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, to note in your travel journal or even just to 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 and I had to rent an Airnb for the family.
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.