Idioms are word combinations that have a different figurative meaning than the literal meanings of each word or phrase. They can be confusing for kids or people learning a language as they don't mean what they say.
He's as cool as a cucumber is an everyday idiom, but if you've never heard it before you might wonder what cold fruit (or vegetable?) has to do with the situation! Isn't it a fun way to say "he's very calm," though?
We have compiled a huge list of common examples of idioms for kids to learn and become more familiar with these these crazy, creative phrases. Use them to express yourself in an interesting way.
- A grey area - Something unclear
- A rip-off - Too expensive
- Add fuel to the fire - To add more to an existing problem
- As easy as ABC - Something is very easy
- Call it a day - Time to quit
- Cool as a cucumber - To be very calm under stress
- Crack a book - Open up a book and study
- Down to the wire - At the last minute
- Draw a blank - Can't remember
- Fill in the blanks - Provide more information
- Get a kick out of it - Really enjoy/like something
- Get your act together - Behave properly
- Give it a shot - To try to do something
- Have mixed feelings - Be unsure of how you feel
- Have second thoughts - Have doubts
- In hot water - Be in trouble
- In the same boat - Be in the same situation
- It's in the bag - It's a certainty
- I've got your number - To say you can't be fooled by someone since you have them figured out
- Miss the boat - You missed your chance
- Mumbo jumbo - To call something total nonsense
- Out of the blue - With no warning
- Pass with flying colors - To succeed at something easily
- Piece of cake - Something very easy
- Read between the lines - Find the hidden meaning
- Second to none - The best
- The icing on the cake - Something additional that turns good into great
- Body Part Idioms
- Cross your fingers - For good luck
- Fell on deaf ears - People wouldn't listen to something
- Get cold feet - Be nervous
- Giving the cold shoulder - Ignore someone
- Have a change of heart - Changed your mind
- I'm all ears - You have my full attention
- It cost an arm and a leg - It was expensive
- Play it by ear - Improvise
- See eye to eye - Agree
- Slipped my mind - I forgot
- Speak your mind - Say what you really feel
- Animal Idioms
- A bull in a china shop - Someone who is very clumsy
- A little birdie told me - Someone told me a secret
- Bee in her bonnet - She is upset
- Birdbrain - Someone who is not very smart
- Busy as a bee - To be very active and working hard at something
- Cat got your tongue? - Why aren't you talking?
- Cry crocodile tears - To pretend to be upset
- Curiosity killed the cat - Asking too many questions may get you in trouble
- Different kettle of fish - Something completely different
- Doggy bag - A bag to take home leftovers from a restaurant
- Fish out of water - Being somewhere you don't belong
- For the birds - Something that is not worth anything
- Get off your high horse - Quit thinking you are better than others
- Goose is cooked - Now you're in trouble
- Hold your horses - Wait a minute
- Horse of a different color - Something that is quite different, a separate issue
- Hot dog - A person doing athletic stunts that are dangerous
- Let the cat out of the bag - Tell a secret
- Make a mountain out of a molehill - Make something unimportant into a big deal
- Night owl - Someone who stays up late
- Pig out - To eat a lot
- Put a bug in his ear - Make a suggestion
- Raining cats and dogs - It is raining very hard
- Snail's pace - To move extremely slow
- Stir a hornet's nest - To cause a lot of trouble
- Teacher's pet - The teacher's favorite student
- The world is your oyster - You can achieve whatever/go wherever you want
- When pigs fly - To say something is impossible
- Wolf in sheep's clothing - A person who pretends to be nice but is not
- You can't teach an old dog new tricks - It's harder for older people to learn new things
Idioms are a unique way to get your point across, and show just how fun language can be. Now that you've seen some suitable examples of idioms for kids you can see that it's a piece of cake to show your witty side by using an idiom in writing or conversation.
We have lots of examples of different types of idioms. Check out some of our fun food idioms or interesting idioms that begin with prepositions too. You're sure to get a kick out of them!
Famous Idioms | Meaning
Commonly used Idioms
Idiom: a manner of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language
- A hot potato
- Speak of an issue (mostly current) which many people are talking about and which is usually disputed
- A penny for your thoughts
- A way of asking what someone is thinking
- Actions speak louder than words
- People's intentions can be judged better by what they do than what they say.
- Add insult to injury
- To further a loss with mockery or indignity; to worsen an unfavorable situation.
- At the drop of a hat
- Meaning: without any hesitation; instantly.
- Back to the drawing board
- When an attempt fails and it's time to start all over.
- Ball is in your court
- It is up to you to make the next decision or step
- Barking up the wrong tree
- Looking in the wrong place. Accusing the wrong person
- Be glad to see the back of
- Be happy when a person leaves.
- Beat around the bush
- Avoiding the main topic. Not speaking directly about the issue.
- Best of both worlds
- Meaning: All the advantages.
- Best thing since sliced bread
- A good invention or innovation. A good idea or plan.
- Bite off more than you can chew
- To take on a task that is way to big.
- Blessing in disguise
- Something good that isn't recognized at first.
- Burn the midnight oil
- To work late into the night, alluding to the time before electric lighting.
- Can't judge a book by its cover
- Cannot judge something primarily on appearance.
- Caught between two stools
- When someone finds it difficult to choose between two alternatives.
- Costs an arm and a leg
- This idiom is used when something is very expensive.
- Cross that bridge when you come to it
- Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary, not before.
- Cry over spilt milk
- When you complain about a loss from the past.
- Curiosity killed the cat
- Being Inquisitive can lead you into an unpleasant situation.
- Cut corners
- When something is done badly to save money.
- Cut the mustard [possibly derived from "cut the muster"]
- To succeed; to come up to expectations; adequate enough to compete or participate
- Devil's Advocate
- To present a counter argument
- Don't count your chickens before the eggs have hatched
- This idiom is used to express "Don't make plans for something that might not happen".
- Don't give up the day job
- You are not very good at something. You could definitely not do it professionally.
- Don't put all your eggs in one basket
- Do not put all your resources in one possibility.
- Drastic times call for drastic measures
- When you are extremely desperate you need to take drastic actions.
- Elvis has left the building
- The show has come to an end. It's all over.
- Every cloud has a silver lining
- Be optimistic, even difficult times will lead to better days.
- Far cry from
- Very different from.
- Feel a bit under the weather
- Meaning: Feeling slightly ill.
- Give the benefit of the doubt
- Believe someone's statement, without proof.
- Hear it on the grapevine
- This idiom means 'to hear rumors' about something or someone.
- Hit the nail on the head
- Do or say something exactly right
- Hit the sack / sheets / hay
- To go to bed.
- In the heat of the moment
- Overwhelmed by what is happening in the moment.
- It takes two to tango
- Actions or communications need more than one person
- Jump on the bandwagon
- Join a popular trend or activity.
- Keep something at bay
- Keep something away.
- Kill two birds with one stone
- This idiom means, to accomplish two different things at the same time.
- Last straw
- The final problem in a series of problems.
- Let sleeping dogs lie
- Meaning - do not disturb a situation as it is - since it would result in trouble or complications.
- Let the cat out of the bag
- To share information that was previously concealed
- Make a long story short
- Come to the point - leave out details
- Method to my madness
- An assertion that, despite one's approach seeming random, there actually is structure to it.
- Miss the boat
- This idiom is used to say that someone missed his or her chance
- Not a spark of decency
- Meaning: No manners
- Not playing with a full deck
- Someone who lacks intelligence.
- Off one's rocker
- Crazy, demented, out of one's mind, in a confused or befuddled state of mind, senile.
- On the ball
- When someone understands the situation well.
- Once in a blue moon
- Meaning: Happens very rarely.
- Picture paints a thousand words
- A visual presentation is far more descriptive than words.
- Piece of cake
- A job, task or other activity that is easy or simple.
- Put wool over other people's eyes
- This means to deceive someone into thinking well of them.
- See eye to eye
- This idiom is used to say that two (or more people) agree on something.
- Sit on the fence
- This is used when someone does not want to choose or make a decision.
- Speak of the devil!
- This expression is used when the person you have just been talking about arrives.
- Steal someone's thunder
- To take the credit for something someone else did.
- Take with a grain of salt
- This means not to take what someone says too seriously.
- Taste of your own medicine
- Means that something happens to you, or is done to you, that you have done to someone else
- To hear something straight from the horse's mouth
- To hear something from the authoritative source.
- Whole nine yards
- Everything. All of it.
- Wouldn't be caught dead
- Would never like to do something
- Your guess is as good as mine
- To have no idea, do not know the answer to a question
When English speakers say someone "kicked the bucket," they don't literally mean a person put foot to pail. Instead, they're using an idiom, or an expression with a culturally specific meaning that's not contained in the words themselves.
Jag Bhalla's new book I'm Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears provides a compendium of worldwide idioms. The book's title comes from a Russian expression meaning "I'm not pulling your leg," and though Bhalla hasn't found any Russians who know the source of this amusing image, he says that's not unusual when it comes to idioms.
Take, for instance, the English expression "let the cat out of the bag." The saying is actually left over from the 16th century, when unscrupulous salespeople sometimes tricked purchasers by putting a cat into a bag instead of a pig.
"If you didn't open the bag before you left the market, it would be too late to complain later," says Bhalla. "However, most modern English speakers have no idea that that is why we 'let the cat out of the bag.'"
Often, different cultures will come up with their own idioms to express the same idea. Where English speakers might accuse a hypocrite of being a "pot calling the kettle black," Arabic speakers would observe that "a camel cannot see its own hump."
And Bhalla adds that idioms can be a great indicator of what is important to a culture: "One of my favorite German ones, for example, attests to their great obsession with meat: 'To live the life of Riley' in German — to have a wonderful life, to live a life of luxury — is to 'live like a maggot in bacon.'"
The Language Of Love
Excerpted from 'I'm Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears'
I'm Not Hanging Noodles On Your Ears
I'M NOT HANGING NOODLES ON YOUR EARS AND OTHER INTRIGUING IDIOMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
BY JAG BHALLA
PAPERBACK, 272 PAGES
LIST PRICE: $12.95
To get one's eyes stolen: to be dazzled (Japanese)
To throw face: to make a good impression (Spanish, El Salvador)
What a bonbon and me with diabetes: a street compliment (Spanish, Latin America)
What curves and me without brakes: a street compliment (Spanish, Latin America)
Biscuit: hot, sexy, attractive (Spanish, Mexico)
To set the dogs on someone: to flirt (Spanish, Latin America)
Having the waist of an elegant lion: an attractive woman (Hindi)
Like hibiscus rising out of water: grace of a woman (Chinese)
To give the package: to stand someone up (Italian)
To lay a rabbit: to stand someone up (French)
The space below a nose is long: to be lewd toward women (Japanese)
To have fast hands: to be a womanizer (Japanese)
Having seven husbands: loose woman (Hindi)
Unable to stop being the owl: can't stop flirting (Italian)
An apron hunter: a womanizer (German)
Have one's atoms hooked together: really hit it off (French)
Buckle polish: slow dance (Spanish, Venezuela)
Swallowed like a postman's sock: hopelessly in love (Spanish, Colombia)
To have eaten a monkey: to be nuts about (German)
To solidify one's body: to get married (Japanese)
To distribute cardamoms: to invite to a marriage (Hindi)
Matricide: marriage (Spanish, Costa Rica)
To hang oneself: to get married (Spanish, Mexico)
Handcuffs: the wife (Spanish, Latin America)