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20 Common English Idioms Examples Everyone Should Know

by shreyasi datta

You may have heard your friend, your family, or your teacher using phrases such as, “its raining cats and dogs,” “dont beat around the bush,” or “I see her only once in a blue moon.” After hearing these phrases, you may have wondered if they are talking nonsense or if these phrases actually mean anything. The short answer is Yes, these phrases carry meaning, and they are called idioms. In this blog article, we will explain what an idiom is. And provide you with a list of 20 common English idiom examples and their meanings. So read on.

So, What Is An Idiom?

An idiom is a phrase or expression that has a figurative meaning. Actually different from the literal meaning of its individual words. Idioms are commonly used in everyday language and may not make sense if interpreted word-for-word. They often convey a particular idea, sentiment, or concept in a concise and memorable way.

Idioms are deeply ingrained in a language. And often culturally specific, reflecting the traditions, history, and values of a particular community. They add color, imagery, and nuance to speech, making conversations more interesting and expressive.

What Is An Idiom

For instance, the idiom “break a leg” if taken literally will mean that the speaker wants the other person to break their leg. But the phrase can be figuratively use to wish someone good luck. The words “break” and “leg” have a different meaning when used together in this specific context.

Idioms can be challenging for non-native speakers to understand because their meanings are not always obvious. To fully grasp idiomatic expressions, it’s important to learn their figurative meanings and how we can use them in different situations.

List of 20 Idioms Examples and Their Meanings

Now that we have explained what an idiom is, here are some common English idioms examples and their meanings.

  1. “Break a leg” – This idiom is used to wish someone good luck, especially before a performance or presentation.
  2. “Bite the bullet” – It means to face a difficult or unpleasant situation with courage and determination.
  3. “Hit the nail on the head” – It means to be exactly right or to say something that is precisely correct.
  4. “Kill two birds with one stone” – It means to accomplish two tasks or goals with a single action.
  5. “The ball is in your court” – This idiom means that it is now someone else’s turn to take action or make a decision.
  6. “Let the cat out of the bag” – It means to reveal a secret or disclose information that was meant to be kept hidden.

More Examples:

  1. “Spill the beans” – It means to reveal a secret or share information that was supposed to be kept confidential.
  2. “Break the ice” – This idiom means to initiate or start a conversation or social interaction in order to make people feel more comfortable.
  3. “Caught between a rock and a hard place” – It means to be in a difficult situation where there are no good options or choices.
  4. “On cloud nine” – This idiom is used to describe someone who is extremely happy or joyful.
  5. “A penny for your thoughts” – It means to ask someone to share their thoughts or opinions on something.
  6. “Actions speak louder than words” – This idiom means that what someone does is more important than what they say.
  7. “Beat around the bush” – It means to avoid addressing a topic directly or to speak in a vague or roundabout way.
  8. “A piece of cake” – This idiom means that something is very easy or effortless. For example, if someone says, “The exam was a piece of cake,” they mean that the exam was easy to complete.
  9. “Cost an arm and a leg” – People use this idiom to describe something that is very expensive. If someone says, “That designer handbag costs an arm and a leg,” they mean that the handbag is extremely pricey.

Long English Idioms Examples

  1. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” – This idiom means that it’s better to hold onto something you already have for certain rather than risk it for something that is uncertain and might be more desirable. It emphasizes the value of what is already in your possession.
  2. “To steal someone’s thunder” – This idiom means to take credit for or diminish someone else’s idea, plan, or achievement by doing or saying something similar or better. It refers to the act of taking away the attention or recognition that rightfully belongs to someone else.
  3. “To have a skeleton in the closet” – This idiom means to have a dark secret. Or embarrassing fact from the past that someone wants to keep hidden. It refers to an undisclosed or shameful aspect of a person’s life or history.’’
  4. “To have a bee in one’s bonnet” – This idiom means to be preoccupied or obsessed with a particular idea or topic. It suggests that someone is constantly thinking or talking about something, often to the point of annoyance.
  5. “To blow one’s own trumpet” – This idiom means to boast or promote oneself, often in an exaggerated or self-aggrandizing manner. It refers to someone who openly and proudly talks about their own accomplishments or abilities.

These are just a few examples of common English idioms. There are many more idioms used in the English language, each with its own unique meaning.

Examples of Sentences With Idioms

Here are some example sentences using idioms –

  • “Before a big audition, my drama teacher always told us to break a leg and have fun with it.”
  • “You have an exam tomorrow? Break a leg!”
  • “The music teacher wished the entire class to break a leg before the annual day performance.”
  • “Anne doesn’t know about her surprise party, so don’t let the cat out of the bag.”
  • “The mayor’s visit was to be kept strictly confidential. But someone must have let the cat out of the bag, because the airport was swarming with reporters.”
  • “I wish politicians would stop beating around the bush and provide clear answers to our questions.”
  • “My boss never gives me a straight answer; he always beats around the bush.”

We have only talked about some of the commonly used idioms in the English Language. As you get acquainted with the language, you will come across many other idioms. The best way to understand the meaning of an idiom is by trying to visualize the meaning of the phrase and understanding the context.


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