Most Common English Idioms And Phrases

15 Most Common English Idioms And Phrases

Every language has its uniqueness and perks that makes it fun to learn. Idioms are types of phrases that you cannot understand by its literal meaning. The fact that idioms do not literally mean what they say, make them different from phrases. 

If you learn about the meaning of a popular idiom, you are likely to forget about it after sometime. But if you also learn about the interesting background information about the origin of the saying, you are bound to be more intrigued and remember it for a longer time. Hence, without further ado, let’s jump into it!

1. “Archilles Heel”- It means a weak spot or a vulnerable point for someone. 

Origin: It comes from Greek mythology. Thetis, a mythological character, dipped her son Achilles in the Styx river. The river was the source of enormous power. But she was holding her son by the heels hence, the heels did not gain the power and later Thetis was killed by a shot to his heels. 

Example: It will be difficult to find his Archilles Heel, but it is not impossible.

2. “Read the riot act”- It means giving someone a strong warning so that they improve their behavior.

Origin: The riot act was a legal document belonging to the 18th century England. It was read infront of people who were going against the law. An officer would read the act and order them to remove themselvesfrom the gathering. Otherwise it resulted in arrest for the rioters. 

Example: This is the last time I am reading the riot act. You will not get a second chance. 

3. “Run Amok.”- It is a figure of speech that means that someone is behaving dangerously and unpredictably.

Origin: It comes from ‘amoq’ a Malaysian word describing bizarre tribesmen who were on drugs. They would attack people and were dangerous.

Example: After he was expelled, he ran amok. 

4. “The Whole Nine Yards.”- Go through all options thoroughly 

Origin: In the Second World War, there were pilots who would have nine yards of chain ammunition. When they used their ammunition, they would empty the entire ammunition.

Example: I am ready to use the whole nine yards to win the competition.

5. “Resting On laurels.”- A sentence meaning that one is sufficiently so satisfied with themselves that they do not put in any more effort. 

Origin: In the ancient Greece, the branches of laurel plant were made into crowns. It represented victory and success. The term ‘laureate’ comes from the word ‘laurels.’ Hence, people who are unjustly satisfied with themselves are said to be resting on laurels.

Example: Being so rich and pampered, she always rested on laurels. 

6. “A load of cobblers.”- Nonsense

Origin: People used it as slang. Shoemakers use awls which is a tool to pierce holes in the leather. Now, awls rhymes with ‘balls’ or the slang for testicles. 

Example: The recent attack on the club was a load of cobblers.

7. “Silver Lining”- All negative things have a positive side

Origin: The poet, John Milton used the quote directly in one of his plays. It later caught on and became popular.

Example: There is a silver lining to all our misery. 

8. “Let someone’s hair down.”- It means to behave in an easy manner.

Origin: It comes from Parisian nobles who used to wear elaborate hairstyles which were huge. It took hours to accomplish those up-dos. Hence, at the end of the day, when they opened them to relaxed, they let their hair down.

Example: I am going to let down my hair in this vacation.

9. “White elephant.”-If someone has anexpensive and/ oruseless item in possession it is called a white elephant.

Origin: White elephants were sacred creature in Thailand. Since they were hard to take care of, they would gift them to their enemies as a form of punishment. 

Example: The investment in the jet skies turned out to become a white elephant.

10. “Give the cold shoulder.”- Be deliberately unfriendly

Origin: The system or ritual where the host of the feast or gala in medieval times would give a cold piece of meat to their guests as a sign that they should leave.

Example: I would never deliberately give the cold shoulder to anyone.

11. “Show Your True Colors.”- Reveal one’s true intentions or identity

Origin: In the olden days, warships would use multiple flags to confuse their enemies, but they had to reveal their original flag during battle.

Example: She showed her true colors after the teacher left.

12. “Wake up on the wrong side of the bed.”- Start the day in a bad way.

Origin: Historic people believed that the left side of the bed was evil. Hence they tried to avoid it.

Example: The day is going terribly for me since I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

13. “Butter someone up”- Flatter someone for personal benefit. 

Origin: Ancient Indians threw butter at the statues of gods to seek a favor.

Example: He buttered up his boss real good to skip the afternoon session. 

14. “Put a sock in it.”- Stop talking.

Origin: In the 19th century, people would use socks to gramophones to lower the sound since there were no volume controllers.

15. “Let the cat out of the bag.”- Reveal a secret by mistake.

Origin: Farmers who were supposed to sell pigs would replace them for cats wrapped in a bag. If the cat accidentally got out, they would be revealed. 

Example: Since the cat is out of the bag, let us discuss it again.

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