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University Writing Center

Idioms

  1. cost an arm and a leg = to cost a grant deal; very expensive
  2. crocodile tears = to cry make- believe tears; fake grief
  3. bark up the wrong tree = look for something in the wrong place
  4. break the ice = to dissolve reserve among people
  5. bring down the house = to applaud wildly
  6. bring home the bacon =to be the financial support of a family
  7. climb on the bandwagon = join a popular cause
  8. face the music =confront something difficult or unpleasant
  9. feeling under the weather = not feeling well; slightly ill
  10. fly off the handle = to suddenly loose self-control; sudden anger
  11. go off half cocked = to speak or do something hastily/unprepared
  12. jump the gun = to start before something is ready; false start
  13. kick the bucket = to die
  14. know the ropes = to know all the details
  15. left holding the bag = to be blamed for something other were also involved in
  16. let the cat of the bag= to give away a secret, usually without meaning to
  17. once in a blue moon = extremely rare; almost never
  18. paint the town red = celebrate; go out on the town
  19. pulling one’s leg = to joke with someone
  20. put the cart before the horse = to get the order of things reservsed
  21. rain cats and dogs = to rain hard, usually with thunder and lightening
  22. rake over the coals = to scold severely
  23. rub the wrong way = to annoy
  24. rule the roost = to be in charge
  25. sour grapes = the idea that when something desired is unattainable, we comfort ourselves that we wouldn’t have liked it anyway
  26. spill the beans = tell something prematurely
  27. split hairs = to argue over trivial differences
  28. stab in the back = to deliver a cowardly blow against a person’s character by one who was thought to be a friend
  29. stick one’s neck out = to risk being hurt, or to volunteer for something that might have a bad ending
  30. straight from the horse’s mouth = to hear something directly from the ghies authority
  31. take the bull by the horn = to face an unpleasant, difficult , or dangerous situation with as much courage as possible
  32. the sky’s the limit = there is no limit
  33. upset the apple cart = to ruin one’s carefully laid plans
  34. wild goose chase = a vain and meaningless pursuit
  35. with a grain of salt = to be taken with skepticism or doubt
Updated 7.10.2012