Idioms

Learn idioms with comprehensive meaning, examples and origin details.

Idioms

Idioms beginning with N

no room to swing a cat

no room to swing a cat

also not enough room to swing a cat

Meaning

  • a very small place
  • a confined place
  • a crowded or cramped space
  • not much space

Example Sentences

  1. How do you expect all four of us to stay in that room? There’s no room to swing a cat in there.
  2. The hotel claimed to have luxurious rooms, but when we went there, we found the rooms so small and cramped that there was no room to swing a cat.
  3. There’s not enough room to swing a cat in here, how do you plan to get in a couch over here?
  4. We don’t have any room to swing a cat here, how will all that stuff fit in?
  5. Isn’t this place a bit too small? There’s no room to swing a cat in here.

Origin

The phrase is said to have originated in the British Navy and the cat refers to a whip which was called the “cat o’ nine tails”. The theory goes that there was not enough room below deck to whip the sailors as punishment, hence the phrase. However, this theory is implausible, since the first recorded use of the phrase is in 1665, in Richard Kephale’s Medela Pestilentiae. The nature of the use suggests that the phrase was already in use prior to it being written. The cat o’ nine tails, however, is recorded only in 1695.

no dice

no dice

Meaning

  • not agree for something
  • refusal to do something
  • refuse to accept a proposition
  • not possible

Example Sentences

  1. The children asked whether they could all go out for a camping trip, but no dice, their parents refused.
  2. We asked the company whether they would issue a refund if we did not use their product, but no dice.
  3. Would I get a train at this time of night? No dice.
  4. Are you coming out with us for lunch? No dice, I have a lot of work to do, I’ll have something from the cafeteria.
  5. Would be able to help me out with this? No dice, I have my hands full at the moment.
  6. We tried to find a room at the hotel, but no dice, it was fully booked at this time of the year.
  7. I thought they would turn up for the event, but no dice, they were nowhere to be seen.

Origin

The phrase originated in the USA in the early 20th century. Gambling was illegal in many states and the gamblers took considerable trouble to hide their dice when confronted by the police. The rule said no dice, no conviction; so gamblers escaped punishment if the dice was not found.

New York minute

New York minute

Meaning

  • in a very short amount of time
  • very quickly, in an instant
  • a minute that seems to pass very quickly

Example Sentences

  1. I’ll get that job done in a New York minute if you give it to me.
  2. He was in and out of the place in a New York minute, having finished whatever he had to do.
  3. It looked like his mind had already been made up, as it took him a New York minute to announce his decision.
  4. He was an expert ethical hacker and it took him all of a New York minute to hack into the site.
  5. Wait for me here, I will be back in a New York minute.
  6. The eatery out there has a really quick service. They served our order in a New York minute.
  7. It took him a New York minute to collect his belongings and leave the place.

Origin

The phrase alludes to the fast paced life in New York. Although the exact origin is not clear, it is believed that the phrase originated in Texas as a reference to the frenzied life in New York compared to the slower life there. It has been in use since the mid 1900s.

nest egg

nest egg

Meaning

  • an amount of money that has been saved, especially for future use
  • savings for the future
  • money saved and set aside for later use
  • an amount of money that has been saved for something important

Example Sentences

  1. The stock market has given me good returns and helped me build a nest egg for my retirement.
  2. Start investing early and invest regularly in order to build a nest egg for the future.
  3. Small but regular investments over a long period of time has helped me in building a decent nest egg.
  4. The nest egg that he had built over the years helped him tide over his difficulties when he lost his job during the recession.
  5. He lost the nest egg he had built diligently over the years in a moment of madness when he invested it in a risky venture which failed.
  6. He had built a sizable nest egg over the years and was ready to retire by the time he reached his forties.

Origin

The idiom alludes to the practice of putting an egg into a hen’s nest in order to encourage her to lay. However, the connection between this practice and savings is not clear. The phrase was used in the figurative form since the 17th century, with the earliest record found being from 1686.

no love lost

no love lost

also little love lost, no / little love lost between

Meaning

  • there is a mutual dislike between two people
  • there is no feeling of respect or affection between two people
  • two people who do not like each other
  • ill will, hate, animosity between two people

Example Sentences

  1. Bob and Jill cannot get along together. There is no love lost between them.
  2. The brothers were always at loggerheads with each other, There was little love lost between them.
  3. There was no love lost between Sam and Dennis. They could never work together.
  4. He and his agent had a curious relationship. Although they had to work together all the time, there was no love lost between them.
  5. Tracy and Sandra don’t even acknowledge each other’s presence when they are together for some reason. There is no love lost between them.
  6. Stuart and Harry had been friends once, but after they had a big fallout a few years back, now there is little love lost between them.
  7. He did not care that his business partner was going through difficult times; there was no love lost between them, although they worked together.

Origin
This phrase originated in the 1500s and till the 1800s, meant either there was extreme love or extreme hate. In current usage, though, it signifies hate exclusively.

night owl

night owl

Meaning

  • Someone who is vigilant late at night.
  • In the current usage, night own refers to someone who works at night.

Example Sentences

  1. In order to earn their bread so many people now have to turn into night owls. The customer service industry thrives on 24*7 availability of people.
  2. Every time the exams started, I would become a night owl.
  3. You can’t just become a night owl and hope to catch up on the years that you have missed your education.
  4. He came home at 4 in the morning after the party. He is such a night owl.
  5. Becoming a night owl can have an adverse effect on your health. You should be more careful about getting sleep at the right time, at least in your age.

Origin
The reference to being awake at night comes from the characteristics of the Owl. The first know literary use of the phrase was in the year 1581 in ‘Against Jerome Osorius’ by Bell and Foxe although it seems that the term ‘Owl’ was use literally. The figurative use of the phrase, the way it is used now, was not too far later. It was used in 1594 by Shakespeare in his work ‘The Rape of Lucrece’.

not hurt a fly or flea

not hurt a fly
also not hurt a flea

Meaning

  • To not be able to cause harm to anyone, including even a tiny and insignificant insect.
  • This phrase refers to not being able to hurt even something that can hurt that person.
  • To not physically injure or verbally offend anyone.

Example Sentences

  1. He is such an innocent little child, he could not hurt a fly.
  2. Her daughter seems like she could not hurt a flea but she is not so in reality.
  3. Although he is tough professional but when you know him personally, you would know that he would not hurt a fly.
  4. She confessed that she would not hurt a flea unless she is provoked.
  5. My kid is as sweet as honey and would not hurt a fly.
  6. His dog is amongst the biggest ones that I have ever seen. And although he is constantly chewing on the home furniture, they say he would not hurt a flea.

Origin
The origin of this phrase is not available.

Synonym and Variant
Not hurt a fly. It is believed that this was a base idiom which evolved into the word ‘Fly’ being replaced by ‘Flea’, there is no confirmation of this fact though. Both are correct to be used in the same context.

name is mud

name is mud

Meaning

  • It means that the person is extremely unpopular.
  • It is a trigger for saying that someone has done a deed which has made him infamous in his circle and where people are angry with the said person.

Example Sentences

  1. If you keep hanging out with the local goons then soon your name will be mud too.
  2. The two sisters, Emily and Ruth’s names are mud because of their constant gossiping.
  3. To go to a party with such people and at such an hour can put a young girl’s name in mud.
  4. A child should endeavour to make his parents proud and not put their names in mud.

Origin
President Abraham Lincoln of the United States of America was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. When he was trying to escape after committing the murder he injured and broke his leg. Dr. Samuel Mudd provided medical help to Booth at that time. He has since been thought of as a co-conspirator in the murder of President Lincoln. He was not convicted because the evidence against him was ambiguous and not concrete. Till date there is a debate amongst the historians if Dr. Mudd was innocent and the phrase “his name is Mudd” has been coined. This has currently changed to mud instead of Mudd.

not playing with a full deck

not playing with a full deck

Meaning:

  • not mentally sound
  • stupid, dimwitted
  • crazy or mentally deranged
  • not very intelligent or bright
  • mentally deficient

Example:

  1. With the number of silly remarks he comes up with, I wonder if he’s not playing with a full deck.
  2. He may be an influential person, but some of the things he does gives the impression that he is not playing with a full deck.
  3. He keeps talking to himself. I think he’s not playing with a full deck.
  4. That scientist is considered to be a genius in his field, but with some of the antics he’s up to at the university, it looks like he’s not playing with a full deck.
  5. The new teacher doesn’t seem to know what he’s teaching. He’s not playing with a full deck.
  6. He is a nice person, but with some of the foolish things he does, I think he’s not playing with a full deck.

Origin:
The phrase is one of the many derogatory ones that originated in America in the 1980s. The implication of the insult is that the person has some part of the brain missing. Deck is a reference to a deck of cards.

never in wildest dreams

never in wildest dreams

Meaning:
– something that has happened was so strange that one never thought it would happen

Examples:
1. Never in my wildest dreams did I think she’d abandon her father.
2. Never in my wildest dreams did I think she’d actually carry out her threat.
3. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined Scotland winning 9/1.

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