All Roads Lead to Britain: introduction and glossary

Inicio hoy la publicación en mi blog de All Roads Lead to Britain. Se trata de la 1ª parte (del 5000 A.C al 1066 A.D.) de una historia de Gran Bretaña, escrita por mi querido discípulo y amigo, Daniel Molina, a quien tuve el placer de dirigir en junio de 2006 su espléndida tesis doctoral sobre Lexicografía Pedagógica, publicada meses más tarde por Ed. Comares, Granada, con el título Fraseología Bilingüe. Un enfoque lexicográfico-pedagógico.
All Roads Lead to Britain is una historia de Inglaterra, pero no es una historia más. Es una historia muy original: novelada, contada con un toque de humor y abundancia de modismos ingleses de uso corriente, destacados en negrita. La receta ideada por Daniel Molina para su libro no puede ser más simple: Tómese una buena base de datos históricos verídicos, cuéntese con un toque de humor que incluya abundantes modismos útiles y añádase por último una pizca de humor, y All Roads Lead to Britain está servida.
Esta serie de Daniel me parece una lectura a la vez provechosa y divertida para las vacaciones de verano, especialmente para los amantes de la historia inglesa. Consta de seis capítulos, precedidos de una Introducción y un Glosario que iré publicando en mi blog en sucesivas entregas. 
Para empezar ahí van la Introducción y el Glosario de todos lo modismos usados en la historia por orden alfabético, para facilitar su comprensión, sobre todo teniendo en cuenta que algunos de estos modismos, como es el caso del propio título, están tuneados (el modismo auténtico es naturalmente All Roads Lead to Rome). Agradezco a Daniel la oportunidad que me da de publicar en mi blog el 'estreno mundial' de esta interesante serie, que espero sea de vuestro agrado.

 All Roads Lead to Britain, from 5,000 B.C to 1066 A.D.

Daniel Molina García

Introduction: An unhappy country

            Happy is the country that has no history. This popular saying is a truth universally acknowledged. Provided that it existed, a country of that kind would be one which would have avoided all the wars, rebellions, crimes, misfortunes and injustices that fill up the pages of all its history books. Once the previous statement is examined thoroughly, we find out that what studying the history of a country really means is studying a succession of invasions, slaughters, treacheries and conflicts brought about by the minds of, in most cases, cruel and ambitious rulers.
         This view of history may not be a rosy picture but to a large extent it is unfortunately true. This general principle applies, of course, in the case of tracing the course of British History. In this country there have also been a lot of events which could have been avoided but were not. Those “unavoidable” events, whether we like it or not, are in fact the ones which have sparked off the creation of Britain.
         This book (as its title suggests, converting the well-known proverb all roads lead to Rome into all roads lead to Britain) has a double purpose. First of all, we have intended to make a brief summary of the history of Britain since the first men appeared on British soil up to the Norman conquest, selecting the most relevant events which have taken place during that period of time. Secondly, each historical event has been connected with some idiomatic phrases or proverbs of common use in English language. In this way, one may have the impression that History and Language (two unlimited subjects of study) become one.
         However, just as many important historical facts are not mentioned, so there is not enough room for many of those expressions commonly used in English. The reader must take into account that our intention has not been to make either a register of names, battles and wars or a register of set phrases in English; it has rather been to find a way to connect both things so that the reading of history can be more pleasant and that the learning of idioms and proverbs can be easier.
A set of supplementary exercises is provided at the end of each chapter, with the corresponding key. The reader can also find below a glossary with a list of all the phrases which have appeared previously in bold type, and their explanation.


about: an about-turn (also, an about-face)  a complete change of attitude or opinion
Abraham: Abraham’s bosom (to sleep in Abraham’s bosom)  the eternal rest after death
account: on no account  under no circumstances
account: to be called to one’s last account  to die
account: to have an account to settle with someone (also, to settle an account)  to take revenge on someone who has harmed you in the past
account: to square accounts with someone  to make someone pay for the harm they have done to you
account: to take something into account  to include it in your consideration because it is important
accounting: there’s no accounting for taste(s)   everyone is free to choose the things they like and no one can criticize them because of that
Adam: not to know someone from Adam  (see know)
adrift: to go adrift  to be left at the mercy of wind and tide
advantage: to take advantage of someone  to treat them unfairly or deceive them for your own benefit
advantage: to take advantage of something  to make good use of it while you can
affirmative: to reply in the affirmative  to answer a question by saying “yes”
again: again and again  on many occasions, repeatedly
age: to come of age  to become legally an adult
all: all and sundry  everyone
alive: alive and kicking  still living and very active and lively
alone: to leave someone alone  to go away and stop disturbing someone
apple: the apple of discord  the cause of disagreement, argument or unpleasantness between people
apron: to be tied to one’s mother’s apron-strings  completely under one’s mother’s control because one is unable to live by himself (normally applied to young men)
arm: at arm’s length (to hold something at arm’s length; to keep someone at arm’s length)  at a distance from your body
arm: within arm’s reach  nearer than the farthest distance you can reach by holding out your arm
armed: to be armed to the teeth  to carry a lot of weapons
ash: to rise from the ashes  to recover from a period of weakness or difficulty with renewed vigour
asleep: asleep at the switch  unaware of a threatening danger
attention: to catch one’s attention  to be drawn into interest by suddenly noticing something

back: the back of beyond  an isolated place far from the crowd
back: to see the back of someone (to be glad to see the back of someone)  to want someone to go away and leave you alone
backfire: to backfire on someone  to get for oneself the harmful effect that one intended to cause someone else
bad: a bad loser  one who hates losing and complains when that happens
baddy: the goodies and the baddies  (see under goody)
ball: the ball is in someone’s court  it is their turn now, it is their responsibility to carry out the next task
ball: to keep the ball rolling  to keep doing an activity that one has started
ball: to set/start the ball rolling  to start doing an activity
banana: to be bananas  to be mad
bang: to bang one’s head against a brick/stone wall  to make fruitless attempts in order to get something which seems to be impossible
bare: to do something with one’s bare hands  to do something without using any weapons or tools
bark: his/her bark is worse than his/her bite  (see below)
barking: barking dogs seldom bite  (also his/her bark is worse than his/her bite)  people who often lose their temper and seem threatening should not be feared because in most cases they are harmless but behave like that just to impress you
bat: to have bats in the belfry  to be crazy
bay: to keep someone/something at bay  to keep them/it at a safe distance so that they can’t harm you or disturb you
be: be that as it may  said when you want to change the subject without reaching a decision about whether what has just been said is right or wrong
bear: to bear a man a child  to give birth to a baby
bear: like a bear with a sore head  ill-tempered, very angry
beat: to beat one’s head against a brick/stone wall (see to bang one’s head... under bang)
beat: if you can’t beat them, join them  if someone is superior to you and you have no chance to defeat them, join the group they belong to
beauty: beauty is only skin deep  it is one’s inner qualities that matters, not one’s physical appearance
bed: a bed of roses an easy, pleasant situation
bee: to have a bee in one’s bonnet  to be obsessed by one idea and to keep thinking about it all the time
bee: to make a beeline for a place  to go there as quickly and directly as possible
beggar: set a beggar on horseback and he’ll ride to the devil  poor people who suddenly make a fortune behave in an arrogant way
believe: I can’t believe my ears  I am really surprised at something I have heard
best: the best of a bad bunch  the person or thing that is not so bad as the others among a group that, according to you, is of a very poor quality
best: the best thing since sliced bread  (also, the greatest thing...) something we approve of very strongly, something which is excellent in one’s opinion
best: to do one’s best  to try to achieve something as hard as you can
better: to be better than one’s word   to do more than one promised
better: for better or (for) worse  whatever may now happen, whatever the consequences will be
better: to think better of the matter  (see think)
betting: what’s the betting...?  something is very likely to happen or to be true
bile: to rouse one’s bile  to make one angry or indignant
bird: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush  it is better to possess something, though it may be of no great value, than to expect to get something better and reject what you already have
bird: the birds and the bees  the explanation (to children) of sex and sexual reproduction
bird: birds of a feather  people who have similar characters, beliefs or interests
bird: birds of a feather flock together  people of similar character are often found together
bird: the early bird catches the worm  one who acts promptly will be successful
bird: a little bird told me so/that  someone has told me what has happened but I don’t want to mention who has done it
birth: to give birth to someone   to go through the biological process of producing a baby
birth: to give birth to something  if one thing gives birth to another, the first is the cause of the beginning of the second
birthday: in one’s birthday suit  completely naked, as when one is born
bit: bit by bit  slowly, in stages
bit: to do one’s bit  to contribute to the achievement of something, although it may be of little help
bite: another bite at the cherry (also a second bite at the cherry)  another chance to do something after you have already failed previously
bite: to bite the hand that feeds you  to be ungrateful to the person on whom you depend
black: to be dressed in black  to be in mourning
black: to be in someone’s black books  to start to belong to the list of people someone hates
black: to be not so black as one is painted  to be not so unpleasant as one is often said to be
black: to beat somebody black and blue  to hit someone so that they have many bruises
black: a black day   an unhappy day
black: the black sheep of the family   a person of whom the family is not proud
black: to have a black eye  to have a dark-coloured bruise around your eye as a result of having been hit
black: to have something in black and white  to have something in writing
black: to paint a black picture of a situation  to describe the situation in a rather pessimistic way
bleed: to bleed someone dry  to take all their money over a period of time
bless: bless you!  something you say when someone has just sneezed
blessed: blessed be the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God ( a sentence from the Bible)  peacemakers are to be praised and will go to heaven as a reward for their work
blessing: a blessing in disguise  something that seems to cause problems or difficulties at first but which is seen later to be an advantage
blind: a blind leader of the blind  someone without knowledge or experience but who, however, tries to guide other people who are as unfitted for that post as him/her
blind: as blind as a bat  with very bad eyesight or unable to find or see something that is obvious
blood: blood is thicker than water  family is above any other kind of personal relationship
blood: to make one’s blood boil  to make one very angry
blood: to run in the blood (also, to run in the family)  to have a certain feature of character, behaviour or fault  which is common in all the members of one’s family
blow: to blow one’s own trumpet  to boast about one’s own achievements
blow: to blow one’s top  to express one’s strong anger about something
blue: to be blue in the face  to have made a great effort asking someone for something and finally not to  have received it
blue: a blue-collar worker (see worker)
blue: a blue film  an obscene one, one which mentions sex in a way that may offend many people
blue: to blue one’s money  to spend your money wastefully
blue: a blue pencil   a censor
blue: to feel blue  to feel sad and depressed
blue: to have blue blood (in one’s veins)  to belong to a royal or noble family
blue: once in a blue moon  (see once)
blue: out of the blue  unexpectedly
blues: to have the blues (also, to have a fit of the blues)  to feel sad or in low spirits
boil: to be boiling with anger  to feel very angry (also to be at boiling point)
born: to be born, not made  if one has not been born with the required inner quality, one cannot do a specific job however much one is trained to do it
born: to be born on the wrong side of the blanket  to be born of parents who were not legally married at the time
born: to be born under a lucky/unlucky star  to have a lot of good luck or bad luck in one’s life
born: to be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth  to be born to luck, into a wealthy family
bottom: to be at the bottom of the heap  to be low down on the social scale
bottom: to get to the bottom of it/the matter/this  to discover the real truth about a situation or the real cause of a problem
brain: to rack one’s brains  to strain your brain to find out something
bread: bread and butter  the source of one’s income
break: to break loose  to begin very suddenly and violently
break : to break one’s back to do/get something   (also, to break one’s neck...) to work very hard to do/get it
breath: to be out of breath  to breathe very quickly and with difficulty because of the energy you have spent on doing something
breathe: to breathe one’s last  to die
brick: to come down on someone like a ton of bricks  to show somebody that you are extremely angry with them because of something they have done wrong
bring: to bring the house down  to receive great applause from an audience
broaden: to broaden one’s mind  to be more willing to accept or tolerate other people’s beliefs
bug: to be bitten by the bug  to become suddenly enthusiastic about an activity
bull: to make a bull’s eye (also, to hit the bull’s eye)  to hit the centre of a target
burst: to burst into laughter  to begin to laugh suddenly
bury: to bury one’s head in the sand   to avoid facing realities
busy: as busy as a bee  said of someone who is working all the time and is not available to do anything else

Caesar: render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s  may everyone be allowed to have what belongs to them
Cain: to raise Cain (see raise)
cake: you can’t have your cake and eat it  you can only choose one of two alternatives, not both of them so that you can take advantage of one and the other
camp: to break camp  to put away one’s tent and leave the place where you have been staying
cap: to cap it all,  used when you are saying a list of calamities and then you get to the last of them, which is much worse than the previous ones
care: to take care of someone  to look after them
care: take care of yourself  a way of saying goodbye informally or at the end of a letter
carpet: to roll/put out the red carpet  to welcome someone in a special way
case: whatever the case may be  used when it is not clear which of the alternatives you have stated is most likely to happen
cast: let him/that/them without sin cast the first stone  a sentence from the New Testament. We all have our faults and can’t therefore take the lead in criticizing or finding faults in other people
castle: to build castles in the air  to imagine and dream of things that are very unlikely to happen
cat: a cat may look at a king  someone who is inferior to someone else has the right  to treat him/her as an equal
cat  all cats are grey in the dark  those features which are characteristic of someone/something become indistinguishable in the dark or in other obscuring situations
cat: to lead a cat-and-dog life  to live a life full of quarrels; to be continually arguing violently
cat: to let the cat out of the bag  to reveal a secret, to make known something that was being kept secret
cat: to play cat and mouse with someone  to do whatever you like with someone in your power
cat: to put the cat among the pigeons  to stir up trouble
cat: to rain cats and dogs  to rain heavily
cat: to think one is the cat’s whiskers (also,  the cat’s pyjamas and the bee’s knees)  to think that one is excellent or superior to everyone else
cat: when the cat’s away, the mice will play  when a person in authority is not present, the others will take advantage and do things they cannot do when he is there
catch: to catch someone with their pants down (see pants)
caught: to be caught napping  to suffer from disadvantage because one is not prepared for something which has taken them by surprise
chain: a chain reaction   a system of things or events in which one is affected by the one before it
chance: by chance / by pure chance / by sheer chance  accidentally, without anyone planning it or doing anything to make it happen
chance: not to stand a chance of doing something   to be very unlikely to do something
change: for a change  better than what usually happens (but quite often used ironically when we want to express that there is no change at all)
change: some things never change  there are behaviours, attitudes, thoughts, etc that cannot be altered
chapter: to give chapter and verse   to tell the source or authority for what someone is saying
charge: to be in charge of something/someone  to be in control or responsible for them
charge: to charge like a bull at a gate  to move quickly towards someone in order to attack them, head first, like a bull would do
chat: to chat up someone  to speak to someone in a flirting way because you are attracted to them
cheek: to have the cheek to do something   not to feel embarrassed to do things that annoy people
cheek: to turn the other cheek  not to treat those who have treated you badly in the same way
chosen: a/the chosen vessel/instrument  someone chosen to carry out an important mission, especially one with a divine purpose
circulation: to be back in circulation  to have returned to one’s normal routine after a period of absence
claim: to lay claim to something  to say that something is yours and expect that other people will think the same as you
class: to be in a class of one’s own   to be incomparable, unparalleled
clear: as clear as the nose on your face (also, as plain as...)  very easy to understand, obvious
clear: to make it clear that...   to explain something in a way that it is easy to understand so that there can be no doubt about it
climb: to climb on the bandwagon (also to jump on the bandwagon)  to become involved in an activity because it looks like being successful or because it is fashionable to do so
clock: to turn the clocks back  to go back in time
close: as close as an oyster  said of someone who does not expose their ideas or feelings
close: close at hand  so near that you could catch it with your hands
close: to draw to a close   to end gradually
coast: the coast is clear  there is no danger and one can now move about safely
cock: a cock-and-bull story   an invented story, one which is hard to believe
cold: as cold as a frog   said of someone who shows no emotions or little feelings
cold: in cold blood   deliberately and with forethought
come: come what may   whatever happens
comforter: a Job’s comforter  someone who tries to sympathize with you in your sorrow but finally makes you feel even unhappier than you were at the beginning
company: ...and company   after a person’s name, it refers to the people who are associated with that person
company: two’s company, three’s a crowd  two people should be allowed to spend time together without other people being there
comparison: comparisons are odious  it is extremely unpleasant to consider two people or two things and point out the differences or similarities between them, since both of them have their own qualities and defects
confusionto make confusion worse confounded  to make an already state of confusion even more confusing than it was before
consolation: a consolation prize  something which is given to somebody to cheer them up when they have failed to achieve something better
cook: someting is cooking  something is being planned but you are not sure what it is
corner: just around the corner  very nearby
cost: to cost the earth   to cost a very large amount of money
cost: to cost too dearly   to pay too high a price for something you want to get
count: to count for nothing not to be regarded as important; to be of no value or importance
count: to lose count of something  not to know how many times something has happened because it has been done so frequently that you have definitely given up keeping the record of them
cradle: from the cradle to the grave   throughout one’s whole life
crocodile: crocodile tears   tears of grief that are not sincere
Croesus: as rich as Croesus  (see rich)
cross: cross my heart and hope to die  what children say when they want someone to believe that what they are saying is true or when they are making a promise which they intend to keep
cross: to cross one’s mind  if something crosses your mind, you think of it suddenly and without making any effort
crow: as the crow flies   used after a distance to indicate that this distance stated is correct if you travel there in a straight line
crowd: to move with the crowd (also, to follow the crowd)  to do, think or act the same as everybody else does, without being critical or thinking about it oneself
crowd: two’s company, three’s a crowd  (see company)
cry: to cry out to heaven  if something cries out to heaven, it means that it is so deplorable or unfair that it can only be solved with God’s help
cunning: as cunning as a fox   said of someone who has the ability to plan things cleverly in order to achieve what they want, often by deceiving or tricking other people
cup: let this cup pass from me   a sentence from the New Testament. Used to express someone’s wish to have their sorrow taken away
curtain: the final curtain  the end of an event
cut: to cut/make a long story short  used to indicate that you are only going to describe the final result of an event and not all the details that led up to it
cut: to cut no ice  to be of no account, to make no impression

daisy: to push up daisies   to be dead and buried
damn: not to care a damn (also not to give a damn)  not to care at all about something
Damocles: the sword of Damocles (see sword)
dead: as dead as a dodo  absolutely dead, out of fashion, forgotten
dead: dead from the neck up   stupid
dead: over my dead body!  used when you feel that something that has just been mentioned should not happen and that you will do everything you can in order to prevent it
deaf: as deaf as a post  completely deaf
deaf: none so deaf as those who won’t hear  said of someone who is unwilling to listen to the problems of other people
deaf: to turn a deaf ear to someone/something   to refuse to listen to someone and their problems
death: to be at death’s door  to be about to die, to be gravely ill
death: to meet death   to die
decide: who shall decide when doctors disagree?  if the experts are unable to agree on a solution to a problem, then it must be left undecided
deed: to do one’s good deed for the day   to do something to help someone
deep: to be in deep water  to be in a difficult or dangerous situation
defence: to come to someone’s defence  to help someone by doing something to protect them
devil: better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know  it is better to deal with someone you already know, though you don’t like them, than with someone you don’t know anything about
devil: what/when/where/who/how...the devil...?  used to emphasize how angry, annoyed or surprised you are
die: never say die  never give up
difference: to have differences  if people have their differences, they are disagreeing or arguing
different: as different as chalk from/and cheese  used of two things/people that are completely different from each other in appearance or character
dig: to dig one’s own grave  to do something foolish or dangerous that will cause one’s own failure
dirty: to do the dirty work/ to do someone’s dirty work  to do a task (for someone) that is dishonest or unpleasant (and that they do not want to do themselves)
disappear: to disappear off the face of the earth  to disappear without any reason leaving no signs of where one may be
display: to be on display  to be put in a place so that people can see it
dispute: beyond dispute   unquestionably
do: to have to do with something  if something has to do with something else, the two things are connected
dog: to go to the dogs   to go to ruin
door: to go from door to door  to go along the street calling at each house in turn; figuratively, to ask different people for help one after the other
door: to leave a/the door open to something  to establish the necessary conditions for a new situation to happen
door: when one door shuts another opens  when it seems that a problem has completely defeated you, you start to see the beginning of its solution
double: double Dutch  unintelligible, something written or spoken which is hard to understand
doubt: without a/the slightest doubt  used to emphasize that what you are saying is definitely true
doubting: a doubting Thomas  a sceptic, someone who doubts what other people believe. The phrase makes reference to one of the Apostles
down: a down-and-out  a person who has no job and no home and who has no hope of getting work or finding somewhere to live
drain: to throw something down the drain  to waste it
dream: beyond one’s wildest dreams  better than one could have imagined or hoped for
dress: to dress yourself to the nines  (see nine)
driving: to be in the driving seat  to be in control of a situation
drop: a drop in the ocean  a very small quantity compared to the amount that you need and which makes little difference
dumb: as dumb as a statue  unable to speak, as a statue would be
dumb: to play dumb  to behave as if one was stupid and did not listen to other people’s problems, ideas, suggestions, etc
dump: to be down in the dumps   to feel very depressed and miserable
dust: to dust someone’s jacket for them  to give them a good beating
dust: to kiss the dust  to be completely defeated and humiliated

ear: to be all ears  to listen to someone eagerly or curiously
ear: to be up to the ears  to be very busy with a work which is taking up all your time
ear: to be wet behind the ears  to be inexperienced or unaware of danger
ear: to go in one ear and out the other  to be forgotten as it is heard because of the little interest shown in and the little attention paid to something
ear: to have a good ear for something   to be able to distinguish sounds accurately
ear: to keep one’s ear to the ground  to be well informed of what is happening
ear: to listen to something with only half an ear  not to give full attention to what someone is saying
ear: to play music by ear  to play it from memory, without reading printed music
earth: to come back/down to earth   to stop daydreaming and return to reality
earth: what/who/when/where/how on earth...?  in questions on earth is used to suggest that there is no obvious or easy answers to the question being asked or the problem being mentioned
easier: easier said than done  a comment on the difficulty of doing something, especially when it is someone else who has suggested it but it is you who has to do it
easy: it is easy to be wise after the event (see wise)
eat: to eat humble pie (see humble)
end: all good things come to an end  no pleasure or happiness lasts for ever
end: to come to an end   to stop
end: it’s not the end of the world!  it is not so terrible, don’t feel depressed because of it!
end: to make (both) ends meet  to manage to live with the money that one earns in spite of the difficulties
end: that’s the end of the matter!  there is no need to discuss it any longer, I have already decided, so your opinion does not count
end: to the end of time   for ever and ever
Englishman: an Englishman’s home is his castle  (see home)
err: to err is human   human beings are all liable to make mistakes
estimate: at a rough estimate  not exact, but based on one’s approximate calculation
eternal: the eternal triangle  the amorous conflict which involves two men and a woman or two women and a man
even: to get even with someone  to cause someone the same amount of harm or annoyance as they have caused you
excuse: a bad excuse is better than none  any reason you can give in order to explain why you have or have not done something is better than not saying anything at all
expect: what can/do/did you expect?  there is nothing surprising about something because it has happened very often and could be predicted
extent: to a large extent  used to indicate that something is partly true but not entirely true. Other expressions with this word are to some extent and to a certain extent
eye: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth   a sentence from the Old Testament. Revenge is justified; if someone does something wrong to you, they deserve to be treated in the same way as they have treated you
eye: before one’s (very) eyes  if something happens before your eyes it happens where you can see it clearly. It is also used to emphasize that something is surprising or unpleasant
eye: to have eyes only for someone  to feel a special love for someone
eye: to have one’s eyes on something/someone  to watch something/someone closely; also to want or desire it/them
eye: not to be able to take one’s eyes off someone   to be unable to stop looking at them because you feel attracted to them

face: to disappear from the face of the earth  (see disappear)
fair: to play fair  to behave in an honest way
fancy: to take a fancy to doing something  to start liking something
far: far from it  used to emphasize that something is not what people think or say
far: not far wrong  almost correct
fast: as fast as a hare  very fast
fat: as fat as a pig  extremely fat
fate: a fate worse than death  rape (as in to suffer/ endure/ meet with/ face a fate worse than death  to be raped)
favour: to give one’s favours to someone   to allow someone to have sex with you
feather: to feather one’s nest  (see nest)
fed: to be fed up to the (back) teeth with something   to be very dissatisfied or bored with something
fiddle: to fiddle while Rome burns  to make a trifle out of an emergency or crisis (an allusion to Emperor Nero)
fiddle: to play second fiddle to someone   to be in a less important position under someone else
fierce: as fierce as a tiger  very aggressive and strong
fifth: a fifth columnist  someone who supports the enemies of the country, a traitor
fig: not to care/give a fig about something   not to care about it at all
fight: to fight a losing battle  to try to achieve something although everyone knows that one cannot be successful
fight: to fight with a rope around one’s neck  to fight a battle knowing beforehand that if you lose it you will die
finger: to get one’s fingers burnt  to suffer because you made a mistake
finger: to have a finger in every pie  to be involved in many activities at the same time
finger: to have a finger in the pie  to be involved in one activity
finger: to have green fingers  (see green)
finger: to keep one’s fingers crossed  to hope that everything will happen as you want it to
finger: to keep one’s fingers crossed for someone  to wish them good luck in a difficulty they have to go through
finger: to put the finger on someone  to tell the police that someone has done something against the law
finger: not to lift a finger to do something   not to make any attempt to do something (especially to help someone)
finger: one’s fingers are all thumbs  to be very clumsy when trying to do something with your hands
finger: to point the finger at someone  to blame or accuse them of something
finger: to slip through one’s fingers  (see slip)
finger: to twist someone round one’s little finger  (see twist)
finishing: to put the finishing touches to something   to add the last things that must be added so that the work can be considered to be completely finished
fire: to fight fire with fire  to use the same methods as those being used by someone who is attacking you or causing you problems
fire: to go through fire and water for someone  to do anything for someone, no matter how difficult it may be
first: first among equals  one individual who takes special responsibility in a group of people but who is not considered superior either by any member of the group or by himself
first: first come, first served  the order of arrival determines the order of preference to receive something; the one who has arrived first has the best chance of success
first: the first fruits   the earliest profitable results of an activity
first: not to know the first thing about something  to know absolutely nothing about the matter
fit: to fit into place  if something fits into place after you have been trying to understand something which was tremendously difficult, you start to find sense to all the pieces of information you had and everything seems clearer
fit: not to be fit to hold a candle to someone  to be much more inferior to someone else
five: five o’clock shadow  a beard which has grown only a little
flag: with flags flying  in a triumphant way
flesh: flesh and blood  used to refer to the condition of being human and alive
flight: to put someone to flight  to make them run away from you
fly: to come like flies  to come in a large number
fly: a fly in the ointment  something which spoils a situation and prevents a state of perfect pleasure
follow: to follow in someone’s footsteps  to do the same things as someone did earlier
fool: to be nobody’s fool  not to allow others to make a fool of you
fool: to make a fool of someone  to make them seem silly by telling people what they have done or said
foot: to be with/ to have one foot in the grave  to be about to die, to be gravely ill
foot: to foot the bill  to pay the bill; in general, to pay for something
foot: to put one’s foot in it  to do or say something foolish or tactless without thinking beforehand
foot: to set foot somewhere  to arrive there
forbidden: forbidden  fruit is sweetest  the things that are forbidden are those which we find most attractive
force: to do something from force of habit  to do it because you are so used to doing it that you don’t even think carefully if it is right or wrong, if it is beneficial or dangerous, etc
foul: foul play dishonest behaviour
foundation: to lay the foundations of something  to establish the basis of something
four: the four corners of the earth   the remotest parts of the earth
four: a four-lettered word   a short word which is considered rude, usually because it refers to sex
fourth: the fourth dimension  something beyond the limits of normal experience. In physics, time
fourth: the fourth estate   the Press
fox: to set a fox to keep the geese  to entrust one’s money to someone who is dishonest
free: as free as a bird  said of someone who is never controlled or limited
friend: a friend in need is a friend indeed  someone proves to be a friend of yours when you are in difficulty and they give you some help
froth: to be frothing at the mouth  to be very angry
full: to get full marks  to get everything right in a test; also, to be praised for having done something very good
fun: to make fun of someone  to laugh at someone, to ridicule someone
fun: to poke fun at someone  to laugh at someone, to tease them
furniture: to be part of the furniture to go unnoticed because one is used to seeing someone/something

gauntlet: to throw down the gauntlet  to challenge
gaze: to turn one’s gaze upon someone/something   to look steadily at someone/something for a long time
get: to get on well with someone  to have a friendly relationship with someone
get: to get what is coming to one  to be punished or suffer an unpleasant experience because you have behaved badly or done something wrong
ghost: not to have the ghost of a chance of doing something  to have very little chance of succeeding in doing something
gift: don’t look / never look a gift horse in the mouth  when you are given a present, never show that you don’t like it or find  defects in it, but be thankful just for the fact of having received it
gift: a gift from the gods  a godsend, something which arrives unexpectedly and which is of great help to one
gift: the gift of the gab  the ability to speak easily and fluently in order to persuade other people to do things one wants or to buy things one is offering them
give: give-and-take  a willingness by the people involved in something to compromise
give: give or take not completely accurate, approximately (said after a number)
glory: to the greater glory of someone  if something is done to the greater glory of someone, it is done in order to praise them or to increase their fame
go: to go back on one’s word (see word)
go: to go back to square one (see square)
God: God bless you!  a way to express your affection, thanks or good wishes to someone
God: God helps those who help themselves  Heaven assists hard-working people
God: God only knows  used to emphasize that you do not know something or that you find something very surprising
God: God save the Queen/King  the national anthem; may God always protect our sovereign
God: God shapes the back for the burden  God may not possibly save you from all your troubles and worries, but at least he does not worsen the situation and helps you to endure them
God: God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb  God helps those who are weaker
good: to be good at something  to be skilful and successful in doing something
goody: the goodies and the baddies  the peole in a film, story... who are considered the heroes and the villains respectively, those who fight on the right side and those who do it on the wrong one
goose: to cook someone’s goose  to prevent someone’s plans from succeeding
goose: the goose that laid the golden eggs  a regular source of valuable supply
gooseberry: to play gooseberry  to be an unwanted third when two lovers are together
gospel: gospel truth  (to take something as gospel truth) something which in your opinion is undoubtedly true
graceful: as graceful as a swan  said of someone who moves beautifully and in an attractive way to watch
granted: to take something for granted/ to take it for granted that something is true to believe that something is true without looking for ways to prove it
grass: the grass is greener on the other side of the fence  other people often seem to be in a better situation than us, but that may not be really so
grass: a grass widow  a woman who is alone because of the temporary absence of her husband
grass: to let the grass grow under one’s feet  to delay in taking steps to deal with a matter
grave: to come to an early grave   to die young
Greek: it’s all Greek to me!  it is unintelligible, I can’t understand a single word
green: to be green  to be inexperienced or new to something
green: to be green with envy  to be envious indeed
green: the green-eyed monster  jealousy (so called by Shakespeare in Othello)
green: to have green fingers  to be very good at gardening
grey: a grey day  a dull, unpleasant day
grief: to come to grief  to meet with disaster, to fail
ground: to get off the ground  to start functioning
ground: to prepare the ground  to make it easier for future actions to happen
ground: there are no grounds for...  there is no way to prove that...
ground: to the ground (to be destroyed/razed to the ground)  completely (destroyed)
guard: to be caught off guard/ to catch someone off guard/ to take someone off their guard  to surprise someone when they are not expecting you to attack
guard: to lower one’s guard  (also, to let one’s guard down)  to relax when you should be alert because there is a threatening danger
gut: to have someone’s guts for garters  to punish someone severely, because you are extremely angry with them

hair: to a hair  to a nicety, with complete accuracy regarding details
hair: to make someone’s hair stand on end  to make someone very frightened
half: half a loaf is better than none/better than no bread  we should be thankful for what we receive even though we hoped to receive more
half: one’s better half  one’s spouse
hand: to change hands  to pass from one possessor to another
hand: to fall into the hands of someone  to be captured or become controlled by someone
hand: to get out of hand  to become out of control
hand: hand in hand  two people who are hand in hand are holding each other’s hand
hand: to lay one’s hands on someone  to manage to find them
hand: to lend someone a (helping) hand  to help them
hand: on the one hand..., on the other hand...   the expressions used to indicate the two different points of view in an argument or discussion. On the one hand introduces the first part of it and on the other hand introduces the second
hand: to shake hands with someone/ to shake someone’s hand/ to shake someone by the hand  to hold someone’s hand in your own hand for a moment when you are meeting them, saying goodbye to them or congratulating them
handy: to come in handy  to be useful at the right moment
hang: to get the hang of something  to begin to understand or realize how to do something
hang: to hang all the bells on one horse  to leave one’s whole property to only one person
happy: as happy as a lark   very happy
happy: happy is the country that has no history  a country with no history is one which has avoided wars and all sorts of calamities, of which history books are full
hard: to be hard to take  to be difficult to accept
hard: hard cash  money in the form of coins and notes
hard: hard cheese!  rotten luck, tough luck (see tough)
harmless: as harmless as a dove  said of someone who is unable to annoy or harm other people
head: to be/stand head and shoulders above someone  to be superior to someone, much better than them
head: to be head over heels in love with someone  to be deeply in love with someone
head: to be over someone’s head  to be too difficult for someone to understand
head: better be the head of an ass than the tail of a horse  (also, better be the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion)   it is preferable to be the best in a group of normal people than to be unnoticed in a group of outstanding people
head: to come to a head  to reach a crisis or state where you have to act urgently
head: from head to foot   all over one’s body
head: to go off one’s head (see to go off one’s nut under nut)
head: to have a good head for something  to be naturally good at something which requires a good brain
head: to have a good head on one’s shoulders  to have common sense, to act wisely
head: to have a swollen head  to be very proud of one’s abilities and achievements, to be conceited
head: to have one’s head in the clouds  not to pay attention to someone because one is always thinking of something different; also, to be a dreamer, not to face reality or problems
head: to have one’s head screwed on the right way  to have common sense, to act wisely
head: heads or tails?  what is said when you are going to toss a coin and you are asking someone to guess which side of it will be facing upwards
head: to keep one’s head  not to lose control, to remain calm
head: to keep one’s head above water  to manage to keep out difficulties
head: to lose one’s head  to lose control, to panic and act in a confused way
head: to make neither head nor tail of something  not to be able to understand it at all
head: two heads are better than one  two people working together will give more ideas to solve a problem than only one of them
hear: to hear the last of someone (as in You haven’t heard the last of me yet!)  used as a warning or threat; the situation has not ended and further events are likely to occur
heart: to learn something by heart  to get to know something from memory, without having to look at anything written
heart: to set one’s heart on (doing) something (also, to have one’s heart set on something)   to desire something very much and to aim at getting it
heart: with one’s heart in one’s mouth  very worried or frightened
heat: on a low heat  producing only a small amount of heat (in a stove, in an oven...)
Heaven: Heaven forbid    used to emphasize that you hope that something will not happen
Heaven: Heaven knows why/where/who/how/when...  used to emphasize that you do not know something or that you find it very surprising
heaven: to move heaven and earth to do something  to try everything that is possible in order to achieve something
heel: to take to one’s heels  to run away
hell: to hell with...!  used to express the fact that someone is angry with someone else or fed up with something and does not want to see them/it or know about them/it any more
hell: to make someone’s life hell (also, to give someone hell)  to make someone suffer, to make things very unpleasant for someone
hell: what/how/where/when/who/how the hell...? used to suggest that there is no obvious or easy answer to the question being asked or the problem being mentioned
help: to help a lame dog over a stile  to give assistance to someone who needs it
herculean: a herculean task  one that requires great strength or effort, which only a hero like “Hercules” could perform
Herod: to out-herod Herod  to be more wicked than the worst of tyrants
hiding: to give someone a good hiding  to punish them by hitting them many times
high: (to be) in high places  (to be) among those people who are the most powerful in a government, society or organization; this expression is used in relation to those people’s influence and, in most cases,  dishonesty
high: to be left high and dry  to be left helpless in a difficult situation
history: to go down in history  to be remembered  in the future because of particular events that have happened or particular actions in which one has taken part
hit: to hit below the belt  to fight or argue unfairly
hither: hither and thither  in all directions
hoarse: as hoarse as a crow  said of someone whose voice sounds rough and unclear
hold: to take hold of something  to put one’s hand tightly round something; also, to gain control of something, especially by force
hole: to pick holes  to find weak points or faults in an argument or theory
home: an Englishman’s home is his castle the house of every individual is to him as his castle and consequently he has the right to do there as he wishes, to accept whom he wants and to be undisturbed in it
home: to make oneself at home  to make oneself comfortable and do in someone’s house the things one would do in one’s own house
Homer: Even Homer sometimes nods (see nod)
hop: to be hopping mad  to be very angry, jumping mad
hope: to build up one’s hopes  to gradually become more hopeful of getting something
hope: while there’s life there’s hope  never give up your hope, never surrender, since there is always a chance for you
horn: to make horns at someone  to make a gesture of insult to someone implying that they are cuckolds
horn: to wear the horns  to be the husband of an adulterous wife; to be the wife of an adulterous husband
hot: to get hot under the collar  to get angry and indignant about something
hot: like a hot knife through butter  without meeting resistance or difficulty; very easily
hour: my hour is not yet come  the hour of my death has not arrived yet
hour: the hour for the upturning of one’s glass  the hour of one’s death, the time to die
house: it is on the house!  it is free of charge, you are invited
humble: to eat humble pie  to admit that one was wrong; to submit to humiliation
hurry: to be in a hurry  not to have time to do something because you have to do something else urgently and quickly
husband: the husband/wife is always the last to know  in a case of adultery, the deceived spouse is the last to know about the matter which is going on

idea: not to have the slightest idea  to have no idea at all
impossible: to ask for the impossible  to want something that is not able to be done
in: the ins and outs (of a situation)  all the detailed points about it
inch: give him/her/them an inch and he/she/they will take a yard/mile  when someone is shown generosity, they will then increase their demands to excess
iron: an iron will  a very strong and determined will

Jack: all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy  work is important but it is not the only thing one should concentrate on; one should always allow time for relaxation too; without leisure time the worker gets bored and the quality of the work diminishes
Jack: before you can say Jack Robinson  immediately, very quickly (the expression has its origin in a gentleman who paid flying visits to his neighbours) (also, before you can say knife)
Jack: every Jack shall have his Jill  every man shall have a wife
Jack: a good Jack makes a good Jill  a good husband makes a good wife
Jack: I’m all right, Jack  used to denote selfishness, self-interest and a complete disregard of the troubles of other people; in other words, as long as I am all right, I don’t care if other people are suffering or enduring hard trouble
Jack: Jack’s as good as his master  all men are equal and must have the same rights
jack: a jack-at-a-pinch  someone who lends a hand to someone else who needs it
jack: a jack-in-the-box  a toy which consists of a box with a doll which springs out when the box lid is open
jack: a jack-in-the-cellar  an unborn child
jack: a jack of all trades  a person who does many different kinds of jobs but who is not really an expert at any of them
jack: a jack of both sides  a person who tries to benefit from two things which are antagonistic
jack: a jack-o’-the-clock  the mechanical figure that strikes the hour on a bell
jazz: ...and all that jazz  you can add this phrase after a word to suggest that there are wider aspects to the topic which you are dealing with but you do not think it is worth explaining them in detail
Job: a Job’s comforter (see comforter)
Job. as patient as Job  (see patient)
join: to join forces (with someone)  to work together in order to achieve a common aim

keen: to be very keen on (doing) something  to have much enthusiasm for an activity
keep: to keep one’s nose to the grindstone  to work very hard without resting at all
kettle: a pretty kettle of fish  a mess, a great state of confusion
kick: to get a kick from/out of (doing) something  to enjoy something intensely, to feel great pleasure doing something
kick: to kick the bucket  to die
kidney: men of the same kidney  people who are similar in character and temperament
kill: to kill two birds with one stone  to achieve two things with only one effort
kill: thou shalt not kill  you shall not kill (the fifth commandment)
king: a king’s ransom  a very large amount of money
king: to live like a king  to be able to live in a very comfortable or luxurious way
knock: to knock one’s head against a brick/stone wall  (see to bang one’s head... under bang)
know: to know which side one’s bread is buttered on  to know what is most advantageous for one so that you can always remain in a good situation
know: not to know someone from Adam  not to recognize/know someone at all

labour: a labour of love  something you do because you really want to do it, even though it is hard work and you are not going to be paid for it
land: a land flowing with milk and honey  (also, the land of milk and honey) one in which good things abound
large: as large as life  in person
last: last but not least  we use this expression to say that the last person/thing to be mentioned is important and that the fact of mentioning him/it in the last place does not mean that he/it is not important
late: better late than never  it is better to do something, even if it should have been done earlier, than not to do it at all
laugh: he laughs best who laughs last (also, he who laughs last laughs longest)   do not think that you have won a war because you have won a battle; a game is not won until it is finished
laugh: to laugh up one’s sleeve  to laugh secretly because you know that you have an advantage that other people do not know about
laughter: to split one’s sides with laughter  (see split)
laurel: to rest on one’s laurels  to be satisfied with one’s success and not to make any effort in trying to get more
lead: to lead someone by the nose  to make someone do anything you wish them to do
lead: to lead someone up the garden path  to deceive someone
lead: to lead the way  to go along a road in front of someone in order to show them where to go; also, to be an example that may guide other people to do something as you do it
lead: to take the lead  to put oneself in a position of authority and start making decisions and organizing people
leading: to play the leading role  to act as the most important person in a group of people who are working together
lean: to lean over backwards for someone  to do everything that one can do to help them
leave: to leave a/the door open to something  (see door)
leave: to leave a great deal to be desired  not to be as good as it should be
lemon: to be/feel/look a lemon  to behave in a way that you appear to be foolish; also, to be a failure
length: to go to great lengths to get something  to spend much time and effort to get something even if you have to do things that many people would consider unreasonable
length: throughout the length and breadth of a place  everywhere in that place
leopard: a/the leopard can never change its spots  a person’s character never changes fundamentally
lesson: to learn one’s lesson  to learn from past experiences and not to make the same mistake again
lesson: to teach someone a lesson  to punish or scold someone for something they have done in order to make sure that they do not make the same mistake again
let: to let go of someone/something  to stop holding them
let: let sleeping dogs lie  do not stir up unnecessary trouble
let: to let the grass grow under one’s feet  (see grass)
letter: to the letter  literally
liberty: to take (many) liberties with someone  to behave as if you think that you know someone very well and you are not going to annoy them
lie: to lie doggo  to remain in hiding, still and quiet, so that no one can find you; also, to remain inactive for a certain period of time
lie: to lie through one’s teeth  to deliberately tell lies
life: to do something for one’s life (as in run for your life!) to do something with greath strength because you are in a dangerous situation
lift: not to lift a finger to do something (see finger)
like: as like as two peas in a pod  exactly alike
little: little by little   gradually
lion: the lion’s share  the largest and best part of something which is divided into many parts
lion: to place one’s head in the lion’s den/mouth  to expose oneself to danger needlessly
live: live and let live  a way of saying that you should let other people behave in the way that they want to and  should not criticize them for behaving differently from you
live: to live from hand to mouth  to have hardly enough food or money to live on
live: to live like fighting cocks  to live in luxury
load: a load off one’s mind  a worry which is taken away because the solution has come
lock: to lock the stable door after the horse has bolted/ is stolen  to take precautions after the harm has already been done
loiter: to loiter with intent  a legal term referred to the offence of staying for a long time in one place, which makes you look as if you are intending to commit a crime
long: the long and the short of it/the matter  all that need be said, the basic facts of a matter
long: long live the Queen/King...!   may she/he have a long and happy life!
look: look what the cat’s brought in!  you say this when you are surprised and pleased to see someone
loose: to be at a loose end  to be bored, not to know what to do in your free time
Lord: the Lord knows how/who/when/where...  an expression used to denote one’s own whole ignorance about something
lose: we lose in hake but gain in herring  we lose one way but gain in another
lost: to be lost in one’s thoughts  to be utterly absorbed in what one is thinking
love: to be head over heels in love with someone  (see head)
love: to fall in love with someone  to begin to feel love for someone
love: love at first sight  the love that you feel for someone at the very first moment you see them
lurch: to leave someone in the lurch  to abandon someone at a very difficult or dangerous moment
lull: the lull before the storm  a period of calm before another period of activity, a sign that something very unpleasant is going to happen soon

magic: as if by magic  unexpectedly and without any apparent explanation
magnet: to be (like) a magnet  to have the ability to attract people because the thing which attracts is interesting, pleasurable or fascinating
make: to make matters worse  (see worse)
make: to make neither head nor tail of something  (see head)
making: to have the makings of something  to have all the qualities needed to undertake a job
man: one man’s meat is another man’s poison  what is beneficial to someone may be harmful to someone else
man: to a man  everyone in a group of people
mark: mark my words!  said as a warning to someone so that they remember what you are telling them and that your menacing words will come true
matter: a matter of time  if something is a matter of time, it will happen sooner or later; we are not sure when, but it will certainly happen
meaning: not to know the meaning of the word “...”   not to have experienced the thing that you have mentioned
meaning: what’s the meaning of this?  used when you are asking what the reason is for an action or for behaviour you do not approve of
measure: beyond measure  more than you would normally think possible
medium: to strike a happy medium  to find the right balance between doing too much and too little
meek: as meek as a lamb  said of someone who is pacific, quiet and likely to do what other people say
meet: to go to meet one’s Maker  to die
meet: to meet one’s death  to die
meet: to meet someone’s eyes  to notice that someone is looking at you and then to start looking at them as well
melting: the melting pot  a place or situation in which people of different cultures gradually get mixed together
merry: as merry as a cricket  very happy and cheerful
Methuselah: as old as Methuselah (see old)
mildly: to put it mildly  used to indicate that the kind of language you are going to use for a following remark is not so strong as the one you could have chosen
mincemeat: to make mincemeat of someone  to defeat an enemy completely and quickly
mind: to bear in mind  to note, to remember something which is very important
mind: to change one’s mind  to have a change in one’s opinion about something
mind: to set someone’s mind at rest  to remove someone’s fears by telling them something that will make them stop worrying
miss: to miss the boat (also, to miss the bus)  to lose the chance of doing or having something because you have not acted quickly enough
money: money does not grow on trees  money should not be wasted since it is very hard to earn
money: money for old rope (also, money for jam)  money which is earned very easily, without any effort
money: money is the root of all evil  greed for money can only cause wicked and awful things
monkey: monkey business  slightly dishonest behaviour; naughty behaviour
moon: to promise the moon  to promise something which is impossible to get
moral: to give moral support to someone  to express approval and enthusiasm for what someone is doing but not to give any practical help
more: the more one has, the more one desires  human ambition has no limits
more: more or less  approximately
most: the (most) unkindest cut of all  (see unkindest)
mountain: to make a mountain out of a molehill  to make something which is unimportant seem like a serious matter; to make a difficulty out of a trifle
mute: as mute as a fish  said of someone who is silent most of the time or seldom speaks
mutton: mutton dressed as lamb  someone who tries to look younger than they really are in order to appear attractive to other people

nail: to hit the nail on the head  to arrive at the exact conclusion, to state the exact reason for something
nature: someone’s better nature  someone’s feelings of kindness and sympathy for other people
near: one’s nearest and dearest  the people you love or are related to
needle: to look for a needle in a haystack  to be very unlikely to find something because it is a small thing among a group of large things
nest: to feather one’s nest  to make a lot of money in a dishonest way so that one is able to live  comfortably
never: never mind   it doesn’t matter, don’t worry
never: never say die  (see die)
nine: to be on cloud nine  to be extremely happy
nine: to dress yourself up to the nines  to put on very smart and fashionable clothes
nine: a nine days’ wonder  someone/something that is popular for a short time and then is quickly forgotten
nip: to nip something in the bud  to stop something in its early stages, to destroy it before it has had time to develop
nod: Even Homer sometimes nods  everyone is liable to make mistakes
nose: nose to tail  if animals or vehicles in a row are nose to tail, they are standing with the front part of one of them close behind the back part of another
nose: to poke one’s nose into something  (also, to stick one’s nose...)  to involve oneself in matters that do not concern one
nothing: nothing to write home about  something which is not very interesting or exciting
notice: to take notice of something  to pay attention to something, to behave in a way that shows that you are aware of it
number: to look out for number one  to think of oneself and no one else
number: number one  functioning as an adjective, it means “more important than any others”; as a noun it means “oneself”
nut: to go off one’s nut (Also, to go off one’s head/onion/rocker)  to go out of one’s mind
nut: a hard nut to crack  a difficult problem to solve or a difficult person to deal with
nutshell: (to put it) in a nutshell  briefly, in a word, in a way that summarizes the main points

odd: the odds are in favour of someone  that person has more probabilities to succeed than anyone else
oil: to pour oil on troubled waters  to use tact and gentle words to calm down a situation
old: as old as Methuselah  of an incredibly advanced age
once: once in a blue moon  very rarely
once: once in a while  occasionally, sometimes but not very often
one: the one and only  used in front of someone’s name when they are being introduced on a show or when we want to express the idea that the person in question is unique
one: a one-armed bandit  a slot machine which pays out money in casinos (if you win)
one: one in a million (also, one in a thousand) someone who is remarkable or special in some way
one: a one-man band  a street entertainer who plays a lot of different instruments at the same time
onion: to go off one’s onion (see to go off one’s nut under nut)
open: with open arms  (to accept/receive/welcome someone/something with open arms)  with a lot of pleasure, with enthusiasm
open: to open the door to something  if something opens the door to something else, it allows people to do something that they could not do before
order: the order of the day  the course of action which is of continual or frequent occurrence
ovation: a standing ovation  a long applause given by an audience standing up
own: as if someone owned the place   in a very arrogant and confident way
own: on one’s own  (to do something on one’s own)  without any help from anyone

pack: to pack one’s bags  to leave one’s home and live elsewhere
pain: a pain in the neck  someone who is irritating or annoying
paint: to paint the town red  to celebrate something noisily in the street or other public places
pant: to catch someone with their pants down  to catch them when they are not prepared to do something
paper: a paper tiger  a person who seems powerful but who in fact is feeble or ineffective
pardon: I beg your pardon  a way of apologizing for accidentally doing something
part: part and parcel  something that is part and parcel of something else is necessarily involved or included in it
pat: to pat someone on the back  to tell them that you approve of what they have done, to congratulate them
patient: as patient as Job  extremely patient
pave: to pave the way for something  to create a situation in which something is more likely to happen
pay: to pay dearly for something  to suffer a lot as a result of something
pay: to pay someone back in their own coin  to treat someone in the same way as one was treated by them
peace: to make peace with someone  to put an end to your quarrel with them
peace: if you want peace, prepare for war  a translation of the Latin proverb si vis pacem, para bellum. The more prepared for war you are, the less likely you will be attacked
pedestal: to put someone on a pedestal  to idolize someone and show this in the way you behave towards them
peg: to be brought down a peg or two / to take someone down a peg or two  to make someone realize that they are not so important or wonderful as they think they are
peg: a square peg in a round hole someone who is doing a job for which they are not suited
penny: a pretty penny  a considerable amount of money
pick: the pick (of a group)  the best things or people in a particular group
pie: a pie in the sky  a promise which is very unlikely to happen
pin: you could have heard a pin drop  said of a state of complete silence
pistol: to hold a pistol to someone’s head  to oblige someone to do something against their will
place: all over the place  everywhere
place: to place one’s head into the lion’s den/mouth (see lion)
plague: to avoid someone/something like a/the plague  used to emphasize that you deliberately avoid them completely
plain: as plain as the nose on your face  (see as clear as the nose on your face under clear)
plain: plain sailing  an easy task which causes no difficulty
pluck: to pluck up one’s courage (to do something)  to put aside one’s fears and give oneself courage to do something unpleasant
plump: as plump as a partridge  very fat and rounded
plunge: to take the plunge  to decide to do something which is risky and from which there is no turning back
pocket: to line one’s pockets  to make a lot of money dishonestly
point: there is no point in doing something  it is no use doing something
poke: to poke one’s nose into something (see nose)
poor: as poor as a church-mouse  said of someone who has very little money and few possessions
poor: the poor relation  someone who is similar to others but inferior to them; also. someone with less power or respect than others
port: any port in a storm  a person/place you go to for help when there is urgent need or great difficulty
power: the power behind the throne  the person who really controls policy or rules a country although there is someone else who is the titular head for that post
practise: to practise what one preaches  to do what one encourages or commands other people to do
praise: to sing someone’s praises  to praise someone in an enthusiastic way
prevention: prevention is better than cure it is preferable to ensure that something bad will not happen rather than to try to remedy the harm when it has already occurred
price: the price you pay (for something)  an unpleasant thing that you have to do or an unpleasant situation you have to endure in order to get something that you really want (In Chapter 4 this phrase is used literally)
prize: no prizes for guessing  it is extremely obvious and not difficult to guess
proud: as proud as a peacock  said of someone who is too arrogant and feels superior to other people
pull: to pull a fast one on someone  to deceive someone, to play a trick on someone
pull: to pull someone’s leg  to make fun of someone by telling something that is untrue but which they believe
pull: pull the other one!  I don’t believe what you have said, you must be joking!; I am aware that you are trying to “pull my leg”
pull: to pull the wool over someone’s eyes  to deceive someone, to tell them something that is not true
push: to push up daisies  (see daisy)
put: not to put too fine a point on it  used to say that the next piece of information you are about to say might be rude for some people and you are apologizing for that
pyrrhic: a pyrrhic victory  (see victory)

Queen: Queen Anne’s fan  a gesture you make by putting your thumb to your nose and spreading wide the fingers; this gesture means mockery or disregard for authority
question: beyond question  unquestionable
question: in question  the man/ the place/ the time... in question is the man/place/time that you have already referred to and that is important in what you are talking about
quick: (as) quick as a flash  very quickly indeed
quiet: as quiet as a mouse  said of someone who is silent (and/or timid)

rack: to rack one’s brains (see brain)
rain: it never rains but it pours  misfortunes rarely come alone
rainbow: rainbow chaser  one who tries to reach the spot where a rainbow touches the earth, that is, a day-dreamer who hopes to get impossible things
raise: to raise Cain  to make a noisy disturbance; to cause great uproar
reason: there is reason in roasting egg  even the most trivial thing has a reason for being done in one way rather than some other
red: to be in the red  to owe money to one’s bank
red: to paint the town red (see paint)
red: a red herring  an unimportant matter which is introduced into a discussion in order to distract attention from the important matter being discussed
red: a red-letter day  an important or joyful occasion
red: the red-light district  the area of a city where prostitutes work
red: red tape  official rules carried to excess
red: to see red  to become suddenly very angry
red: to see the red light  to recognize danger
red-handed: to catch someone red-handed  to catch them when they are in the very act of doing something wrong
regards: to send someone one’s regards  to send them one’s best wishes
rein: to take the reins of something  to take control of a country or organization
resort:  as a last resort  if you do something as a last resort, you do it when you have tried other things and they have all failed
rest: rest in peace  a formulaic expression used to show respect for a dead person; it is often written on gravestones in its abbreviated form R.I.P.
return: in return for  (to do something in return for another thing; to get something in return) in exchange for something which is of similar value or importance
rich: as rich as Croesus  very wealthy
rid: to get rid of something/someone  to make someone/something go away, far from you
ride: to take someone for a ride  to deceive or cheat someone
right: one’s right-hand man  an invaluable or confidential assistant
right: to start off with the right foot  (see start)
rise: to give rise to something  to cause
road: all roads lead to Rome  there are many ways of reaching the same aim and all of them may be valid
road: to hit the road  to set out on a journey
rocker: to go off one’s rocker (see to go off one’s nut under nut)
roll: to roll one’s sleeves up  to prepare oneself to start working
rolling: a rolling stone gathers no moss  one who is always on the move will not enjoy a settled life but will also avoid responsibilities in return
Roman: do as the Romans do (When in Rome, do as the Romans do) conform to the customs of those among whom you are
room: there is not enough room to swing a cat  the place you are talking about is very small and crowded
root: to take root  to become permanently or firmly established
rosy: to paint too rosy a picture  to describe a situation as likely to be successful or enjoyable although it is not certain that it will be like that
round: in round numbers  approximately, disregarding fractions, units..., in tens, hundreds...
rule: a rule of three  the mathematical method of finding the fourth term of a proportion when three of them are already given
rush: to have a rush of blood to the head  to lose control of yourself and do something daring or foolish

sack: to get the sack  to be dismissed from one’s job
sail: to sail under false colours  to try to achieve something by pretending to be someone you are not
sail: to set sail  to start a voyage
salt: the salt of the earth  the best of mankind
same: all the same  nevertheless, even so
same: it’s all the same to me!  I don’t care which of several things happens
same: the same old story  the usual chain of events; something (especially something bad) that has often happened in the same way in the past (and very possibly will keep on happening in the future)
save: to save face  to avoid damaging your reputation and losing people’s respect
save: to save one’s skin  to escape danger or injury so that you can be still alive
scales: to tip the scales in favour of someone/something  if something tips the scales in favour of someone, it makes them have a slight advantage over others
scene: to appear on the scene to appear suddenly, often with the intention to take part in the matter which is going on
scene: a change of scene  a change to another place which is not the one you are used to being in
scene: to disappear from the scene  to disappear from the existing situation
scratch: to scratch one’s head  to be very puzzled
scratch: you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours  if one person helps you, then you will help that person in return
sea: to put to sea  to start on a sea voyage
second: to be second to none  to be the best, to do one’s job better than anyone else having that job
second: to come off second best  to lose a competition
second: to get a second wind  to get renewed vigour to continue doing an exhausting activity after you have been out of breath
second: to learn something at second hand  to know something not because you have learnt it directly but because someone has told you
second: one’s second nature  something which seems part of your character because you have been doing it for a long time and it has become a habit
second: one’s second self  one whose tastes and opinions are practically the same as yours
see: to see the back of someone  (see back)
seek: seek and ye/you shall find  perseverance will make you find whatever you may be looking for
seriously: to take something seriously  to believe that something is important and needs to be considered carefully
seventh: to be in the seventh heaven  to be overjoyed
shade: to put someone in the shade  to be so impressive than someone/something can make someone/something else seem unimportant by comparison
shake: in two shakes of a lamb’s tail  very soon
sheep: to separate the sheep from the goats  to select from a group of people those who are better than the others
short: to make short work of something (see work)
shot: a big shot  an important and powerful person in an organization
shot: like a shot  very quickly
shoulder: to be shoulder to shoulder  to be side by side
shoulder: to come straight from the shoulder  to be direct and frank
shoulder: to give someone the cold shoulder  to ignore someone
shoulder: to rub shoulders with someone  to come into social contact with someone belonging to a social class which is higher than yours
shoulder: a shoulder to cry on  a person who will listen sympathetically to your troubles and will try to comfort you
shoulder: to work shoulder to shoulder  to work together with other people in order to reach a common aim
show: to run the show  to be the one who takes charge of an action
show: to steal the show  to be the one who unexpectedly gets more admiration than the others in the group
sight: at first sight  the way something appears when you first see it
sight: to catch sight of someone/something  to see them for a short moment
sight: to set one’s sights on something  to decide that you want something and to try very hard to get it
sight: a sight for sore eyes  something that is very pleasurable to see
sight: within sight  nearer than the farthest distance you can see
silly: as silly as a goose  extremely stupid
sing: to sing a different tune (see tune)
sink: one’s heart sinks in one’s boots  one loses all hope and becomes depressed
sitting: a sitting duck  an easy prey, someone/something that is very easy to attack
six: to be at sixes and sevens  to be confused
six: six of one and half a dozen of the other  there is nothing to choose between the two alternatives, because there is really no difference
sixth: to have a sixth sense  to know something without using the five senses
skin: to do something by the skin of one’s teeth  to manage to do something but nearly fail
skin: to make one’s skin crawl  to make you feel horrified
sleep: the long last sleep  death
slip: to slip through one’s fingers  if something you wish slips through your fingers, you fail to get it when it has been next to you
slippery: as slippery as an eel  said of someone who is clever at deceiving people
slow: as slow as a tortoise  said of someone who is too slow at doing things which could be done quickly
slowly: slowly but surely  gradually but in a way that is significant
smell: to smell a rat  to become suspicious that there is something wrong with a situation
smile: to play a smile on one’s lips  to smile only a little or to look as if you are going to smile
smoke: to go up in smoke  (also, to end up in smoke)  if something goes up in smoke, it comes to no practical result
smoke: there is no smoke without fire  rumours are not always false; if someone spreads a rumour it is because there must be some foundation to do it
snake: a snake in the grass  a person who pretends to be a friend but who wants to cause you some harm or trouble
so: so be it!  may it happen like that!
so: so long!  goodbye
soap: a soap opera  a serial about the daily lives of the same group of people
soon: sooner or later  at some time in the future, although we cannot know exactly when
soon: the sooner the better  something will be more beneficial if it is done earlier
sort: it takes all sorts to make a world  the world is made up of many sorts of people, good and bad, better and worse, and they are all necessary and have a right to live
sour: sour grapes  something you strongly desire secretly but which, as it cannot be obtained, is despised
spell: to cast one’s spell on someone  to become fascinated or charmed by one person/thing/place
spend: to spend one’s money like water  to spend money in large amounts
spirit: to lift someone’s spirits  if something lifts your spirits, you start feeling more cheerful
spitting: within spitting distance  very close
split: to split one’s sides with laughter  to laught unrestrainedly
split: a split second  a very short period of time, shorter than the time spent on blinking one’s eyes
spread: to spread like wildfire  to become known by a lot of people very quickly
spring: to spring to mind  if something springs to mind, you think of it suddenly
square: to go back to square one  to start to consider a situation or to deal with a problem from the beginning
square: to square accounts with someone  (see account)
square: a square peg in a round circle  (see peg)
square: to square the circle  to attempt an impossibility; also, to try to give a solution to an insoluble problem
stab: to stab someone in the back  to betray someone when they thought you could be trusted
stand: to stand on one’s own two feet to face a problem without help from other people
start: to start off with the right foot  to make a successful start; to begin properly
state: the state of affairs  the general situation
stick: to stick one’s neck out  to do or say something that makes you open to the risk of being criticized or that leaves you in a dangerous situation
stomach: to turn one’s stomach (also, to make one’s stomach turn)  to feel as if you were going to get sick because of something horrible you have experienced
stone: to leave no stone unturned  to do everything you can think of in order to accomplish your aim
stone: within a stone’s throw  not very far
stop: to come to a full stop  not to be able to proceed any further with something you are trying to achieve
storm: a storm in a teacup  a lot of discussion about a trifle; a lot of fuss about something that is of very little importance
storm: to take someone by storm  to attack someone fiercely
storm: to take a place by storm  to capture it by force; also, to become suddenly famous or popular in that place
story: but that’s another story!  used when you have mentioned a subject that you are not going to talk about or explain in detail
story: so the story goes  that is what other people say, though I am not pretty sure whether it is true or not
straw: a man of straw  a weak man who can be manipulated
straw: a straw in the wind  something that gives an indication of what might happen in the future
stretch: to stretch one’s legs  to go for a walk after you have been sitting down for a long time
string: to have someone on a string  to make someone do what you want them to do
stroke: at a single stroke  by one single, sudden action
stroke: a stroke of luck  something lucky that happens to you suddenly
strong: as strong as an ox  very strong
sudden: all of a sudden  so quickly and unexpectedly that you are surprised
suffice: suffice it to say  used at the beginning of a statement to indicate that what you are saying is enough to explain what you mean, although you could give more details which you don’t find essential at all
sure: to know something for sure  to know that something is definitely true or that it will happen
sure: that’s for sure!  it is definitely true
surprise: to take someone by surprise  if something takes you by surprise, it happens to you suddenly and unexpectedly
swallow: to swallow a tale, hook, line and sinker  to be completely deceived
swallow: to swallow the bait  to be deceived by someone who has caught you in their trap
sweet: to have a sweet tooth  to enjoy eating sweet things
sword: the sword of Damocles  an imminent evil or danger
sworn: a sworn foe/enemy  someone who you dislike very much and who you do not wish to make peace with

table: to turn the tables to change the situation completely, to reverse the conditions
tail: the tail is wagging the dog  a small part of something, a part which you considered insignificant, is controlling the whole thing
tail: to turn tail  to turn one’s back and run away
tail: to wear tails  to be dressed in formal cothes for special occasions
tail: with one’s tail between one’s legs  defeated and humiliated
take: to be taken aback  to be so surprised that you have to pause for a moment and cannot think or do anything
take: it takes all sorts to make a world  (see sort)
take: to take a lot out of one  to make one feel tired because one has used a lot of energy doing something
take: to take part  to participate
take: to take place  to happen
take: to take someone for a ride  (see ride)
take: to take someone out of themselves  to make someone feel better so that they can forget all their  worries
take: to take something for granted (see granted)
take: to take something lying down  to accept a decision or treatment from someone without complaining or resisting
tale: an old wives’ tale  a common belief that is based on traditional beliefs rather than on attested facts and that is considered to be foolish or superstitious
talk: the talk of the town  a person or event which excites much attention
talk: talking of...   used to introduce the thing that you mention as a new topic that you want to talk about, after it has already been mentioned in another context
tall: a tall story  an incredible tale, a story which is difficult to believe
tarred: tarred with the same brush  having the same faults
teach: you cannot teach an old dog new tricks  some people, especially old people, are reluctant to accept changes and innovations
tear: to tear someone limb from limb  to give someone a severe beating; to behave in a violent way against someone because of one’s being angry with them
tell: I tell you what  a phrase used to introduce a suggestion or offer
ten: it is ten to one that...  if you say that it is ten to one that something will happen, you mean that it is very likely to do so
tether: to be at the end of one’s tether  to be at the end of one’s resources, to reach the end of one’s powers
thank: thanks to  (it is thanks to him that this happened)  used to indicate that it is the person you are taking about that has made something possible
thick: as thick as thieves  said of two people who are very good friends
think: to think better of the matter  to give something further consideration
think: to think twice of the matter  to consider something carefully before you do it
third: to be given the third degree  to be interrogated thoroughly, sometimes even tortured; (fig) to go through some sort of agony, either physical or mental
third: third time lucky!  you may not have luck the first and the second times you try to achieve something, but quite often you get it when you try once more
Thomas: a doubting Thomas (see doubting)
thought: on second thoughts  you say this when suddenly you change your mind about something that you are saying or that you have decided to do
thread: to lose the thread (of something)  to fail to follow the main line of thought within an argument, a story, etc
throw: to throw good money after bad  to lose more money trying to recover the money you have already lost
thumb: to keep someone under one’s thumb to keep someone under one’s control
tie: to be tied to one’s mother’s apron-strings  (see apron)
tighten: to tighten one’s belt  to spend less money by not buying unnecessary things in a time of economic crisis
time: from Time Immemorial  since ancient times, beyond memory
time: from time to time  occasionally
time: (and) about time (too)!  (also, it is about time someone did something/ something was done)  an emphatic way to indicate that something should have been done some time before
time: to keep time (to a sound)  if you keep time to a beat when a piece of music is being played, you follow the beat with your fingers knocking on the table or with your feet on the floor
time: time out of mind  longer than anyone can remember
timid: as timid as a rabbit  very shy
tin: a tin god  someone who is held in great respect but who should not be considered like that at all
today: today a man, tomorrow a mouse  fortune is changeable and one day you may be high at the top and the next day you may be low at the  bottom
tooth: to get one’s teeth into something  to become very involved in doing something, using much energy and concentration
tooth: to show one’s teeth  to adopt a menacing attitude
tooth: tooth and nail (to defend something tooth and nail / to fight for something tooth and nail)  to fight fiercely, with one’s utmost power
top: to be at the top of the heap  to be high up in the social scale
top: from top to toe  (see from head to foot under head)
top: on top of the world  (to feel on top of the world)  extremely happy
touch: to have the Midas touch  to have the ability to make a financial success of all one’s projects
tough: to have a tough time  to go through hard times, to endure hardships
tough: that’s your tough luck!  if you say this to someone, you are showing that you do not have any sympathy for their problems and will not do anything to help them
towel: to throw in the towel  (also, to throw up the sponge)  to give in, to confess oneself beaten
travel: travel broadens your mind  the experience of travelling and getting to know other people and cultures makes you more willing to accept other people’s beliefs and ways of doing things
trick: to play a dirty trick on someone  to act in such a way that you will injure someone or put them at a disadvantage
Triton: a Triton among the minnows  a great person among a group of people who are very inferior to him
true: someone never said/spoke a truer word  someone was absolutely right when they said that thing
truth: to tell the truth,  used at the beginning of a sentence normally in order to emphasize the fact that you are telling someone something in an open and honest way, without trying to hide anything
tune: to sing a different tune  to say or do something completely different from what one previously said or did
turn: to take it in turns to do something (also, to take turns to do something)  to do something one person after the other
turn: to turn in one’s grave  if you say that someone would turn in their grave, you mean that, if they were alive,  they would  strongly object to something which is happening now
turn: to turn one’s gaze upon something  (see gaze)
turn: to turn the clocks back  (see clock)
turncoat: to be a turncoat  to desert your principles and join a group of people who have different ideas
twinkling: in the twinkling of an eye  very quickly
twist: to twist someone round one’s little finger  to get them to do anything one wants them to do
two: a two-faced person  one who is not sincere or honest in the way he behaves towards other people

ugly: as ugly as a scarecrow  very ugly indeed
union: union is strength  by joining forces you can achieve your aim more easily
unkindest: the (most) unkindest cut of all  treachery from a friend (from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar)
up: the ups and downs (of something)  the happy and the sad times, a mixture of good and bad things

vanish: to vanish into thin air  to disappear and leave no trace behind
variety: variety is the spice of life  having a wide choice makes life more exciting and interesting
vicious: a vicious circle  a chain of circumstances in which the solving of a problem creates a new problem which leads us to the original one again
victory: a pyrrhic victory  the fact of getting something at too high a price
villain: the villain of the piece  someone who is seen as being the cause of all the trouble in a situation

waste: to lay waste to something / a place  to annihilate it, to destroy it completely
water: to get into hot water  to get into trouble
water: to pour could water on an idea/ a suggestion...  to show that you have a low opinion of someone’s  idea  or suggestion, thus discouraging them
water: still waters run deep  a person may say little but he may think a lot and thus have unrecognized abilities
water: water under the bridge  an event that has happened and cannot now be changed
way: to be well on one’s way to (doing) something  to have made much progress and be almost certain to achieve something
way: by the way  used when you want to add something to what you are saying, especially something which has just come to your mind
way: to go the way of all flesh  to die
way: to have it all one’s own way  if you have it all your own way, everything happens exactly as you want it to
way: to make one’s way somewhere  to walk or travel there
way: on the way out  no longer needed
way: the other way round  the opposite of what someone has just said
weak: the weaker sex  women
wear: who wears the trousers?  who makes the decisions?
weep: enough to make one weep!  said of a situation that is so disgusting that it would sadden anyone
weight: to carry (a lot of/much) weight  to be respected, important and influential
weight: to carry little weight  not to be considered important, not to be influential
wet: as wet as a drowned rat  said of someone whose clothes have got very wet
wet: to wet one’s whistles  to have a drink
whale: to have a whale of a time  to enjoy oneself very much
while: while there’s life, there’s hope (see hope)
while: while you’re about it  used to suggest that someone could do a particular job while they are doing something else
white: as white as a sheet  very frightened or shocked
white: a white-collar worker  (see worker)
why: every why has a wherefore  (derived from the whys and wherefores)  there is a reason behind everything, though it may be hard to see
wild: a wild-goose chase  a search for something which has no chance of being successful
will: where there’s a will there’s a way  if someone really wants something, they will find a way of getting it
win: to win the day  to win a battle
wink: not to get a wink of sleep  (also, not to sleep a wink)  to stay awake and not to sleep at all
wipe: to wipe the floor with someone to defeat someone completely and utterly
wise: as wise as an owl  very wise
wise: it is easy to be wise after the event  it is easy to say what should have been done to prevent something from happening after it has happened
wish: the wish is father to the thought  people believe things because they want them to be true
wolf: a wolf in sheep’s clothing  an enemy posing as a friend
word: by word of mouth  orally, not in writing
word: to go back on one’s word  not to do what one has promised
word: in other words  used when you introduce a simpler explanation of something
word: to take one’s word  to ask someone to believe what one is saying
Word: the Word of God  the message contained in the Bible
work: to make short work of something  to finish something very quickly
work: to work one’s fingers to the bone  to work very very hard indeed
worker: a blue-collar worker  one who does manual work
worker: a white-collar worker  one who works in an office
worse: to make matters worse  to make a difficult situation even more difficult
worth: to be (well) worth one’s while to do something  to be beneficial to someone if they undertake to do a specific thing
worth: to be worth one’s weight in gold  to be of great value or use. The phrase is applied both literally and metaphorically to people or things
wrangle: to wrangle for an ass’s shadow  to contend about trifles

yellow: to be yellow  to be cowardly
yoke: to throw off the yoke  to get rid of someone to whom you are subjected


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