Common Idioms | List of Common Idioms With Meaning and Examples

Common Idioms: Language is an essential aspect regarding learning, for example, considering the behaviour of idioms. Idiomatic expressions are intrinsic to natural languages.

Most teaching and reference materials on English idioms are primarily intuition-based. Idiomatic Expressions refers to a symbolic meaning which is well-mastered by native speakers in one particular culture.

Generally, we refer to the etymology of idioms; to understand their idiomatic meaning, a list of idioms will be explored. 50 idiomatic expressions with meaning and examples are discussed below.

Enrich your Vocabulary by practicing the English Idioms that are commonly used in everyday conversations and understand their actual meaning.

Name of Common Idioms

List of Common Idioms

Meaning and Examples of Some Commonly Used Common Idioms

Back against the wall

Meaning: Someone who is in a difficult situation and from where escaping is difficult.

Example: She wished to help her bedridden colleague, but her back was against the wall.

Once in a blue moon

Meaning: Any particular thing that occurs rarely.

Example: Shalini texts in the WhatsApp group once in a blue moon whenever she confronts any trouble.

On cloud nine

Meaning: Someone who is in cloud nine is very happy.

Example: She was on cloud nine after receiving her first job for content writing.

The other side of the coin

Meaning: The point of view given by some other person.

Example: Many people have lost their jobs, but on the other side of the coin, the firms might hire more workers.

Cut corners

Meaning: If someone is cutting corners, they are saving money or effort by finding cheaper or easier ways to do things.

Example: If you cut corners on this product, it’ll have a lesser lifespan.

Get a grip of yourself

Meaning: Controlling feelings to deal with a situation.

Example: Reema, seeing her jewelry missing from the box, initially got a shock, but after a while, she got a grip on herself and summoned the police.

Look on the bright side

Meaning: Someone who is viewing any unpleasant situation in a positive light.

Example: You met with an accident, but look on the bright side – you managed to get away just with some bruises.

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Speak volumes

Meaning: Expressing something for example any reaction without words,

Example: The outcome of this research will be of speak volumes.

Foot in the door

Meaning: To achieve an initial step towards a goal.

Example: once I get my foot in the door with an appointment, I think I could do well in the interview.

Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth

Meaning: It means that a person doing something wrong, should be punished with the same thing is being done to them.

Example: In chess, a queen exchange is a perfect example of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

A penny for your thoughts

Meaning: A way to ask what an individual is thinking.

Example: After few minutes of silence, he gently lifted her chin and asked, “A penny for your thoughts, Mona.”

Beat around the bush

Meaning: To avoid answering a question; not addressing the issue directly.

Example: Please stop beating around the bush and come to the point!

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Meaning: not to judge something primarily by its appearance.

Example: She: He doesn’t look intelligent, but then again you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Cry over spilt milk

Meaning: To repent about something that cannot be undone.

Example: You already lost your phone, nobody can help you, stop crying over spilt milk.

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Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Meaning: Don’t plan for something, that may not take place.

Example: You may not win the prize, but you’ve already spent so much, from now onwards, stop counting your chickens before they hatch.

Out on a limb

Meaning: Do some risky things that others might not support.

Example: They was out on a limb with their assignment – still nobody helped them.

Every cloud has a silver lining

Meaning: to be an optimistic person, even during difficult times.

Example: I’m sorry to hear about your loss; I’ll suggest you to remember the thing about clouds having a silver lining.

Curiosity killed the cat

Meaning: Being too curious is not good, you might welcome trouble.

Example: The undercover agent had to pay with his life, forgoing deep into enemy territory. Curiosity killed the cat.

Raining cats and dogs

Meaning: When it is raining heavily.

Example: I think we have to cancel the plan; it has started raining cats and dogs

Taste of one’s own medicine

Meaning: Treating people the same way they treat others.

Example: People disregarding other people in every matter should be given a taste of their own medicine.

Out of the blue

Meaning: Occurring without any reason.

Example: Right when I had given up all her aspirations, out of the blue I received a call from Harvard.

Kill two birds with one stone

Meaning: Solving two problems at a time with just one solution.

Example: John practiced his words while peeling the potatoes to kill two birds with one stone.

Ball is in your court

Meaning: It depends upon you to take the next step.

Example: I’ve taken my decision, and now the ball is in your court.

Let the cat out of the bag

Meaning: To reveal a secret or to share certain concealed information.

Example: It’s our little secret, please don’t let the cat out of the bag.

Off the record

Meaning: Not making any statement that is officially accepted.

Example: He made himself clear before sitting for the meeting, that his interview was strictly off the record.

Roll up one’s sleeves

Meaning: to gear up for some tedious work.

Example: Our class teacher instructed us to roll up our sleeves as our exams are knocking at the door.

Wrap one’s brain around

Meaning: Concentrate on something particular in order to understand.

Example: It’s high time to wrap my brain around this concept before the exam begins.

Reap the harvest

Meaning: Benefitting or suffering as a direct result of our past actions.

Example: When he cracked IIT-JEE, he reaped the harvest of all his hard work of the last few months.

Hit the jackpot

Meaning: If someone hits the jackpot, they achieve significant success, usually through luck.

Example: I think we’ve hit the jackpot with our new product – the sales have doubled now.

Let slip through fingers

Meaning – One failing to obtain or keep up a golden opportunity.

Example – This particular opportunity can be your breakthrough in the industry, so don’t let it slip through your fingers.

Wild goose chase

Meaning: Wasting time looking for something that has a slight chance of being found.

Example: She made all effort to find out who the anonymous caller was, but alas, it turned into a wild goose chase.

Blow up in face

Meaning – It refers to a situation when a plan or project fails all of a sudden.

Example – Little did he knew that a casual remark to a stranger would blow up in his face.

Nail in someone’s coffin

Meaning: Nail in someone’s coffin is something that makes it more likely to be destroyed soon.

Example: Every sip of alcohol you consume, is another nail to your coffin.

Hold your tongue

Meaning: To hold your tongue means that asking the person not to speak anymore.

Example: When I saw Ishan blatantly lying about yesterday’s incident, somehow, I had to hold my tongue.

Whistle in the dark

Meaning: Someone pretending to be brave in a situation that is scary.

Example: Even after being attacked, she blew a whistle in the dark which left her attackers at surprise.

Skating on thin ice

Meaning: Do or say something which might be risky or cause trouble.

Example: Don’t utter a word that will hurt her self-esteem or you could be skating on thin ice.

Fish out of water

Meaning – Someone who is feeling uncomfortable in known surroundings.

Example – Being an Indian, I felt like a fish out of water amongst the other groups of several countries.

Lump in your throat

Meaning – It refers to any tight feeling in our throat because of any emotion like sadness or gratitude.

Example – After all the hardships, when I caught sight of myself; I felt the lump in my throat.

In the heat of the moment

Meaning: Any situation that is overwhelming by what’s happening at the particular moment.

Example: He doesn’t really hate you, yesterday he just said that in the heat of the moment.

Read between the lines

Meaning: Reading between the lines means trying to understand someone’s real motive or intentions from what they say or write.

Example: The government says that the economic condition of the country has worsen, but carefully looking at employment data sheets and reading further between the lines, one will realize that the situation isn’t that rosy.

Light at the end of tunnel

Meaning: a ray of hope in utter darkness.

Example: The business has just started to gain momentum after so many months of struggle, we saw an ample light at the end of the tunnel.

Make a long story short

Meaning: Cutting down to the point by leaving out the details.

Example: Just to make the long story short – I never received the money I had lend him during his emergency.

Go bananas

Meaning – This refers to somebody who behaves in a crazy manner out of emotions.

Example – Your decision for going abroad for a year will make your parents go bananas.

Weak in the knees

Meaning: Not being able to stand due to emotion, fear or any illness.

Example: The news of my grandmother’s death made me go weak in the knees.

Look for needle in a haystack

Meaning: Looking for something tiny in a pile of other things or in a large area

Example: The diamond in my ring had fallen somewhere on my way back home and now searching for it is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Keep an ear to the ground

Meaning: Keeping a track of current trends, opinions, and happenings in the environment.

Example: The main reason for his success is that he keeps an ear to the ground to know what the customers want and why they’re dissatisfied with competing products.

Hear through the grapevine

Meaning: To hear news from someone who also listened to that news from somebody else.

Example: I heard through the grapevine that she’s pregnant and gave birth to a girl child.


Meaning – Difficulty in expressing oneself, due to nervousness or embarrassment.

Example – As her time of interview approached, she was utterly tongue-tied Infront of the teachers.

Rub salt into someone’s wounds

Meaning: To make a bad thing worse.

Example: By then I was already upset at not getting promoted, on the top, management really rubbed salt into my wounds by promoting my junior.

No strings attached

Meaning: Free of terms and conditions

Example: World Bank rarely provides you loans with no strings attached.

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