What are examples of personal idioms

70 popular idioms for every occasion + meaning and origin

Idioms accompany us at every turn. They make our everyday language more diverse and colorful. We have created an overview of the most popular idioms for you. In this way you not only find out more about their meaning and origin, but you can also collect new ideas for your vocabulary.

Things to know about idioms

The scientific term for idioms is phraseologism or idiom. Due to their overall meaning, idioms have a fixed word connection to one another, but are not tied to a fixed sentence form. This combination of words is a special case of collocation. Collocation is a linguistic phenomenon and an umbrella term for when words often appear together with certain other words (e.g. reach / set / pursue a goal). In the case of idioms, these words are fixed (e.g. tie up a bear).

Difference of idioms and proverbs

The terms “proverb” and “idiom” are often used interchangeably. They differ significantly in terms of language usage. Idioms can be used much more flexibly than proverbs. Proverbs rely on their fixed sentence form and do not work in parts or in any other word order. Idioms can usually be used in different ways. For example:

  • Can you go shopping for me tomorrow - The can you remove your make-up.
  • That I'll let them copy again can she remove make-up.
  • He can remove his make-upfor forgiving him one more time.

In addition, proverbs are often more wisdom or generalizations. Idioms are more of a certain way of expressing something with certain words that have solidified in their word context over time. The fact that the terms are often used synonymously is due to the fact that the boundaries are sometimes blurred and some idioms have developed into proverbs over time through the use of a certain sentence form (e.g. “That is as certain as the amen in church. ")

Idioms in other languages

Idioms in other languages

Like proverbs, idioms in other languages ​​often cannot be translated literally. Their meanings are often the same or similar, but the choice of words varies enormously. The phrase “the train has left” means “miss the boat” in English, literally translated as “miss the ship”. This idiom means that an opportunity has not been taken that will not come back.

An example of a literal match is the English phrase: “the best of both worlds”. Because these matches are so rare, it is particularly difficult to remember the phrases when learning a foreign language. It's more complicated than learning classic vocabulary. For example, you couldn't literally translate the German “end for today” into English with “end for today”. The correct translation of the phrase "call it a day" has to be learned by heart.

70 idioms, their meanings and origins

70 idioms, their meanings and origins

Here we have put together the best known and most popular idioms for you. You will find a small overview of the meanings for each point. For most of the idioms we have also added some information about their origin. In this way you can learn more about your everyday use of language and better understand those around you, who often and gladly use idioms. You might even find some new idioms that you can add to your repertoire and bring a breath of fresh air to your usage.

Tip: If you're looking for a particular phrase, just hold down the Ctrl key and the F key at the same time. A small search field will open in which you can then enter individual words or parts of the phrase. This search function saves you a lot of time.
  1. Remove some makeup
    Importance: An activity is omitted. Often as a response to a request: "You can remove that make-up."
  2. Get out of the field
    Importance: Steal away.
    Origin: In soldiers' jargon, the training area was also called a field. Anyone who left the field shirked.
  3. Say something through the flower
    Importance: Express something only vaguely, indirectly or cryptically.
    Origin: In the baroque era it was improper to approach the lady of your heart openly. For this purpose there were sofas with two seats (back to back). If you wanted to talk undisturbed without physical contact, you did so whispering behind the fan. So no chaperone could find fault with anything. There were often flower arrangements on the backrest, which is why the whisperers spoke “through the flower”.
  4. 08/15 (Spoken: zero-eight-fifteen)
    Importance: Mediocre, simple, standardized, ordinary.
  5. To fob someone off with something
    Importance: Giving someone an unsatisfactory answer.
    Origin: A suitor is warned with an inferior meal that his request for the bride will be denied.
  6. The A and O (Alpha and omega)
    Importance: what is essential, what is most important, what remains valid.
  7. There the bear taps / dances
    Importance: Something is going on there, there are a lot of people, something is happening there.
  8. Be on the road
    Importance: To be on the go, not to be there. For example: "She is always on the move."
    Origin: Axle of a rolling vehicle.
  9. Check out something
    Importance: Search everything.
    Origin: During the driven hunt, the game was hunted out of the undergrowth with the clatter of wood.
  10. Playing the monkey for someone / making yourself a monkey
    Importance: Obeying or being ridiculous for another person.
    Origin: At annual fairs, jugglers with animals, including monkeys, used to appear. They performed tricks and were sometimes trained to be harassed.
  11. I'll eat a broom.
    Importance: Find something absurd or consider it extremely improbable. For example: "If he really wins the lottery, I'll eat a broom."
  12. Lose the thread
    Importance: Not knowing what to do next in a narrative or during a process of understanding.
    Origin: This expression probably originates from Greek mythology. With the help of the thread that Ariadne gave him, Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth of Daidalos, in which he had just hunted down the Minotaur. If Theseus had lost the thread, he would not have known what to do next.
  13. Act like an elephant in a china shop
    Importance: Be inconsiderate, imprudent, indignant, or tactless.
  14. Everything in butter
    Importance: Everything OK.
    Origin: Valuable goods, such as porcelain, used to be poured into boxes with liquid butter. After the butter had solidified, it was protected from breaking during transport.
  15. Give someone a lesson
    Importance: Teach someone a lesson.
  16. Give the monkey sugar
    Importance: Be funny when you are intoxicated.
    Origin: The idiom occurs several times in Theodor Fontane's works.
  17. Copper off something
    Importance: imitate, copy, plagiarize.
    Origin: In the early modern period, copper engraving was a technique for reproducing images.
  18. Tying someone up with a bear
    Importance: Lying to or fooling a person.
    Origin: From the old German word “bar”, which meant like “load” or “levy”.
  19. Can't see the forest for the trees
    Importance: Get bogged down, let yourself be distracted from the essentials by many trivialities.
  20. Be built close to the water
    Importance: Being sensitive or emotional, having to cry quickly.
  21. Now we have the mess.
    Importance: Mostly a negative comment to an unpleasant surprise. Comparable to "Now we have the salad."
    Origin: With the giving of presents are meant the presents lying under the Christmas tree. With this idiom, an originally positive surprise (gifts) is used sarcastically for a negative surprise.
  22. Tip something behind the bandage
    Importance: Drink alcohol.
  23. Compare apples with pears
    Importance: Compare incomparable things with each other.
  24. Getting his fat off
    Importance: Received his just punishment.
    Origin: Originally, every helper received a piece of fat as a reward (s) at a slaughter.
  25. Put one's foot in one's mouth
    Importance: Embarrassing yourself, accidentally doing something embarrassing.
    Origin: In farmhouse parlors there used to be a grease cup between the door and the oven, with which wet boots were greased again. One shouldn't accidentally step inside.
  26. Bite the bullet
    Importance: Do something unpleasant inevitably.
  27. Buy something for an apple and an egg
    Importance: To buy or sell something very cheaply.
    Origin: Apples and eggs cost relatively little.
  28. I think I'm the monkey.
    Importance: Expression of extremely unpleasant surprise.
    Origin: In the 19th century, the phrase originated in Berlin and read: "I think the monkey is fun for me".
  29. Keep an eye on someone / something
    Importance: Finding a liking for someone or something.
    Origin: This saying comes from an appendix to the biblical book of Daniel: “And when the two elders saw her walking about in it every day, they became furious with lust for her and became fools about it and cast their eyes on her so much that they no longer look up to the sky could and no longer thought of just judgments. "
  30. It's as sure as the amen in church.
    Importance: You can count on it.
    Origin: Liturgical prayers end with “Amen” (translated from Hebrew: this is how it should be). So this word is sure to appear in every worship service.
  31. Correct a mistake
    Importance: Do something well, iron it out.
    Origin: In the month of March, sheep that were not suitable for further breeding were sorted out earlier.
  32. Outdo someone
    Importance: Exceeding or displacing someone.
    Origin: In the knight tournaments, the winner is whoever stabbed the opponent from the horse or saddle while piercing the lance with the lance.
  33. Grate licorice
    Importance: Flatter in an obvious way.
    Origin: Licorice is a perennial whose roots contain sugar sap. The licorice symbolizes the sweet words.
  34. Act like a fried fish
    Importance: Be silly or still immature.
  35. Three monkeys
    Importance: Symbolization, see, hear or say nothing (evil).
  36. That is an indictment.
    Importance: Inability to conduct inappropriate behavior.
  37. Shake something out of your sleeve
    Importance: Invent something, think of something quickly to get out of a difficult situation.
    Origin: After a possible card game fraud. If the hand was bad, good cards hidden in the sleeve were used. An older interpretation even says that earlier, when the robes still had wide sleeves, not only could the hands be warmed in them, but also smaller items could be stowed in them, which one then shook out of the sleeve.
  38. Not to see obvious things
    Importance: Not seeing / recognizing something.
  39. To be a faithless tomato
    Importance: Be unreliable, fail to keep appointments or promises.
  40. One should guard something / someone with eagle eyes.
    Importance: One should watch something / someone carefully.
    Origin: In Greek mythology, Argos was commissioned by Hera to watch over Io so that there would be no lunchtime with her husband Zeus. Some of his 100 eyes stayed awake while the others slept.
  41. Hit the ice with your ass
    Importance: To be in an awkward situation.
  42. To understand nothing
    Importance: Understanding or not wanting to understand anything.
    Origin: First World War. The soldiers, tired from years of war, only wanted to hear the word “station”, which for them meant a trip home.
  43. Trick 17
    Importance: An immediate solution to an unusual problem.
    Origin: Derived from an English card game where 17 was the highest score.
  44. Have no idea about bags and bladders
    Importance: Have no idea of ​​anything.
    Origin: The idiom has its origins in the Middle Ages and early modern times. There the night watchman, whose work - blowing a horn at full hour - was considered undemanding and poorly paid.
  45. Be over the mountain
    Importance: Getting through the worst part of something (such as an illness or injury).
    Origin: Derived from the principle that climbing a hill to reach the summit is more difficult than descending.
  46. Fight like a berserk
    Importance: Acting impetuously or unreasonably.
    Origin: Derived from the Nordic sagas, in which the "bear skins" struck off without a shield or reason.
  47. Stay tuned
    Importance: Stay tuned to one thing.
  48. Then it's tattoo!
    Importance: Then it's night's rest / the end of the event.
    Origin: From the military language, where the serving of soldiers had to be stopped at a certain time - the tap was therefore deleted from this point in time.
  49. Hold the ball flat
    Importance: Hold back, don't take risks, don't attract attention.
  50. Don't come across a green branch
    Importance: Have not achieved anything / have no success. Or also: Not being able to come to an agreement with someone (similar to: “Not coming to a common denominator”).
    Origin: The phrase comes from the Middle Ages. Someone who had bought land was given a green twig planted in a clump of earth on the property. Conversely, someone who failed to get a green branch is someone who failed to own land.
  51. To help someone
    Importance: Giving someone clues that will help them understand.
  52. Move
    Importance: Drive faster or get faster.
    Origin: Some attribute the phrase to the functionality of mechanical transmissions in the early days of the automobile. Others see the origin in the households of the Middle Ages, where large kettles were hung on a rack over an open hearth. In order to increase the temperature in the pot, it was hung one tooth lower - "a tooth was added".
  53. Fight with hard bandages
    Importance: Fight relentlessly and hard.
    Origin: Before the days of boxing gloves, boxers fought with bandages wrapped around their fists. They were not primarily concerned with protecting the hands. The tighter they were wrapped, the harder the punch was.
  54. Something was put off the back burner
    Importance: A settlement was severely delayed.
  55. Don't mince your words
    Importance: Clearly express an opinion and say directly what you think without glossing over it.
    Origin: Theatrical language. In ancient times, in the times before the theatrical mask, a fig leaf hid the actor's face so that he could not be held accountable for his played words.
  56. To skip work
    Importance: Truant, absent from work or school for no good reason.
    Origin: Probably derived from Blue Monday. This previously referred to the work-free assembly of the craftsmen.
  57. These are bohemian villages to me
    Importance: Something is unknown or incomprehensible to me.
    Origin: When Bohemia still belonged to the Danube Monarchy, many of the country's children did not understand the Czech spoken there or the Czech place names.
  58. That sounds Spanish to me.
    Importance: Something is strange, unfamiliar, or arouses suspicion.
    Origin: Some customs introduced into Germany from Spain under Emperor Charles V caused a stir and confusion.
  59. Get on your socks
    Importance: Disappear quickly or in a hurry.
    Origin: You don't have time to put on your shoes in peace.
  60. To be stupid as a bean straw
    Importance: Be very unintelligent.
    Origin: Refers to cheap bean straw used to furnish beds for poor people in the Middle Ages.
  61. Smell the roast
    Importance: Be suspicious or attentive in good time. Foresee something bad.
    Origin: The phrase goes back to a fable in which a farmer invites an animal to eat. The animal turns at the doorstep because it smells the scent of a roasted fellow from the kitchen.
  62. To be crazy about someone
    Importance: To be in love with someone.
    Origin: In the student language, it was alluding to the arrows of the love god Cupid.
  63. Be irradiated
    Importance: Confused, disorganized and unworldly, off track or whimsical
  64. There is nepotism there!
    Importance: A vice, lamented since time immemorial, to favor relatives and friends.
  65. To be washed with all waters
    Importance: Be smart, fearless, or sly.
    Origin: Probably from the nautical language. Someone who has already crossed the world's oceans had a lot of courage, cold-bloodedness and experience.
  66. Bring something into shape
    Importance: Improve something, fix it.
    Origin: The term originally comes from the military, where you have to align yourself with the man in front of you when stepping up and aligning. So if the row was wrong, it was "spruced up".
  67. Turn the tables
    Importance: Swap roles.
    Origin: Anyone who could snatch the deadly spear from his opponent got from the role of the attacked into that of the attacker.
  68. Run the gantlet)
    Importance: Be exposed to critical or scornful reactions from other people.
    Origin: Until the Second World War, offenses against comradeship were punished by a run by two rows of soldiers. The soldiers hit the person who committed the offense with sharp rods.
  69. It is important to separate the wheat from the chaff
    Importance: Separate or differentiate between the important and the unimportant.
    Origin: With a blower, the much lighter chaff was blown farther away than the grain it had previously surrounded.
  70. Can't hold a candle to someone else
    Importance: To be far inferior to him.
    Origin: This phrase has been around since the 16th century. In the Middle Ages, when people were still eating with their fingers, servants bowed deeply and gave guests water to wash their hands after dinner. Those who were not even allowed to take on this degrading task were far inferior to everyone in terms of social class.
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