Idioms

Learn idioms with comprehensive meaning, examples and origin details.

Idioms

Idioms beginning with S

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.

spitting image

spitting image

Meaning:

  • look exactly like someone else
  • precise resemblance
  • person who strongly resembles another
  • look extremely similar to someone

Example:

  1. My sister is the spitting image of my mother.
  2. You look the spitting image of your grandfather at your age.
  3. The twins were spitting images of each other.
  4. With the help of makeup and touch-up, the actor looked the spitting image of the real life character he played in the movie.
  5. He looked the spitting image of his father.

Origin:
The phrase in this form was first seen in print in 1901. It is believed that the phrase originated from the idea of a person being so similar to another as if he was spit out of the mouth of the other. This idea was around since the 1600s, and had been used in different phrase forms since the 1800s.

set in ways

set in ways

also fixed in ways

Meaning:

  • leading a fixed lifestyle
  • do things the same way every time
  • not wanting to change habit or routine
  • living according to own customs and patterns

Example:

  1. People tend to get set in their ways as they grow older.
  2. His grandparents are set in their ways. They won’t use technology for their daily routine.
  3. After having lived alone for years, she was set in her ways.
  4. If he had not been so set in his ways, he would have understood his teen-aged nephew better.
  5. He is so set in his ways that it is difficult to get him out of the house except when he usually goes out.
  6. Old people are usually set in their ways and youngsters have a disregard for order. No wonder they don’t usually get along.
  7. Although she was set in her ways, once a while she would break her routine to accompany her niece to the theatre.
  8. Having retired a few years back, he was getting set in his ways.

Origin:
The origin of this phrase is not known.

stone’s throw

stone’s throw

Usage:
a stone’s throw away

Meaning:

  • a short distance
  • very near
  • very close to something

Example:

  1. His workplace is a stone’s throw away from his home.
  2. The hotel we stayed in was a stone’s throw away from the beach.
  3. Why don’t you come visit my place? I live a stone’s throw away from here.
  4. The shopping mall was located within a stone’s throw of our house.
  5. I am searching for a house and I want it to be a stone’s throw away from the river.
  6. We visit each other often; our houses are a stone’s throw apart.
  7. The city center is a stone’s throw away from here.
  8. In our city, the airport and railway station are at a stone’s throw from each other.

Origin:
This phrase was seen in the late 1500s, but was not used much until 1712, when John Arbuthnot used it in The History of John Bull. Since then there have been many citations of the phrase.

sell someone out

sell someone out

Meaning:

  • to betray someone
  • to let someone’s secret out
  • to reveal damaging information about someone

Example:

  1. The company had put a lot of trust on him, but he sold them out by leaking confidential information to the competitors.
  2. Celebrities have a hard time keeping secrets. Most of the time its their close friends who sell them out to the media.
  3. I had trusted you to keep my secret. I can’t believe that you sold me out!
  4. They wanted to keep the news under wraps to avoid a scandal, but someone on the inside sold them out.
  5. Can I trust you with this piece of information or will you sell me out?
  6. Hardened criminals are tough to crack. They don’t easily sell their accomplices out, even if it means torture for them.
  7. There has been a misunderstanding! Why would I sell you out? It must have been someone else.
  8. He can be trusted with that information. He will not sell us out under any circumstances.

Origin:
The origin of this phrase is not clear.

shoot from the hip

shoot from the hip

Meaning:

  • speak directly or bluntly, without caring for consequences
  • react quickly or impulsively
  • act recklessly, without considering the effects

Example:

  1. Even if you don’t agree with your boss’ ideas, don’t shoot from the hip. It won’t augur well for your growth.
  2. He has a tendency to shoot from the hip, but what he says is usually true.
  3. In an act of desperation, the minister started shooting from the hip to save his political career after the scandal broke out.
  4. When unable to counter the accusations with proper justifications, he started to shoot from the hip.
  5. This is a sensitive issue, so its better to be politically correct rather than shoot from the hip and be called a radical.
  6. Don’t feel bad about what he said. He has a habit of shooting from the hip, but he means no harm.
  7. She has a habit of shooting from the hip, and this has gotten her into trouble quite a few times.
  8. If you shoot from the hip in front of your clients, you are doing your prospects no good.

Origin:
This phrase originated in the old west of America, during the cowboy days.It alludes to shooting a gun from the hip, without taking it out if the holster. This made firing quicker, but less accurate.

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