15 Best Common English Idioms And Phrases - Chimes Radio

Idioms and Phrases

Scroll down and get going with some fantastic phrases and idioms!

Idioms and phrases

What do you mean by Idioms?

Idioms are a group of words or phrases with a well-established and well-understood metaphorical meaning. As a result, these words can’t be taken literally because they’d be absurd. Idioms give writing more life and color. It gives authors more freedom to explore with words and makes the text more entertaining to read. Idioms are frequently employed in stories, poems, and even spoken language.

Some creative idioms examples are: 

  • ‘The best of both worlds’
  • ‘Speak of the devil’
  • ‘See eye to eye’
  • ‘Once in a blue moon’
  • ‘ A piece of cake’

About Better @ Idioms

Chimes Radio’s ‘Better @ Idioms’ is your personal audio dictionary to help you learn idioms, their meaning, usage and will surely help you enrich your language skills. Learning English idioms and phrases with a number of examples at your disposal, you’ll be ready to use them in any situation and impress others around you.

Listen to Idioms Podcast on Any Audio Platform

Amazon Music for Chimes Radio
FAMOUS INDIAN PERSONALITIES
Spotify
Apple Podcasts

17 Most English Idioms and Phrases | Phrases with Meaning

Here are the popular English idioms and phrases. Check the idioms list with meanings below.

1. 'Burn the Midnight Oil'

Origin: Time period when there was no electricity and oil lamps were the only source of light during the nights

Meaning: Read or work late into the night

Synonyms: Overwork, hard work, work late, work day and night, study endlessly, study hard, etc

2. 'Spill the Beans'

Origin: In the ancient Greek times during the elections, people used to place beans of different colors to cast their vote. These beans were collected and counted to ensure the winner’s name

Meaning: Reveal secret information unintentionally or indiscreetly

Synonyms: Reveal everything, to let the secret out, to break the news, give the secret away, etc

3. 'Under the Weather'

Origin: The idiom originates from the sailing ships. Where the weather is very unpredictable, therefore to escape the bad weather sailors were sent below the deck, literally under the bad weather which is at the surface of the sea.

Meaning: Somewhat ill or prone to illness

Synonyms: Unwell, sick, ill, sickly, indisposed, peaked

4. 'Its Raining Cats and Dogs'

Origin: The idiom originates from ancient Greek times from an expression Caxta and Doga which means unusual. Another is from Tudor times when there were thatched roofs of houses, and their domestic animals on the roof used to come down in huge numbers when it rained

Meaning: Heavy rainfall

Synonyms: Pour, precipitate, rain, storm

Scroll down to learn more idioms in English!

5. 'Once in a Blue Moon'

Origin: The origin of this phrase is based on the belief that a blue moon is a full moon that comes twice in the same calendar month, and that this phenomenon occurs only once every 32 months. Aside from that, the full moon might appear to be a different color, especially blue and orange, and larger in size at times.

Meaning: Very rarely

Synonyms: Once after a long time, something that happens very seldom, on rare occasions, almost never, hardly ever

Scroll down to learn more idioms in English!

6. 'Beat Around the Bush'

Origin: It originated from Hunting. When hunters beat around the bush in which the animal is hidden to startle them and bring them out of it. The first mention of this idiom can be dated back to 1440 in the poem “Generydes, a romance in seven lines stanza”.

Meaning: To avoid giving a definite answer or position

Synonyms: Oprevaricate, equivocate, tergiversate, circumlocute and palter.

Scroll down to learn more idioms and phrases!

7. 'Hit the Sack'

Origin: Hit the Sack does not mean hitting a sack full of grains or any other thing with a stick, it instead is related to a sack that was turned in to mattress in olden time for the purpose of sleeping on it.

Meaning: To go to bed

Synonyms: Retire, call it a day, sleep, turn in

Scroll down to learn more idioms in English!

8. 'Hang in There'

Origin: Inspired from a poster in the 1970s, where a cat is seen hanging on a bamboo pole, determined to stay there and fight for its safety and existence.

Meaning: Do not give up

Synonyms: Keep on trying, face the difficulty

Scroll down to learn more idioms in English!

9. 'Kill two Birds with one Stone'

Origin: The origin of this idiom can be traced back to Greek Mythology, and its first mention can be dated back to the 17th Century. Daedalus used a single stone to kill two birds in order to obtain the feathers and create the wings. The father and son flew out of the Labyrinth on Crete after creating wings.

Meaning: Achieve two aims at once

Synonyms: Mill two seeds with one stone, feed two birds with one scone, get two giggles from one tickle

Scroll down to learn more idioms and phrases!

10. 'Get out of Hands'

Origin: Originated from the times when people used to ride animal pulled wagons, losing the reins from their hands meant losing control of the cart.

Meaning: To become difficult to control

Synonyms: something out of control, something indiscipline, unmanageable, unimaginable

Scroll down to learn more idioms and phrases!

11. 'Ring a Bell'

Origin: Originated from an experiment done on dogs, by Ivan Pavlov a Russian Psychologist, where he conditioned the memory of dogs with the help of ringing a bell.

Meaning: Sounds vaguely familiar

Synonyms: call, cite, evoke, remind

Scroll down to learn more idioms and phrases!

12. 'Break a Leg'

Origin: Originating from the concept that back in the day theatre artists, actors, singer etc believed that wishing them good luck might work quite opposite to them, so they picked up  something negative to wish people luck.

Meaning: Good luck

Synonyms: wishing someone luck, best of luck, all the best

Scroll down to learn more idioms in English!

13. 'The Long Story Short'

Origin: Originating from ancient time, it was first used in 1800’s.

Meaning: telling about a situation in brief, without giving explicit details

Synonyms: in a nutshell, to sum up, cut it short, get to the point

Scroll down to learn more idioms and phrases in English!

14. 'A Piece of Cake'

Origin: Originating in1930s from the Royal Airforce

Meaning: something that is very easy to implement and is not difficult to achieve

Synonyms: child’s play, kid stuff, no-brainer

Scroll down to learn more idioms in English!

15. 'Having a Ball'

Origin: Its origin can be dated back to the times parties/ balls started

Meaning: enjoying yourself immensely

Synonyms: enjoy oneself, have a great time, have fun

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

16. 'Pull Someone's Leg'

Origin: Its origin can be dated back to 18th and 19th century when after cornering the victim, thieves used to pull their legs to make them fall off guard and steal their belongings.

Meaning: to tease someone in a harmless manner

Synonyms: make fun of, play a joke on, play a trick on, tease

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

17. 'Think of the Devil'

Origin: It originated around 16th century in England. Its origin in based on a superstitious belief that one must not talk about the devil otherwise the devil will ne right behind one’s elbow.

Meaning: something you say when the person you were talking about appears unexpectedly

Synonyms: talk of the devil and he will come

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

18. 'Break The Ice'

Origin: Break The Ice” idiom originated from the times when there were special ships which were sent in frozen sea waters to break the ice and make the ship movement easy.

Meaning: making an attempt to make situation comfortable in a tense environment.

Synonyms: lay the first stone, start, break-ground, cut the first turf

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

19. 'Up In The Air'

Origin: Originating from the toss, where its undecided as to who won it while the coin is in the air, “Up In The Air” idiom is used quite a lot in English language.

Meaning: still to be settled; unresolved.

Synonyms: in the balance · unconfirmed · undetermined 

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

20. 'Run Around In Circles'

Origin: Originating from horses running around the rings

Meaning: making repeated efforts but unable to get any result.

Synonyms: lose out, falter, fall behind, not be getting/going anywhere, lag, be no further forward

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

21. 'Money Doesn't Grow On Trees'

Origin: Originating from the fact that things that grow on trees are usually easy to identify, whereas money is not.

Meaning: money is earned rather than given to you.

Synonyms: money should not be wasted, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, be careful of how you spend money, have to put an effort in earning money

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

22. 'Lose Your Touch'

Origin: Refers to the older sense of touch as a musician’s ability to play an instrument or an artist’s ability to work with a brush or chisel.

Meaning: to lose one’s ability to do things successfully that one could previously do

Synonyms: fall behind, not be getting​/​going anywhere, be no further forward

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

23. 'Couch Potato'

Origin: Couch potatoes was coined by a 1970s comics artist who drew sedentary, lazy characters.

Meaning: perfect imagery of a person lying on a couch looking like a potato.

Synonyms: goof off, lazy-bones, sofa spud, do-nothings

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

24. 'On Cloud Nine'

Origin: Originated in the 1950s as one of the cloud classifications defined by the US Weather Bureau.

Meaning: A state of extreme happiness

Synonyms: over-the-moon, seventh heaven, top of the world, walking on air

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

25. 'Mind Over Matter'

Origin: The term was first used to describe the increasing status and evolutionary growth of animal and human minds throughout Earth history.

Meaning: used to describe a situation in which a person can use their mind to control a physical condition, problem, etc.

Synonyms: determination, ambition, will, energy, motivation, resolve

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

26. 'Devil's Advocate'

Origin: The term ‘Devil’s advocate’ was derived from the mediaeval Latin expression ‘advocatus diaboli’ in the 18th century.

Meaning: a person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments

Synonyms: apologist, defender, mediator, pleader

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

27. 'Has the Cat got your Tongue?'

Origin: The term originates from the concept of sea sailors where they are supposed to keep secrets and a different kind of cat was the reason why they couldn’t give them out.

Meaning: said to someone who remains silent when they are expected to speak

Synonyms: are you at a loss for words, are you speechless, are you tongue-tied, don’t you have something to say

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

28. 'Head in the Clouds'

Origin: The term originated from the time when there was no concept of aviation.

Meaning: It figuratively means to be inattentive, to be unrealistic or to be unaware of a situation.

Synonyms: flighty, flyaway, scatterbrained, airheaded

Scroll down to learn more phrases and idioms!

29. 'Wrap Your Head Around Something'

Origin: The term originated from the fact that a lot of mental activity is required to understand something difficult.

Meaning: to find a way to understand or accept (something)

Synonyms: understand, comprehend, apprehend, to be aware of, fathom.

30. 'A Penny For Your Thoughts'

Origin: The idiom was coined by English statesman Sir Thomas More in his book Four Last Things and it has remained in use for nearly 500 years.

Meaning: a way of asking what a person is thinking

Synonyms: what are you thinking about, what is on your mind

FAQ's on English Idioms and Phrases | Idioms List

Idiomatic expressions are phrases with a figurative meaning attached to them, in lieu of the literal meaning.

Example-  “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”. That particular idiom means that one should not base opinions on things they cannot see at first glance; such as acting rashly because of something that looks dangerous or unattractive.

Idiom

Meaning

Cry over spilled milk

Regret/complain about something that cannot be rectified

Hit the road

Begin one’s journey

Once in a blue moon

Once in a while, infrequently

There is an estimate of 30,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language

A phrase is a collection of words that define an expression.

An idiom is a phrase or a saying that is formed by grouping words together to mean something other than the literal meaning of the phrase or saying.

Similar Content:

English Grammar, indian podcasts

Work Book Podcast Learn new words and build your vocabulary

short poems for kids

Enjoy and sing-a-long these popular children poems

book club

An interesting book every week for kids to enjoy

Spoken English for kids

Improve your English with a new word everyday

Podcasts that inspire and entertain

We hold your kids' attention.
Try us for free!