Idioms and Phrases

These idioms are compiled from the Cambridge International Dictionary.The Cambridge International Dictionary explains over 7,000 idioms current in British, American and other English speaking countries, helping learners to understand them and use them with confidence. The Cambridge Dictionary, based on the 200 million words of English text in the Cambridge International Corpus, unlocks the meaning of more than 5,000 idiomatic phrases used in contemporary English. Full-sentence examples show how idioms are really used.

The Cambridge University Press is respected worldwide for its commitment to advancing knowledge, education, learning and research. It was founded on a Royal Charter granted to the University by Henry VIII in 1534 and has been operating continuously as a printer and publisher since the first Press book was printed in 1584.

Here is the list of idioms beginning with B.

Babe in arms: A babe in arms is a very young child, or a person who is very young to be holding a position.

Babe in the woods: A babe in the woods is a naive, defenseless, young person.

Baby boomer: (USA) A baby boomer is someone born in the years after the end of the Second World War, a period when the population was growing very fast.

Back burner: If an issue is on the back burner, it is being given low priority.

Back foot: (UK) If you are on your back foot, you are at a disadvantage and forced to be defensive of your position.

Back number: Something that's a back number is dated or out of fashion.

Back the wrong horse: If you back the wrong horse, you give your support to the losing side in something.

Back to back: If things happen back to back, they are directly one after another.

Back to square one: If you are back to square one, you have to start from the beginning again.

Back to the drawing board: If you have to go back to the drawing board, you have to go back to the beginning and start something again.

Back to the salt mine: If someone says they have to go back to the salt mine, they have to return to work.

Back to the wall: If you have your back to the wall, you are in a difficult situation with very little room for manoeuvre.

Backseat driver: A backseat driver is an annoying person who is fond of giving advice to the person performing a task or doing something, especially when the advice is either wrong or unwelcome.

Bad Apple: A person who is bad and makes other bad is a bad apple.

Bad blood: If people feel hate because of things that happened in the past, there is bad blood between them.

Bad egg: A person who cannot be trusted is a bad egg. Good egg is the opposite.

Bad hair day: If you're having a bad hair day, things are not going the way you would like or had planned.

Bad mouth: (UK) When you are bad mouthing, you are saying negative things about someone or something.('Bad-mouth' and 'badmouth' are also used.)

Bad shape: If something's in bad shape, it's in bad condition. If a person's in bad shape, they are unfit or unhealthy.

Bad taste in your mouth: If something leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, you feel there is something wrong or bad about it.

Bad workers always blame their tools: "A bad worker always blames their tools" - If somebody does a job badly or loses in a game and claims that they were let down by their equipment, you can use this to imply that this was not the case.

Bag of bones: If someone is a bag of bones, they are very underweight.

Bag of nerves: If someone is a bag of nerves, they are very worried or nervous.

Baker's dozen: A Baker's dozen is 13 rather than 12.

Bald as a coot: A person who is completely bald is as bald as a coot.

Ball is in your court: If the ball is in your court, it is up to you to make the next decision or step.

Ballpark figure: A ballpark figure is a rough or approximate number (guesstimate) to give a general idea of something, like a rough estimate for a cost, etc.

Banana republic: Banana republic is a term used for small countries that are dependent on a single crop or resource and governed badly by a corrupt elite.

Banana skin: (UK) A banana skin is something that is an embarrassment or causes problems.

Bandit territory: An area or an industry, profession, etc, where rules and laws are ignored or flouted is bandit territory.

Baptism of fire: A baptism of fire was a soldier's first experience of shooting. Any unpleasant experience undergone, usually where it is also a learning experience is a baptism of fire.

Bar fly: A bar fly is a person who spends a lot of time drinking in different bars and pubs.

Bare your heart: If you bare your heart to someone, you tell them you personal and private feelings. ('Bare your soul' is an alternative form of the idiom.)

Barefaced liar: A barefaced liar is one who displays no shame about lying even if they are exposed.

Bark is worse than their bite: Someone who's bark is worse than their bite may well get angry and shout, but doesn't take action.

Barking up the wrong tree: If you are barking up the wrong tree, it means that you have completely misunderstood something or are totally wrong.

Barkus is willing: This idiom means that someone is willing to get married.

Barrack-room lawyer: (UK) A barrack-room lawyer is a person who gives opinions on things they are not qualified to speak about.

Barrel of laughs: If someone's a barrel of laughs, they are always joking and you find them funny.

Basket case: If something is a basket case, it is so bad that it cannot be helped.

Bat an eyelid: If someone doesn't bat an eyelid, they don't react or show any emotion when surprised, shocked, etc.

Batten down the hatches: If you batten down the hatches, you prepare for the worst that could happen to you.

Battle of nerves: A battle of nerves is a situation where neither side in a conflict or dispute is willing to back down and is waiting for the other side to weaken. ('A war of nerves' is an alternative form.)

Be all ears: If you are all ears, you are very eager to hear what someone has to say.

Be careful what you wish for: If you get things that you desire, there may be unforeseen and unpleasant consequences.('Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.' and 'Be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.' are also used.)

Be on the pig's back: If you're on the pig's back, you're happy / content / in fine form.

Be out in left field: (USA) To be out in left field is not to know what's going on. Taken from baseball, when youngsters assign less capable players to the outfield where the ball is less likely to be hit by a young player. In business, one might say, 'Don't ask the new manager; he's out in left field and doesn't know any answers yet.'

Be that as it may: Be that as it may is an expression which means that, while you are prepared to accept that there is some truth in what the other person has just said, it's not going to change your opinions in any significant manner.

Be true blue: If a person/object/situation is considered to be 'true blue', it is considered genuine.

Be up the spout: (UK) If a woman is up the spout, she is pregnant.

Bean counter: A bean counter is an accountant.

Bear fruit: If something bears fruit, it produces positive results.

Bear market: A bear market is a period when investors are pessimistic and expect finanical losses so are more likely to sell than to buy shares.

Bear the brunt: People who bear the brunt of something endure the worst of something bad.

Beard the lion in his own den: If you confront a powerful or dangerous rival on their territory, you are bearding the lion in his own den.

Beat about the bush: If someone doesn't say clearly what they mean and try to make it hard to understand, they are beating about (around) the bush.

Beat someone to the draw: (USA) If you beat someone to the draw, you do something before they do.

Beat swords into ploughshares: If people beat swords into ploughshares, they spend money on humanitarian purposes rather than weapons. (The American English spelling is 'plowshares')

Beat the daylights out of someone: If someone beats the daylights out of another person, they hit them repeatedly. ('Knock' can also be used and it can be made even stronger by saying 'the living daylights'.)

Beat to the punch: If you beat someone to the punch, you act before them and gain an advantage.

Beating a dead horse: (USA) If someone is trying to convince people to do or feel something without any hope of succeeding, they're beating a dead horse. This is used when someone is trying to raise interest in an issue that no-one supports anymore; beating a dead horse will not make it do any more work.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder means that different people will find different things beautiful and that the differences of opinion don't matter greatly.

Beauty is only skin deep: This idiom means that appearances can be deceptive and something that seems or looks good may turn out to be bad.

Beck and call: Someone who does everything for you, no matter when you ask, is at your beck and call.

Bedroom eyes: Someone with bedroom eyes has a sexy look in their eyes.

Bee in your bonnet: If someone is very excited about something, they have a bee in their bonnet.

Bee's Knees: If something is the bee's knees, it's outstanding or the best in its class.

Beeline for: If you make a beeline for a place, you head there directly.

Been in the wars: (UK) If someone has been in the wars, they have been hurt or look as if they have been in a struggle.

Beer and skittles: (UK) People say that life is not all beer and skittles, meaning that it is not about self-indulgence and pleasure.

Before the ink is dry: If people make an agreement or contract and then the situation changes very quickly, it changes before the ink is dry.

Before you can say Jack Robinson: The term Jack Robinson represents 'a short amount of time'. When you do something before you can say Jack Robinson, you do it very quickly.

Beg the question: In philosophy "to beg the question" is to assume something to be true that has not yet been proved. I have seen the idiom also to mean that a question is crying out to be asked.

Beggars can't be choosers: This idiom means that people who are in great need must accept any help that is offered, even if it is not a complete solution to their problems.

Behind bars: When someone is behind bars, they are in prison.

Behind closed doors: If something happens away from the public eye, it happens behind closed doors.

Behind someone's back: If you do something behind someone's back, you do it without telling them.

Behind the times: Someone that is behind the times is old-fashioned and has ideas that are regarded as out-dated.

Believe in the hereafter: A belief in the hereafter is a belief in the afterlife, or life after death. It is, therefore, associated with religions and the soul's journey to heaven or to hell, whichever way being just deserts for the person based on how they led their life.

Bells and whistles: Bells and whistles are attractive features that things like computer programs have, though often a bit unnecessary.

Bells on: (USA) To be somewhere with bells on means to arrive there happy and delighted to attend.

Belly up: If things go belly up, they go badly wrong.

Below par: If something isn't up to standard, or someone isn't feeling or doing very well, they are below par.

Below the belt: If someone says something that is cruel or unfair, it is below the belt, like the illegal punches in boxing.

Belt and braces: (UK) Someone who wears belt and braces is very cautious and takes no risks.

Belt and suspenders: (USA) Someone who wears belt and suspenders is very cautious and takes no risks.

Bend over backwards: If someone bends over backwards, they do everything they can to help someone.

Bend someone's ear: To bend someone's ear is to talk to someone about something for a long-enough period that it becomes tiresome for the listener.

Benjamin of the family: The Benjamin of the family is the youngest child.

Beside the point: If something is beside the point, it's not relevant to the matter being discussed or considered.

Beside themselves: If people are beside themselves, they are very worried or emotional about something.

Beside yourself: If you are beside yourself, you are extremely angry.

Best of a bad bunch: The best that could be obtained from a list of options that were not exactly what was required.

Best of both worlds: If you have the best of both worlds, you benefit from different things that do not normally go together.

Best thing since sliced bread: If something is the best thing since sliced bread, it is excellent. ('The greatest thing since sliced bread' is also used.)

Bet your bottom dollar: (USA) If you can bet your bottom dollar on something, you can be absolutely sure about it.

Better late than never: This idiom suggests that doing something late is better than not doing it at all.

Better safe than sorry: This idiom is used to recommend being cautious rather than taking a risk.

Better than a stick in the eye: If something is better than a stick in the eye, it isn't very good, but it is better than nothing.

Better the devil you know: This is the shortened form of the full idiom, 'better the devil you know than the devil you don't', and means that it is often better to deal with someone or something you are familiar with and know, even if they are not ideal, than take a risk with an unknown person or thing.

Between a rock and a hard place: If you are caught between a rock and a hard place, you are in a position where you have to choose between unpleasant alternatives, and your choice might cause you problems; you will not be able to satisfy everyone.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea: If you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, you are in a dilemma; a difficult choice.

Between the lines: If you read between the lines, you find the real message in what you're reading or hearing, a meaning that is not available from a literal interpretation of the words.

Between you and me and the cat's whiskers: This idiom is used when telling someone something that you want them to keep secret.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt: If something's beyond a shadow of a doubt, then absolutely no doubts remain about it.

Beyond belief: If people behave in such a way that you find it almost impossible to accept that they actually did it, then you can say that their behaviour was beyond belief.

Beyond our ken: If something's beyond your ken, it is beyond your understanding.

Beyond the pale: If something's beyond the pale, it is too extreme to be acceptable morally or socially.

Big Apple: (USA) The Big Apple is New York.

Big bucks: If someone is making big bucks, they are making a lot of money.

Big cheese: The big cheese is the boss.

Big Easy: (USA) The Big Easy is New Orleans, Louisiana

Big fish: An important person in a company or an organization is a big fish.

Big fish in a small pond: A big fish in a small pond is an important person in a small place or organization.

Big hitter: A big hitter is someone who commands a lot of respect and is very important in their field.

Big nose: If someone has a big nose, it means they are excessively interested in everyone else's business.

Big picture: The big picture of something is the overall perspective or objective, not the fine detail.

Big time: This can be used to with the meaning 'very much'- if you like something big time, you like it a lot.

Bigger fish to fry: If you aren't interested in something because it isn't important to you and there are more important things for you to do, you have bigger fish to fry.

Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' is a proverb meaning that it is better to have something that is certain than take a risk to get more, where you might lose everything.

Bird's eye view: If you have a bird's eye view of something, you can see it perfectly clearly.

Bird-brain: Someone who has a bird-brain, or is bird-brained, is stupid.

Birds and the bees: If a child is taught about the birds and the bees, they are taught about sex.

Birds of a feather flock together: This idiom means that people with similar interests will stick together.

Birthday suit: If you are in your birthday suit, you are naked.

Bit between your teeth: If you take or have the bit between your teeth, you take or have control of a situation. (Bit = piece of metal in a horse's mouth)

Bit part: If someone has a small or unimportant role in something, they have a bit part.

Bit player: A bit player has a small or unimportant role in something.

Bite off more than you can chew: If you bite off more than you can chew, you take on more responsibilities than you can manage. 'Don't bite off more than you can chew' is often used to advise people against agreeing to more than they can handle.

Bite someone's head off: If you bite someone's head off, you criticize them angrily.

Bite the bullet: If you have to bite the bullet, you have to accept or face something unpleasant because it cannot be avoided.

Bite the dust: This is a way of saying that somebody has died, especially if they are killed violently like a soldier in battle.

Bite your lip: If you have to bite your lip, you have to make a conscious effort not to react or to keep quiet about something that displeases you.

Bite your tongue: If you bite your tongue, you refrain from speaking because it is socially or otherwise better not to.

Bits and bobs: Bits and bobs are small, remnant articles and things- the same as odds and ends.

Bitter end: If you do something to the bitter end, you do it to the very end, no matter how unsuccessful you are.

Bitter pill to swallow: A bitter pill to swallow is something that is hard to accept.

Black and white: When it is very clear who or what is right and wrong, then the situation is black and white.

Black as New gate’s knocker: (UK) If things are as black as Newgate's knocker, they are very bad. Newgate was an infamous prison in England, so its door knocker meant trouble.

Black hole: If there is a black hole in financial accounts, money has disappeared.

Black sheep: Someone who is the black sheep doesn't fit into a group or family because their behaviour or character is not good enough.

Blackball: If you vote against allowing someone to be a member of an organisation or group, you are blackballing him or her.

Blank cheque: If you are given a blank cheque, you are allowed to use as much money as you need for a project.

Bleeding edge: Similar to 'cutting edge', this implies a technology or process that is at the forefront or beyond current practices. However, because it is unproven, it is often dangerous to use (hence the 'bleeding').

Bleeding heart: A bleeding heart is a person who is excessively sympathetic towards other people.

Blessing in disguise: If some bad luck or misfortune ultimately results in something positive, it's a blessing in disguise.

Blind as a bat: If you are in total darkness and can't see anything at all, you are as blind as a bat.

Blind leading the blind: When the blind are leading the blind, the people in charge of something don't know anything more than the people they are in charge of, when they should have greater knowledge.

Blink of an eye: If something happens in the blink of an eye, it happens so fast it is almost impossible to notice it.

Blood and thunder: An emotional speech or performance is full of blood and thunder.

Blood from a turnip: It is impossible to get something from someone if they don't have it, just as you cannot get blood from a turnip.

Blood is thicker than water: This idiom means that family relationships are stronger than others.

Blood is worth bottling: (AU) If an Australian says to you "Your blood is worth bottling", he/she is complimenting or praising you for doing something or being someone very special.

Blood out of a stone: If something is like getting blood out of a stone, it is very difficult indeed.

Blood, sweat and tears: If something will take blood, sweat and tears, it will be very difficult and will require a lot of effort and sacrifice.

Blow a gasket: If you blow a gasket, you get very angry.

Blow by blow: A blow-by-blow description gives every detail in sequence.

Blow hot and cold: If you blow hot and cold on an idea, your attitude and opinion keeps changing; one minute you are for it, the next you are against.

Blow me down: People say '(well,) blow me down' when you have just told them something surprising, shocking or unexpected. ('Blow me down with a feather' is also used.)

Blow off steam: (USA) If you blow off steam, you express your anger or frustration.

Blow out of the water: If something, like an idea, is blown out of the water, it is destroyed or defeated comprehensively.

Blow smoke: (USA) If people blow smoke, the exaggerate or say things that are not true, usually to make themselves look better.

Blow the cobwebs away: If you blow the cobwebs away, you make sweeping changes to something to bring fresh views and ideas in.

Blow the whistle: If somebody blows the whistle on a plan, they report it to the authorities.

Blow your mind: Something that will blow your mind is something extraordinary that will amaze you beyond explanation.

Blow your own horn: If you blow your own horn, you boast about your achievements and abilities. ('Blow your own trumpet' is an alternative form.)

Blow your own trumpet: If someone blows their own trumpet, they boast about their talents and achievements. ('Blow your own horn' is an alternative form.)

Blow your stack: If you blow your stack, you lose your temper.

Blow your top: If someone blows their top, they lose their temper.

Blue blood: Someone with blue blood is royalty.

Blue-eyed boy: Someone's blue-eyed boy is their favorite person.

Bob's your uncle: (UK) This idiom means that something will be successful: Just tell him that I gave you his name and Bob's your uncle- he'll help you.

Body politic: A group of people organised under a single government or authority (national or regional) is a body politic.

Bold as brass: Someone who is as bold as brass is very confident and not worried about how other people will respond or about being caught.

Bolt from the blue: If something happens unexpectedly and suddenly, it is a bolt from the blue.

Bone of contention: If there is an issue that always causes tension and arguments, it is a bone of contention.

Bone to pick: If you have a bone to pick with someone, you are annoyed about something they have done and want to tell them how you feel.

Boot is on the other foot: When the boot's on the other foot, a person who was in a position of weakness is now in a position of strength.

Born to the purple: Someone who is born to the purple is born in a royal or aristocratic family. ("Born in the purple" is also used.)

Born with a silver spoon in your mouth: If you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you are born into a rich family.

Both ends meet: If you make both ends meet, you live off the money you earn and don't go into debt.

Bottom line: In accountancy, the bottom line is net income, and is used idiomatically to mean the conclusion.

Bounce off the walls: If someone's bouncing off the walls, they are very excited about something.

Bouquet of orchids: Id someone deserves a bouquet of orchids; they have done something worthy of praise.

Box and dice: Box and dice means everything.

Box clever: (UK) If you box clever, you use your intelligence to get what you want, even if you have to cheat a bit.

Boxing and coxing: If people are boxing and coxing, they are sharing responsibilities so that one of them is working while the other isn't. It can also be used when couples are sharing a house, but their relationship has broken down and when one is at home, the other stays out.

Boys in blue: The boys in blue are the police.

Brain surgery: If something is not brain surgery, it isn't very complicated or difficult to understand or master.

Brass monkey: If it's brass monkey weather, or cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey, it is extremely cold.

Brass neck: (UK) Someone who has the brass neck to do something has no sense of shame about what they do.

Brass tacks: If you get down to brass tacks, you get down to the real business.

Bread and butter: Bread and butter issues are ones that affect people directly and in a very important way.

Breadwinner: Used to describe the person that earns the most money. For example - She's the breadwinner in the family.

Break a leg: This idiom is a way of wishing someone good luck.

Break even: If you break even, you don't make any money, but you don't lose any either.

Break ground: If you break ground, or break new ground, you make progress, taking things into a new area or going further than anyone has gone before. 'Ground-breaking' is used an adjective.

Break the back of the beast: If you break the back of the beast, you accomplish a challenge.

Break the ice: When you break the ice, you get over any initial embarrassment or shyness when you meet someone for the first time and start conversing.

Break your duck: (UK) If you break your duck, you do something for the first time.

Break your heart: If someone upsets you greatly, they break your heart, especially if they end a relationship.

Breathe down your neck: If someone follows you or examines what you're doing very closely, they are breathing down your neck.

Breathe your last: When you breathe your last, you die.

Bridge the gap: If you bridge the gap, you make a connection where there is a great difference.

Bright as a button: A person who is as bright as a button is very intelligent or smart.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed: If someone's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, they are full of energy and enthusiasm.

Brighten up the day: If something brightens up your day, something happens that makes you feel positive and happy all day long.

Bring a knife to a gunfight: If someone brings a knife to a gunfight, they are very badly prepared for something.

Bring home the bacon: A person who brings home the bacon earns the money that a family live on.

Bring someone to book: If somebody is brought to book, they are punished or made to account for something they have done wrong.

Bring someone to heel: If you bring someone to heel, you make them obey you.('Call someone to heel' is also used.)

Bring the house down: Something that brings the house down is acclaimed and praised vigorously.

Bring to the table: If you bring something to the table, you make a contribution or an offer in a discussion or negotiation..

Broad church: If an organization is described as broad church, it is tolerant and accepting of different opinions and ideas.

Broad strokes: If something is described or defined with broad stokes, then only an outline is given, without fine details.

Broke as a joke and it isn’t funny: This idiom in my opinion describes how it's not funny to be without a cent and just uses broke and joke as rhyming words that help explain this idiom a lot better.

Brown nose: When someone tries to make themselves popular with somebody, usually in a position of authority, especially by flattering them, they are brown nosing.

Brownie points: If you try to earn Brownie points with someone, you do things you know will please them.

Brush under the carpet: If you brush something under the carpet, you are making an attempt to ignore it, or hide it from others.

Bull in a China shop: If someone behaves like a bull in a China shop, they are clumsy when they should be careful.

Bull market: A bull market is a period when investors are optimistic and there are expectations that good financial results will continue.

Bull session: If you have a bull session, you have an informal group discussion about something.

Bull-headed: If you're a bull-headed, you're stubborn or inflexible.

Bun in the oven: If a woman has a bun in the oven, she is pregnant.

Bundle of nerves: Someone who is a bundle of nerves is very worried or nervous.

Burn rubber: If you burn rubber, you drive very fast to get somewhere.

Burn the candle at both ends: Someone who burns the candle at both ends lives life at a hectic pace, doing things which are likely to affect their health badly.

Burn the midnight oil: If you stay up very late working or studying, you burn the midnight oil.

Burn your bridges: If you burn your bridges, you do something that makes it impossible to go back from the position you have taken.

Burn your fingers: If you burn your fingers, you suffer a loss or something unpleasant as the result of something you did, making you less likely to do it again.

Burning question: A burning question is something we all want to know about.

Burst at the seams: To be filled to or beyond normal capacity: This room will be bursting at the seams when all the guests arrive.

Bury the hatchet: If you bury the hatchet, you make peace with someone and stop arguing or fighting.

Bury your head in the sand: If someone buries their head in the sand, they ignore something that is obviously wrong.

Busman's holiday: A busman's holiday is when you spend your free time doing the same sort of work as you do in your job.

Bust my chops: When someone says that they're not going to bust their chops, it means they are not going to work that hard or make much effort.

Busted flush: Someone or something that had great potential but ended up a useless failure is a busted flush.

Busy as a beaver: If you're as busy as a beaver, you're very busy indeed.

Busy as a bee: If you are as busy as a bee, you are very busy indeed.

Butter wouldn't melt in their mouth: If someone looks as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouth, they look very innocent.

Butterfingers: Someone who has butterfingers is clumsy and drops things.

Butterflies in your stomach: The nervous feeling before something important or stressful is known as butterflies in your stomach.

Button your lip: If you button your lip, you keep quiet and don't speak. It is also used as a way of telling someone to shut up.

Buy the farm: When somebody has bought the farm, they have died.

By a hair's breadth: If a person escapes from some danger by a hair's breadth, they only just managed to avoid it. The breadth is the thickness of a hair, so they probably feel somewhat lucky because the margin between success and what could easily have been failure was so close.

By a long chalk: (UK) If you beat somebody by a long chalk, you win easily and comfortably.

By a whisker: If you do something by a whisker, you only just manage to do it and come very near indeed to failing.

By cracky: A term used by rural folks in years past to emphasize a matter of importance or urgency. An example: 'By cracky, you need to get out there in the field with that mule and plow and finish the sod-busting before dark.'

By dint of: This means 'as a result of' or 'because of': It would be good to think he'd risen to position of Chief Executive by dint of hard work.

By heart: If you learn something by heart, you learn it word for word.

By hook or by crook: If you are prepared to do something by hook or by crook, you are willing to do anything, good or bad, to reach your goal.

By leaps and bounds: Something that happens by leaps and bounds happens very quickly in big steps.

By the back door: If something is started or introduced by the back door, then it is not done openly or by following the proper procedures.

By the book: If you do something by the book, you do it exactly as you are supposed to.

By the numbers: If something is done by the numbers, it is done in a mechanical manner without room for creativity.

By the same token: If someone applies the same rule to different situations, they judge them by the same token: If things go well, he's full of praise, but, by the same token, when things go wrong he gets furious.

By the seat of your pants: If you do something by the seat of your pants, you do it without help from anyone.

By the skin of your teeth: If you do something by the skin of your teeth, you only just manage to do it and come very near indeed to failing.

By word of mouth: If something becomes known by word of mouth, it gets known by being talked about rather than through publicity or advertising, etc.

Idioms and Phrases Index

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