Idioms

Learn idioms with comprehensive meaning, examples and origin details.

Idioms

blood is thicker than water

blood is thicker than water

Meaning

  • family relations and bonds are closer than other relationships
  • people who are related have stronger bonds with each other than with others
  • blood relations are more important than other kinds of relations

Example Sentences

  1. When you get into trouble, usually your family will be the ones to bail you out, not your friends. After all, blood is thicker than water.
  2. My friends are going for a camping trip during the weekend, but I have to help my brother with his shifting. Blood is thicker than water, you know.
  3. I had to choose between attending my cousin’s and friend’s wedding, which were on the same day, and I chose my cousin’s. Blood is thicker than water, after all.
  4. When his sister was going through a difficult period and needed support, he dropped everything and went to stand by her; blood is thicker than water.

Origin
This phrase is an old one and was used in various forms. It existed in other languages also, with the earliest probable reference being in the 12th century in German. In English, there have been references in 1412 and 1670. In the present form, it was first found in the novel “Guy Mannering” in 1815 by Sir Walter Scott.

close, but no cigar

close, but no cigar

Meaning

  • be very close to accomplishing a goal but fall short
  • almost successful in doing something, but not quite
  • fall just short of a desired outcome, and get nothing for the efforts
  • nearly, but not completely correct

Example Sentences

  1. You did quite well for someone who was playing for the first time. You attempt for close, but no cigar.
  2. Close, but no cigar; is how I would describe his attempt at the sports event in our locality.
  3. “How did your team do in the tournament?” “Close, but no cigar; we came second.”
  4. Despite all his attempts at winning the competition, he could never quite do it. It was always close, but no cigar.
  5. The team’s performance in the contest was close, but no cigar.
  6. He had always wanted to win that prize and on numerous occasions had been close, but no cigar. This time, though, he managed to win it.
  7. They didn’t quite catch him doing it. They were close, but no cigar.

Origin
The phrase originated in the US during the mid 20th century. It alludes to the practice of stalls at fairgrounds and carnivals giving out cigars as prizes. This phrase would be used for those who were close to winning a prize, but failed to do so.

chow down

chow down

Meaning

  • to eat something, usually quickly or vigorously
  • eat greedily or without good manners
  • eat heartily
  • sit down to eat

Example Sentences

  1. Is the food ready yet? I am hungry and ready to chow down all you have got.
  2. At the end of a long trek, we were all hungry and ready to chow down whatever was offered for dinner.
  3. Chow down man! Once we start our journey you will not get anything to eat for almost four to five hours.
  4. He was very busy that day and chowed down his lunch in five minutes before rushing off to attend to his work.
  5. The stray dog was skinny and looked famished, and when I threw my half eaten sandwich at him, he chowed it down in no time.
  6. The food looks delicious! Let’s chow down without wasting any time.
  7. Eager to go out and play with his friends, the little boy chowed down his food and ran off outside.

Origin
The term Chow is a slag for food and has origins in Chinese and pidgin English and has been used since the mid 19th century. The phrase “chow down” originated in the USA sometime around the World War II and was a military slang for eating. The earliest printed record is found in “The Hammond Times” from December 1942.

beat around the bush

beat around the bush

also beat about the bush

Meaning

  • avoid talking about the main topic
  • not speaking directly or precisely
  • avoid the important point
  • approach indirectly
  • in a roundabout way, or too cautiously
  • speak in a roundabout, indirect or misleading way

Example Sentences

  1. Will you please stop beating about the bush and get to the point?
  2. When I asked George whether he knew who had taken the files from my desk, he started beating around the bush and refused to give me a direct answer.
  3. Don’t beat around the bush and tell me frankly what you think of my proposition.
  4. I know this discussion is an uncomfortable one, but instead of beating about the bush, let’s come to the point and get over with it.
  5. Quit beating around the bush and tell me what you really want.
  6. You will have to learn to speak clearly about what you want. You won’t get anywhere if you keep beating around the bush.
  7. Why can’t you get straight to the point instead of beating around the bush?

Origin
The origin of this phrase lies in medieval hunting. During bird hunts, some participants would rouse the birds by beating the bushes so that the others could hunt them. The phrase is a very old and the first written reference is from a medieval poem “Generydes – A Romance in Seven-line Stanzas” in 1440, which mentions “beat the bush”. The earliest version which has “about” in it is found in “Works” by George Gascoigne in 1572. The UK version of the phrase is “beat about the bush”, while the American version is “beat around the bush” and is newer and more popular today.

all Greek to me

all Greek to me

Meaning

  • used to convey that you cannot understand what is being said or written
  • something meaningless and incomprehensible to you
  • something that you do not understand

Example Sentences

  1. Don’t try to explain the technicalities of how this machine works; it would be all Greek to me.
  2. He tried to explain the rules of the game to me, but it was all Greek to me.
  3. My friends were having a discussion about the future if the financial markets, but it was all Greek to me.
  4. My wife and brother both work in the IT industry, and when they start with their technical talk, it’s all Greek to me.
  5. I tried reading that science journal, but it was all Greek to me.

Origin
The earliest references to this phrase is from medieval Latin. In the Middle Ages, use of Greek was dwindling and scribes who had difficulty translating Greek text would write “Graecum est, non legitur” or “Graecum est, non potest legi” (It is Greek; it cannot be read). The phrase entered modern English when Shakespeare used it in his play Julius Caesar in 1599. Initially it was used in the literal sense, where a person who did not know Greek would say it, but later it came to be used for anything unintelligible.

all bark and no bite

all bark and no bite

Meaning

  • threatening, aggressive, but not willing to engage in a fight
  • full of talk, but low on action
  • talk that is more impressive than one can actually do

Example Sentences

  1. I heard he has threatened you with dire consequences if you don not stop that construction. Don’t worry, he is all bark and no bite.
  2. He looks rough and dangerous, somewhat like a gangster and talks tough, but he is all bark and no bite.
  3. Jimmy goes on about how he would have done things better had he been in someone else’s place. but he is all bark and no bite.
  4. He has threatened me that he will break my leg if I ever go near his house again, but I guess he is all bark and no bite.
  5. He has these grand plans of being an entrepreneur and owning a big business, but he never takes any action. He is all bark and no bite.
  6. His manager had threatened to fire him if he came late again, but did not care much. He knew it was all bark and no bite.
  7. You had said that you would call the police if those people harassed you again, but you didn’t. You’re all bark and no bite.

Origin
The origin of the phrase is not know, but it refers to dogs which bark a lot but do not bite. A different form of the phrase “a barking dog seldom/never bites”

toss-up

toss-up

Meaning

  • a situation where the result is unclear and can go either way
  • a situation where two or more possibilities are equally likely
  • an unpredictable situation where either option is possible

Example Sentences

  1. They had a tough time selecting the team for the big match. In the end, it was a toss-up between having the most experienced players and having a youthful team full of raw energy.
  2. I still have not decided which phone I am going to buy. I guess it is going to be  toss-up between the two new launches by the top two companies.
  3. The final was going to be a toss-up between two evenly matched teams, both of which had equal chances of winning.
  4. The election is going to be a toss-up between those two candidates, as both of them seem to have a sizable amount of support.
  5. They are yet to decide on who will get the top job. Most probably it will be a toss-up between the two of of them.

Origin
This phrase was first used in 1812. It refers to the actual act of tossing a coin and guessing which side it will land on, and making a decision based on that. This practice makes the event unpredictable and both outcomes are equally possible.

a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

Meaning

  • what you already have is more valuable than the prospect to have something greater
  • it is better to be content with you have than risk losing it by trying to get something better
  • it is better to have something small but certain rather than the mere possibility of a  greater one

Example Sentences

  1. You may not like your job, but don’t quit merely on the hope of finding a better one. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  2. I might have got a better offer if I had waited for some more time, but I decided to take the one I had. After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  3. He decided against selling off his small business for the prospects of starting a bigger one. He realized that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  4. Do not put your life’s savings into risky investments in the hope of higher returns. You may lose everything. Don’t you know, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Origin
This proverb has its origins in medieval falconry, where a bird (falcon) in hand was more valuable than two in the bush (the prey). The earliest known usage in English is in the 15th century in “The Life of St Katherine” by John Capgrave. In its exact current form, the first use was in 1670 in “A Hand-book of Proverbs” by John Ray. Variations and alternatives of the proverb, with the same meaning, are found since ancient times.

ask out

ask out

Meaning

  • invite someone to go out, especially on a date
  • invite someone to a social engagement
  • invite someone to go out socially, especially in order to start a romantic relationship
  • ask someone to go on a date

Example Sentences

  1. When he finally asked her out, she readily accepted, and very soon they were dating on a regular basis.
  2. Tom had asked Sue out for dinner, but she declined, saying she had other plans.
  3. Realizing that he was too shy to ask her out, she took it upon herself and asked him out for a movie and dinner afterwards.
  4. It was evident that she had feelings for him, and when asked her out, she could not say no, even though she had planned to be with her friends.
  5. She had asked Jim out for a date and they really enjoyed each other’s company.
  6. He said that he had asked her out several times, but she was simply not interested and refused every time.
  7. My friend asked us out for dinner to celebrate the success of his new venture.
  8. She said she would ask him out for lunch and discuss the plans with him then.

Origin
This phrase originated around the late 1800s.

end of story

end of story

Meaning

  • there is  nothing more to add to the matter under discussion
  • the discussion is complete, nothing more to be said
  • said to emphasize that what is said is true there is no other possibility to change it
  • there is no more to be said

Example Sentences

  1. I did not invite her because I did not want her to come to my party. End of story.
  2. The bottom line is that they refused to extend our contract and did not pay us our dues. End of story.
  3. He said that he quit his job because he did not want to work in that company; end of story.
  4. I don’t believe that he did all those bad things they are saying he did, end of story.
  5. If you do not come on time for the early morning camping trip, we will leave without you, end of story.
  6. If you let go of this excellent opportunity, you will never get another one as good as this; end of story.
  7. If you do  not improve soon, you are going to lose your job, end of story.
  8. You took the decision, you have to stick to it. End of story.

Origin
This phrase originated in the USA.

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