Photo: Pressmaster/Shutterstock

20 of the Funniest Idioms for People Learning English

by Hüseyin Kaan Alex Bresler Jul 11, 2019

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.

Discover Matador