40 Commonly Used and Popular English Idioms

commonly used popular english idioms eduhyme

An idiom is a phrase whose meaning isn’t obvious from looking at the individual words. They have developed over time and so they might seem random to you.

Idioms often rely on analogies and metaphors. The key to understanding English idioms is never to look at them or read them in a literal sense—the words just won’t make sense together.

Instead, you need to learn them in context so you can understand their true meaning. Idioms are used constantly in the English language, both at work as well as at home, and are key for language progression.

In many countries such as United States or United Kingdom, you’ll certainly come across your fair share of English expressions, idioms, and proverbs. Some of the most common expressions in English sound profound, while others sound silly and darn right outlandish.

While they can seem strange at first, especially if you consider their literal meanings, you’ll soon find that they play a big role in the English language.

If you’re taking the TOEFL or IELTS exam, or just want to know more common idioms, read this list of 40 commonly used English Idioms before you take the test. They may just help your English language acquisition much better.

1. A blessing in disguise
Meaning: A good thing that initially seemed bad

2. A dime a dozen
Meaning: Something that is very common, not unique

3. Adding insult to injury
Meaning: To make a bad situation even worse

4. Beat around the bush
Meaning: Avoid sharing your true viewpoint or feelings because it is uncomfortable

5. Beating a dead horse
Meaning: giving time or energy to something that is ended or over

6. Bite the bullet
Meaning: To get an unfavorable situation or chore over with now because it will need to get finished eventually

7. Best of both worlds
Meaning: The choice or solution has all of the advantages of two contrasting things at the same time

8. Biting off more than you can chew
Meaning: Not having the capacity to take on a new assignment or task that is just too taxing

9. By the skin of your teeth
Meaning: Just barely making it

10. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Meaning: Not judging something by its initial appearance

11. Doing something at the drop of a hat
Meaning: Doing something at the moment of being asked

12. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
Meaning: Not to count on something happening until after it’s already happened

13. Caught between a rock and a hard place
Meaning: Making a choice between two unpleasant choices

14. Costs an arm and a leg
Meaning: Something that is overpriced or very expensive

15. Cutting corners
Meaning: Not performing a task or duty correctly in order to save time or money

16. Devil’s advocate
Meaning: To take the side of the counter-argument, or offer an alternative point of view

17. Feeling under the weather
Meaning: Not feeling well, or feeling sick

18. Fit as a fiddle
Meaning: Being in good health

19. Getting a taste of your own medicine
Meaning: Being treated the way that you have been treating others

20. Getting a second wind
Meaning: Having energy again after being tired

21. Giving the benefit of the doubt
Meaning: Believing someone’s story without proof even though it may seem unbelievable

22. Giving someone the cold shoulder
Meaning: ignoring someone

23. Going on a wild goose chase
Meaning: doing something that is pointless

24. Heard it on the grapevine
Meaning: Hearing rumors about someone or something

25. Hitting the nail on the head
Meaning: Performing a task with exactness

26. Killing two birds with one stone
Meaning: Accomplishing two different tasks in the same undertaking

27. Letting someone off the hook
Meaning: Not holding someone responsible for something

28. Letting the cat out of the bag
Meaning: Sharing information that was intended to be a secret

29. No pain, no gain
Meaning: You have to work hard in order to see results

30. On the ball
Meaning: Doing a good job, being prompt, or being responsible

31. Once in a blue moon
Meaning: Something that doesn’t happen very often

32. Piece of cake
Meaning: A task or job that is easy to complete

33. Pulling someone’s leg
Meaning: Joking with someone

34. Speak of the devil
Meaning: When the person you have just been talking about arrives

35. Stealing someone’s thunder
Meaning: Taking credit for someone else’s achievements

36. Straight from the horse’s mouth
Meaning: Reading or hearing something from the source

37. The last straw
Meaning: The last difficulty or annoyance that makes the entire situation unbearable

38. The elephant in the room
Meaning: An issue, person, or problem that someone is trying to avoid

39. Throwing caution to the wind
Meaning: Being reckless or taking a risk

40. Your guess is as good as mine
Meaning: To not know something

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