Idioms

Learn idioms with comprehensive meaning, examples and origin details.

Idioms

Idioms beginning with I

it’s anyone’s call

it’s anyone’s call

Meaning

  • a competition where the outcome is difficult to predict or judge
  • a situation where all possible outcomes are equally likely

Example Sentences

  1. I think this year’s election would be anyone’s call. Both the candidates seem to have an equally divided support base.
  2. The fight between the two boxing champions could be anyone’s call. Both the boxers are equally matched.
  3. I guess its anyone’s call on who would win tonight’s game. Both the teams have been performing well and are in the form of their lives.
  4. “Who do you think will win the race today?” “Well, its anyone’s call, really.”
  5. Its anyone’s call on which way the results will go. Either way, we have to be prepared for the next step.
  6. At the halfway stage of the big match, it was anyone’s call on who would win. Both were playing well and were evenly placed.

Origin
The phrase most likely originated in sports where a referee had to “make a call”, or take a decision. When there was a close situation and a decision was difficult to make, it was referred to as “anyone’s call”, implying that no one’s information was better than any other person’s.

in your face

in your face

Meaning

  • a bold, defiant or aggressive manner
  • aggressive or confrontational
  • direct and forceful
  • shocking or annoying in a manner difficult to ignore
  • provocative

Example Sentences

  1. Unable to tolerate Jack’s in your face attitude anymore, his boss fired him from the job.
  2. That was a very in your face advertisement they showed last night on TV which made some very bold statements.
  3. Mark is just an in your face sort of a person and sometimes talks rough. He really means no harm.
  4. In your faces, kids” shouted the footballer to his opponents after having scored his third goal of the match.
  5. It was going to be a high profile fight by the two boxers and was marked by in your face comments from either side before it began.
  6. No one liked him because he was always in your face and seemed to be at war with the world.
  7. Her performance yesterday at the dance show was very aggressive and in your face. Not many would have liked it.
  8. His defiant and in your face nature was a result of his difficult childhood.

Origin
The phrase originated in the USA around the 1970s and most of the early uses related to confrontation in sports. The phrase became popular outside of sports around the 1980s.

in the buff

in the buff

Meaning

  • naked
  • without any clothes on
  • nude

Example Sentences

  1. The model created a sensation when she posed for a magazine cover in the buff.
  2. Not knowing that someone was there in the room, he came out of the bathroom in the buff.
  3. There was a huge scandal when some pictures of the actress in the buff were leaked over the internet.
  4. Kim was terribly embarrassed having walked into Pat’s room while he was in the buff.
  5. Some people sleep in their pajamas, while some prefer to sleep in the buff.
  6. Out here, don’t be shocked if you see children running out onto the streets in the buff and playing in the rain.

Origin
The phrase originally referred to the buff-coat, which was a light leather tunic worn by the English soldiers until the 17th century. “In the buff” meant to be wearing such a coat. This usage is found in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors in 1590. The later, and current meaning is an allusion to the colour of human skin, which is somewhat similar to the colour of buff (a light brown yellowish colour).This usage was first recorded by Thomas Dekker, in “Satiro-mastix or the untrussing of the humorous poet” in 1602. In this work, “in the buff” is likened to “in stag”, which, at that time, was a commonly used term for being naked.

in the bag

in the bag

Meaning

  • have something as good as secured or certain
  • certain to get or achieve something
  • assured of a successful result
  • virtually secured or achieved

Example Sentences

  1. The deal was finally in the bag after a few rounds of tough negotiations.
  2. The game was in the bag when the team scored their third goal.
  3. After months of hard campaigning, the politician believed that elections were in the bag.
  4. I have not yet got the job, but I believe its pretty much in the bag.
  5. Everyone thought that he had the match in the bag, but his opponent suddenly put in a tremendous performance and snatched it away from him.
  6. Having received a lot of praise from the management, he knew that his promotion was in the bag.
  7. Though I feel the contract is in the bag, I’ll wait for the confirmation before telling anyone.

Origin
The phrase originated in America in the early 20th century from a tradition of the baseball team New York Giants. The Giants had a superstition that if the ball bag was carried off the field with them in lead, the game was “in the bag” and they would not lose. It was first recorded in may, 1920 in the Ohio newspaper The Mansfield News.

idle hands are the devil’s tools

idle hands are the devil’s tools

or idle hands are the devil’s workshop

Meaning

  • if you have nothing to do, you are likely to do some mischief
  • an idle person is likely to do something evil
  • people are more likely to do something bad and get into trouble when they have nothing to do

Example Sentences

  1. They kids should be kept busy while you are away; idle hands are the devil’s tools.
  2. I don’t like the look the man standing outside doing nothing. Idle hands are the devil’s tools.
  3. We should find something useful for Amy to do during the afternoon. Idle hands are the devil’s tools.
  4. Why are you wasting your time doing nothing? Don’t you know, idle hands are the devil’s tools.

Origin
The origin of the phrase is not clear, however, it is believed to be an ancient one with its roots in the Bible. Though the phrase does not appear in the Bible, the message conveyed by it is present. A saying by St Jerome (347 – 420 AD) in Latin has a similar meaning. In English, it can be traced back to at least the 12th century when Chaucer referred to idle hands being devil’s tools.

A similar phrase also exists, which says “an idle mind or brain is a devil’s workshop”.

icing on the cake

icing on the cake

or frosting on the cake

Meaning

  • when something good is added to another good thing that you already have
  • an extra enhancement
  • an additional benefit to an already good thing
  • something that makes a good situation even better
  • an attractive but often unessential addition to something

Example Sentences

  1. Everyone expected him to do well in the exams. Getting first rank was the icing on the cake.
  2. He was happy to have his first book published. All those congratulatory messages and fan-mail that came in were the icing on the cake.
  3. The sportsman was already on a high after having won at the competition, the frosting on the cake was when the government announced a huge cash reward for is achievement.
  4. He was already happy with his pay hike, the icing on the cake came when he received a large bonus.
  5. Winning the race was a feat in itself, creating a world record was the icing on the cake.
  6. The hotel was very nice and we enjoyed our stay there. The icing on the cake was when they gave a complimentary voucher for a two day stay which we could redeem on out next visit.

Origin
The phrase refers to the sweet, creamy toppings, called the icing, added to a cake to make it even better. It has been in use since the mid 1900s. “Icing on the cake” is used mostly in British English, while “frosting on the cake” is used mostly in American English.

i’ll eat my hat

i’ll eat my hat

Meaning

  • This is an expression of not believing something very strongly.
  • The phrase shows confidence about the outcome being in a particular way.

Example Sentences

  1. If you are really able to climb that 8 feet wall by yourself then I’ll eat my hat.
  2. I’m going to win this race and then you will have to eat your hat.
  3. If she is able to walk the marathon then I’ll eat my hat.

Origin
The phrase is obviously not a literal one but shows that someone is so confident in a particular outcome that they are willing to eat their own hat if it goes in any other way. In 1797, it has first been used by Thomas Brydge in the exact sense that the phrase is currently being used.

Next the phrase was seen in 1837 used by Charles Dickens in ‘The Pickwick Papers’. This version was slightly longer with the phrase reading “I’d eat my hat and swallow the buckle whole.”

Another speculation for the origin is from the word hates which meant small meat pies. In 1988, Constance Hieatt wrote ‘An Ordinance of Pottage’ which states that small pastries that are filled with meat that looked like hats.

if wishes were horses, beggars would ride

if wishes were horses, beggars would ride

Meaning

  • To wish for things does not yield to anything.
  • If just hoping and wishing for things would make it happen then even the poorest of all people would have everything that they desire.
  • One should work in order to get things instead of wishing for them.

Example Sentences

  1. She told me she wanted to become Miss Universe and I said, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride“. How else was I to react to such an absurd thing?
  2. I was day dreaming about being the king of the world when my wife reminded me that if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Origin
In 1605 William Camden’s literary work ‘Remaines of a Greater Worke, Concerning Britaine’ used this phrase although in a slightly different version to what it is right now. James Carmichael used another version in 1628, John Ray used another modified version in 1670 and finally the version that is closest to the one in use today was introduced by James Kelly in 1721. The modern day version has come about from all of the above and perhaps a few more variations of the same phrase. They have all meant the same since the first use.

in a trice

in a trice

Meaning

  • In the moment, instantly.
  • Without causing any delays.
  • Very fast.

Example Sentences

  1. I will be there in a trice, stop calling me so often.
  2. The company wound up in a trice. Nobody even had a chance to understand what happened before the owners packed up and left.
  3. She was only 10 minutes late to the party but apparently the cake was over in a trice.
  4. He was one of the richest men in the region but it all got over in a trice. Today he is hiding somewhere abroad.
  5. The train leaves from this station in a trice so do not be late.
  6. You cannot break a marriage in a trice. Take your time and think about things again.
  7. The most interesting part of the play got over in a trice. Everything else was very boring so we got out before it ended.

Origin
The word ‘trice’ was referred to a single pull in the early 1400’s. This was a word from the nautical windlass. In the year 1440, the phrase ‘all at a tryse’ was used in the ‘The lyfe of Ipomydon’. The phrase as we see it, albeit with a slightly different spelling of trice (tryce) was used in the year 1508 by John Skelton.

if it’s not one thing, it’s the other

if it’s not one thing, it’s the other

also if it’s not one thing, it’s another or it’s one thing after another

Meaning:

  • everything is going wrong
  • bad things keep happening
  • face many problems in succession

Example:

  1. It’s such a bad day today. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other!
  2. I lost my wallet yesterday. At the moment, if it’s not one thing, it’s the other.
  3. First I burnt my breakfast, then I crashed my car. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other right now.
  4. I’m going through a hard time nowadays. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other.
  5. First she lost her job, then her boyfriend left her. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other for her right now.
  6. He is going through difficult times these days. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other for him.

Origin:
The origin of the idiom is not known.

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