Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

Includes questions related to distinct vocabularies used by a group of people such as physicians use medical terminology; also includes words, terms and phrases that are deemed inappropriate for a formal setting.

Books and Literature
Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What idioms are in the book nothing but the truth?

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Literary Devices and Figures of Speech

What are some examples of idioms?

Here are some of the more common idioms :

  1. Piece of cake - easy
  2. Under the weather - not feeling well
  3. Keep your chin up* - be brave
  4. Butterflies in your stomach - nervous
  5. All thumbs - clumsy
  6. Slip of the tongue - verbal error
  7. Slap on the wrist* - mild punishment
  8. Spill the beans - to tell something that was supposed to be secret
  9. At wit's end - frustrated until you can't think of anything else to do

*these may not be considered actual idioms, because they reflect an action taken that would clearly indicate the meaning of the phrase. The hallmark of an idiom is that it does not mean what it says.

(see the related friendus and links, especially the lists of idioms and their meanings)

What is an Idiom

An idiom, or idiomatic expression, is a phrase or term whose meaning cannot be guessed from a literal definition of the words. The phrase seems to make sense if you look up the individual words, but other people seem to mean something totally different when they say it, or the phrase makes no sense along with the rest of the conversation.

There are really two types of idioms:

1) Expressions whose literal meanings are nonsensical and do not mean their figurative meanings, such as "The police informant spilled the beans," "It's 100 miles away as the crow flies," "John sounded serious but said it tongue in cheek," "At the party, Jane made a long speech off the cuff," "The cops were on a fishing expedition for evidence";

2) Short phrases that have peculiar syntax and word usage, usually involving prepositions. Examples include: "The remote control is in back of the couch," "When the bell rang, Bob answered the door," "I had to look up the word in the dictionary," "Mary doesn't get along with her sister," "We proceeded with our plans in spite of the weather."

Why Idioms Are Confusing

In the English language expression 'to kick the bucket', for example, a listener knowing only the meaning of kick and bucket would be unable to deduce the expression's actual meaning, which is to die.

Although it can refer literally to the act of striking a specific bucket with a foot, native speakers rarely use it that way. It cannot be directly translated to other languages - for example, the same expression in Polish is to kick the calendar, with the calendar being as detached from its usual meaning as the bucket in the English phrase is. The same expression in Dutch is het loodje leggen (to lay the piece of lead), which is entirely different from the English expression, too.

It is estimated that William Shakespeare coined over 2,000 idioms still in use today.

Idioms hence tend to confuse those not already familiar with them; students of a new language must learn its idiomatic expressions the way they learn its other vocabulary. In fact many natural language words have idiomatic origins, but have been sufficiently assimilated so that their figurative senses have been lost.

A Long Answer (contains many idioms you can look up)

Any Tom, Dick or Harry could answer this question, and what I mean by any Tom, Dick or Harry is any answerer here on Wikifriendus, as idiomatic expressions are a dime a dozen, here in the English language and what I mean by a dime a dozen is that there are more idioms in the English language than you can shake a stick at. First, before we start listing idiomatic expressions as if it were some kind of blow by blowdescription, it is best, as a rule of thumb, to understand what idioms or an idiomatic expression is. I should however point out that the idiom that you can shake a stick at means a whole lot and blow by blow means detailed description and a rule of thumb is common sense knowledge passed down to us since time immemorial. Now, to define idiom or idiomatic expression let's just start by calling a spade a spade and by that I mean let's be frank about it...I mean, what is an idiom really but a clever or hackneyed way to cut to the chase and by that I mean get to the point. Now then, what was my point? Oh right, idiom defined! Idioms are words that when used together do not mean the same thing as separately defined. In other words, idioms are like the dog and pony show of language because when you think about it, what do things like dog eat dog or better to dance with the devil you know or discretion is the better part of valor really mean when they are simply quaint idiomatic expressions that reveal lots of style without any obligation of substance?

Of course, that is not to say that we don't really live in a dog eat dog world where it's every man for themselves and when you are stuck in that sort of a situation I suppose it is better to dance with the devil you do know than the devil you don't and of course, if you're dancing with devils discretion is most certainly the better part of valor and reticence truly divine. All I am saying is that what real purpose do idioms provide other than decorating one's thoughts? Garnishing our ideas with familiar expressions can oftentimes be a double edged sword, and by that I mean the expressions should be used to better communicate your ideas and not to further confuse the issue. Especially if the idiom is misused. For example, if you are debating an issue with someone and they point to an error in your argument, if you respond by saying: "Point given" instead of the familiar expression point taken, it should be clear the confusion that would follow. Can you imagine if someone said: "It's better to dance with devils than someone you know" how that might be a little confusing? I'll tell you what, you can bet your bottom dollar that if someone said that to me I would be more than just confused and would try to drive home the point that they were mixing their metaphors or illegally interpreting their idioms.

Look, I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, or burst their bubbles, and if people want to go through life wearing rose colored glasses that's fine by me, but I would argue that if you are going to use an idiomatic expression you should first know and understand exactly what it is you are saying by saying it that way. I'm not saying you should have to rack your brain analyzing every word or idiom you utter, but are you sure when you are using these idiomatic expressions that you know what you're talking about? If you don't and you use an idiom inappropriately you are likely to raise some eyebrows and may even find yourself being raked over the coals and by that I mean taken to task for your misappropriation of idiomatic expressionism. When using idioms people shouldn't have to read between the lines in order to discern what you meant by using that idiom. It is better to be on the same page with the people you are communicating to when using idioms. All I am saying is that at the end of the day it is better to wake up and smell the coffee than to eat your humble pie.


(see the related questions and links below)

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

How many items are in 'a baker's dozen'?

A baker's dozen contains 13 items. It originated as a practice among bakers in 13th century England, when strict laws could have lead to a baker getting his hand chopped off for trying to shortchange a customer. The term stems from the baker's tradition of adding one more to a dozen as lagniappe (a 'Cajun word meaning "a little extra").

During the reign of Henry III (r. 1216-1272), a law was passed called the Assize of Bread and Ale. Bakers who were found to have shortchanged customers could be liable to severe punishment. To guard against the punishment of losing a hand to an axe, a baker would give 13 for the price of 12, to be certain of not being known as a cheat.
A baker's dozen is thirteen.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What is the Cassandra Effect?

The Cassandra Effect (or Syndrome or Metaphor) has its roots in Greek mythology. Cassandra was the daughter of the king of Troy, and the god Apollo gave her the ability of prophecy. She, however, angered the god, and he turned her gift into a curseβ€”she could see the future, but no one would believe her. Subsequently, when she tried to warn the Trojans not to accept the mysterious giant horse left outside their gates, they didn't listen, which, of course, had disastrous consequences.

So Cassandra's myth is invoked in the present day whenever someone made a prediction that turned out to be correct, but no one believed them. It's also sometimes used in psychology to describe the feelings of people whose accounts of distressing events aren't believed.

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Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

Where do you find examples of idioms and their meanings?

You can use a dictionary of slang and idioms, you can look online using a search engine, or you can check out the Wikifriendus related questions below!

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Famous Quotations

What is the meaning of the saying 'don't count your chickens before they are hatched'?

Don't assume that you will get something. Wait until you actually have it.

It means to not plan something out and act as if it is going to happen, as it might not go through or it might go wrong.

It's saying don't expect the ideal conditions for something to happen in the future; like if you have many eggs don't state they will all hatch because normally the ideal condition (all the eggs growing to healthy chickens) will not occur, and a dozen eggs could produce less than 12 chicks, etc.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What does it mean to have an animal put down?

This is a socially acceptable euphemism for euthanizing, or humanely killing, an animal. It is perfomed by a veterinarian for medical reasons - terminally ill, uncontrollable pain, loss of quality of life, etc.

It means to humanely put them to sleep, when they reach the point where their quality of life has declined to "zero" or very near that. It is considered an act of loving mercy in the case of pets.


It's an euphemism for sacrificing an animal (as 'put to sleep' is).


It involves injecting them with a high dose of ketamine.

It means to euthanize the animal. Which is a humane method of ending an animal's life. Euthanasia means good death and a good death would occur with minimal or no pain and distress to the animal. The main and humane reasons why animals are put down are of painful old age; worsening or untreatable sickness; and painful, incurable, or expensive diseases or disorders.

To put the animal into a forever sleep by using an injection of an overdose of sedation. A Veterinarian will "put" a dog down if he or she is sick and there is no chance of it healing. Or a dog may be put down due to bad temperament, etc. In other words, to "Put down" a dog means ending its life.

to kill it. most of the time because its either terminally ill or dangerous

Entertainment & Arts
Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What does christ on a cracker mean?

An English idiom that represents surprise.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What does it mean if your lip keeps jumping?

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What does the term Rabbit Hole mean?

"Down the Rabbit Hole" means going on an unknown adventure.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Song Meanings

What does phrase dusted and disgusted mean?

Dusted and Disgusted is a song, well, a rap song, from E-40 featuring Tupac Shakur. Dusted and disgusted tells a story of how women can't be trusted and how disgusted the singer is with them and how he dusts those that cross him. To dust someone is to kill them. So, it's not an idiom, per se, but a song lyric.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What is the meaning of piece mill?

It's piecemeal - to do a job in small steps or pieces instead of all at once.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Prefixes Suffixes and Root Words

What is the prefix of potent?

omni im

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Acronyms & Abbreviations

What does FOB loyalty stand for?

Foward Operating Base Loyalty - an operating base on the east side of Baghdad in 9-Nissan, South of Sadr City

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

Where does the expression get off the stick and get it done come from?

Could mean . stop resting on the shovel handle or spear and get to work.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Internet Slang

Is bbs text slang for babes?

No, it actually means 'Be Back Soon' ie.

User1: g2g bbs asap (Got to go be back soon, as soon as possibe)

User2: kk ttyl (okay talk to you later)

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Rock Music
Jazz Music

Who sings some things will never change?

The line shows up in the song "The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby and the Range.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Word Games

What are common phrases using the word page?

"Class, turn to page <number here> in your textbook."

New Testament
Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

Why is old age called second childhood?

Old age is called "second childhood" because as we age our bodies tend to shut down and not function as they once did. When we are babies we need to be fed, dress, bathed and taken care of in every form and fashion. When we are elderly we have the same type of need for a caregiver. We often end up wearing (adult) diapers, and sometimes dont have teeth (like a baby). We have accidents and sometimes have trouble communicating and sometimes even have to be wheeled around in a wheel chair (like a baby in a carriage). So if u look, there really are alot of parallels between our first childhood and our "second childhood."

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What is the meaning of 'head over heels'?

Usually the phrase "head over heels" is used to express the thought of someone having fallen deeply in love, sometimes quickly. Sometimes it is used about other things that a person is extremely enthusiastic about.

Heels-over-head, the original term, means falling in love or being so in love you do cartwheels etc....putting your heels over your head
Head over heals means that you are so in love that you feel like turning a cartwheel (with first your head and then your heels being on top).

Hobbies & Collectibles
Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What is the meaning of Spring has sprung?

It basically means that spring has begun

Literature and Language
Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What is the meaning of you love to hog on?

Hog is defined as a selfish or very dirty person, or is slang for a large motorcycle. An example of a hog is someone eating the last of the food, their third helping, before others have had a chance to have any of the food. An example of a hog is a Harley-Davidson.
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Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Famous Quotations

What does a watched kettle or pot never do?

Boil, or so it seems.


Yes, that's true. As a saying it means time passes more slowly if you just passively wait for something to happen. If you are active and involved,

time will fly.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Job Training and Career Qualifications

Is geography jack of all trades and master of none?

Yes - just look a the University courses they teach, even at top ones like Exeter Uni. Historical geography, biological geography, ethnic geography - even the simple language and knowledge they use in lectures is shocking. In a recent 3rd year module 'Gender and Geography' at Exeter, in the 3rd lecture the following quote was given in trying help the students understand identity:

"Identity is our understanding of who we are and of who other people are, and, reciprocally, other peopleβ€Ÿs understanding of themselves and of others (which includes us)" - Jenkins, 2004 P.5.

Without studying either gender or geography, I think we all knew that really, if we thought really, really hard.

Again, in a 3rd year module named 'Postcolonial geography' the lecture analyses the role of Chicken Tikka in British culture:

"Chicken Tikka is an Indian dish. The Massala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy"

You see the level of depth they go into here.

So yes, a BA geography degree is a waste of time, and is certainly a 'jack of all trades, master of none'. It hardly seems a step up from GCSE level in all honesty. But hey, now we all know that Chicken Tikka is an Indian dish!!

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English Language
Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What is the meaning of country brute?

The literal meaning of country brute is "a beast found in rural or wilderness areas," such as a cow or a wolf. Figuratively, it could mean a large or an uncivil rural person.


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