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70 terms

American Idioms B

~70 terms
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ace in the hole
a hidden advantage or resource kept hidden until it is needed (from stud poker)
Achilles' heel
point of weakness or vulnerability
albatross around one's neck
an annoying burden; phrase refers to a poem "The Ancient Mariner" in which a sailor who shoots a friendly bird is forced to wear its carcass around his neck as punishment
apple of one's eye
favorite object of love or affection
as the crow flies
most direct route between two things
behind the eight ball
to be in an unfavorable or uncomfortable position (from the game of pool)
between a rock and a hard place
faced with two equally difficult or dangerous choices or circumstances
birthday suit
completely naked
bite the dust
to fall face down in the dirt; to suffer a defeat
black sheep
A person who is considered a disgrace to a particular group, usually a family.
blind leading the blind
expression that applies to leaders who know as little as their followers and are therefore likely to lead them astray
blow one's own horn
to brag about oneself
break the ice
remove tension at a first meeting, opening of a party, etc.
burn the candle at both ends
do more than one ought to; overextend oneself
burn the midnight oil
stay awake at night to work or study
burn your bridges behind you
to eliminate a possibility of a retreat to a former position
busman's holiday
a vacation during which a person engages in an activity that is the same as or similar to his or her usual employment
butter someone up
praise or flatter someone excessively
buy a pig in a poke
buy something sight unseen (a "poke" is a bag)
by the book
according to established rules
can't hold a candle to
an expression that refers to a person or thing that is distinctly inferior to something else
can't see the forest for the trees
expression used of someone who is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole
carry a torch for
to be infatuated with
chill out
to not get so excited; to take it easy; also, to relax or have a good time
chip off the old block
expression used of people who closely resemble their parents in some way
chip on one's shoulder
a belligerent attitude or grievance (In the past, a young boy would place a wood chip on his shoulder and dare anyone to knock it off as a way of showing how tough he was.)
chutzpah
Yiddish term for courage bordering on arrogance, roughly equivalent to "nerve" (in the slang sense)
clean bill of health
to be told, usually by a doctor, that one is perfectly healthy. By extension, a person or organization free of any irregularity.
(have) cold feet
to be too fearful to undertake or complete an action
(give) the cold shoulder
ignore someone deliberately
come out of the closet
publicly announce a belief or preference one has kept hidden (especially one's sexual preference)
cool one's heels
to wait for a long time
creme de la creme
best of the best
crocodile tears
insincere show of sympathy or sadness (crocodiles were once believed to "weep" large tears before eating their victims)
cross the Rubicon
to make an irreversible decision (the name of the river Julius Caesar crossed with his army, thereby starting civil war in Rome)
(cry) uncle
admit defeat
diamond in the rough
someone or something with potential talent, but lacking in training or polish
(go) Dutch
outing or date on which each person pays his or her own way
draw the line
to set a limit, as of acceptable behavior
elbow grease
strenuous physical effort
end of one's rope
out of options
fly off the handle
to become suddenly enraged
get a dose of one's own medicine
to receive the same unpleasant treatment one has given others
get in somebody's hair
to annoy or hinder someone
get up on the wrong side of bed
To act unpleasant for no apparent reason (or because the day got off to a bad start)
take (something) with a grain of salt
view a statement with a skeptical or doubtful attitude.
(ride the) gravy train
a job or project that requires little effort but yields considerable profits.
in the hot seat
to be in an uncomfortable or embarrassing situation (The phrase is an extension of "hot seat," slang for the electric chair.)
know the ropes
to be familiar with the details of an operation
make a mountain out of a molehill
to blow a small issue or event out of proportion
on pins and needles
in a state of anxiety, or tense expectation
pass the buck
to shift the blame from oneself to another person
play it by ear
improvise (Music played by ear does not follow written notes.)
Pooh-Bah
a self-important person of high position and great influence (a character in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Mikado)
pot calling the kettle black
criticizing others for the very fault one possesses
pull somebody's leg
to tease or fool someone
red tape
bureaucratic procedures that delay progress
sacred cow
anything that is beyond criticism (In India, followers of Hinduism consider cows sacred and do not eat them because they believe the animals contain the souls of dead persons)
sit on the fence
to remain neutral and not take sides; often used as an insult about someone who lacks the courage to decide
six of one, half dozen of another
the alternatives are the same; makes no difference which
skeleton in the closet
potentially embarrassing secret
(do something by the) skin of one's teeth
to just barely manage to get something accomplished
strange bedfellows
unlikely companions or allies; often used in the phrase "politics makes strange bedfellows"
talk turkey
discuss in a straightforward manner
till the cows come home
for a long time
tip of the iceberg
only a hint or suggestion of a much larger or more complex issue or problem
(fight) tooth and nail
fight like an animal, with everything one has
turn the tables
reverse a situation and gain the upper hand
vicious circle
a series of reactions that compound or make worse an initial unfortunate event or situation: "He dealt with being overweight by eating more; it's a vicious circle."
wet behind the ears
immature, inexperienced, naive