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The Most Helpful Idioms With Meaning and Examples. Topic – Body

English idioms are the spice of language, offering a unique flavor to everyday communication. These common idioms serve as gems, each carrying a distinctive meaning beyond their literal interpretation. Let’s explore the fascinating world of idioms with an idiom example. Consider the phrase “burning the midnight oil,” depicting intense effort or working late into the night. In this idiom sample, the image of a lamp burning late symbolizes diligence and commitment. Understanding idioms with meaning is like deciphering a secret code, unlocking a deeper layer of expression. So, whether you’re “walking on eggshells” or “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” incorporating these idiomatic expressions into your language repertoire adds flair and nuance, transforming ordinary conversations into rich tapestries of communication.

arm of the law The expression ‘arm of the law’ refers to the extent to which the authority or power of the law extends. He fled to South America hoping to escape the arm of the law.
chance one’s arm If you chance your arm, you try to do something even though there is little hope of success. Tony knew there was little hope of getting into Harvard but he decided to chance his arm anyway.
cost an arm and a leg If something costs an arm and a leg, it is very expensive. The new house cost us an arm and a leg, but we have no regrets.
give your right arm If you say “I’d give my right arm for that”, you mean that you want it a lot and would do almost anything to obtain it. I’d give my right arm to have an apartment on Central Park.
up in arms If you are up in arms about something, you are very angry. The population was up in arms over the demolition of the old theatre.
(keep) at arm’s length If you keep someone at arm’s length, you do not allow yourself to become too friendly with them. It’s not easy to become friends with Sophie; she tends to keep everyone at arm’s length.
more power to your elbow The expression ‘more power to your elbow’  is used to express praise or encouragement to someone for doing something. I’ve left my job and I’m going to work free-lance from now on.  Well, more power to your elbow!
(use) use elbow grease If you use elbow grease, you need energy and strength to do physical work such as cleaning or polishing. It took a considerable amount of elbow grease to renovate the house.
elbow room If you need some elbow room, you need more space to move. We shared a small office where neither of us had enough elbow room.
behind someone’s back If you do something behind someone’s back, you do it without letting them know about it./ To do something without them knowing, in a way which is unfair. I bought the car behind his back and now he’s really angry./
break your back If you work extremely hard, or put a lot of effort into achieving something, you break your back to do it. If you want the job done well, you should accept to pay more. He’s not going to break his back for such a low price!
get off my back! If you tell someone to get off your back, you are asking them to stop finding faults or criticizing you. Liz, please, get off my back! You’ve been making comments about my work all morning!
have your back to the wall If you have your back to the wall, you are in serious difficulty With his back to the wall, the supplier had to accept the deal.
keep your back covered If you do something in case a problem might arise later, for which you might be blamed, you keep your back covered. You’d better make a copy of that letter to keep your back covered.
scratch someone’s back If you scratch someone’s back, you offer to help someone if they help you If you find a job for my son, I’ll vote for me. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
stab in the back Someone who stabs you in the back, betrays you by doing something harmful to you when you thought you could trust them. His best friend stabbed him in the back by voting against him.
go belly up If a business or project goes belly up, it is unsuccessful or goes bankrupt. The restaurant went belly up before the end of the first year.
(a) belly laugh A belly laugh is a spontaneous, uncontrolled, hearty laugh. The comedian hoped that his jokes would produce long belly laughs.
yellow belly / yellow bellied A person who is yellow-bellied is cowardly, or not at all brave. The bus was full of yellow-bellied passengers who disappeared when the driver was attacked by two youths.
(have) butterflies in your stomach If you have butterflies in your stomach, you are feeling very nervous. At the beginning of an exam, I always have butterflies in my stomach.
(have a) cast iron stomach If you can eat all sorts of food, and drink what you like, without any indigestion, discomfort or bad effects, it can be said that you have a cast-iron stomach. I don’t know how you can eat that spicy food. You must have a cast-iron stomach!
that makes my blood boil! If something makes your blood boil, it makes you really angry. His condescending attitude made my blood boil!
make your blood run cold Something that makes your blood run cold  shocks or scares you a lot. The look in the prisoner’s eyes made my blood run cold.
blood, sweat and tears A project or action which involves blood, sweat and tears requires a lot of effort and hard work. His success wasn’t due to luck. It was blood, sweat and tears all the way.
body language Body language refers to any movement of the body that communicates emotions or information. He looks calm but his body language reveals a defensive attitude.
enough to keep body and soul together This expression means to have just enough to survive. In my first job I earned just enough to keep body and soul together.
over my dead body The expression ‘over my dead body’ is used when you absolutely refuse to allow someone to do something. Mum, can I get my nose pierced? Over my dead body!
bag of bones To say that someone is a bag of bones means that they are extremely thin. When he came home from the war he was a bag of bones.
have a bone to pick with someone If you have a bone to pick with someone, you are annoyed with them and want to talk to them about it. Mark wants to see the boss. He says he’s got a bone to pick with him.
bone of contention A bone of contention is a matter or subject about which there is a lot of disagreement. The salaries have been agreed on, but opening on Sundays is still a bone of contention.
make no bones about something If you make no bones about something, you don’t hesitate to say something in a frank and open way. I made no bones about it. I told him his offer was unacceptable.
throw someone a bone If you throw someone a bone, you say something kind or reward them in some way to make them feel good. The old man can’t help very much but Bill throws him a bone now and then to keep him happy.
work your fingers to the bone A person who works their fingers to the bone is extremely hardworking. He deserves his success; he worked his fingers to the bone when he started the business.
beat one’s brains out If someone beats their brains out, they try very hard to understand something or solve a problem. My grandmother beats her brains out every evening trying to do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper.
brain like a sieve Someone who has a brain like a sieve has a very bad memory and forgets things easily. Oh, I forgot to buy the bread – I’ve got a brain like a sieve these days!
all brawn and no brain Someone who is physically very strong but not very intelligent is said to be all brawn and no brain. He’s an impressive player to watch, but he’s all brawn and no brain.
have something on the brain If you have something on the brain, you think or talk about it all constantly. Stop talking about golf. You’ve got golf on the brain!
(a) no-brainer A decision or choice that requires little or no thought, because the best option is so obvious, is called a no-brainer. The choice was between a cash refund or having the amount credited to my account – it was a no-brainer. I took the cash!
brains behind something Someone who is the brains behind a project or action is the person thought to have planned and organised everything. The police have arrested a man believed to be the brains behind the bank robbery.
pick someone’s brains If you pick someone’s brains, you ask questions about a particular subject in order to obtain advice or information. Could we have lunch together? I’d like to pick your brains about something.
rack one’s brains If you rack your brains, you try very hard to think of something or to remember something. Christmas is always a hassle for me. I have to rack my brains every year to find ideas for presents.
wrap your brain around something If you concentrate on something in an effort to understand, you wrap your braiin around it. I need a translation of this report urgently, so wrap your brain around it fast!
all ears To say that you are all ears means that you are listening very attentively. Of course I want to know – I’m all ears!
fall on deaf ears If something such as a suggestion or a request falls on deaf ears, it is ignored. I told Mark not to take any risks, but my advice fell on deaf ears.
go in one ear and come out the other To say that information goes in one ear and comes out the other means that it is immediately forgotten or ignored. I keep telling him about the risks but it goes in one ear and out the other. He never listens!
grin from ear to ear If somebody is grinning from ear to ear, they look very satisfied and happy. When we saw Paul grinning from ear to ear, we knew he had passed the exam.
keep your ear to the ground If you keep your ear to the ground, you make sure that you are aware of all that is happening and being said. We don’t know what has been decided, but Jack is keeping his ear to the ground!
lend an ear If you lend an ear to someone, you listen carefully and sympathetically. The best person to talk to is Jenny. She’s always ready to lend an ear.
make one’s ears burn If something makes your ears burn, you are embarrassed by what you hear, especially if the conversation is about you. The comments I overheard made my ears burn.
music to your ears If something is music to your ears, the information that you receive makes you feel very happy. His compliments were music to my ear.
prick up your ears If you prick up your ears, you suddenly pay attention to what is being said. The children pricked up their ears when they heard the word ‘ice-cream’.
turn a deaf ear If you turn a deaf ear to something, you refuse to listen. Sam turned a deaf ear to his wife’s advice and went off in the rain without an umbrella.
play it by ear To play it by ear means to improvise or act without preparation, according to the demands of the situation. (Music: to play by remembering the tune, without printed music.) It’s hard to know how the situation will develop. Let’s just play it by ear.
face like a bulldog chewing a wasp To say that someone has a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp means that you find them very unattractive because they have a screwed-up ugly expression on their face. Not only was he rude but he had a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp!
face like thunder If someone has a face like thunder, they look very angry. When Dad is really angry, he has a face like thunder!
face like a wet week-end If someone has a face like a wet week-end, they look sad and miserable (as if their week-end had been spoiled). What’s wrong with Pete? He’s got a face like a wet week-end!
face only a mother could love This is a humorous way of saying that someone is ugly or unattractive. The poor guy has a face only a mother could love.
face that would stop a clock Someone who has a face that would stop a clock has a shockingly unattractive face. You’ll recognize him – he’s tall and thin, with a face that would stop a clock.
face the music If you have to face the music, you have to accept the unpleasant consequences of your actions. He was caught stealing. Now he has to face the music.
face value If you take something at its face value, you assume that it is genuinely what it appears to be. The car seems to be in good condition, but don’t take it at its face value; get a mechanic to check it out.
change the face of (something) When an innovation, discovery or event changes the face of something, it alters it completely or in a major way. Social networks have changed the face of modern communication.
blow up in someone’s face When working on a plan or project, if it suddenly goes wrong or fails, it blows up in your face. He accepted to organise the trip, but it blew up in his face when the airline company went on strike.
brave face When confronted with difficulties, if you put on a brave face, you try to look cheerful and pretend that the situation is not as bad as it looks. Even at the worst of times she put on a brave face.
poker face If you have a poker face, you show no emotion at all. All during the trial the suspect kept a poker face.
save face When someone saves face, they manage to avoid humiliation or embarrassment and preserve both their dignity and the respect of others. They allowed him to save face by accepting his resignation.
keep a straight face If you keep a straight face, you look serious although you really want to laugh. Our teacher was dressed so strangely that it was hard to keep a straight face!
two-faced Someone who is two-faced  is deceitful or insincere;  they will say one thing when you are present, and something else when you are not there. I don’t trust Billy. I find him two-faced.
cheek by jowl When people are cheek by jowl, they are crammed uncomfortably close together. The refugees are living cheek by jowl in a temporary camp.
of all the cheek! Expresses annoyance or irritation at what someone has done or said. He said my presentation was one of the poorest. Well, of all the cheek!
tongue in cheek If you describe a remark as ‘tongue in cheek’ you mean that it is not meant to be taken seriously; it is meant to be funny or ironic. Peter’s remark was taken more seriously than intended.  It was supposed to be tongue in cheek.
turn the other cheek The expression ‘turn the other cheek’  means to accept mistreatment or rudeness without retaliating. Yes, he was very unpleasant, but I took that as unnecessary provocation, so I turned the other cheek.
keep your chin up If you keep your chin up, you try to remain optimistic and cheerful when you find yourself in a difficult or unpleasant situation. You didn’t win this time but keep your chin up. There will be plenty more occasions.
take it on the chin When you take it on the chin, you are brave and accept adversity, criticism or defeat without complaining. When his contract was not renewed, Mark took it on the chin.
feet of clay If someone who is admired is found to have a weakness, fault or defect of character, they are said to have feet of clay. No one is perfect. Many successful people have feet of clay
back on your feet If you are back on your feet, after an illness or an accident, you are physically healthy again. My grandmother had a bad ‘flu, but she’s back on her feet again.
cut the ground from under someone’s feet When someone cuts the ground from under another’s feet, they do something which weakens their position or spoils their plans. When we launched the new product, we cut the ground from under our competitors’ feet.
drag one’s feet If you say that a person is dragging their feet, you think they are unnecessarily delaying a decision which is important to you. The government is dragging it’s feet on measures to reduce pollution.
find one’s feet To say that someone in a new position is finding their feet means that they are learning what to do and gaining self-confidence. Our new trainee is beginning to find his feet.
get cold feet If you get cold feet about something, you begin to hesitate about doing it; you are no longer sure whether you want to do it or not. I wanted to enter the competition but at the last minute I got cold feet.
get one’s feet wet If you get your feet wet (or dip your toes in the water), you start to do something new or unfamiliar or explore new territory for the first time. It will be a totally new experience for me but I can’t wait to get my feet wet!
have itchy feet A person who has itchy feet  is someone who finds it difficult to stay in one place and likes to move often and discover new places. Scott never stays long anywhere. He’s got itchy feet!
have the world at your feet If you have the world at your feet, you are extremely successful and greatly admired. The talented young actress has the world at her feet.
keep your feet on the ground A person who keeps their feet on the ground continues to act in a sensible and practical way, even if they become successful. Success hasn’t changed him. He has always kept his feet on the ground.
land on your feet If you land on your feet, you make a quick recovery after a difficulty such as a business failure, an illness, a loss, etc. Don’t worry about Bob. He always lands on his feet.
pull the rug from under someone’s feet If you pull the rug from under someone’s feet, you suddenly and unexpectedly remove all help or support. When Andy’s mother stopped sending him money, she pulled the rug from under his feet and forced him to find a job.
regain one’s feet If you regain your feet, you stand up again after stumbling or falling.This expression can also mean that you are once again financially solvent after a difficult period. John helped his father to regain his feet when he tripped on the steps.
rushed off your feet If you are rushed off your feet, you are extremely busy. I’d love to have lunch with you but I’m rushed off my feet at work!
stand on your own two feet If you stand on your own two feet, you are independent and need no help from anyone. When young peope leave home, they learn to stand on their own two feet.
think on one’s feet A person who thinks on their feet  is capable of making good decisions without previous thinking or planning. Good lawyers need to be able to think on their feet when pleading a case.
have two left feet If you have two left feet, you are clumsy or awkward in your movements. I’m afraid I’m a bad dancer! I’ve got two left feet!
my foot! The expression ‘my foot!’ is used to show that you do not believe something that has just been said. He said he had a summer home? My foot!  I doubt if he owns a tent!
have/get a foot in the door If you say that someone has a foot in the door, you mean that they have a small but successful start in something and will possibly do well in the future. With today’s unemployment, it’s difficult to get a foot in the door in any profession.
have one foot in the grave A person who is either very old or very ill and close to death has one foot in the grave. It’s no use talking to the owner. The poor man has one foot in the grave.
put one’s best foot forward If someone puts their best foot forward, they do something as fast as they can. It’s a long way to the station but if I put my best foot forward I should catch the next train.
put one’s foot down To put one’s foot down means to exert authority to prevent something from happening. The child wanted to sleep on the sofa, but his father put his foot down and made him go to bed.
put one’s foot in one’s mouth If you put your foot in your mouth, you do or say something that offends, upsets or embarrasses someone else. She really put her foot in her mouth when she mentioned the housewarming party – Andy hadn’t been invited!
right/wrong foot To get off (or start off) on the right/wrong foot means to start a relationship well or badly. I was looking forward to working with Anna but we seem to have started off on the wrong foot.
the shoe is on the other foot When the circumstances have reversed, and one person is now doing what the other person did in the past, you can say that the shoe is on the other foot. I used to advise my children to eat healthy food, but now that my daughter is a nutritionist, the shoe is on the other foot! 
shoot yourself in the foot If you shoot yourself in the foot, you do or say something which is against your own interests. When Julie was asked at the interview if she had any weaknesses, she really shot herself in the foot the way she answered.
get a foothold If you get a foothold somewhere, you secure a position for yourself in a business, profession or organisation. The contract got the firm a foothold in the local administration.
footloose and fancy free A person who is footloose and fancy free has few responsibilities or  commitments of any kind and feels free to do as they please. John will never get married. He says he prefers to be footloose and fancy free.
five-finger discount If somebody gets a five-finger discount, they take something without paying; in other words, they steal. How could he afford that watch?  Who knows – perhaps with a five-finger discount?
get your fingers burnt If you get your fingers burnt, you suffer as a result of an unsuccessful action and are nervous about trying again. He got his fingers burnt so badly in the last elections that he decided to withdraw from politics.
hang on by the fingernails When you hang on by the fingernails, you manage to continue to do something in a very difficult situation. The restaurant is losing more and more customers; the owner is just hanging on by the fingernails.
have a finger in every pie If someone has a finger in every pie, they are involved in a large and varied number of activities and enterprises. For information about the activities in this town, you should talk to John Brown.  He’s got a finger in every pie.
keep your fingers crossed If you keep our fingers crossed, you hope that something will be successful. I’m doing my driving test tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
keep your finger on the pulse If you keep your finger on the pulse, you are constantly aware of the most recent events or developments. A successful investor keeps his finger on the pulse of international business.
not lift a finger Someone who does not lift a finger makes no effort to help or provide assistance when it is needed. Many people saw the boy falling off his bike but not one of them lifted a finger.
put a finger on something If you are able to identify or understand something such as the cause of a problem or the solution to it, you put your finger on it. The atmosphere at the meeting was strange, but Marie couldn’t put a finger on the cause of it.
put something on the long finger If you put something on the long finger, you postpone it indefinitely. She says she intends to go back to college, but she keeps putting it on the long finger.
all fingers and thumbs If  you are all fingers and thumbs, you are awkward and clumsy and do things incorrectly. Would you mind wrapping this for me? I’m all fingers and thumbs!
let slip through fingers If you allow something such as a good opportunity to slip through your fingers, you allow it to pass without taking advantage of it, through carelessness or lack of effort. He should have accepted the job when it was offered. He let the opportunity slip through his fingers.
have sticky fingers Someone who has sticky fingers has a tendency to steal. Items have been disappearing from the stock recently. Do any of the employees have sticky fingers?
works your fingers to the bone A person who works their fingers to the bone is extremely hardworking. He deserves his success; he worked his fingers to the bone when he started the business.
knuckle down If someone knuckles down to something, they start to work on it seriously. If you want to succeed, you’ll have to knuckle down to some serious work.
near the knuckle Something said to be ‘near the knuckle’ is close to the limits of what people find acceptable, especially if it is sexually suggestive, or offensive to particular groups. Some of his jokes are a bit near the knuckle.
rap someone on the knuckles If someone gets a rap on/across the knuckles, they are punished or reprimanded, not very severely, but as a reminder not to do that again. Andy got a rap on the knuckles for leaving the kitchen in a mess.
all thumbs / all fingers and thumbs If you are all fingers and thumbs, you are awkward and clumsy and do things incorrectly. Would you mind wrapping this for me? I’m all fingers and thumbs!
stick out like a sore thumb If something sticks out like a sore thumb, it is very obvious or visible in an unpleasant way. The modern building sticks out like a sore thumb among the old houses.
under your thumb If someone is under your thumb, they are completely under your control or influence. Nobody ever protests. He has the whole group under his thumb.
bad hair day Originating as a humorous comment about one’s hair being unmanageable, this term has broadened to mean a day when everything seems to go wrong. What’s wrong with Jenny? Is she having a bad hair day?
hair of the dog Using as a remedy a small amount of what made you ill, for example a drop of alcohol when recovering from drinking too much, is called ‘a hair of the dog that bit you’. Here, have a drop of this. It’s a hair of the dog that bit you!
by a hair’s breadth If you avoid or miss something by a hair’s breadth, you only just manage to escape from a danger. A slate fell off the roof and missed the child by a hair’s breadth.
get in someone’s hair If you are getting in someone’s hair, you are annoying them so much that they can’t get on with what they are doing. I’d finish the report more quickly if my colleague wasn’t getting in my hair all the time.
let your hair down If you suggest that someone should let their hair down, you are telling them to relax and enjoy themselves. Come on! We’re not in the office now. You can let your hair down!
makes your hair stand on end If you are absolutely terrified of something, it makes your hair stand on end. Just the thought of getting on a plane makes my hair stand on end!
(not/never) a hair out of place If someone does not have a hair out of place, their appearance is perfect. Angela is always impeccably dressed – never a hair out of place.
tear one’s hair out If someone is tearing their hair out, they are extremely agitated or distressed about something. I’ve been tearing my hair out all morning trying to find the error.
(not) turn a hair If someone does not turn a hair, they show no emotion in circumstances where a reaction is expected. When the police came to arrest him, he didn’t turn a hair.
split hairs If you split hairs, you pay too much attention to differences that are very small or unimportant. If we start splitting hairs, we’ll never reach an agreement!
widow’s peak A V-shaped point formed by the hair in the centre of the forehead is called a widow’s peak. (It was believed to be a sign of early widowhood.)
on hand If something, such as supplies or people, are on hand, they are present or readily available. Extra pillows and blankets are on hand if needed.
hand in glove Two or more people who are in collusion, or work in close association, are said to be hand in glove. After the match, it was discovered that he was hand in glove with the referee.
hand in hand If two or more things go hand in hand, they are associated or often happen at the same time. In big cities, poverty and violence often go hand in hand.
hand it to someone If you hand it to someone, you admit, perhaps unwillingly, that they deserve credit or praise for their achievements. You’ve got to hand it to Sophie. She may be a snob, but her presentations are always excellent.
hand (to someone) on a platter/plate If someone get something easily, without having to make an effort to obtain it, it is handed to them on a platter. Donald was appointed sales director in his father’s company. The job was handed to him on a platter.
bite the hand that feeds you If you bite the hand that feeds you, you are unfriendly or do harm to someone who is kind to you. If you say bad things about the person who gives you a job, you bite the hand that feeds you.
(at) first hand If you experience something yourself directly, without any intermediary, you experience it (at) first hand. Getting to see the performance (at) first hand is much better than watching it on television.
force someone’s hand If you force someone’s hand, you make them do something unwillingly or sooner than planned. The interviewer forced Brad’s hand and made him reveal his relocation plans.
have a free hand If you have a free hand, you have permission to make your own decisions, especially in a job. My boss gave me a free hand in the choice of agent.
get out of hand If a person or situation gets out of hand, they cannot be controlled any longer. During the student demonstration, things got out of hand and several shop windows were broken.
heavy hand Dealing with or treating people with a heavy hand means acting with discipline and severity, with little or no sensitivity. He ran the juvenile delinquent centre with a heavy hand.
iron hand/fist in a velvet glove This expression is used to describe someone who, behind an appearance of gentleness, is inflexible and determined. To impose the necessary reforms, the leader used persuasion followed by force – an iron hand in a velvet glove.
  1. What are idioms? Idioms are expressions or phrases that hold a figurative meaning beyond their literal interpretation. They add color and depth to language.

  2. Why are idioms important in English? Idioms help convey complex ideas succinctly and vividly, enhancing communication and offering cultural insights.

  3. Can you provide some examples of idioms? Certainly! Examples include “raining cats and dogs” (heavy rain), “kick the bucket” (pass away), and “bite the bullet” (face a difficult situation).

  4. How do I understand the meaning of idioms? Understanding idioms often requires context and cultural familiarity. Exploring their origins and usage in sentences helps grasp their meanings.

  5. Are all idioms universal or do they vary by region? Idioms can vary across regions and cultures. While some idioms are universal, many are culturally specific.

  6. Are there common idioms used in everyday conversation? Yes, several idioms, like “break a leg” (good luck) or “piece of cake” (easy task), are frequently used in daily conversations.

  7. Do idioms have fixed meanings? Generally, yes. However, some idioms might have slight variations in meaning or usage based on context or region.

  8. How can I incorporate idioms into my writing or speech? Using idioms contextually and accurately can add richness to your language. Start by understanding their meanings and then applying them naturally.

  9. Are idioms only found in English? No, idioms exist in many languages. Each language has its own set of colorful expressions and phrases.

  10. Where can I learn more idioms and their meanings? Online resources, books on idioms, and even language learning platforms offer extensive lists of idioms with explanations of their meanings and origins.

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