Get your ducks in a row
Meaning: This idiomatic expression is used to describe the action of getting things organized to prepare for something.
Example: This business meeting is vital to get your ducks in a row.
Gets my goat
Meaning: This American idiom is utilized to describe someone who is annoying in a certain way.
Example: Even if he tries to be helpful, it still gets my goat.
Give it your best shot
Meaning: This is another very widespread American idiom used to encourage someone to give their best at something.
Example: Okay, it’s time to breathe and give it your best shot.
Give me a hand
Meaning: This idiom is the specific one we use to describe lending someone else one’s helping hand for them to complete their task.
Example: Hey mom, can you give me a hand?
Give you the benefit of the doubt
Meaning: This idiom is prevalent worldwide. This is used to describe the action of someone accepting an individual as innocent and sound even when there are doubts about them lying.
Example: Read this book, and it has a character called Ashley; she will give you the benefit of the doubt.
Giving something a fair shake
Meaning: This idiom describes the act of giving someone what they deserve according to their efforts.
Example: I returned home after giving them a fair shake.
Meaning: This is an idiom used to define the act of splitting the bill amongst more people who have enjoyed the purchase together.
Example: As I expected, we had to go Dutch to save more money.
Go back to the drawing board
Meaning: This is another common idiom we use. This indicates that the individual has failed at a task and needs to return to the starting point.
Example: This is not your level; go back to the drawing board.
Go behind one’s back
Meaning: This is an idiom used to define the act of doing something or going about a task without the consent of someone involved.
Example: Don’t go behind her back, and she stuck with you for so long.
Go belly up
Meaning: We use this idiom to define a bankrupt business due to financial difficulties and is no longer running.
Example: If it continues this way, I think your business will go belly up.
Go over with a fine-tooth comb
Meaning: We often use this idiom to justify that one has searched thoroughly and carefully while going about their task.
Example: I have gone over this with a fine-tooth comb, but I seem to miss something every time.
Meaning: This idiom is utilized to describe the action of moving ahead from a crowd of people to do something or to show courage. It can also be used as the synonym of the phrase ‘from now onwards or henceforth.’
Example: Look, going forward, whoever is better will stay.
Meaning: This is another widespread idiom we use to describe an opportunity as beneficial and as significant as the worth of gold.
Example: I don’t think they should miss this golden opportunity.
Meaning: This is a common idiom utilized to describe someone’s work hours from late-night till the early morning hours.
Example: I can’t join the birthday event. I’m on the graveyard shift.
Jack of all Trades
Meaning: This is among the most famous American idioms used to describe someone who can do multiple tasks but does not specialize in a particular discipline.
Example: This character really is the jack of all trades.
Shoot the breeze
Meaning: This idiom describes the act of holding a normal conversation about any random, general topic (especially on a first meeting or date).
Example: To make it more comfortable, just shoot the breeze.
Learn more about the English Language with our website provided English Grammar Notes and get a great companion to grammar rules and example sentences.