Figurative Expressions

In traditional analysis, words in figurative expressions connote additional layers of meaning, while words in literal expressions denote what they mean according to common or dictionary usage. When the human ear or eye receives the message, the mind must interpret the data to convert it into meaning.

What are Figuratives? On many occassions, the words may not convey the literal meaning of them. They may convey the indirect meanings which may be just the opposite to their literal meanings. Such symbolical and metaphorical meanings are called Figuratives. They contain the figure of speech.

Let us see few hundreds of such Figuratives here.The Figuratives have been arranged in the alphabetical order. Go to the list by clicking that particular page.

Let us see few examples of Figuratives to make the point clear.


The Phrase
Yellow Press does not give the literal meaning that the press which is in Yellow color.On the contrary, it conveys the meaning of The News Papers which publish sensational and unscrupulous stories about crime, sex etc...


The Phrase
In the same boat does not convey the literal meaning. It has the figurative meaning that in the same misfortune or circumstances.

Here is the list of Figurative Expressions beginning with


Not to know a B from a bull’s foot – to be ignorant of even the simplest things


A Babel – a confused noise


To break the back of anything – to perform the most difficult part of it

To get one’s back up – to rouse one’s anger

To backbite a person – to slander or to speak ill of someone

He is the backbone of his team – he is the one on whom his team mainly relies for its successes

He has no backbone – he has no will of his own

Backstairs influence – influence exerted in an underhand or clandestine manner


To cause bad blood – to cause strife and enmity

A bad egg- a worthless person

A bad penny – a worthless person

Bad form – bad manners


Bag and baggage – with all one’s belongings


To keep the ball rolling – to keep things going, to keep up a conversation and prevent it from flagging


To bandy words – to wrangle or exchange arguments


Baptism of fire – a soldier’s first experience of actual war


To call to the bar – to admit as a barrister


Barmicide’s feast – imaginary benefits


Off one’s own bat – on one’s own initiative


To bear down on – to sail in the direction of

To lose one’s bearings – to be uncertain of one’s position


To beat about the bush – to approach a matter in an indirect and roundabout manner

To be dead beat – worn out by fatigue


Bed and board – lodgings and food

As you make your bed, so you must lie on it – you will have to bear the consequences of your own mistakes or misdeeds

To take to one’s bed – to have to be confined to bed as a result of sickness


To have a bee in ones’ bonnet – to hold fantastic notions on some points, to be cranky

Bee-line – the shortest distance between two places


To go a-begging – to be sold very cheaply because No-one cares to buy


Behind’s one’s back – without one’s knowledge

Behind the scenes – in private; out of sight


To make believe – to feign or pretend


To bell the cat – to do something this is extremely dangerous, to undertake a hazardous task with the object of rendering a common enemy harmless (from the fable of the Mice and the Cat)


To hit below the belt – to act unfairly in a contest


To give a person a wide berth – to keep as far away from him as possible


His better half – a man’s wife


A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – Certainty is better than Possibility; the little that one actually possesses is of greater value than what one is only likely to obtain

An old bird is not to be caught with chaff – Experienced people are not easily fooled or deceived


To take the bit between one’s teeth – to get out of control, to become unmanageable


To bite the dust – to be defeated in battle – to die The biter bit – to cheat the cheater

His bark was worse that his bite – He usually makes a lot of vain verbal threats


Let me see it in black and white – Write it down

Blanket :

A wet blanket-a person who discourages others; one who is a damper to enjoyment


To have kissed the blarney stone – to have a very persuasive tongue


In cold blood – deliberately; not in passion

Blood is thicker than water – One usually takes the side of one’s relations against another who is not of one’s own blood


To blow hot and cold – to do one thing at one time and the opposite soon after


A blue stocking – a learned woman, inclined to pedantry

Once in a blue moon – a very rare occurrence

Blue Ribbon – the highest prize in any sport competition or tournament


At first blush – at first sight


In the same boat – in the same misfortune or circumstances


A bolt from the blue – a sudden and unexpected occurrence


A bone of contention – a cause of dispute

To have a bone to pick with someone – to have something to say to someone which might cause a quarrel


A bookworm – a person always poring over books


By leaps and bounds – with remarkable speed

Homeward bound – on the way home


To Bowdlerize – to remove all the objectionable passages from a book (Thomas Bowdler in 1818 published an expurgated version of Shakespeare’s works – hence the name).


To boycott – to avoid, to shun, to have to no dealings with (From Captain Boycott, an Irish Landlord, who was ostracized by members of the Irish Land League, owing to certain unpopular evictions which were carried out at his order.)


Breach of promise– failure to keep a promise to marry one to whom you are betrothed


One’s bread and butter – one’s means of livelihood

His bread is well buttered – He is in fortunate circumstances

The bread winner – one who provides the means of livelihood for himself and his family


To break in – to tame; to bring under control in a gentle manner

To break the news – to reveal something unpleasant in a gentle manner

To break the ice – to be the first to begin; to take the first step


To make a clean breast of anything – to make a full confession

To breathe freely again – to be no longer in fear or anxiety

Breathe :

To breathe one’s last - to die

To breathe freely again - to be no longer in fear or in anxiety


To make bricks without straw – to attempt to do something without proper materials or due preparation

Bridge: Never cross the bridge until you come to it – Do not anticipate Difficulties


To bring down the house – to cause rapturous applause

To bring up the rear – to be the last in line


It is as broad as it is long – It is the same whichever way you view it


To knit the brow – to frown

To brow beat – to bully


To kick the bucket – to die


To buckle on one’s armor – to set to work energetically


To take the bull by the horns – to tackle any difficulty in a bold and direct manner

John Bull:

John Bull – an Englishman


To burke a question – to suppress or prevent any discussion on it (From a notorious Irish criminal names Burke who used to waylay people, suffocate them and sell the bodies to the medical schools.)


To bury the hatchet – to forget past quarrels and be friends again (The American Indians had the custom of burying their tomahawks when peace was concluded, as a symbol of their peaceful intentions.)


Good wine needs no bush – there is no need to advertise something good


But me no buts – Do not bring forward objections

Figurative Expressions Index

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