Thursday, 10 July 2014


An Idiom or idiomatic expression is a form of expression of words in their peculiar form as prevalent in a language.The words used have different meanings to their  literal meanings. An idiom has its metaphorical rather than literal meaning. The use of words in an idiom is fixed.These idioms undergo changes with the passage of time. 

The usage of idioms enhance the beauty of a language and give richness to it. Idioms usually  comprise of a few words but these words have their own meanings different from their literal meanings. Just as  the meaning of put is different from when some words are added  to it as --Put up, Put out , Put off  or To put up for a rainy day etc. These words are to be used as they are and these cannot be changed at all. The grammatical use of these words is fixed.For example  He has his own axe to grind cannot be changed to ground his axe or some other form. Idioms have their meanings in metaphorical sense rather than literal one. 

Idioms add richness to a language but their correct and appropriate use is necessary. Here is a list of idioms with their meanings and usage though it is illustrative and not exhaustive.

'A , B , C' 

All agog : (To be in the state of excitement) : 

All the player were all agog with joy for their  victory in the match.

Above Board : ( Something in its  proper and appropriate form, without any doubt) : 

 The deal finalised between the two merchants is above board.
His character is vouched above board by his all seniors. Nobody can doubt about his honesty and integrity.

Across the Board :  (Something applicable to all) :

The education system of our country needs an overall change across the board.

At a low ebb : ( Decreasing or Diminishing order ) 

His reputation is at a low ebb these days. 

A damp squib :  (An unsatisfactory or discouraging result ) : 

He started preparations for his competition examination with a great pomp and show but ended with a damp squib.

An Acid Test  : ( An action to check goodness or effectiveness of a thing ) : 

The acid test of a good leader is how much he wins the public faith when he goes among the people.

Add an insult to injury : ( To worsen a situation):

She was very annoyed with her husband and her sister's remarks only added an insult to injury.

Add fuel to the fire :  ( To make a  situation worse ):

He was  feeling very sad due to his bad result and your speech added fuel to fire.

Avail oneself of : ( To get benefit or a chance ) :

The candidates must avail themselves of this extra chance of appearing in the examination.

Act the goat : (To act deliberately in a silly way) :

The inspector acted the goat to bring out the truth from the people present there.

After your own  heart : ( To think in the same way as you do ) : 

Your wife is after your own heart. Why don't you have your confidence in her actions?

Albatross around your neck : ( A problem due to one's own action that impedes one's success) :

The irresponsible behaviour of  his son towards his family is an albatross around his neck.

All and Sundry : ( All or each and every body) : 

Her parents invited all and sundry to attend the marriage party of their daughter.

At the eleventh hour : ( At the last moment): 

The chairman announced at the eleventh hour a  change in the venue of the meeting.

All Greek : ( Something that is beyond one's understanding) :

The mechanic explained working of the new machine to us but it was all Greek for all of us. 

At Sea (  to be not in the know of ) :

The young man is at sea with the working of  this new machine.

At Odds : ( Not to agree with someone ) :

Both brothers are always at odds about education of their children.

At Loggerheads : ( To have difference or dispute with someone ) :

Both the brothers are at loggerheads with each other over possession of this piece of land.

At the drop of the hat : ( To an action immediately ) :  

At the drop of the hat the bidder will have to pay  the whole of the amount to the seller.

Apple of eye : ( A loved one ) :

The young boy is a an apple of eye of his parents.

Apple of Discord : ( A cause of a dispute) :

This piece of land is an apple of discord between the two brothers.

At all costs: ( in all cases or under all circumstances ) :

The merchant has made up his mind to purchase this house at all costs.

Apt to : ( Liable to ) : 

The students residing in a hostel are apt to fall in bad company.

Axe to grind : ( to have one's interest in an action) :

The manager had his own axe to grind in the deal being finalised with the merchant.

At the end of the day : ( at the conclusion of an action) :

At the end of the day all the visitors were very satisfied with the hospitality extended to them.

At arm's length :  ( To keep oneself away from) :

His father advised him to keep his greedy friends at an arm's length.

Bag and Baggage : ( For ever ) : 

My friend left India for Canada bag and baggage.

Bad Blood  : ( ill will due past ill behaviour ) :

The differences between the two brothers were ironed out and there is no bad blood between them now.

Back foot : ( to be defensive or at a receiving end) :

This action on the part of the leader put his party on the back foot.

Babe in arms : ( A novice or an inexperienced person) :

His father is a babe in arms in the field of business and I am sure he will be a big loser.

Beat about the bush : ( to talk in irrelevant way ) :

Do not beat about the bush, Let us come to the point and start our work. 

Beat a dead horse : ( an attempt to revive an action which is no more current now ) :

If you think that his father will forgive him and accept him back in his family you are beating a dead horse.

Bear fruit :   (to bring forth result  ) :

At last his efforts bore fruit and he was able to convince his parents about his marriage.

By and By : ( Slowly one after the other ) :

All the employees left the office by and by and soon the office was closed.

Bear the brunt : ( bear the loss ) :

The children who do not obey their parents are sure to bear the brunt. 

Below the belt : ( an action that is unfair ) :

It was not expected from  a person like him to hit below the belt by offering bribe to the witness.

Big Bucks : ( to earn a lot of money) :

The hoarders are making big bucks these days.

Between the lines : ( to understand the actual meaning ) :

If you read between the lines of the message you will see him through his trick.

Beside the point : ( irrelevant to the main issue) :

All the members present in the meeting found his suggestion beside the point and turned it down.

Beside Oneself : ( for one to be over in one's feelings ) :

He was beside himself with anger when he heard this. 

Black and white ( to put in writing ) : 

The agreement between the two parties was brought in black and white.

Black Sheep : ( one who does not fit in the system , someone odd ) :

No body wants to become a black sheep among his friends and relatives.

Bread and Butter : ( Something relating to livelihood of someone): 

The child when grown up arranged bread and butter for his family. 

Break the ice:  (To start a thing  for the first time) :

The leader broke the ice and started dialogue with the opposition party leaders.

Break the duck :  ( To do something for the first time) :

The young boys broke the duck and started a new business with their friends successfully.

Bolt from the blue : ( Something happening suddenly and unexpectedly) :

A prize for him in the function came to him as a bolt from the blue.

Blue Blood : ( Someone belonging to a royal family) :

A person with blue blood has enough with him to spend and spare.

Bury the hatchet : ( to forget about old differences and have peace with someone) :

The two friends buried their hatchet and started a new life.

Burn the candle at both ends : ( To lead a life style that has a bad effect on health) :

He is burning the candle at both ends to make both end's meet. He is not taking care of his own-self.

By dint of : ( as a result of, by means of or with help of ) :

He by dint of hard work passed his examination by securing good marks.

By Leaps and bounds : ( Something happening in large quantity ) :

The merchant is increasing his business by leaps and bounds.

Build castles in the air : ( to think about in  an imaginary way ) :

Those who build castles in the are sure to come to grief.

Beast of Burden : (an animal used for carrying goods, a very laborious person ) :

It appears that his boss considers him a beast of burden as he always burdens him with extra work.

Beast of prey : ( animal for hunting ) :

Lion is a beast of prey.

Cut no ice : ( To have no effect on something) :

His objections to our proposal in the meeting could cut no ice and our proposal was accepted by the house.

Cooked and fried : ( In ready made form , ready to use form ) :

He needs not to make any big preparations for the function because everything is available in cooked and fried form these days.

Cut and dried : ( Something already decided) :

All the members participated in the meeting but it appeared that everything was cut and dried.

Cut to the quick : ( to hurt someone's feelings ) :

The harsh remarks of her father about her behaviour in the function cut her to the quick.

Call a spade a spade : ( to say things in a straight forward way ) :

Nobody likes him in the office because of his habit of calling a spade a spade.

Cloud nine : ( to be very happy ) :

She is at cloud nine these days as she has won the first prize in the competition.

Clean slate : ( untarnished image or record of someone) : 

Nobody can raise a finger towards him as he has a clean slate career of his service.

Clean hands : ( without any illegal or immoral act on one's part) :

The authorities tried hard to make a search about her activities but she came out with clean hands.

Clean break : ( to break completely from someone or something) :

She left the city bag and baggage as she wanted to make a clean break with her past.

Chew the cud : ( to remember something nostalgically ) :

Both the friends chewed the cud for long hours as they met each other after a very long time. 

Chip off the old block:(to be identical in appearance or character) : 

Both mother and her daughter are chips of the old block. They  behave alike.

Cry wolf : ( a false warning ) : 

We should not depend upon that fellow for feedback of our project as he is a cry wolf.

Cry hoarse: ( to cry loudly for long ) :

The baby had to cry hoarse before his mother gave him milk.

Chase a rainbow : ( to think of achieving that is not achievable ) :

His son is chasing a rain  bow if he thinks that he will pass IAS examination.

Cry in wilderness : (  to try something without any response) :

His repeated requests to the principal to readmit his son in the school proved a cry in wilderness as he was finally rusticated from his school.

Cog in the machine : ( something of little importance for the whole system) :

He always boasted of his high position in the office but he turned out to be a cog in the machine.

Cry over spilt milk : (to  repent after an action is over ) :

It is of no use to cry over spilt milk as his result is already out and he has failed in the examination.

Close fisted : ( a miser person) :

He is a close fisted person and we should not expect that he will foot the bill of the party.

Catch at a straw : ( to get some help at the  time of need ) :

The principal's statement in our favour proved for us like a drowning man catching at a straw.

Catch one unaware : ( to catch hold of someone unprepared) :

The students were busy in talking with each other but the teacher caught them unaware.

Chicken hearted : ( a coward or a week person) :

We should not expect this type of act of bravery from a chicken hearted person like him.

Catch someone's fancy : ( to appear appealing to someone) :

The proposal forwarded by the manager caught boss's fancy and he gave his approval to it.

Cave in ( to slip or fall into the ground ) :

During the recent rains the road caved in at many places and the route remained closed for many days.

Catch sight of : ( to have a glimpse of ) :

Suddenly a child playing in the middle of the road caught sight of the driver of the moving bus and he applied brakes of the bus immediately.

Chalk out : ( to make a plan ) :

Before starting this project we all must sit together and  chalk out our plan how to execute it .

Come  upon : (to meet by chance):

While moving in the market place yesterday I came upon  one of my old friends of school days.

Come off : ( to take place) :

His marriage ceremony comes off  on tenth of the next month.

Comes of : ( to belong to )  :

He comes of a very noble family. 

Come out with : ( to put forth) :

The chairman rejected all the previous proposals and he came out with a new proposal  in the meeting.

Come across : ( to meet someone by chance) :

Yesterday I came across my school teacher in the market.

Come about : ( to happen or to come into existence) :

The old man was unable to explain how the incident came about.

Come out with flying colours : ( to be victorious) :

Our football team played the match very well and finally came out with flying colours.

                                                                                                      (Continued in next post)

Your views/suggestions w.r.t style/subject matter of blog are solicited.  Do post/e-mail.


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