Many of the most common phrases that English speakers use every day sound very strange to a foreign ear! In fact, English speakers use many of these idioms without even thinking about it and only a few people could probably tell you where these phrases came from in the first place.
However, once you get used to what they mean, you’ll understand much more of the casual conversation going on around you – and when you learn to use them correctly, you’ll blend in better, too!
Here are 15 peculiar-sounding idioms that are incredibly popular in English-speaking countries.
By the Skin of Your Teeth
This means to only just manage something, e.g. “I thought I was going to miss the train but I got there by the skin of my teeth!”
Once in a Blue Moon
Something that happens very rarely, e.g. “My granddaughter only calls me once in a blue moon”.
Cut Me Some Slack
If you cut someone some slack, you are not too strict or don’t judge them too harshly for something, e.g. “I know you’re upset that he cancelled at a short notice, but cut him some slack – his boss made him stay late every night this week”.
Pull Yourself Together
This means to stop getting emotional or feeling sorry for yourself, and carry on with what you need to do. E.g. “Come on man, she broke up with you a year ago. Pull yourself together!”
Get it Out of Your System
To go through a phase or do something you’ve been thinking about for a while, so that you can feel content that you have done it and move on. “I just want to go travelling one last time to get it out of my system and then I’ll get a proper job again.”
Get Your Head Around It
Understand something, e.g. “I’m trying to figure out these equations but I can’t get my head around it.”
Get Out of Hand
When something has reached the stage where you can’t control it any more, e.g. “Steven’s drinking has got out of hand. I think he needs help.”
Under the Weather
Not feeling very well, e.g. “Can we meet next week instead? I’m a little under the weather today.”
Take it With a Pinch of Salt
This means to be skeptical, or not to believe what someone is telling you too easily. E.g. “Take what Julie says with a pinch of salt. She often exaggerates.”
Hit the Nail on the Head
To be exactly right about something. For example, “You’re right, Jeff is jealous of me! I’ve never thought about it that way before, but you’ve hit the nail on the head.”
Cost an Arm and a Leg
Very expensive, e.g. “My new car cost an arm and a leg.”
Miss the Boat
To be too late for something or to miss an opportunity, e.g. “Last year Sarah offered to get me a job at her company, but I think I’ve missed the boat on that now.”
Stick to Your Guns
Refuse to change your opinion or behaviour. E.g. “Everyone thought it was a terrible idea, but I stuck to my guns and now the company is worth a million pounds!”
Pull a Rabbit Out of a Hat
To make something happen that is so unexpected that it feels like a magic trick. E.g. “We were sure we would lose the match but Kate pulled a rabbit out of a hat and scored three goals in the last five minutes!”
Go Down in Flames
When everything goes very wrong very suddenly, like a plane being shot out of the sky. E.g. “His political career was going so well, but then the newspapers found out about the bribes and it all went down in flames.”
Have you heard any English language idioms that you don’t understand? Let us know in the comments section below and we’ll try to explain them!