Idioms are a funny, tricky business. Literally translated, they’re a bunch of gibberish, but to native speakers, there’s often no better way to express a particular feeling or sum up a situation. English speakers use idioms constantly, which can be amusing or frustrating for those still learning the language. To help you improve your fluency, or even just give you a chuckle, here are 20 of the wackiest, most commonly used expressions in the US and their meanings.
1. Cool as a cucumber
Meaning: calm and composed, especially in stressful situations
Example: She was as cool as a cucumber during her job interview.
2. Hold your horses
Meaning: wait a minute; be patient
Example: He still has to shower before we can leave — hold your horses.
3. Kick the bucket
Meaning: to die
Example: Many people want to travel the world before they kick the bucket.
4. Blue in the face
Meaning: exhausted from great, generally futile, effort
Example: You can beg until you’re blue in the face, but you’re not having ice cream for dinner.
5. Head in the clouds
Meaning: oblivious or having unrealistic ideas
Example: He has his head in the clouds if he thinks he can pass his test without studying.
6. Dead as a doornail
Meaning: to be completely devoid of life
Example: I forgot to water my flowers, and now they’re as dead as a doornail.
7. Piece of cake
Meaning: very easy to do or accomplish
Example: She was nervous about her driving test, but it ended up being a piece of cake.
8. Out of the blue
Meaning: randomly or unexpectedly
Example: My grandmother came to visit out of the blue.
9. Raining cats and dogs
Meaning: raining extremely heavily
Example: We can’t go to the park today because it’s raining cats and dogs.
10. Cat got your tongue
Meaning: unable to speak or think of something to say.
Example: You’re being very quiet. Cat got your tongue?
11. It’s all Greek to me
Meaning: something incomprehensible or hard to understand.
Example: I’ve tried learning the rules to basketball, but it’s all Greek to me.
12. Pardon my French
Meaning: please excuse my profanity
Example: Pardon my French, but I’ve had a hell of a day.
13. Under the weather
Meaning: feeling slightly unwell
Example: Billy stayed home from school today because he was under the weather.
14. Chew the fat
Meaning: have a long, leisurely conversation; make small talk; gossip casually
Example: After running into a childhood friend, we chewed the fat over a cup of coffee.
15. Neck of the woods
Meaning: a specific neighborhood or area
Example: That man used to be my neighbor. He’s from my neck of the woods.
16. Thick as thieves
Meaning: very close friends
Example: My teammates and I are as thick as thieves.
17. Throw a wrench in the works
Meaning: create an obstacle that makes something more difficult
Example: She threw a wrench in the works by bringing a guest to my wedding without asking.
18. Pot calling the kettle black
Meaning: be hypocritical; criticize someone for something you’re guilty of
Example: You think I’m messy? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
19. When pigs fly
Meaning: something that is unlikely to happen, often said mockingly
Example: Doctors will recommend all-dessert diets when pigs fly.
20. Put a sock in it
Meaning: telling someone to stop talking or be quiet
Example: The whole movie theater can hear you whispering so put a sock in it.
This article was updated on July 11, 2019.