20 Most Common Idioms in English…and what they mean!

The English language is one of the vastest and most vivid languages in the world. It is made up of over 1.5 million words. Over and above that, the same word can have a variety of different meanings depending on the context it is put in; two (or more) words can have the exact same spelling but are pronounced differently, depending on their meanings.

Today’s article will mainly focus on those combinations of words which are commonly referred to as idioms or idiomatic expressions. It is important to point out that idioms use language in a non-literal (and sometimes metaphorical) way.

One of the most famous idioms, yet quite easy to understand!
This implies that ‘the meaning of the idiomatic expression cannot be deduced by looking at the meaning of the individual words that it is made up of’ (Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language, David Crystal). Another important feature to point out is that idioms are fixed, which means that people cannot just decide to make up their own.

The following is a list of some of the most widely-used idioms in everyday English and their meanings.

Idioms, can you guess their meanings? (Answers below)

  1. A penny for your thoughts
  2. Add insult to injury
  3. A hot potato
  4. Once in a blue moon
  5. Caught between two stools
  6. See eye to eye
  7. Hear it on the grapevine
  8. Miss the boat
  9. Kill two birds with one stone
  10. On the ball
  11. Cut corners
  12. To hear something straight from the horse’s mouth
  13. Costs an arm and a leg
  14. The last straw
  15. Take what someone says with a pinch of salt
  16. Sit on the fence
  17. The best of both worlds
  18. Put wool over other people’s eyes
  19. Feeling a bit under the weather
  20. Speak of the devil!

Meanings

  1. This idiom is used as a way of asking someone what they are thinking about.
  2. When people add insult to injury, they make a bad situation even worse.
  3. This idiom is used to speak of an issue (especially in current affairs) which many people are talking about.
  4. This is used when something happens very rarely.
  5. When someone finds it difficult to choose between two alternatives.
  6. This idiom is used to say that two (or more people) agree on something.
  7. This means ‘to hear a rumour’ about something or someone.
  8. This idiom is used to say that someone missed his or her chance at something.
  9. This means ‘to do two things at the same time’.
  10. When someone understands the situation well.
  11. When something is done badly to save money. For example, when someone buys products that are cheap but not of good quality.
  12. To hear something from the authoritative source.
  13. When something is very expensive.
  14. The final problem in a series of problems.
  15. This means not to take what someone says too seriously. There is a big possibility that what he/she says is only partly true.
  16. This is used when someone does not want to choose or make a decision.
  17. All the advantages.
  18. This means to deceive someone into thinking well of them.
  19. Feeling slightly ill.
  20. This expression is used when the person you have just been talking about arrives.

Courtesy of Elanguest Language School

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