Idioms

Learn idioms with comprehensive meaning, examples and origin details.

Idioms

Idioms beginning with S

stormy relationship

have a stormy relationship

Meaning

  • a relationship with many disagreements
  • a relationship with frequent quarrels
  • a relationship with a lot of arguments and shouting
  • an unpredictable but sometimes passionate relationship

Example Sentences

  1. After having a very stormy relationship for around two years, they decided to separate.
  2. Sometimes two people of opposite personalities are attracted to each other, but they usually have a very stormy relationship.
  3. He had a very stormy relationship with his boss, and so decided to look for a new job.
  4. The couple down the street in our neighbourhood have a very stormy relationship, and you can hear them shouting and arguing heatedly almost every day.
  5. After having watched her best friend go through an ugly divorce, Martha said she was glad that she did not have a stormy relationship with her husband.
  6. During the first few years of their marriage, they used to have a very stormy relationship, but over the time, they made the effort to understand each other and now they are the very supportive of each other.
  7. Sam and Sally had a very stormy relationship – they had frequent disagreements and were always arguing.
  8. Instead of carrying on with this stormy relationship, why don’t you call it off?

Origin
The origin of this phrase is not known.

smitten with

smitten with

also smitten by

Meaning

  • suddenly start to like or love someone very much
  • affected by love
  • infatuated with someone
  • in love with someone
  • obsessed with someone

Example Sentences

  1. He is completely smitten with love for her.
  2. He was so smitten by her charming personality and attractive appearance that he left his long time girlfriend to be with her.
  3. This new book is about a rich young entrepreneur who is smitten with a college graduate and how he pursues her and secures her love.
  4. He was so smitten with her that he was ready to follow her anywhere around the world just to be with her.
  5. Ann was smitten by the man she met at a party and has been with him ever since.
  6. When you are smitten with love for someone you are unable to tell their bad qualities from the good and that leads to problems in the relationship later.
  7. You could tell that she was smitten by him, but he was not interested and was just playing her on.
  8. He was smitten by his dance teacher and used to go the her classes whenever he had free time.

Origin
The origin if the phrase is not known.

save face

save face

Meaning

  • To be able to hide public disgrace by taking some action.
  • To be able to correct an action that could have caused embarrassment.

Example Sentences

  1. I managed to save face by being able to speak about the topic, the presentation that was made was really not good.
  2. You can’t save face by showing up with a gift. You should do better by accepting your mistake and working on not making it again.
  3. Saving face is not easy when the magnitude of the error is this big.
  4. She managed to save face in front of the clients because her subordinate brought the product out in time.
  5. The lawyer was not able to save face after his client made such an error at the hearing.
  6. He lost his practicing licence after making such a grave error but is trying to save face by applying for it again.
  7. His wife saved face even though he did not even attend the event by interacting with each guest personally.

Origin
The Chinese phrase ‘tiu lien’ is roughly translated as ‘lose face’ in English. It means to have to suffer public humiliation. The phrase ‘save face’ comes as an opposite to ‘losing face’ and was first used 1899 in the Harmsworth Magazine.

shilly-shally

shilly-shally

Meaning

  • To be undecided.
  • To hesitate.

Example Senteces

  1. He is not shilly-shally about his plans to move to the United States of America.
  2. I knew that he was the one for me. I would have never married him if I were shilly-shally about that.
  3. It is not easy to undo such a decision so you better not take it if you are shilly-shally.
  4. I am shilly-shally about wanting to buy a new car. Perhaps I should just wait another while before considering it seriously.

Origin
As it is often seen with phrases of two words that rhyme or can be said in a tone, one word has a base while the other one adds to the effect of the idiom. In this case the first word that is shilly comes from “shall I?” When asked a lot of time repeatedly, it becomes ‘shilly’. The first literary use comes from the 1700’s where it was used as “Shill I, shall I” in ‘The way of the world’ by William Congreve. Sir Richard Steele used it in ‘The tender husband, or the accomplish’d fools’ in the exact form that the phrase is seen today. This was in the year 1703.

slap on the wrist

slap on the wrist

Meaning

  • To show disapproval.
  • Does not have to be an actual slap, but the action suggests the person ‘slapping’ does not favour what the person getting ‘slapped’ is doing.
  • It is a weak way of showing reprimand. But the intent is on it being weak since the suggested activity is not of a very gruesome nature.
  • It is an attempt to punish without causing any pain.

Example Sentences

  1. I have to keep slapping his wrist away from the cake or there will be nothing left for the party.
  2. She slapped my wrist away from the cookie jar and has the whole thing to herself now.
  3. After he made that obnoxious speech the party high command slapped him on the wrist and the politician was back to his business. This is really not how this behaviour can be controlled.
  4. As a mother, I often have to slap on the wrist of my children to show them what they ought not to do.

Origin
A slap was used literally as well as figuratively. A slap on the face is much harsher than on the wrist. The phrase has been in existence at least since the 1700s. The Oxford English Dictionary has had this since the year 1736.

sick as a dog

as sick as a dog

Meaning

  • To be very sick.
  • The phrase refers to being in a state that is very unpleasant.

Example Sentences

  1. You should not go to study with him today. He seemed to be as sick as a dog according to his friends.
  2. No one likes being as sick as a dog, that is why it is important to take care of one’s self on a regular basis and eat with moderation.
  3. Going to that party would mean that you would drink to your heart’s content and come back to be as sick as a dog in the morning. Why do you do such a thing to yourself?

Origin
Dog was considered an undesirable animal in the 17th century. So much so that there are a lot of phrases which refer to them negatively [tired as a dog, dog in the manger, down to the dogs, dog’s breakfast, dirty dog, etc.]. Sick as dog refers to being so sick that one may feel like vomiting. The first literary use of the expression is in 1705. The phrase still reflects in a negative sense as it was intended back then.

Synonyms and Variants

  • Sick as a Parrot.
  • Sick as a horse (when one is sick without the sensation of vomiting).
  • Sick as a cat.

stir up a hornet’s nest

stir up a hornet’s nest

Meaning

  • It means to cause an upheaval.
  • A commotion which possibly ends in anger and frustration.

Example Sentences

  1. When the auditor asked for more evidences, the treasury department stirred up a Hornet’s nest because they did not have more. This is how the fraud was actually revealed.
  2. He always comes home and stirs up a Hornet’s nest when his school day has not gone well. His mother then makes something nice to eat for him to calm down.
  3. It is a shame that every time such an atrocious act happens it stirs up a Hornet’s nest. Instead women should be provided with more protection and security that such incidents do not take place at all.
  4. The lawyer stirred up a Hornet’s nest when his client was not released even after he had provided the bail papers. He called the judge directly to speak about the matter.

Origin
The phrase dates back from the 1700’s and relates to the anger that hornets show as a metaphor to causing a commotion. The exact literary origin is unavailable but the phrase has been used by many authors for fictional as well as non-fictional work.

sit tight

sit tight

Meaning

  • wait patiently
  • wait and take no action
  • stay where you are
  • take no action till something happens
  • wait until further notice

Example Sentences

  1. Just relax and sit tight, we’ll get the problem sorted for you.
  2. During times of financial turbulence, its best to sit tight and not make any hasty investment decisions.
  3. The doctor told him to just sit tight while he bandaged his injured leg.
  4. Should we send him a reply or just sit tight and see what he does next?
  5. I’m going to sit tight and not pay these charges till I get a clarification from the bank.
  6. The coach advised his team to sit tight and wait for the results to come in.
  7. I have not decided upon which course to take. I’ll sit tight till I get the results of the entrance test.
  8. I think you should just sit tight and not interfere while he gets this fixed.

Origin
This phrase originated during the 1700s.

scratch back

scratch back

also you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours

Meaning

  • do someone a favour hoping that a favour will be returned
  • help someone with something difficult, expecting to be helped back when needed

Example Sentences

  1. I don’t mind helping him out this time, he’s scratched my back many times.
  2. I’ve scratched your back often, now its your turn. Do me this favour and we’re even.
  3. I’ll finish your work if you get the groceries for me – you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.
  4. The corrupt official escaped punishment because he has been scratching the minister’s back.
  5. To successfully run a big business empire, you have to scratch the government’s back occasionally.
  6. I needed some information which he would not have given me, so I had to scratch his back to get it.

Origin
The phrase “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” originated in the English Navy during the 1600s. It refers to a punishment for indiscipline where the offender would be tied to the mast and lashed. The crew members made a deal among themselves to deliver light lashes, in effect, just scratching the offender’s back. The shortened version of the phrase “scratch someone’s back” was first recorded in 1704.

smell a rat

smell a rat

Meaning:

  • sense that something is not right
  • suspect trickery or deception
  • realize that something is not as supposed to be
  • suspect that something wrong is happening

Example:

  1. When he made that offer, I smelt a rat. It sounded too good to be true.
  2. His wife smelt a rat when he suddenly started working late for the past few weeks.
  3. I don’t think these files were deleted by mistake. I smell a rat. Maybe he has something to do with it.
  4. The minute I walked in for the scheduled interview, I smelt a rat. Sure enough, it was a phoney company and intended to rip me off.
  5. He smelt a rat when his wife said she didn’t want to go on a vacation with him.
  6. The investment scheme looked a good one, but I smelt a rat when the adviser could not answer a few of my questions satisfactorily.
  7. I smelt a rat when I found some items missing from my desk.

Origin:
The origin of the phrase is not clear, however, it is believed that it refers to the smell of a dead rat, which is horrible and indicates that something is out of place.

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