Monday, 20 May 2013

Complete List of Idioms A to C

Alphabetical List of Idioms - A

(Idioms A page 1 :  abbreviated piece of nothing → hold all the aces)

abbreviated piece of nothing This slang expression refers to someone who is considered to be insignificant or worthless.
Bob doesn't think much of his new colleague. He calls him an 'abbreviated piece of nothing'.
to the best of one's ability. When someone does something to the best of their ability, they do it as well as they possibly can.
I felt nervous all through the interview, but I replied to the best of my ability.
(of) no fixed abode A person of no fixed abode has nowhere permanent to live.
A 30-year-old man of no fixed abode was charged with the burglary.
about turn/about face This term refers to a complete change of opinion or policy.
The ambassador's recent declarations indicate an about turn in foreign policy.
above and beyond the call of duty If a person does something which is above and beyond the call of duty, they show a greater degree of courage or effort than is usually required or expected in their job.
The fire-fighter received a medal for his action which went above and beyond the call of duty.
above board If a situation or business is described as above board, it is open, honest and legal.
There are not secret negotiations.  Our dealings have always been above board.
more by accident than by design Something that happens more by accident than (by) design is done without deliberate intention.
I became an interpreter more by accident than design; nobody else could speak the language of the refugees.
accidentally on purpose If you do something intentionally, but pretend it was an accident, you do it accidentally on purpose.
I accidentally-on-purpose erased his email address so I couldn't contact him again.
an accomplished fact (also 'fait accompli') Something that has been done or completed, before those affected by it can intervene or change it, is called an accomplished fact.
of your own accord If you do something of your own accord, you do it spontaneously or willingly, without being influenced or forced by anyone.
The boy went to see the owner of his own accord and admitted breaking the window.
no accounting for taste This expression is used to indicate surprise at another person's likes or dislikes.
She fell in love with a guy who is short, fat, bald and poor ... there's no accounting for taste!
ace a test If you obtain a very high score or an excellent result, you ace a test or exam.
Maria's parents said she could go to the party if she aced her English test.
have an ace up your sleeve If you have an ace up your sleeve, you have something in reserve with which you can gain an advantage.
I'm well prepared for the negotiations. I've got an ace up my sleeve.
hold all the aces A person who holds all the aces is in a very strong position because they have more advantages than anyone else.
Given the high unemployment figures in some countries, employers hold all the aces.
Achilles heel This expression refers to a vulnerable area or a weak spot, in an otherwise strong situation, that could cause one's downfall or failure.
He's extremely intelligent, but his inability to speak in public is his Achilles heel.
acid test To refer to something as' the acid test' means that it will prove how effective or useful something is.
The training course was very interesting but the acid test will come when I start my new job.

acquired taste
Something that you dislike when you first taste it, but begin to like after trying it several times, is an acquired taste.
Tony has always loved olives, but for me it was an acquired taste.
act of God This term refers to an natural event or accident, for which no person is responsible (such as an earthquake, lightning and similar acts of nature).
The insurance company refused to pay for the damage because it was caused by an act of God.
get your act together If you tell someone to get their act together, you mean that they need to organize their affairs more effectively in order to be more successful.
You'd better get your act together if you want to find a job!
add fuel to the flames If you add fuel to the flames, you do or say something that makes a difficult situation even worse.
He forgot their wedding anniversary, and his apologies only added fuel to the flames.
much ado about nothing When people make much ado about nothing, they make a lot of fuss about something which is not important.
There was a meeting to discuss the name for the new playground.
"Much ado about nothing" said my Dad!
afraid of one's own shadow A person who is afraid of his/her own shadow is very nervous or easily frightened.
I've never seen anyone so easily scared. She's afraid of her own shadow!
after the fact If something is done after the fact, it done too late, after something  has actually happened, especially a crime or an accident.
He said he realized he had put people in danger, but that was of no help after the fact.
against one's better judgement If you do something, even though you feel it is not a sensible thing to do, you do it against your better judgement.
Bob persuaded her to go by car, against her better judgement, and she regretted it as soon as she saw the heavy traffic.
against the clock If you do something against the clock, you are rushed and have very little time to do it.
They are working against the clock to have the presentation ready for Monday.
ahead of the pack If a person or organization is ahead of the pack, they are better or more successful than their rivals.
Our products will have to be more innovative if we want to stay ahead of the pack. 
set the alarm bells ringing /
alarm bells start to ring
If something sets the alarm bells ringing, it makes you begin to worry, because it shows that there may be a problem.
Alarm bells started to ring when my old neighbour didn't open his shutters all day and didn't answer his phone.
all along If something has existed or been somewhere all along, it has been there all the time, from the beginning.
I had been looking for my keys for some time before I realized they had been in my pocket all along.
all the better for (something) If you are all the better for something, you benefit from it or feel much better as a result of it.
You'll be all the better for a good night's rest.
all brawn and no brain Someone who is physically very strong but not very intelligent is said to be all brawn and no brain.
He's an impressive player to watch, but he's all brawn and no brain.
all clear If you are allowed to do something after a check-up to make sure that everything is all right, you get the all clear.
Dad says he's going to play golf again as soon as he gets the all clear from his doctor.
all ears To say that you are all ears means that you are listening very attentively.
Of course I want to know - I'm all ears!
all hands on deck When there is a need for all hands on deck, everyone must help, especially when there is a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time.
As the opening day approached, it was all hands on deck to have everything ready in time. 
all in your head If something is all in your head, it is not real.  It is in your imagination.
Don't be silly. Nobody is trying to harm you. It's all in your head!
all hell broke loose If you say that all hell broke loose, you mean that there was a sudden angry or noisy reaction to something.
All hell broke loose when it was announced that the plant was going to close down.
all that jazz This expression means 'all that stuff', 'other similar things', or 'everything of that kind'.
Let's get out the tinsel, the fairy lights and all that jazz to decorate the Christmas tree.
of all people To use the term 'of all people' emphasizes that the person you mention, more than anyone else, is the one you would expect to do something.
As an artist, you, of all people, should support the new art gallery.
all systems go When everything is ready for an activity or event to begin, you can say that all systems go.
We've got an office, a telephone and the internet, so on Monday it's all systems go!
all things to all people If you are all things to all people, you please or satisfy everyone.
She's exhausted trying to be a good wife, a good mother and a good teacher, but she can't be all things to all people.
all things being equal This expression refers to a probable situation if, in all other ways, the conditions remain unchanged or equal.
All (other) things being equal, a reduction in the cost of transport should enable us to lower our prices.
all the rage When something is all the rage, it has become very popular or trendy.
Twittering text messages is all the rage these days, both among individuals and companies.
all sizzle and no steak Someone or something that turns out to be disappointing, after a promotional campaign or marketing operation which led us to expect something better, is called all sizzle and no steak.
Because of the electoral promises he made, which so far he has failed to keep, many people call the new president 'all sizzle and no steak'.
all skin and bone If someone is all skin and bone, they are very thin or too thin.
After trekking in the Himalayas, he was all skin and bone.
all things to all people If you are all things to all people, you please or satisfy everyone.
She's exhausted tying to be a good wife,  a good mother and a good teacher,  but she can't be all things to all people.
all thumbs /
all fingers and thumbs
If you are all fingers and thumbs, you are awkward and clumsy and do things incorrectly.
Would you mind wrapping this for me? I'm all fingers and thumbs!
all told All told means the final number, when everything has been counted.
The number of visitors to the exhibition, all told, was 2543.
up/down your alley If something is (right) up or down your alley, it is exactly the sort of thing that will suit your tastes or abilities.
Alex loves reading, so the job in the bookshop is right up his alley.
also-ran This term refers to an unsuccessful competitor whose performance is so much poorer than the winner's that it appears insignificant.
He entered the contest hoping that he wouldn't end up as an 'also-ran'.
alter ego The term alter ego, which in Latin means 'other self', refers to a very close and trusted friend who is very like yourself.
ambulance chaser A lawyer who finds work by persuading people injured in accidents to claim money from the person who caused the accident is called an 'ambulance chaser'.
Peterson and Scott are well-known ambulance chasers - that's how they make their money!
answer for something If someone has to answer for something, they have to accept responsibility for their actions.
He will have to answer for his dishonesty.
answer the call of nature / nature's call When a person answers the call of nature, they go to the toilet.
I had to get up in the middle of the night to answer the call of nature.
ants in one's pants People who have ants in their pants are very restless or excited about something.
I wish he'd relax. He's got ants in his pants about something today.
anyone's call This expression is used when the result of a contest or election is difficult to predict.
"Who do you think will win?" "It's anyone's call."
any port in a storm When you have no choice, any port in a storm refers to a solution you accept, which in normal circumstances you would find unacceptable.
The hotel was substandard, but it was a case of any port in a storm;
all the others were full. 
the apple of your eye A person, usually a child, who is the apple of your eye is one for whom you have great affection.
My grandson is the apple of my eye.
upset the applecart If you upset (or overturn) the applecart, you spoil a satisfactory plan or situation.
I hope Julie doesn't attend the meeting; she could upset the applecart. 
apple-pie order If something is in apple-pie order, it is well organized or in perfect order.
They made sure the house was in apple-pie order before their parents arrived back home. 
apron strings If one person is tied to another's apron strings, they remain dependent at an age when they should be independent.
All his decisions are influenced by his mother. He's still tied to her apron strings. 
argue the toss If you argue the toss, you dispute a decision or choice which has already been made.
The final choice was made yesterday, so don't argue the toss now! 
arm of the law This expression refers to the extent to which the authority or power of the law extends.
He fled to South America hoping to escape the arm of the law. 
give your right arm If you say "Id give my right arm for that", you mean that you want it a lot and would do almost anything to obtain it.
 I'd give my right arm to have an apartment on Central Park. 
cost an arm and a leg If something costs an arm and a leg, it is very expensive.
The house cost us an arm and a leg, but we have no regrets. 
be up in arms If you are up in arms , you are very angry about something and protest very strongly.
The population was up in arms over the demolition of the old theatre. 
keep someone at arm's length If you keep someone at arm's length, you do not allow yourself to become friendly with them.
It's not easy to become friends with Sophie;  she tends to keep everyone at arm's length. 
armchair critic An armchair critic is someone who gives advice based on theory rather than practice.
That guy is such an armchair critic - no experience but plenty of advice. 
armchair traveller Someone who reads books or watches TV programmes about other places and countries, but doesn't actually travel anywhere, is called an armchair traveller.
 A surprising number of adventure books are bought by armchair travellers. 
asking for trouble Someone who is asking for trouble is behaving so stupidly that he/she is likely to have problems.
Driving fast on these roads is really asking for trouble! 
asleep at the wheel If you say that someone is asleep at the wheel, you mean that they are not sufficiently attentive, especially at a critical moment when vigilance is required.
When the firemen arrived too late at the scene, the night watchman was accused of being asleep at the wheel. 
at all costs If you are determined to obtain or achieve something at all costs, you want it regardless of the expense, effort or sacrifice involved.
The journalist was determined at all costs to get a report from the war zone. 
at this stage of the game This expression refers to the current point reached in a process, activity or developing situation.
At this stage of the game I think any further intervention would be unwise. Let's wait and see how things develop. 
at stake Someone who has a lot at stake is in a risky situation, with a lot to be won or lost.
He was nervous about signing the agreement because there was a lot at stake. 
automatic pilot If you are on automatic pilot, you do something without thinking about it or having to pay attention, because you do it regularly.
Fred's on automatic pilot today - he didn't even hear my question!
or no avail Something which is of no avail is not at all helpful or useful.
The coffee machine wouldn't work, and the instruction leaflet was of no avail.  
avowed intent When someone makes a public declaration of their objective or goal, this is their avowed intent.
The avowed intent of the new government is to reduce unemployment. 
a rude awakening If you get a rude awakening, you are forced to accept the unpleasant truth or reality.
She thought Charlie would want her back, but she got a rude awakening - he was already dating another girl. 
away with the fairies Someone who is away with the fairies is in such a dreamy state that they are not totally in touch with reality and give the impression of being slightly mad.
It's no use trying to explain the problem to her - she's away with the fairies! 
have an axe to grind If you have an axe to grind, you have personal reasons for becoming involved in something or adopting a particular attitude.
It was decided that the best candidate would be selected by a recruitment agency who had no axe to grind within the company. 

 READ MORE BELOW.............................

Alphabetical List of Idioms - B

(Idioms B page 1  :  leave holding baby →  bad shape)

leave somebody holding the baby. If someone is left holding the baby, they are made responsible for a problem that others don't want to deal with.
When the angry customer started to complain, my colleague disappeared and left me holding the baby.
back-room boys This term refers to people who do important work but have no contact with the public.
Back-room boys don't always receive the credit they deserve for their work.
back-of-the-envelope calculation This expression refers to a quick approximate calculation done informally, as on the back of an envelope.
I don't need the exact amount.  Just give me a back-of-the-envelope calculation.
back of beyond An isolated place located far from any town is said to be in the
back of beyond.
It took us hours to find Jack's house.  He lives in the back of beyond.
(like the) back of one's hand If you know something like the back of your hand, you are very familiar with it and know it in detail.
Of course I won't get lost.  I know London like the back of my hand!
back into shape To get yourself back into shape, you need to take some exercise in order to become fit and healthy again.
Eva decided she'd have to get back into shape before looking for a job.
back on your feet If you are back on your feet, after an illness or an accident, you are physically healthy again.
My grandmother had a bad 'flu but she's back on her feet again.
back to the salt mines Saying that you have to go back to the salt mines is a humorous way of talking about returning to work, usually with some reluctance.
We get two days off at Christmas and then it's back to the salt mines!
back to square one To say that someone is back to square one means that they have not succeeded in what they were trying to do, so they have to start again.
When the plans were refused, it was 'back to square one' for the architect.
back to the wall If you have your back to the wall, you are in serious difficulty.
With his back to the wall, the supplier had to accept the deal.
back the wrong horse If you back or bet on the wrong horse, for example the loser in a contest, match or election, you support the wrong person.
When I voted for him I was convinced he would win, but I backed the wrong horse!
backhanded compliment A remark that appears to express admiration but could also be interpreted as an insult is called a backhanded compliment.
He said my presentation was "surprisingly clear".  How's that for a backhanded compliment!
backseat driver A passenger in a car who gives unwanted advice to the driver is called a backseat driver.
I can't stand backseat drivers like my mother-in-law!
bad egg Someone who is a bad egg is an untrustworthy person often involved in trouble whose company should be avoided.
I don't want my son to be friends with Bobby Smith.  Bobby's a bad egg.
bad hair day Originating as a humorous comment about one's hair being unmanageable, this term had broadened to mean 'a day when everything seems to go wrong'.
What's wrong with Jenny?  Is she having a bad hair day?
(in) bad shape A person who is in bad shape is in poor physical condition.
I really am in bad shape.  I must do more exercise.
badger someone If you badger someone into doing something, you persistently nag or pester them until you obtain what you want.
Sophie badgered her parents into buying her a new computer.
bag of bones To say that someone is a bag of bones means that they are extremely thin.
When he came home from the war he was a bag of bones.
bag of tricks If you use your (whole) bag of tricks to do something, you try (all) the clever methods you know in order to succeed.
Let's call on George and his bag of tricks; maybe he can help us solve the problem.
in the bag People use this expression when it becomes obvious that success or victory is going to be achieved.
An hour before the polling stations closed, victory seemed in the bag for the Conservative candidate.
bait and switch This term refers to a deceptive commercial practice of advertising
a low-priced item to attract customers, then telling them that the product is out of stock and persuading them to buy a more expensive article.
This store is famous for its bait and switch tactics. 
in the balance If something is in the balance, the situation is uncertain and it is not clear what is going to happen.
The future of the company is in the balance while the takeover bid is being examined.
balancing act When you try to satisfy two or more people or groups who have different needs, and keep everyone happy, you perform a balancing act.
Many people, especially women,  have to perform a balancing act between work and family. 
ball and chain This term refers to a burden or problem that ties you down and prevents you from doing what you want. It can also refer to one's spouse.
 Our holiday home has become a ball and chain - it's too much work!
ball is in your court If the ball is in your court, it is your turn to speak or act next.
We gave the manager a list of complaints, so the ball is in his court now. 
have a ball If you have a ball you enjoy yourself immensely.
The party was great. We had a ball. 
on the ball If you are on the ball, you are aware of what is happening and are able to deal with things quickly and intelligently.
We need someone who is really on the ball to head the fund-raising campaign. 
start the ball rolling If you start the ball rolling, you begin an activity in which other people will join.
Let's start the ball rolling by calling on our first speaker. 
that's the way the ball bounces Things don't always work out as planned, and there's nothing we can do about it - that's life.
He didn't get the prize he expected, but never mind - that's the way the ball bounces. 
whole new ball game To refer to something as a whole new ball game means that it is a completely different situation due to a new set of circumstances.
Email and text messaging have made communication a whole new ball game. 
ballpark figure If someone gives a ballpark figure, they give an approximate number or a rough estimate of the cost of something.
I don't know exactly how much it cost, but a ballpark figure would be around $100 000.
(load of) baloney This term refers to idle talk, or pretentious, untrue or insincere statements that nobody can believe.
That's a load of baloney!  I don't believe a word of it! 
bandit territory A geographical area where law enforcement is practically impossible, because people ignore all rules, is called 'bandit territory'.
There are a certain number of bandit territories in the world where travellers are advised not to go. 
jump on the bandwagon If a person or organization jumps on the bandwagon, they decide to do something when it is already successful or fashionable.
When organic food became fashionable, certain stores were quick to jump on the bandwagon and promote it.  
bane of one's life To say that something is the bane of your life means that it is the cause of your problems or your unhappiness.
The heating system is always breaking down. It's the bane of my life! 
bang one's head against a brick wall If you bang or knock your head against a brick wall, you continue vainly to try to achieve something in spite of several unsuccessful attempts.
I've been banging my head against a brick wall trying to explain the internet to my grandmother! 
bar fly A bar fly is someone who spends a lot of time drinking in bars and pubs.
You'll find Johnny down at the pub - he's a real bar fly. 
bare one's soul If you bare you soul (or heart) to someone, you reveal your innermost thoughts and feelings to them.
Mike couldn't keep things to himself any longer. He decided to bare his soul to his best friend. 
barefaced liar Someone who lies easily, with a total lack of shame, is a barefaced liar.
That barefaced liar stole my watch and said he'd found it! 
barking up the wrong tree A person who is barking up the wrong tree is doing the wrong thing, because their beliefs or ideas are incorrect or mistaken.
The police are barking up the wrong tree if they think Joey stole the car - he can't drive!
basket case A person whose agitated mental state leaves them helpless or unable to cope with things is called a basket case.
 Jenny will turn into a basket case if this stressful situation continues. 
bats in the belfry If you say that somebody has bats in the belfry, you mean that they are eccentric or crazy.
He comes up with the craziest ideas - he's got bats in the belfry!
bated breath If you wait for something with bated breath, you are both anxious and excited about an imminent event.
We waited with bated breath for the winner to be announced. 
batten down the hatches When you batten down the hatches, you prepare yourself for trouble or a forthcoming difficult period, like a ship preparing for a storm.
Here comes that trouble-making guy. Batten down the hatches!  
battle lines are drawn This expression is used to say that opposing groups are ready to defend the reason behind the conflict.
The battle lines have been drawn between those who accept the changes and those who are against the proposed reforms.  
battle of wills A conflict, argument or struggle where both sides are determined to win is described as a battle of wills.
When they separated, neither party would make concessions - it was a battle of wills.
be full of beans A person who is full of beans is lively, healthy and active.
He may be getting old but he's still full of beans. 
be my guest This expression is used to give someone permission to do something.
If you'd like to use the phone, be my guest. 
be-all and end-all To say that something is not the be-all and end-all means that it is not what matters most or what is most essential.
Good schools are not the be-all and end-all of educating a child. 
be that as it may This expression means that what the speaker says may be true but it will not change the situation.
OK. Fewer people may come because of the bad weather, but be that as it may, it's too late to cancel the show. 
bear the brunt A person who bears the brunt of something is the one who suffers the most when something bad or unpleasant happens.
When things go wrong, his assistant always has to bear the brunt of his anger.  
bear fruit If something bears fruit, it produces positive or successful results.
After years of hard work, his research finally began to bear fruit.  
bear in mind If a person asks you to bear something in mind, they are asking you to remember it because it is important.
You must bear in mind that the cost of living is higher in New York. 
bear with a sore head If someone is behaving like a bear with a sore head, they are very irritable and bad-tempered.
When his team lost the match, Brad was like a bear with a sore head. 
beard the lion in his den If you visit someone important in the place where they work, in order to challenge him/her or obtain something, you beard the lion in his den.
If he continues to refuse my calls, I'll have to beard the lion in his den.  
beat one's brain out If someone beats their brains out, they try very hard to understand something or solve a problem.
My grandmother beats her brains out every evening trying to do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper.  
beat around the bush This expression is used to tell someone to say what they have to say, clearly and directly, even if it is unpleasant.
Stop beating around the bush. Just tell me what has been decided! 
beat/flog a dead horse To say that someone is beating a dead horse means that they are wasting time and effort trying to do or achieve something that is impossible.
 Mark is beating a dead horse trying to get his money reimbursed.
The company has gone bankrupt! 
beat a hasty retreat Someone who beats a (hasty) retreat runs away or goes back hurriedly to avoid a dangerous or difficult situation.
The thief beat a hasty retreat as soon as he saw the security officer.
beat/knock the (living) daylights If a person beats the (living) daylights out of another, they hit them very hard and repeatedly.
If I catch you stealing again I'll beat the daylights out of you!
beat someone to the draw If you beat someone to the draw, you react more quickly and manage to do something before they do.
Ross was determined to be the first to arrive. He managed to beat the others to the draw.
it beats me! This expression is used to express surprise at something that you find difficult to understand.
It beats me how he can live in that horrible apartment!
at someone's beck and call If a person is at someone's beck and call, they are always ready to do things for them or obey orders to please them.
Parents should not be at the beck and call of their children.
bee in one's bonnet Someone who has a bee in their bonnet has an idea which constantly occupies their thoughts.
She's got a bee in her bonnet about moving to New York.
bee's knees To say that someone/something is the bee's knees means that you think they are exceptionally good.
If you say "Chloe thinks she's the bee's knees" you mean that
Chloe has a high opinion of herself.
beef something up If you beef something up, you improve it by making it stronger or more substantial.
You'd better beef up your arguments if you want to defend your case.
been in/through the wars If a person or thing has been in or through the wars, they show signs of rough treatment, injury or damage.
He arrived in a car that looked as though it had been through the wars.
been there, done that The expression is used to indicate that the speaker is familiar with the situation mentioned.  It can also refer to an attitude which reflects a certain boredom at the idea of repeating an experience that has lost its novelty.
His suggestions produced a 'been there, done that' attitude which undermined his enthusiasm.
before the ink is dry If people reach an agreement, and then change their minds immediately afterwards, the change occurs 'before the ink is dry'.
You can never tell when he's serious.  He's capable of changing his mind before the ink is dry!
before you know it If something takes place so suddenly that you don't have time to become aware of it, it happens before you know it or before you know where you are.
The doorbell rang, and before we knew it a surprise birthday party was under way!
before your very eyes If someone does something before your very eyes, they do it in front of you, without attempting to hide what they are doing.
Before my very eyes, he took the rubbish and threw it into the neigbour's garden.
beggars can't be choosers This expression means that you should not reject an offer if it is the only possibility you have. You have no choice.
"Beggars can't be choosers!"
behind bars Someone who is behind bars is in prison.
If you hang around with that gang, you'll find yourself behind bars in
no time!
behind closed doors If something takes place behind closed doors, it is done privately, with no observers or intruders.
The matter was discussed behind closed doors.
behind the times A person who is behind the times has old-fashioned ideas and does not keep up with modern life in general.
Jane doesn't have a mobile phone.  She's completely behind the times.
ring a bell If something rings a bell, it is vaguely familar to you, but you can't remember the exact details.
John Bentley?  The name rings a bell but I don't remember him.
with bells on If you go somewhere with bells on, you are delighted and eager to go there.
Of course I'll be there - with bells on!
below the belt An action or remark described as below the belt is considered to be unfair or cruel.
Politicians sometimes use personal information to hit their rivals below the belt.
tighten your belt If you need to tighten your belt, you must spend less money or be careful how you spend it because there is less available.
Another bill? I'll have to tighten my belt this month!
under one's belt If you have something under your belt, you have acquired experience or have satisfactorily achieved something.
You've got to have some work experience under your belt before you can hope to get a permanent job.
bend over backwards If you bend over backwards, you try very hard to do something, especially to please somebody.
The manager bent over backwards to try to make Jack stay, but Jack wouldn't change his mind.
bend the truth If you bend the truth, you say something that is not entirely true.
Ok, I bent the truth a bit.  I told him it was my natural colour, but I didn't say that my hairdresser helped me to keep it natural!
benefit of the doubt If you give someone the benefit of the doubt, you choose to believe that the person is innocent, honest or telling the truth, because there is no evidence to the contrary.
Although he found it hard to believe Tom's explanation, the teacher decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
bent out of shape If you get bent out of shape, you become annoyed or upset about something that is usually not that important or cannot be avoided.
Don't get bent out of shape if you're delayed.  We'll wait for you.
beside yourself If you are beside yourself (with an emotion), you lose your self-control because of the intensity of the emotion you are feeling.
He was beside himself with grief when he lost his son.
best bet The action most likely to succeed is called one's best bet.
Your best bet would be to try calling him at home.
best of one's ability When someone does something to the best of their ability, they do it as well as they possibly can.
I felt nervous all through the interview, but I replied to the questions the best of my ability.
best of both worlds If a person has the best of both worlds, they have the benefits and advantages of two different things.
We live in the centre of town, but only 5 minutes from the beach.  We have the best of both worlds.
best foot forward If you put your best foot forward, you do something as fast as you can.
It's a long way to the station, but if I put my best foot forward I should catch the next train.
bet your bottom dollar If you bet your bottom dollar on something, you are absolutely certain of it.
Jack is very punctual.  You can bet your bottom dollar he'll be here at 9 o'clock on the dot.
bet on the wrong horse If you back or bet on the wrong horse, for example the loser in a contest, match or election, you support the wrong person.
When I voted for him, I was convinced he would win, but I backed the wrong horse.
better late than never When someone does something late, this remark means that it is better to do it late than not do it at all.
Do you know what time it is? You promised you'd come early to help me - but better late than never I suppose!
better safe than sorry It's better to be too cautious than to be careless and have regrets later.
Let's book tickets in advance - better safe than sorry!
better still/worse still This expression is used to emphasize that although something is good, bad, etc., something else makes it even better, worse, etc.
Not only did he get a great offer, but better still, a house and car come with the job.
think better of If you think better of something, you decide not to do what you intended doing.
I was going to go shopping, but when I saw the crowded car park,
I thought better of it.
between the devil and the deep blue sea If you are between the devil and the deep blue sea, you are in a situation where there are to equally unpleasant alternatives.
When the new product didn't take off, the management was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea : develop a new marketing campaign or drop the product.
it's beyond me To say 'it's beyond me' means that it is impossible for you to understand.
It's beyond me why Mary wants to marry John.
beyond any reasonable doubt This is a legal expression which means that something is certain.
The court established, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the man was innocent.
beyond one's wildest dreams If something is beyond your wildest dreams, it is better than you imagined or hoped for.
The research team received a grant from the government that was beyond their wildest dreams.
beyond recall Something which is beyond recall is impossible to retrieve, cancel or reverse.
I'm afraid we can't recover the pictures - your camera is beyond recall.
beyond redemption If something is beyond redemption, it is in such a poor state that there is no hope of improvement or recovery.
With the latest scandal, his reputation is now beyond redemption.
bide your time If you bide your time, you wait for a good opportunity to do something.
He's not hesitating, he's just biding his time, waiting for the price to drop.
big cheese This expression refers to a person who has a lot of power and influence in an organization.
Tom's father is a big cheese in the oil industry.
big fish in a small pond This term refers to an important or highly-ranked person in a small group or organization.
He could get a job with a big company but he enjoys being a big fish in a small pond.
big picture If you talk about the big picture, you refer to the overall situation,
or the project as a whole rather than the details.
While each aspect is important, try not to forget the big picture.
bill of health If a person has a clean bill of health, they have a report or certificate declaring that their health is satisfactory.
All candidates for the position must produce a clean bill of health.
binge drinking This term refers to heavy drinking where large quantities of alcohol are consumed in a short space of time, often among young people in rowdy groups.
Binge drinking is becoming a major problem in some European countries. 
birds of a feather To say that two people are birds of a feather means that they are very similar in many ways.
No wonder they get on well.  They're birds of a feather!
for the birds If you think something is for the birds, you consider it to be uninteresting, useless or not to be taken seriously.
As far as I'm concerned, his theory is for the birds.
birthday suit This humorous expression means that you are wearing nothing.
The bathroom door blew open, and there I was in my birthday suit!
take the biscuit This expression refers to something very irritating or annoying.
After waiting for an hour, we were told that there were no seats left.  That really took the biscuit!
bite the bullet If you bite the bullet, you accept something unpleasant because you cannot avoid it.
If you don't have health insurance, you have to bite the bullet and pay the hospital fees.
bite the dust The expression 'bite' or 'hit the dust' is a humorous way of referring to death.
It's a story about an old cowboy who hits the dust during a train robbery.
bite off more than you can chew If you bite off more than you can chew, you try to do something that is too difficult for you, or more than you can manage.
As soon as I started to translate the report, I realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew.
get a second bite at the cherry This expression means that you get a second opportunity to do
or try something.
He was eliminated in the semi-finals, but he'll get a second bite at the cherry next year.
bite the hand that feeds you If you bite the hand that feeds you, you are unfriendly or do harm to someone who is kind to you.
If you say bad things about the person who gives you a job, you bite the hand that feeds you.
bite someone's head off If you bite someone's head off, you criticize them strongly (and perhaps unfairly).
I worked 10 hours a day all week and my boss bit my head off for not doing my share of the work!
bite one's tongue If you bite your tongue, you try not to say what you really think or feel.
It was difficult for me not to react; I had to bite my tongue.
bitten by the bug If you develop a sudden interest or enthusiasm for something, you are bitten by the bug.
My dad decided to take up golf and was immediately bitten by the bug.
once bitten twice shy This is said by someone who has had an unpleasant experience which has made them more cautious.
I'm never going to get married again.  Once bitten, twice shy!
bitter pill to swallow Something very unpleasant or difficult to accept is a bitter pill to swallow.
Losing his job after organizing the merger was a bitter pill to swallow.
black market The black market refers to the illegal buying and selling of goods or currencies.
Be careful of what you buy on the black market - it's not always good quality.
black out If you black out, you lose consciousness.
When Tony saw the needle, he blacked out.
black sheep The black sheep is one who behaves very differently or badly, and is considered disreputable by the other members of the family.
Joe was the black sheep of the family, always getting into trouble.
black tie event This expression refers to a formal event at which men are required to wear a dinner jacket, or tuxedo, and a black bow tie.
I need to know if it's going to be a casual get-together or a black tie event.
in black and white To say that something is in black and white means that there is written proof of it.
It's an obligation.  It's in black and white in your contract.
blamestorming A discussion among a group of people who try to determine who
or what is to blame for a particular mistake, failure or wrongdoing, is called 'blamestorming'.
A blamestorming session took place following the unfavourable reviews in the press.
blank cheque If you give someone a blank cheque, you authorize them to do what they think is best in a difficult situation.
Tom was given a blank cheque and told to negotiate the best deal possible.
wet blanket To refer to someone as a wet blanket means that they spoil other people's fun, or make an event less enjoyable than it could have been.
Come on Mike!  Don't be such a wet blanket. You're spoiling the party!
blessing in disguise This expression refers to something that is unpleasant at first but later turns out to have advantages.
Missing the plane was a blessing in disguise - that's how he met his wife.  She was a hostess on the next flight!
blind alley If you go up a blind alley, you follow an ineffective course of action which leads nowhere or produces no results.
The suspect's 'revelations' lead the police up a blind alley.
blind as a bat Someone whose vision is very poor, or who is unable to see anything, is (as) blind as a bat.
Without his glasses, the old man is as blind as a bat.
blind leading the blind This expression describes a person with very little ability trying to help or guide a person with no ability.
Don't ask Sofia to translate it.  She hardly speaks a word of English herself. It would be the blind leading the blind.
blind someone with science If someone tries to blind you with science, they confuse you with their knowledge by using difficult or technical words.
When you ask Tim for a simple explanation, he blinds you with science.
blink of an eye If something happens in the blink of an eye, it happens nearly instantaneously, with hardly enough time to notice it.
The pickpocket disappeared in the blink of an eye.
on the blink If a machine is on the blink, it is not working properly and needs servicing or repair.
What a nuisance! The photocopier is on the blink again.
blockbuster Something that is outstanding, impressive or particularly successful, such as a film or a book ,is called a blockbuster.
The TV series was a blockbuster.
makes your blood boil If something makes your blood boil, it makes you really angry.
His condescending attitude made my blood boil!
makes your blood run cold If something makes your blood run cold, it shocks or scares you
a lot.
The look in the prisoner's eyes made my blood run cold.
blood out of a stone This expression refers to something that is very difficult to obtain.
Negotiating a reduction from that company is like getting blood from a stone!
blood, sweat and tears A project or action which involves blood, sweat and tears requires a lot of effort and hard work.
His success wasn't due to luck; it was blood, sweat and tears all the way.
blot one's copy-book Someone who blots their copy-book does something to spoil their good record or reputation.
He blotted his copy-book when he was arrested for speeding.
blow away the cobwebs If something blows away the cobwebs, it makes you feel more lively and refreshes your ideas.
Let's get out of the house. A walk on the beach will blow away the cobwebs!
blow a fuse If you blow a fuse, you suddenly lose your temper and become very angry.
Charlie blew a fuse yesterday then he discovered that his ipod had been stolen.
blow a gasket When a furious person blows a gasket, they explode with anger.
When the shop was burgled for the third time, the owner blew a gasket.
blow hot and cold If you blow hot and cold about something, you constantly change your opinion about it.
The boss keeps blowing hot and cold about the marketing campaign - one day he finds it excellent, the next day he wants to make changes.
blow out of proportion If you exaggerate the importance of something, you blow it out of proportion.
The importance of the event was blown out of proportion by the media.
blow the whistle If you report an illegal or socially-harmful activity to the authorities, and give information about those responsible for it, you blow the whistle or you are a whistle-blower.
He refused to blow the whistle on his boss for fear of losing his job.
blow up in your face When working on a plan or project, if it suddenly goes wrong or fails, it blows up in your face.
The trip was difficult to organize, but it blew up in his face when the airline company went on strike.
blow your top If you blow your top, you suddenly become very angry.
When my mother saw the state of the house after the party, she blew
her top!
blue around the gills If a person looks blue around gills, (or green or pale) they look unwell or sick.
You should sit down.  You look a bit blue around the gills.
blue chip company This term refers to a company with a solid reputation for the quality of its products and the stability of its growth and earnings.
It's usually safe to invest in a blue chip company.
blue in the face If you do something until you are blue in the face, you try unsuccessfully to do something for a very long time.
I explained the situation until I was blue in the face but she wouldn't change her mind.
feel blue To feel blue means to have feelings of deep sadness or depression.
I'm going to see my grandmother. She's feeling a bit blue at the moment.
blue-eyed boy A blue-eyed boy is someone's favourite.
He's the director's blue-eyed boy!
out of the blue If something happens out of the blue, it happens very unexpectedly.
I had nearly given up hope when out of the blue I was offered a job.
(scream) blue murder Someone who screams blue murder shouts or complains very loudly as if something very serious has happened.
The crowd started screaming blue murder when the football match was interrupted.
above board If a situation or business is described as above board, it is open, honest and legal.
There are not secret negotiations.  Our dealings have always been above board.
in the same boat If two or more parties are in the same boat, they are in the same unpleasant or difficult situation.
When the factory closed down, the workers all found themselves in the same boat.
miss the boat If you miss the boat, you fail to take advantage of an opportunity because you don't act quickly enough.
I managed to get my order through before the end of the special offer - but I nearly missed the boat!
bodice-ripper A novel, usually on a historical theme, with a plot that involves romantic passion between a vulnerable heroine and a rich, powerful male character, is called a bodice-ripper.
The novel is a bodice-ripper set in the French revolution.
the mind boggles The expression 'the mind boggles' is used as a reaction to something you find amazing or difficult to understand.
She crossed the Atlantic alone - can you imagine? - the mind boggles!
bold as brass Someone who is as bold as brass behaves without shame or embarrassment.
Bold as brass, he refused the gift and handed it back to his mother-in-law.
bolt from the blue To refer to something as a bolt from the blue means that it happened totally unexpectedly.
The chairman's resignation came as a bolt from the blue.
bone of contention A bone of contention is a matter or subject about which there is
a lot of disagreement.
The salaries have been agreed on, but opening on Sundays is still a bone of contention.
bone to pick with someone If you have a bone to pick with someone, you are annoyed with them and want to talk to them about it.
Mark wants to see the boss.  He says he's got a bone to pick with him.
make no bones about it If you make no bones about something, you don't hesitate to say something in a frank and open way.
I made no bones about it.   I told him his offer was unacceptable.
you can't judge a book by its cover This expression means that you should not form an opinion about something from its appearance only.
He leads a very simple life but in fact he's an extremely rich man.  - you can't judge a book by its cover.
in someone's good/bad books If you are in somebody's good or bad books, you have their approval or disapproval.
I'm in my wife's bad books at the moment because I forgot our wedding anniversary.
lick somebody's boots To say that one person licks another person's boots means that they are trying to please that person, often in order to obtain something.
There's no need to lick the manager's boots. Just do your job!
too big for one's boots A person who is getting too big for their boots is behaving as if they were more important than they really are.
Tom's really getting too big for his boots since he got a promotion - he hardly says hello any more!
bored to tears
If you find something so dull and uninteresting that it makes you sad enough to cry, you are bored to tears.
I could see that my son was bored to tears by the historical documentar
born with a silver spoon in one's mouth A person who is born with a silver spoon in their mouth is born into a very rich family.
She never has to worry about money; she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
I wasn't born yesterday This expression is used to indicate that you are not as foolish or as easily deceived as some people seem to think.
Stop inventing silly excuses.  I wasn't born yesterday you know!
botch up/
make a botch of
If you spoil something, or make a mess of it, by doing a job badly or incorrectly, you make a botch of it or you botch it up.
Danny tried to assemble the new desk, but he made a botch of it.
on the bottle A person who drinks alcohol often and regularly is on the bottle.
John went on the bottle when he lost his job.
bottom fell out When something causes a plan, project or venture to collapse or fail, the bottom falls out of it.
When heavy rain was announced, the bottom fell out of their plans for a beach party.
bounce off the walls Someone who is very excited about something, or full of nervous energy, is said to be bouncing off the walls.
Danny can't wait to start his new job.  He's bouncing off the walls.
bow and scrape To say that someone is bowing and scraping means that they are being excessively polite or servile.
The President was greeted with much bowing and scraping.
brain drain The departure of highly qualified people (scientists, engineers, etc.) for other countries, where they have better opportunities and usually better pay, is called the brain drain.
brain like a sieve Someone who has a brain like a sieve has a very bad memory and forgets things easily.
Oh, I forgot to buy the bread - I've got a brain like a sieve these days!
have something on the brain If you have something on the brain, you think or talk abut it all constantly.
Stop talking about golf. You've got golf on the brain!
brains behind something Someone who is the brains behind a project or action is the person thought to have planned and organized everything.
The police have arrested a man believed to be the brains behind the bank robbery.
no-brainer A decision or choice that requires little or no thought, because the best option is so obvious, is called a no-brainer.
The choice was between a cash refund or having the amount credited to my account - it was a no-brainer.  I took the cash!
get down to brass tacks When people get down to brass tacks, they start to discuss the essential aspects of a problem or situation.
The situation was so serious that after a few polite exchanges they quickly got down to brass tacks.
all brawn and no brain Someone who is physically very strong but not very intelligent is said to be all brawn and no brain.
He's an impressive player to watch, but he's all brawn and no brain.

know which side your bread is buttered If you know which side your bread is buttered, you know where your interests lie or what will be to your advantage.
Jack never argues with his father-in-law.  He knows which side his bread is buttered.
take the bread out of
somebody's mouth
If you take the bread out of somebody's mouth, you take away their means of earning a living.
The decision to ban street vendors took the bread out of the mouths of many people.
on the breadline People who live on the breadline have a very low income or barely enough money to survive.
Due to the recent crisis, there are more people on the breadline than
ever before.
break your back If you work extremely hard, or put a lot of effort into achieving something, you break your back to do it.
If you want the job done well, you should accept to pay more.  He's not going to break his back for such a low price!
break the back of the beast If someone breaks the back of the beast, they succeed in overcoming a major difficulty.
After hours of effort, the technicians finally broke the back of the beast and turned the electricity back on again.
break fresh ground If you break fresh ground, you innovate by introducing or developing a new method or system.
Scientists have broken fresh ground in their exploration of outer space.
break a leg! This is a humorous way of wishing someone good luck, especially among stage performers.
So tonight's the opening night?  Break a leg!
break the mould If you change what people expect from a (traditional) situation, especially by doing something original, you break the mould.
After generations of doctors in the family, he broke the mould by becoming a fashion designer.
break every rule in the book If you behave in a completely unacceptable way, you break every rule in the book.
Our competitors obtained the contract by breaking every rule in the book.
break out in cold sweat If you break out in a cold sweat, you begin to perspire a lot, usually from anxiety.
I get nervous at the dentist's and usually break out in a cold sweat.
breaking and entering This term refers to the fact of entering a building or home illegally by breaking open a window, door, etc.
The two men were found guilty of breaking and entering.
breathe down someone's neck If someone is breathing down your neck, they are watching you too closely and making you feel uncomfortable.
The atmosphere at work is not great; the boss keeps breathing down
our necks all the time.
a breeze To say that something was a breeze means that it was very easy or that everything went smoothly.
The interview was a breeze - barely 10 minutes and I got the job!
bricks and mortar
bricks and clicks
An established trading company (office/shop) is referred to as a 'brick-and-mortar' business.
'Click companies' refer to internet-based operations.
Companies which do both are called 'bricks and clicks'.
Click businesses are usually more flexible than brick-and-mortar operations.
bright-eyed and bushy-tailed A person who is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is very enthusiastic and full of energy.
Gary was fantastic. He arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7am
and worked with us all day
bring the house down If you bring the house down, you give a very successful performance.
If he sings like that on Saturday, he'll bring the house down.
bring nothing to the table If you participate in negotiations and bring nothing to the table, you have nothing of interest to offer the other side.
We'll never reach an agreement if we don't all bring something to the table.
bring someone to heel If you force someone to behave in a disciplined manner, you bring them to heel.
The boy had always behaved badly, but the new headmaster managed to bring him to heel.
bring up the rear Someone who brings up the rear is the last person in a group of people who are walking or running.
The pupils walked calmly down the corridor, with the teacher bringing up the rear.
broad daylight If something happens in broad daylight, it takes place in the clear light of day when everyone can see what's going on.
His car was stolen in front of the bank, in broad daylight, and apparently there was not one witness!
broad as it's long This expression means that there is no real difference which alternative is chosen.
Take the high-speed train, or fly and take a taxi? It's as broad as it's long.
broad strokes If something is described or defined with/in broad strokes, it is outlined in a very general way, without any details.
In a few broad strokes he summed up the situation.
brown as a berry To say that someone is as brown as a berry means that they are very tanned.
Judy came back from her holiday as brown as a berry.
browned off If you are browned off, you are bored, fed up or disheartened.
Tom is browned off with his job.
have a brush with When you have a brush with something, such as the law, you encounter or experience it briefly.
Had a brush with the law for speeding a few years ago, but he has had a clean record ever since.
the bubble has burst To say that the bubble has burst means that the success of an idea, a product or a situation has suddenly stopped.
The video game was a phenomenal success but the bubble has burst.
pass the buck If you say that someone is passing the buck, you are accusing them of not taking responsibility for a problem and expecting someone else to handle it.
Sam  takes the easy way out. Whenever a problem arises, he immediately passes the buck!
kick the bucket To kick the bucket is a lighthearted way of talking about death.
He will inherit when his grandfather kicks the bucket!
buckle down If you buckle down, you apply yourself with determination to hard work and give it hour full attention.
If you want to pass your exams, you'll have to buckle down and do some serious work.
nip in the bud If you nip a problem or an unacceptable situation in the bud, you stop it at an early stage, before it develops or becomes worse.
He wanted to be a clown, but his parents soon nipped that idea in the bud.
build bridges If a person builds bridges between opposing groups, they help them to cooperate and understand each other better.
A mediator is trying to build bridges between the local community and the owners of the new plant.
take the bull by the horns To take the bull by the horns means that a person decides to act decisively in order to deal with a difficult situation or problem.
When the argument turned into a fight, the bar owner took the bull by the horns and called the police.
bulldoze somebody
into doing something
A person who is bulldozed into doing something is forced to do it, especially by being bullied or intimidated.
The immigrants we bulldozed into accepting the work.
bundle of nerves If you describe someone as a bundle of nerves, you mean that they are very nervous, tense or worried.
My son is doing his driving test today.  Needless to say he's a bundle of nerves!
burden of proof The burden of proof is the necessity imposed by the law to prove that what one says is true.
The burden of proof lies with the claimant.
burn your bridges If you burn your bridges, you do something that will be impossible to rectify in the future.
If you refuse the offer, be careful not to burn your bridges by insulting them.  They may make a better proposal later.
burn the candle at both ends If you burn the candle at both ends, you exhaust yourself by doing too much, especially going to bed late and getting up early.
Scott looks exhausted - I'll bet he's been burning the candle at both ends lately.
burn your fingers If you burn your fingers (or get your fingers burnt), you suffer financially as a result of foolish behaviour.
Jack got his fingers burnt playing on the stock market.
on the back burner If you put a project or issue on the back burner, you decide to deal with it at a later date because you do not consider it to be that ugent or important.
When Julie was offered a promotion she put her MBA plans on the back burner.
burning question What everyone is asking, and what we all want to know about, is called the burning question.
Who leaked the information? That's the burning question!
bury head in sand If you bury your head in the sand, you refuse to face the unpleasant reality by pretending that the situation doesn't exist.
It's no good burying your head in the sand. We've got a problem on our hands.
bury the hatchet When people who have had a disagreement decide to forget their quarrel and become friends again, they bury the hatchet.
I didn't agree with my colleague's decision, but for the sake of peace,
I decided to bury the hatchet.
business as usual After an unpleasant or unexpected event, this expression means that everything is continuing in a normal way, in spite of the difficulties.
It was business as usual at the supermarket the day after the hold-up.
business before pleasure This expression means that it is considered preferable to finish one's work before going to relax and enjoy oneself.
I'd love to have lunch with you  but I've got a report to finish - business before pleasure I'm afraid!
business is business This is a way of saying that in financial and commercial matters, friendship or personal feelings should not be allowed to have any influence.
I'll hire your brother only if he is the best candidate. I'm sorry but business is business!
busman's holiday A busman's holiday is when you spend your spare time or your holidays doing the same sort of activity as you do in your job.
My husband is a chef, so for him time off with the family is often a busman's holiday!
butter somebody up When you butter someone up, you flatter them or you are very nice to them, especially if you want to obtain something.
He was so keen to get the job that he spent his time buttering up the boss.
butter wouldn't melt in your mouth If you say that someone looks as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouth, you mean that they look completely innocent, but that they are capable of doing unpleasant things.
The boy who stole the purse looked as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
butterflies in your stomach If you have butterflies in your stomach, you are feeling very nervous.
At the beginning of an exam, I always have butterflies in my stomach.
buy a lemon If buy something, especially a car, that is defective, unsatisfactory, constantly gives trouble or stops running after a short time, you
buy a lemon.
The car I bought was a real lemon.  It broke down two weeks later.
by degrees If something happens or develops by degrees, it happens gradually or little by little as time goes by.
By degrees their business relationship grew into friendship.

Alphabetical List of Idioms - C

(Idioms C page 1 : in cahoots with   →   burn the candle)

in cahoots with someone If one person is in cahoots with another, they are working in close partnership, usually conspiring to do something dishonest.
There was a rumour that the Mayor was in cahoots with a chain of supermarkets.
piece of cake To refer to something as a piece of cake means that you consider it to be very easy.
The English test was a piece of cake!
slice/share of the cake When people feel entitled to a share of the profits or benefits, they want a (larger) slice of the cake.
Since profits are higher this year, the workers feel they deserve a bigger slice of the cake.
have your cake and eat it To say that someone wants to have their cake and eat it means that they want the advantages of two alternative situations when only one is possible.
Jack enjoys his comfort but is always complaining about the cost of things.  He can't have his cake and eat it.
sell like hot cakes Things that sell like hot cakes sell quickly or in large quantities.
Her books always sell like hot cakes.
cake/game is not worth the candle To say that the cake (or the game) is not worth the candle means that the advantages to be gained from doing something are not worth the effort involved.
He recorded an album but sold very few copies; the cake wasn't worth the candle.
calculated risk A calculated risk is a risk taken with full knowledge of the dangers involved.
The company took a calculated risk when they hired Sean straight out of college.
call someone's bluff If you call someone's bluff, you challenge them to do what they threaten to do (while believing that they will not dare to do it).
After the neighbour's threats to demolish the fence, when Jack decided to call his bluff, there were no more complaints.
call it quits When people temporarily stop doing something or put an end to an activity, they call it quits.
OK, we're all exhausted, so let's call it quits for today.
call a spade a spade A person who calls a spade a spade speaks openly and truthfully about something, especially difficult matters.
What I like about the new manager is that he calls a spade a spade - it makes things so much easier for everyone.
call the shots/ the tune The person who calls the shots or the tune is the one who makes all the important decisions and is in control of the situation.
He shows a lot of authority but in fact it's his wife who calls the tune.
can of worms To describe a situation as a can of worms means that it is complicated, unpleasant and difficult to deal with.
The discovery of the transfer of funds turned out to be a real can of worms.
burn the candle at both ends If you burn the candle at both ends, you exhaust yourself by doing too much, especially going to bed late and getting up early.
Scott looks exhausted - I'll bet he's been burning the candle at both ends lately.

Alphabetical List - C 

(Idioms C page 2  :  paddle one's own canoe  →  carrot and stick)

paddle one's own canoe If you paddle your own canoe, you do what you want to do without help or interference from anyone.
He decided to paddle his own canoe and set up his own company.
can't for the life of me This expression can be used to say that it is impossible for you
to do something, no matter how hard you try.
I can't for the life of me remember the title of the book.
can't hold a candle If one person (or thing) can't hold a candle to another, they are much less competent or do not perform as well as the other.
John is very intelligent but he can't hold a candle to his brother Paul when it comes to sports.
can't make head or tail of If you can't make head or tail of something, you can't understand it at all.
Amy's message was so confusing.  I couldn't make head or tail of it!
can't make omelette
without breaking eggs
This expression means that it is impossible to make important changes without causing some unpleasant effects.
Some people will lose their jobs after the merger, but you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.
can't see the wood for the trees If someone can't see the wood for the trees, they are so concentrated on the details that they can't see the situation as a whole.
The new manager found the situation so complicated that he couldn't see the wood for the trees.
can't stand the pace If you can't stand the pace, you are unable to do things well when there is a lot of pressure.
She once worked for a famous fashion designer but she couldn't stand the pace.
cap in hand If you do something cap in hand, you ask for something in a very respectful manner.
They went to the teacher, cap in hand, and asked for more time to complete their project.
if the cap fits wear it You can say 'if the cap fits, wear it' to let someone know that the critical remark they have just heard applies to them.
"Are you referring to me?" "If the cap fits, wear it!"
put on your thinking cap If you tell someone to put their thinking cap on, you ask them to find an idea or solve a problem by thinking about it.
Now here's this week's quiz;  it's time to put your thinking caps on!
on/in the cards Something which is on the cards it very likely to happen.
A coalition between the two parties is still on the cards.
play your cards right If you play your cards right, you do all that is necessary in order to succeed or to obtain what you want.
If we play our cards right, we'll get the contract.
put/lay one's cards on the table If you put your cards on the table, you speak honestly and openly about your feelings and intentions.
Let's clean the air and put our cards on the table.
carrot and stick If you use a carrot-and-stick approach, you use the promise of reward and the threat of punishment to make someone work harder.
Some parents use a carrot-and-stick approach to obtain good results from their children.
carry the can If you carry the can for another person, you accept blame or take responsibility for something that goes wrong, even if it is not your fault or only partly.
The author didn't turn up for the interview and his agent had to carry the can.
carry the torch If you carry the torch, you have strong feelings for someone with whom you do not or cannot have a relationship.
He's been carrying the torch for Julie since their college days, before she married Ted.
carry weight If a person or organization carries weight, they are influential or important.
I'm glad she's on our side - her opinion carries a lot of weight.
put the cart before the horse A person who puts the cart before the horse is doing things in the wrong order.
Building a school before knowing the age of the population is putting the cart before the horse.
carve out a niche A person or company who carves out a niche concentrates on a particular segment of the market, to which they supply a product or service, and develop their expertise in that area.
In today's competitive market it is better to carve out a niche and try to become the best in that area.
case in point This term refers to an example which serves to illustrate, support or prove a point which is currently under discussion.
Not even the most talented athlete is guaranteed a long career.  The latest skiing accident is a case in point.
cash cow A product or service which is a regular source of income for a company is called a cash cow.
His latest invention turned out to be a real cash cow.
cash in your chips If you cash in your chips, you sell something, especially shares, either because you need the money or because you think the value is going to fall.
Andy cashed in his chips as soon as business started to slow down.
cast a wide net When trying to find something, if you cast a wide net, you cover an extensive area or use a wide range of sources.
The hospital cast a wide net in their search for compatible donors.
cast-iron stomach If you can eat all sorts of food and drink what you like, without any indigestion, discomfort or bad effects, it is said that you have a cast-iron stomach.
I don't know how you can eat that spicy food.  You must have a cast-iron stomach.
cat in gloves catches no mice This expression means that if you are too careful and polite, you may not obtain what you want.
Negotiate carefully, but remember : a cat in gloves catches no mice!
cat can look at a king This expression means that nobody is so important that an ordinary person cannot look at or be curious about them.
fat cat To refer to a rich and powerful person as a fat cat means that you disapprove of the way they use their money or power.
The place was full of fat cats on their big yachts.
cat nap If you have a short sleep during the day, you have a cat nap.
My dad often has a cat nap on a Sunday afternoon.
cat in hell's chance To say that there is not a cat in hell's chance of someone doing or achieving something means that there is no chance at all.
Because of the blizzard, the pilot didn't have a cat in hell's chance of landing safely.
let the cat out of the bag If you let the cat out of the bag, you reveal a secret, generally not intentionally.
When the child told her grandmother about the plans for her birthday, she let the cat out of the bag.
like a cat on hot bricks A person who is like a cat on hot bricks is very nervous or restless.
The week before the results were published, she was like a cat on hot bricks.
like the cat that ate the canary If, after an achievement or success, a person seems very self-satisfied or pleased with themselves, you can say that they look like the cat that ate the canary.
When the boss complimented him on his work, Steve looked like the cat that ate the canary.
like a scalded cat If something or something moves like a scalded cat, they move very fast, usually because they are frightened or shocked.
As soon as he saw the policeman, he ran off like a scalded cat.
like something the cat  dragged in If you compare a person or thing to something the cat dragged in, you think they they look dirty, untidy or generally unappealing.
My teenage son often looks like something the cat dragged in.
like cat and dog Two people who fight or argue like cat and dog frequently have violent arguments, even though they are fond of each other.
They fight like cat and dog but they're still together after 30 years.
cat and dog life A life in which partners are constantly or frequently quarrelling is called a cat-and-dog life.
They lead a cat-and-dog life.  I don't know why they stay together.
cat's whiskers
(also: cat's pyjamas)
This expression refers to someone who considers themselves
to be better than others in a particular area : beauty, competence, intelligence, sport, etc.
Ever since she got a promotion, she thinks she's the cat's whiskers!
catch 22 A catch 22 situation refers to a frustrating situation where you cannot do one thing without doing a second, and you cannot do the second before doing the first.
I can't get a job without a work permit, and I can't get a work permit without a job.  It's a catch 22 situation!
catch somebody's eye If someone catches you eye, you find them attractive.
The pretty girl near the door caught his eye.
catch redhanded If a person is caught red-handed, they are caught while they are doing something wrong or illegal.
The police arrived as the burglar was leaving the house.  He was caught red-handed.
catch as catch can This expression means that you try to get something in any way possible.
It's difficult to get much sleep with the new baby - it's catch-as-catch-can these days!
caught in the crossfire If you are caught in the crossfire, you suffer the effects of an argument or dispute between two people or groups.
When the two taxi drivers started to argue, their passengers were caught in the crossfire.
wouldn't be caught dead/seen dead If someone says that they wouldn't be caught or seen dead in a particular place or doing something, they mean that they would be too ashamed or embarrassed.
My seven-year-old son thinks he's a big boy; he wouldn't be caught dead holding my hand in front of his friends!
caught unawares If someone is caught unawares, they are surprised and unprepared for what happens.
The security guard moved so silently that the thief was caught unawares.
cause a stir If something causes a stir, it creates an atmosphere of excitement or great interest.
The arrival of the actress caused quite a stir in the village.
throw caution to the wind If you throw caution to the wind, you start taking risks and stop worrying about the danger involved.
I decided to throw caution to the wind and invest in my best friend's new company.
caveat emptor This Latin expression, which means 'let the buyer beware', is a warning to customers that goods are for sale 'as is'. The buyer is purchasing the articles at his/her own risk and is responsible for examining them beforehand.
Caveat emptor is a principle to be remembered when buying second-hand goods.
chalk and cheese Two people who are like chalk and cheese are completely different from each other.
I'm surprised they get on so well.  They're like chalk and cheese.
champ at the bit Someone who is champing at the bit is ready and eager to start an activity, and is showing impatience at being delayed.
The press conference was delayed for such a long time that the journalists were champing at the bit.
champagne taste on a beer budget Someone who likes expensive things that they cannot afford has champagne taste on a beer budget.
Eve borrows money to buy expensive designer clothes - champagne taste on a beer budget!
take a chance If you take a chance on something, you take action in the hope of success even though you know that the result may be negative.
I may not be able to get through the traffic, but I'll take a chance on it.
chance one's arm If you chance your arm, you decide to do something even though there is little hope of success.
Tony knew there was little hope of getting into Harvard but he decided to chance his arm anyway.
chance in a million A chance in a million is a very small chance, or no chance at all, that something will happen.
There's a chance in a million of finding the key I lost on the golf course.
change the face of When an innovation, discovery or event changes the face of something, it alters it completely or in a major way.
Social networks have changed the face of modern communication.
change of heart If someone has a change of heart, they change their attitude or feelings, especially towards greater friendliness or cooperation.
He was against charity, but he had a change of heart when he saw the plight of the homeless.
change horses in midstream If you change horses in midstream, you change your plan, or choose a new leader, in the middle of an important activity.
Let's go through with the original plan; it's risky to change horses in midstream.
chapter and verse This term refers to word-for-word details, or very specific facts, especially the exact place where the information can be found.
The phrase is attributed to Oscar Wilde, although I can't give you chapter and verse.
chase rainbows Someone who is chasing rainbows is trying to get something they will never obtain.
She's trying to get into Oxford, but I think she's chasing rainbows.
chase you (own) tail Someone who is chasing their (own) tail is spending a lot of time and energy doing many things but achieving very little.
He's been chasing his tail all week collecting data but the report is still  not ready.
cheap shot A cruel, unfair or unwarranted comment or verbal attack is called a cheap shot.
Referring to Tom as an 'unqualified speaker' was really a cheap shot.
cheek by jowl When people are cheek by jowl, they are crammed uncomfortably close together.
The refugees are living cheek by jowl in a temporary camp.
cheesed off If someone is cheesed off with something, they are annoyed, bored or frustrated.
Jenny is absolutely cheesed off with her job.
cherry pick When you cherry pick, you choose something with great care and select only the best.
Top university graduates are often cherry-picked by large companies.
get a second bite/two bites at the cherry This expression means that you get a second opportunity to do or try something.
He was eliminated in the semi-finals, but he'll get a second bite at the cherry next year.
old chestnut A story, joke or an idea that has been repeated so often that it has lost its novelty is referred to as an 'old chestnut'.
The story about his boat capsizing has become an old chestnut!
chew the fat If you chew the fat with somebody, you chat in an informal way about unimportant things.
It's amazing the amount of time my grandparents can spend chewing the fat with their neighbours.
chicken feed An amount of money considered small or unimportant is called chicken feed.
I got a job during the holidays but the pay was chicken feed.
chicken out             If you chicken out of something, you decide not to do something because you are afraid.
He decided to join a karate class, but chickened out  at the last minute.
(no) spring chicken To say that someone is no spring chicken means that they are quite old or well past their youth.
"How old is the owner?" "I don't know, but she's no spring chicken!"
chickens come home to roost If you say that chickens have come home to roost, you mean that bad or embarrassing things done in the past by someone are now causing problems for that person.
As tenants the couple were noisy and disorderly.  Now they can't find a place to rent.  The chickens have come home to roost!
too many chiefs, not enough indians This expression refers to a situation where there are too many people giving instructions and not enough people doing the work.
The business wasn't successful.  There were too many chiefs and not enough indians.
child's play If something is referred to as child's play, it is considered to be simple or easy to do.
Using this new computer is child's play compared to the old one.
chill out When people chill out, often after a period of heavy work or nervous tension, they do something that helps them to calm down and relax for a while.
After a week of exams, the students needed to go and chill out.
chill wind If you face or feel the chill wind of something, you are beginning to encounter the problems or trouble it causes.
Many building companies are facing the chill wind of the recession.
chime in If you chime in, you interrupt or join a conversation, especially to repeat or agree with something.
As I explained to the bus driver what had happened, the other passengers chimed in and gave their version.
Chinese arithmetic If something is very complicated or difficult to understand, it is said to be like Chinese arithmetic.
When he tried to explain the rules of the game to me, it was like Chinese arithmetic!
Chinese whispers This expression refers to a process by which a message or piece of information (especially gossip, rumours or scandalous news) is passed on from one person to another, and changes along the way, so that the final version is often very different from the original.
chink in someone's armour If someone has a chink in their armour, they have a weakness that other people can take advantage of.
The candidate's opponents are busy looking for chinks in his armour.
chinwag If you have a chinwag with someone, you have an opportunity to chat with each other.
"How about having lunch together on Friday?"
"OK, good idea, we can have a good old chinwag!"
chip on your shoulder If someone has a chip on their shoulder, the feel resentful because they feel they are being treated unfairly, especially because of their background, their sex or their colour.
He's got a chip on his shoulder because he's from a working-class family.
chip off the old block A person who is a chip off the old block resembles one of their parents in appearance, character or behaviour.
James is a chip off the old block - he reacts the same way as his father.
had one's chips To say that someone has had their chips means that they have completely failed in what they set out to achieve.
After the second round, it looked as though Watson had had his chips.
chips are down This expression refers to people's behavior in a difficult or dangerous situation when action must be taken.
It's when the chips are down that Jack is at his best.
as useful as a chocolate teapot Something which is of no practical use at all is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
When there are no roads, a car is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
chop and change If you chop and change, you constantly change your opinion, plans or methods and often cause confusion.
Don't chop and change all the time - just make up your mind!
Christmas comes but once a year This expression means that Christmas is a time of celebration that only happens once a year, and that we should mark the occasion by being generous to others, especially the less fontunate.
off someone's Christmas list This expression means that you are no longer on friendly terms with someone.
I've been off her Christmas card list since our dog messed up her garden!
can't fight the city hall This expression means that it is useless to try to win a battle against a politician, establishment or bureaucracy in general.
Brian decided it was a waste of energy trying to obtain a tax refund - you can't fight the city hall.
clap eyes on If you clap eyes on someone or something, you actually see them.
I've heard of him but I've never clapped eyes on him.
class act To say that someone, for example an athlete or entertainer, is a class act means that they are very good at what they do.
Her career is just beginning but she's already a class act.
claw one's way back In a situation which has deteriorated, if you claw your way back, you gradually regain your former position through determination, energy and hard work.
After a serious accident, the Olympic champion clawed his way back to the top, to the admiration of all.
clean bill of health If a person has a clean bill of health, they have a report or certificate declaring that their health is satisfactory.
All candidates for the position must produce a clean bill of health.
clean slate A clean slate is a record of your work or actions that does not show past mistakes and allows you to make a fresh start.
He was able to rebuild his life with a clean slate.
clean as a whistle Something as clean as a whistle is extremely clean.
This can also mean that a person's criminal record is clean.
Bob spent the afternoon washing and shining his car until it was as clean as a whistle.
clear the air If you decide to clear the air, you try to remove the causes of fear, worry or suspicion by talking about the problem openly.
The atmosphere had become so unpleasant that he decided it was time to clear the air.
clear the way If you clear the way, you allow something to happen by removing what was preventing it.
Opening universities to women cleared the way fo them to have a career and participate actively in today's society.
clinch a deal In a business relationship, if you clinch a deal, you reach agreement on a proposal or offer.
Paul's final argument enabled us to clinch the deal.
clip someone's wings If you clip someone's wings, you do something to restrict their freedom.
Taking away his credit card is a sure way to clip his wings.
clock in/out When you clock in or out, you record the time you arrive or leave your job by punching a time clock to the show the  number of hours you have worked.
I'm going to clock out early today.  I've got a dental appointment.
like clockwork To say that someone or something goes, runs or behaves like clockwork means that everything happens exactly as expected.
Meals are always served on time.  In their home everything runs like clockwork.
close but no cigar This expression refers to an effort to do something which was a good attempt but not quite good enough to succeed.
The ball touched the goal post - close but no cigar!
close call If something happens, or is avoided or missed, with very little margin, it is called a close call.
She won the election with 0.5% of the votes - it was a close call.
close shave This term describes a situation where an accident or a disaster nearly happened.
I almost hit the child who ran out in front of my car.  It was a close shave.
close to home If a remark or comment is close to home, it is so true, or it affects you so directly, that you feel uncomfortable.
Alan looks embarrassed.  Bob's comment must have been close to home.
close (/dumb) as an oyster Someone who is as close ( or 'dumb') as an oyster will never reveal something told in confidence, or betray a secret.
Sophie will never repeat what you tell her.  She's as close as an oyster.
cloud cuckoo land This expression refers to an imaginary unrealistic place where everything is perfect and impossible things can happen.
Anyone who thinks these measures are going to solve the crisis is living in cloud-cuckoo-land!
on cloud nine A person who is on cloud nine is very happy because something wonderful has happened.
When the boss announced my promotion, I was on cloud nine.
cloud on the horizon A problem or difficulty that is predictable, or seems likely to arise in the future, is called a cloud on the horizon.
They are happily married and for the moment there appear to be no clouds on the horizon.
not have a clue If you don't have a clue about something, you don't know anything about it.
My wife's grandmother's maiden name? I don't have a clue!
coast is clear To say that the coast is clear means that there is no danger in sight or that nobody can see you.
OK. The dog has gone inside. The coast is clear.
cog in the machine If you say that someone is a cog in the machine, you mean that, while they are necessary, they only play a small part in an organization or plan.
The police quickly realized that the suspect was just a cog in the machine.
cold calls If you make cold calls, you telephone potential customers from a list of people you do not know.
In my first job I had to make cold calls using the telephone directory.
cold turkey This term means to immediately and completely stop an addictive substance, a regular activity or a behavioural pattern, instead of ending it gradually.
When Dave decided to stop smoking, he did it cold turkey on January 1st
collect dust If something is collecting dust, it hasn't been touched or used for a long period of time.
My dad doesn't play golf any more.  His clubs are collecting dust now.
collect one's thoughts If you collect your thoughts, you try to think calmly and clearly in order to prepare yourself mentally for something.
Anne stopped to collect her thoughts before calling back the customer.
off colour If you are off colour, you look or feel ill.
What's the matter with Tom? He looks a bit off colour today.
come apart at the seams To say that someone is coming apart at the seams means that they are extremely upset or under severe mental stress.
Bob has had so many problems lately, he's coming apart at the seams.
come clean To come clean about something means to tell the truth.
The boy was encouraged to come clean and tell the authorities what happened.
come hell or high water If you say that you will do something come hell or high water, you mean that you will do it in spite of the difficulties involved.
Come hell or high water, I've got to be on time for the interview.
come in all shapes and sizes Something that can be found in many different forms, types or varieties, comes in all shapes and sizes.
Computers come in all shapes and sizes these days.
come in handy To say that something may come in handy means that it may be useful some time or other.
Don't throw away those old shelves; they may come in handy one day.
come into one's own When you come into your own, you finally obtain rightful recognition of your ability or talent and begin to have success.
He's a talented violinist who has at last come into his own.
come to a bad end If someone comes to a bad end, their actions lead to disastrous consequences which are sometimes deserved or predictable.
If that boy doesn't change his ways, he'll come to a bad end.
come to blows If two or more people come to blows, they start to fight.
The debate was so intense that the participants almost came to blows.
come to the crunch To talk about what to do if or when a situation comes to the crunch means when it becomes critical and a decision has to be made.
I'm running out of money. If it comes to the crunch, I'll sell my car.
come to grief If someone or something comes to grief, they either have an accident, are destroyed or end in failure.
Their plans for a golf course came to grief when it was decided to build a motorway.
come to grips If you come to grips with a problem or situation, you start to understand or deal with it properly.
After the initial shock, the patient began to come to grips with his disability.
come to a head If a problem or difficult situation comes to a head, it reaches a point where action has to be taken.
The conflict came to a head yesterday when rioting broke out in the streets.
come to your senses If you come to your senses you start to think clearly and behave sensibly.
She finally came to her senses and realized that public transport was faster than driving in the city.
come rain or shine If a person does something come rain or shine, they do it regularly, whatever the circumstances.
He goes to the gym club every day, come rain or shine.
come out of the woodwork When things, or people, come out of the woodwork, they appear or emerge unexpectedly, as if from nowhere, and usually in large numbers.
As soon as we added the swimming pool, our children had 'friends' coming out of the woodwork!
come out in the wash This expression is used to tell someone not to worry about a mistake or problem because it won't have any serious effect and everything will work out all right.
Yes, he was furious when it happened, but don't worry - it'll all come out in the wash.
come up in the world A person who has come up in the world is richer than before and has a higher social status.
My old school friend has bought an apartment overlooking Central Park.  She has certainly come up in the world.
come up roses If things come up roses, the end result is successful or positive, even if there were difficult times.
After several disappointments, everything seems to be coming up roses for the tennis player this year.
come/turn up trumps To say that someone has come up trumps means that they have achieved unexpectedly good results.
Against all expectations, our team came up trumps in the cup final. 
come with the territory To say that something comes with the territory means that it has to be accepted as part of a job or responsibility, even if it is unpleasant.
A successful actor has to expect intensive media coverage - that comes with the territory!
come what may If you declare that you will do something come what may, you are saying that you will do it whatever the consequences may be.
Come what may, I'm going to tell my mother-in-law what I think of her!
(get) comeuppance When someone gets their comeuppance, they receive the treatment they deserve (usually punishment or retribution) for their behaviour or actions.
Any pupils found bullying the newcomers will soon get their comeuppance.
common ground This expression refers to an area of shared beliefs, interests or mutual understanding between people or groups who often have disagreements.
Any common ground among the Meditarranean countries will contribute to future unity.
common knowledge When information is well-known to everyone (particularly in a community or group), it is called common knowledge.
You didn't know the intern was Jack's son? It thought it was common knowledge.
cook the books A person who cooks the books is one who changes the facts or figures in the financial accounts, often in order to steal money.
The actor discovered after a while that his agent was cooking the books.
cook somebody's goose To cook somebody's goose means to spoil that person's chances of success.
When the burglar saw the police car arriving, he realized his goose was cooked!
that's the way the cookie crumbles To say 'that's the way the cookie crumbles' means that is the way things are and nothing can be done about it - that's life!
cool as a cucumber A person who is as cool as a cucumber is not anxious, but relaxed and non-emotional.
The bride's mother stayed as cool as a cucumber all through the ceremony.
cool one's heels If you are left to cool your heels, someone keeps you waiting.
After rushing to be on time for my appointment, I was left to cool my heels in the waiting room for an hour.
copper-bottomed To describe something such as a plan, a contract or a financial arrangement as copper-bottomed means that it is completely safe or reliable.
He signed a coper-bottomed agreement with a distributor.
cork something up If you cork up your feelings or emotions, you fail to show or express them.
It would be better if she showed her grief and didn't cork up her feelings.
corner the market If a company dominates an area of business, and leaves no room for competition, it is said to have cornered the market.
By importing large quantities and selling at low prices, they have cornered the market.
corridors of power This term refers to the higher levels of government or administration where important decisions are made.
The matter is the subject of much discussion in the corridors of power at the present time.
cost an arm and a leg If something costs an arm and a leg, it is very expensive.
The house cost us an arm and a leg, but we have no regrets.
cost the earth If something costs the earth, it is very expensive indeed.
She wears designer clothes that must cost the earth!
at all costs If you are determined to obtain or achieve something at all costs, you want it regardless of the expense, effort or sacrifice involved.
The journalist was determined at all costs to get a report from the war zone.
couch potato If you refer to someone as a couch potato, you criticize them for spending a lot of time sitting and watching television.
Don't be such a couch potato. There are better ways of spending your time than in front of the TV.
cough up If you have to cough up something, such as money or information,  you give it reluctantly or unwillingly.
He refused to say who attacked him until his father made him cough up the names.
count your blessings If you count your blessings, you focus your thoughts on all the good things in your life rather than on the negative ones.
Whenever anyone in the family starts to complain, my mother always advises us to count our blessings.
take your courage in both hands If you take your courage in both hands, you make yourself do something very brave.
When I saw the child in the burning house, I took my courage in both hands and ran inside.
on course If you are on course for something, you are likely to achieve it.
Our team is on course for a victory in the national championship.
cover your tracks If you cover your tracks, you conceal or destroy evidence of what you have been doing or where you have been.
Charlie was sorry he hadn't covered his tracks better when his wife discovered he had been unfaithful.
cover a multitude of sins If something covers or hides a multitude of sins, it prevents others from seeing the less pleasant reality.
Loose-fitting clothes can cover a multitude of sins!
why buy a cow when you can get milk for free? This refers to not paying for something that you can obtain for free.
(Sometimes refers to a decision not to marry when you can have the benefits of marriage without any commitment.)
Rent is high so Bobby is still living with his parents. 
He says : why buy a cow when you can get milk for free?
till the cows come home To say that a person could do something till the cows come home means that they could do it for a ong time.
You can ask me till the cows come home but I'm not buying you a scooter!
crack down on something If the authorities crack down on something, they enforce the law by taking severe measures to restrict undesirable or criminal actions.
To reduce road accidents, it was decided to crack down on speeding.
crack the whip If you crack the whip, you use your authority to make someone obey you or work more efficiently, usually by threatening them.
Every so often I'll crack the whip to make sure we meet the deadline.
cramp someone's style If you cramp someone's style you do something to prevent them from behaving freely, or performing to the best of their ability.
I can't paint with people watching me - it cramps my style!.
crank into gear When a person or activity cranks (or gets) into gear, they start to work or become effective.
Immediately after the announcement, a group of protesters cranked into gear.
crash course If you do a crash course, you do an intensive training course in order to obtain quick results.
Before going to Tokyo, he did a crash course in Japanese.
cream of the crop This expression refers to the best people or things in a particular group.
As usual, the cream of the crop of this year's graduates were offered the best jobs.

cream rises to the top Someone or something exceptionally good will eventually attract attention or stand out from the rest, just as cream rises to the top in coffee or tea.
I knew you'd succeed.  As the saying goes: 'cream rises to the top'!
creative accounting This term refers to the presentation of a company's results in a way that, although generally legal, glosses over the problems and makes the results appear better than they are.
It was suggested that some creative accounting might help to attract investors.
creature comforts This expression refers to modern conveniences (such as hot water or central heating) that make life comfortable and pleasant.
I need my creature comforts. I don't know how I'd survive without air-conditioning in this climate!
credibility gap The extent of disbelief, of the difference between what you are asked to believe and what you are able to believe, is call a credibility gap.
The growing credibility gap may lead to a serious loss of votes in the next elections.
crest of a wave If you are on the crest of a wave, you are very successful in what you are doing.
Our company is going from success to success.  We're on the crest of a wave right now.
crocodile tears To shed crocodile tears means to shed false tears or show insincere grief.
Caroline pretended to be sad but we all knew her tears were crocodile tears.
crooked as a dog's hind leg To say that someone is as crooked as a dog's hind leg means that they are very dishonest indeed.
He can't be trusted - he's as crooked as a dog's hind leg.
cross to bear A person who has a cross to bear have a serious problem or heavy responsibility that they must accept because they cannot change it.
Alzheimer's is a cross to bear for the whole family.
cross that bridge when we come to it This is another way of saying 'we will deal with that problem when it occurs and not worry about it before'.
"What will happen if we can't repay the loan?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
cross the line If you cross the line, you go beyond the authorized limits and do something which is not acceptable.
He has an unpleasant habit of telling jokes that really cross the line.
cross your mind If an idea or thought crosses your mind, you suddenly think of it.
It just crossed my mind that the shops are closed today.
cross someone's path If you meet somebody, usually unexpectedly or by chance, you cross their path.
Ms. Bridgewater was my English teacher but  haven't crossed her path since I left school.
at cross purposes If two people are at cross purposes, there is a misunderstanding as to what each one is talking about.
Look, we seem to be at cross purposes. You're talking about 'sailing' boats, but I'm talking about 'selling' boats.

cross the Rubicon If you cross the Rubicon, you make an irreversible decision or commit to a course of action that cannot be changed.
After careful consideration, he decided to stop teaching and open an art gallery, knowing that he was crossing the Rubicon.
as the crow files This expression refers to distance measured in a straight line.
It's two miles from here to the station as the crow flies, but of course it's much further by road.
crux of the matter The main point or the most vital element of a discussion or argument is called the crux of the matter.
The crux of the matter is that he's too old to live alone in that big house.
cry one's eyes out If you cry your eyes out, you cry a lot and for a long time.
My son cried his eyes out when he discovered his bike had been stolen.
cry wolf To cry wolf is to call for help when you are not really in danger. 
As a result, nobody believes you when you really need help.
There's Mary screaming again! Does she really have a problem or is she just crying wolf again?
far cry from something If one thing is a far cry from something else, they are very different from each other, especially in quality or size.
My tiny apartment in New York was a far cry from my parents' spacious house.
crying need When there is a great lack of something which is urgently needed, there is a crying need for it.
Hospitals claim that there is a crying need for nurses.
crying shame If something is a crying shame, it is very sad or unfortunate.
It's a crying shame that some families cannot afford lunch for their children.
for crying out loud This expression is used to show irritation, exasperation or anger.
For crying out loud, turn that television off!
no use crying over spilt milk This expression means that it is useless to complain or have regrets about something that is done and cannot be changed.
Sometimes I regret not acccepting the offer, but it's no use crying over spilt milk.
crystal clear A statement or expression that is easy to understand or has an obvious meaning is crystal clear or as clear as crystal.
There was no need to repeat the instructions.  They were crystal clear.
on cue If something happens on cue, it happens at exactly the appropriate or expected moment.
My grandmother was blowing out the candles on her birthday cake when, right on cue, the flowers arrived.
off the cuff If you speak off the cuff, you say something without any previous thought or preparation.
He handles off-the-cuff interviews very well.
a cut above Someone or something that is a cut above the others is better or of higher quality.
The articles in this magazine are a cut above the others.
cut both ways Something that cuts both ways has both a positive and a negative effect at the same time.
Banning cars in the town centre can cut both ways : less traffic congestion but fewer customers in the shops.
cut the cackle If you tell a group of people to cut the cackle, you are asking them
to stop talking aimlessly and start dealing with more important or serious matters.
OK. It's time to cut the cackle and get down to business
cut corners Cutting corners means not following the correct procedure in order to save time, effort or money (often with unsatisfactory results).
I want the job well done - no cutting corners please!
cut a dash If a person cuts a dash, they make a striking impression by their appearance and attractive clothes.
Wearing his uniform, my grandfather cut a dash on his wedding day.
cut and dried If you refer to a situation, problem or solution as cut and dried, you mean that it is clear and straightforward with no likely complications.
When the new manager arrived, he didn't find the situation as cut and dried as he had expected.
cut from the same cloth If two people are cut from the same cloth, they are very similar in character or behaviour.
Although the brothers look alike, they are not cut from the same cloth.
They each have their own personality.
cut the ground from under someone's feet When someone cuts the ground from under another's feet, they
do something which weakens their position or spoils theiir plans.
When we launched the new product, we cut the ground from under our competitors' feet.
cut no ice If something cuts no ice, it has no effect or makes no impression on someone.
Her explanation cut no ice with the teacher who said he would tolerate no more unjustified absences.
cut loose If someone cuts loose or is cut loose, they stop being influenced or controlled by another person or group.
He's thirty years old and still hasn't cut loose from his familiy.
cut one's losses If you end or withdraw from something that is already failing, in order to reduce the loss of money, time or effort invested in it,
you cut your losses.
The project is heading for failure.  Let's cut our losses before it's too late.
cut one's own throat If you cut your own throat, you do something that will be the cause of your own failure or ruin your chances in the future.
Tony has already missed a lot of classes.  He's cutting his own throat.
cut it/cut things fine If you cut it/cut things fine, you leave barely enough time to do something.
You're counting just an hour between the airport and the train station -
isn't that cutting things a bit fine?
cut it out If you say 'cut it out' to someone, you are telling them to stop doing something.
I've had enough of your insinuations, so just cut it out!
not cut out for something If you are not cut out for something, you are not the sort of person to succeed or be happy in a particular activity.
I started studying medicine but I quickly realized I wasn't cut out for it.
cut someone some slack If you relax a rule, treat a person less severely or allow someone to do something which is normally not permitted, you cut them some slack.
Our parents are very strict; I wish they'd cut us some slack now and then.
cut to the quick If you cut someone to the quick, you hurt their feelings or offend them deeply.
Alan was cut to the quick when Joe expressed doubt about his sincerity.
cutting edge This expression refers to the newest, most advanced stage in the development of something.
The company is at the cutting edge of aeronautics.

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