Idioms and Phrases

Learn idioms with comprehensive meaning, examples and origin details.


Idioms beginning with D

dab hand

a dab hand at

Meaning and Synonyms:
- expert
- adept at
- one skillful at
- a person who is an expert at a particular activity
- someone specially skilled at a task

The noun phrase a dab hand, is usually followed by at.

1. My friend was too weak in all computer studies, but now he’s become a dab hand at Internet and Software.
2. Try one spoon of this pasta and you’ll agree she is a dab hand at making great Italian foods.
3. George is a dab hand at tennis, he always in this game.
4. Barbara is a dab hand at chopping onions fast and without tears.
5. For our new car garage, we are required a experienced mechanic who is a dab hand at engine repairing.
6. My 4 years old son is amazingly a dab hand at using mobile phones.
7. If you want to be a dab hand at chess you need to work hard.
8. Practice makes it perfect, keep practicing, you will be a dab hand at playing guitars one day.
9. I am a dab hand in touch typing on computer keyboard and typewriters more than you do on mobile phones to send texts.

Great Britain, [1950-60s]

Dab hand apparently originated as Yorkshire dialect pre-1800, but didn’t become widely used in Britain until the 1950s, according to a Google Ngram. Following a familiar pattern, it peaked in Britain in about 1990, while U.S. use continues to rapidly increase (though it’s still used less than half as often here as there).

The first recorded use of dab by itself in a related sense is in the Athenian Mercury of 1691. It’s also in the Dictionary of the Canting Crew of 1698-99: a dab there is “an exquisite expert” in some form of roguery.

Dab Synonyms:
- daub, wipe, touch lightly, pat, small amount, bit, blob.

Hand Synonyms:
- give, hand over, pass, offer, tender, supply, furnish, dispense.

dirt cheap

dirt cheap

- very cheap
- almost free
- at an extremely low cost
- quite inexpensive

1. Its quite a useful book, but luckily I could buy it dirt cheap at a junk shop.
2. Take few more of those water colors for painting they’re dirt cheap.
3. In United Kingdom, the carrots are dirt cheap.
4. Outsourcing sounds a great deal to earn money here in India, but for the people of western world it is dirt cheap.
5. The SUV truck required a huge mechanical job work, but still it was dirt-cheap.
6. I bought this welding machine dirt cheap but not working the way I want, a bad idea.
7. Don’t buy these dirt cheap electronic equipment, they are useless.

1815–25, America.
Although the idea dates back to ancient times, the precise expression, literally meaning “as cheap as dirt,” replaced the now obsolete dog cheap. [Early 1800s]

Dirt Synonyms:
grime, filth, mud, dust, muck, soil, earth, clay.

Cheap Synonyms:
inexpensive, contemptible, despicable, low priced, economical, discounted, not expensive, shameful.

devil may care


- very casual attitude
- worry-free or carefree attitude
- reckless
- defiant
- relaxed and not worried about the results of your actions

1. The opening batsman’s devil-may-care approach may ruin his chances of securing a permanent in the team.
2. She had a rather devil-may-care attitude towards money which impressed me at the time.
3. You must get rid of your devil-may-care attitude if you want to succeed.
4. Jane acts so uncaring with her devil-may-care manner.
5. He has a rather devil-may-care attitude to his studies.

First uses of this idioms was found in about 1765-95. But we do not have correct original details of this idiom, if you do, please post in comment below.

careless, reckless, cavalier, unconcerned, free and easy, inattentive, rash, happy-to-go, heedless, foolhardy, easygoing, nonchalant.

de facto

de facto

- existing in fact
- although not necessarily intended
- legal or accepted
- in reality or fact
- actually

1. English is de facto the common language of much of the world today.
2. Ronny has established himself as the de facto leader of the party.

A de facto situation is one which exists or is true although it has not been officially accepted or agreed (always before noun).

[1595–1605; < Latin: literally, from the fact]

de jure

de jure

- having a right or existence as stated by law
- according to law
- by right

1. The president aims to create a de jure one-party state.
2. According to the law politicians and kings, de jure leaders of men.
3. “Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights and justice for America’s black victims of de jure and de facto discrimination.” – Bill Maxwell; To Honor King, Live Up to Him; St. Petersburg Times (Florida); Jan 17, 2010.
4. De jure recognition of the new government
5. Lawfully, a practice may be in place de jure but the people may not obey or observe the contract.
6. Women de jure equality may be an accepted truth but the reality is that women don’t enjoy equality in many spheres of life.

De jure (in traditional Latin de iure) is an idiom that means “regarding law”, as compared with de facto, which means “in fact”. The expressions de jure and de facto are used as an alternative of “in law” and “in practice”, respectively, when one is explaining political or lawful state of affairs.

down in the dumps

down in the dumps

- a gloomy
- unhappy
- sad
- in low spirits
- in melancholy mood
- in depressed state of mind
- lacking engagement or enthusiasm.

1. As the things were not going well for her at work, she was feeling a bit down in the dumps.
2. Little Jon is down in the dumps because all her friends are gone away with their parents
3. She’s a bit down in the dumps because she’s got to take her exams again.
4. Carl now always remains down in the dumps because of the diabetes.
5. My cat got fever today and she is not playing but feeling down in the dumps.
6. After losing the general election of president, Jack really felt down in the dumps.
7. When her husband left for America she was too down in the dumps.

This idiom is generally used with the felt for example: He felt down in the dumps.

To be ‘in the dumps’ was to be disconsolate and disheartened – what Sir Winston Churchill was later to call ‘black dog’. The first record we have of ‘down in the dumps’ is in Francis Grose’s priceless vocabulary The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1785: Dumps. Down in the dumps; low-spirited, melancholy: jocularly said to be derived from Dumpos, a king of Egypt, who died of melancholy.

drop a line

drop a line

- send a brief letter
- to call over telephone
- send an email, etc.
- send any kind of moral short letter or note to someone for chit-chat or hello.

1. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare you could always drop her a line.
2. We really do like hearing from you, so drop us a line and let us know how you are.
3. I dropped Aunt Kelly a line last Thanks giving.
4. She usually drops me a few lines around the first of the year.
5. Drop me a note when you get a chance.
6. I hope you’ll drop me a line soon
7. The wife is always dropping her husband a line even as they are separated.
8. If you get a chance, drop me a line when you arrive in Surrey, Canada
9. Could you drop me a line when you get moved in to your new home?.

This idiom uses line in the sense of “a few words in writing,” a usage first recorded in 1647.

dressed to kill

dressed to kill

- elaborately attired, dressed to draw attraction
- dressed very nicely, extravagantly
- intentionally wearing clothes that attract attention and admiration

1. She arrived at the reception dressed to kill.
2. The man was dressed to kill in a tuxedo, hat, gold watch and expensive shoes, because he was going to accept an award.
3. I want to marry with that beautiful girl who always dressed to kill.

draw the line

draw the line

- to define a limit in anything
- think of or treat one thing as different from another
- to set the limit of what you are willing to do
- to never do something because you think it is wrong
- Refuse to go any further than

1. It all depends on your concept of fiction and where you draw the line between fact and fiction.
2. So at what point do we consider the fetus a baby? We’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
3. I am going to draw the line about working more than forty hours a week.
4. Please draw the line in the sand for the beach ball game.
5. I swear quite a lot but even I draw the line at saying certain words.
6. I draw the line at giving them more money.

This expression alludes to a line drawn at a stopping point of some kind. [Late 1700s].

A form of tennis has been played by Englishmen at least since the time of Henry the Eighth of England in the sixteenth century. It probably came to court from France. In the early days lines were drawn to establish the boundaries of the court. By as early as the middle of the eighteenth century the idiom, “to draw a line” was used to mean establishing a limit for something. Also, this may have been derived from the lines drawn for the space between opposition parties in Parliament, so as to put an end to injuries from sword fights.

down the drain

down the drain

- wasted
- lost
- abandoned
- completely spoiled
- gone

1. Our work went down the drain when NGO stopped funding the project in the halfway.
2. If the factory closes, that will be a million pounds’ worth of investment down the drain.
3. I’m scared I’m going to be out of a job, and my 12 years of experience will be down the drain.
4. We cannot afford to let our train system go down the drain.
5. A lot of money went down the drain in that Wilkinson deal.

On the way to being lost or wasted; disappearing. For example, Buying new furniture when they can’t take it with them is just pouring money down the drain , or During the Depression huge fortunes went down the drain . This metaphoric term alludes to water going down a drain and being carried off.[Colloquial; c. 1920]

Next Idioms ››