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 C.


  1. the big C
  2. the whole caboodle
  3. the whole kit and caboodle
  4. cut the cackle
  5. have a cadenza
  6. appeal to Caesar
  7. Caesar's wife
  8. in cahoots
  9. the mark of cain
  10. raise cain
  11. cakes and ale
  12. you can not have your cake and eat it
  13. the icing on the cake
  14. a piece of cake
  15. sell like hot cakes
  16. go like hot cakes
  17. a slice of the cake
  18. take the cake
  19. a golden calf
  20. kill the fatted calf
  21. call his bluff
  22. call it a day
  23. call someone names
  24. call of nature
  25. call the shots
  26. call the tune
  27. Do not call us we will call you.
  28. good call
  29. bad call
  30. call a spade a spade
  31. too close to call
  32. carry the can
  33. in the can
  34. open up a can of worms
  35. burn the candle at both ends
  36. cannot hold a candle to
  37. not worth the candle
  38. a loose cannon
  39. paddle your own canoe
  40. at a canter
  41. by a canvas
  42. cap in hand
  43. if the cap fits wear it
  44. set your cap at
  45. with a capital
  46. get your cards
  47. have a card up your sleeve
  48. hold all the cards
  49. keep your cards close to your chest
  50. keep your cards close to your vest
  51. mark someones card
  52. on the cards
  53. play the card
  54. play your cards right
  55. put your cards on the table
  56. lay your cards on the table
  57. not care two straws
  58. a magic carpet
  59. on the carpet
  60. sweep something under the carpet
  61. carrot and stick
  62. carry the can
  63. carry the day
  64. in the cart
  65. put the cart before the horse
  66. be carved in stone
  67. be on his case
  68. get off his case
  69. cash in your chips
  70. cash in hand
  71. be cast in a mould
  72. cast someone adrift
  73. cast your bread upon the waters
  74. cast the first stone
  75. cast something in his teeth
  76. build castles in the air
  77. build castles in Spain
  78. all cats are grey in the dark
  79. bell the cat
  80. the cat has got his tongue
  81. a cat may look at a king
  82. a dead cat bounce
  83. enough to make a cat laugh
  84. fight like cat and dog
  85. let the cat out of the bag
  86. like a cat on a hot tin roof
  87. like a cat on hot bricks
  88. like the cat that has got the cream
  89. like the cat who has stolen the cream
  90. like a scalded cat
  91. like something the cat brought in
  92. not room to swing a cat
  93. no room to swing a cat
  94. not a cat in hells chance
  95. play cat and mouse with
  96. put the cat among the pigeons
  97. see which way the cat jumps
  98. that cat would not jump
  99. turn cat in pan
  100. when the cat is away the mice will play
  101. in the catbird seat
  102. a catch-22 situation
  103. catch at straws
  104. catch a cold
  105. catch cold
  106. catch your death
  107. catch your death of cold
  108. catch the sun
  109. catch a Tartar
  110. play catch-up
  111. the cats whiskers
  112. make common cause with
  113. a rebel without a cause
  114. throw caution to the winds
  115. keep cave
  116. caviar to the general
  117. a sop to Cerberus
  118. stand on ceremony
  119. without ceremony
  120. bad cess to
  121. chafe at the bit
  122. champ at the bit
  123. be caught with chaff
  124. separate the wheat from the chaff
  125. sort the wheat from the chaff
  126. pull his chain
  127. yank his chain
  128. a poisoned chalice
  129. as different as chalk and cheese
  130. by a long chalk
  131. chalk and talk
  132. walk the chalk
  133. champ at the bit
  134. chafe at the bit
  135. change horses in midstream
  136. do not change horses in midstream
  137. a change is as good as a rest
  138. a change of heart
  139. change your tune
  140. get no change out of
  141. ring the change
  142. chapter and verse
  143. a chapter of accidents
  144. return to the charge
  145. charity begins at home
  146. as cold as charity
  147. work like a charm
  148. chase the dragon
  149. go and chase yourself
  150. the chattering classes
  151. cheap and cheerful
  152. cheap and nasty
  153. cheap at the price
  154. check someone or something skeef
  155. check you
  156. cheek by jowl
  157. turn the other cheek
  158. of good cheer
  159. three cheers for
  160. a big cheese
  161. hard cheese
  162. say cheese
  163. take the chequered flag
  164. a bite at the cherry
  165. a bowl of cherries
  166. the cherry on the cake
  167. pop her cherry
  168. grin like a Cheshire cat
  169. hope chest
  170. get something off your chest
  171. an old chestnut
  172. pull his chestnuts out of the fire
  173. chew the cud
  174. chew the fat
  175. chew the rag
  176. chew the scenery
  177. neither chick nor child
  178. chickens come home to roost
  179. a chicken-and-egg problem
  180. count your chickens
  181. running about like a headless chicken
  182. rushing about like a headless chicken
  183. big white chief
  184. chief cook and bottle-washer
  185. too many chiefs and not enough Indians
  186. child’s play
  187. keep your chin up
  188. take it on the chin
  189. not a Chinaman’s chance
  190. a chink in his armour
  191. a chip off the old block
  192. a chip on your shoulder
  193. have had your chips
  194. when the chips are down
  195. hobsons choice
  196. bust his chops
  197. bust your chops
  198. chop and change
  199. chop logic
  200. not much chop
  201. strike a chord
  202. touch a chord
  203. strike the right cord
  204. touch the right cord
  205. chuck it down
  206. off your chump
  207. close but no cigar
  208. burnt to a cinder
  209. circle the wagons
  210. come full circle
  211. turn full circle
  212. go round in circles
  213. run round in circles
  214. the wheel has turned full circle
  215. the wheel has come full circle
  216. a three-ring circus
  217. citizen of the world
  218. the end of civilization as we know it
  219. claim to fame
  220. happy as a clam
  221. happy as a sandboy
  222. drop a clanger
  223. clap eyes on
  224. clap hold of
  225. clap someone in jail
  226. clap someone in irons
  227. like the clappers
  228. tap his claret
  229. a class act
  230. get your claws into
  231. have feet of clay
  232. clean as a whistle
  233. a clean bill of health
  234. a clean sheet
  235. a clean sheet slate
  236. clean his clock
  237. clean house
  238. clean up your act
  239. come clean
  240. have clean hands
  241. keep your hands clean
  242. keep a clean sheet
  243. keep your nose clean
  244. make a clean breast of something
  245. make a clean breast of it
  246. make a clean sweep
  247. Mr. Clean
  248. take someone to the cleaners
  249. clear the air
  250. clear as a bell
  251. as clear as day
  252. clear as mud
  253. clear the decks
  254. in clear
  255. in the clear
  256. out of a clear blue sky
  257. out of a clear sky
  258. be in a cleft stick
  259. be caught in a cleft stick
  260. too clever by half
  261. click into place
  262. click your fingers at
  263. have a mountain to climb
  264. be climbing the walls
  265. at a clip
  266. clip his wings
  267. round the clock
  268. around the clock
  269. turn back the clock
  270. watch the clock
  271. clogs to clogs in three generations
  272. close to home
  273. close the door on
  274. close to the bone
  275. close to the bone
  276. close your mind to
  277. close ranks
  278. close shave
  279. close call
  280. close to
  281. close on
  282. run someone close
  283. too close for comfort
  284. too close to call
  285. behind closed doors
  286. a closed book
  287. out of the closet
  288. on cloud nine
  289. a silver lining
  290. under a cloud
  291. with your head in the clouds
  292. a cloven hoof
  293. in clover
  294. in the club
  295. in the pudding club
  296. join the club
  297. welcome to the club
  298. clutch at straws
  299. drive a coach and horses through
  300. coals to Newcastle
  301. haul someone over the coals
  302. heap coals of fire on his head
  303. at the coalface
  304. the coast is clear
  305. on his coat-tails
  306. have a cob on
  307. get a cob on
  308. blow away the cobwebs
  309. clear away the cobwebs
  310. a cock-and-bull story
  311. at full cock
  312. cock a snook at
  313. cock of the walk
  314. cock your ear
  315. knock something into a cocked hat
  316. warm the cockles of his heart
  317. i should cocoa
  318. i should coco
  319. bring something up to code
  320. coign of vantage
  321. shuffle off this mortal coil
  322. the other side of the coin
  323. to coin a phrase
  324. pay someone back in their own coin
  325. the long arm of coincidence
  326. catch a cold
  327. catch cold
  328. as cold as charity
  329. cold comfort
  330. cold feet
  331. in the cold light of day
  332. the cold shoulder
  333. go cold turkey
  334. have someone cold
  335. in cold blood
  336. leave someone cold
  337. left out in the cold
  338. out cold
  339. pour cold water on
  340. throw cold water on
  341. feel his collar
  342. on a collision course
  343. lend colour to
  344. give colour to
  345. see the colour of his money
  346. nail your colours to the mast
  347. pin your colours to the mast
  348. sail under false colours
  349. show your true colours
  350. with flying colours
  351. dodge the column
  352. fifth column
  353. as simple as they come
  354. come the leader
  355. come the acid
  356. come apart at the seams
  357. come clean
  358. come in from the cold
  359. come it over
  360. come it strong
  361. come of age
  362. come off it
  363. come to grief
  364. come the old soldier over someone
  365. come to that
  366. if it comes to that
  367. come to think of it
  368. come up smelling of roses
  369. too close for comfort
  370. have it coming to you
  371. not know if you are coming or going
  372. where someone is coming from
  373. go commando
  374. common or garden
  375. the common touch
  376. be in good company
  377. err in good company
  378. compare notes
  379. return the compliment
  380. jump to conclusions
  381. leap to conclusions
  382. jump to the conclusion that
  383. leap to the conclusion that
  384. try conclusions with
  385. be set in concrete
  386. a name to conjure with
  387. conspicuous by your absence
  388. a conspiracy of silence
  389. hold someone in contempt
  390. hold something in contempt
  391. to your hearts content
  392. bone of contention
  393. no contest
  394. contradiction in terms
  395. have the courage of your convictions
  396. within cooee of
  397. cook the books
  398. cook on the front burner
  399. cook his goose
  400. too many cooks spoil the broth
  401. the way the cookie crumbles
  402. with your hand in the cookie jar
  403. cool as a cucumber
  404. cool your heels
  405. for a coon’s age
  406. in a coon’s age
  407. a gone coon
  408. fly the coop
  409. bald as a coot
  410. cop hold of
  411. cop a plea
  412. it is a fair cop
  413. not much cop
  414. blot your copybook
  415. cut the cord
  416. corn in Egypt
  417. cut corners
  418. fight your corner
  419. the four corners of the world
  420. the far corners of the world
  421. the four corners of the earth
  422. the far corners of the earth
  423. in his corner
  424. paint yourself into a corner
  425. turn the corner
  426. the corridors of power
  427. cost an arm and a leg
  428. count the cost
  429. wrap someone in cotton wool
  430. couch potato
  431. on the couch
  432. a counsel of despair
  433. a counsel of perfection
  434. count your chickens
  435. count the pennies
  436. count sheep
  437. count something on the fingers of one hand
  438. count to ten
  439. out for the count
  440. take the count
  441. out of countenance
  442. go counter
  443. over the counter
  444. under the counter
  445. under the table
  446. appeal to the country
  447. go to the country
  448. line of country
  449. unknown country
  450. dutch courage
  451. have the courage of your convictions
  452. take your courage in both hands
  453. stay the course
  454. hold court
  455. send someone to coventry
  456. blow his cover
  457. break cover
  458. cover the waterfront
  459. cover your back
  460. cover your tracks
  461. have a cow
  462. a sacred cow
  463. till the cows come home
  464. catch a crab
  465. crack heads together
  466. crack a book
  467. crack a bottle
  468. crack a crib
  469. the crack of dawn
  470. crack of doom
  471. a fair crack of the whip
  472. crack wise
  473. paper over the cracks
  474. go crackers
  475. cracked up to be
  476. get cracking
  477. a bit of crackling
  478. cramp his style
  479. crash and burn
  480. stick in your craw
  481. crazy like a fox
  482. creature of habit
  483. credit where credit is due
  484. be up the creek without a paddle
  485. give someone the creeps
  486. make your flesh creep
  487. make your flesh crawl
  488. on the crest of a wave
  489. not cricket
  490. put a crimp in
  491. burnt to a crisp
  492. shed crocodile tears
  493. weep crocodile tears
  494. be crook on
  495. go crook
  496. come a cropper
  497. at cross purposes
  498. cross as two sticks
  499. cross your fingers
  500. keep your fingers crossed
  501. cross the floor
  502. cross my heart
  503. cross his palm with silver
  504. cross the rubicon
  505. cross swords
  506. have your cross to bear
  507. get your wires crossed
  508. get your lines crossed
  509. be caught in the crossfire
  510. at a crossroads
  511. at the crossroads
  512. dirty work at the crossroads
  513. as the crow flies
  514. eat crow
  515. crowd the mourners
  516. pass in a crowd
  517. crowning glory
  518. be cruel to be kind
  519. cruising for a bruising
  520. crumbs from his table
  521. crumbs from the table of the rich man
  522. when it comes to the crunch
  523. if it comes to the crunch
  524. a widows cruse
  525. cry for the moon
  526. cry foul
  527. cry from the heart
  528. cry over spilt milk
  529. cry stinking fish
  530. cry wolf
  531. in full cry
  532. great cry and little wool
  533. much cry and little wool
  534. for crying out loud
  535. crystal clear
  536. cuckoo in the nest
  537. cool as the cucumber
  538. chew the cud
  539. cudgel your brains
  540. take up the cudgels
  541. off the cuff
  542. on the cuff
  543. on cue
  544. take your cue from
  545. culture vulture
  546. in your cups
  547. not your cup of tea
  548. a curate’s egg
  549. make his blood curdle
  550. curiosity killed the cat
  551. curl the mo
  552. make his hair curl
  553. out of curl
  554. pass current
  555. curry favour
  556. bring down the curtain on
  557. old Spanish customs
  558. a cut above
  559. an atmosphere that you could cut with a knife
  560. be cut out for
  561. be cut out to be
  562. cut and dried
  563. cut and run
  564. cut and thrust
  565. cut both ways
  566. cut corners
  567. cut the crap
  568. cut a dash
  569. cut someone dead
  570. cut a deal
  571. cut someone down to size
  572. cut a perfect figure
  573. cut from the same cloth
  574. cut in line
  575. cut it
  576. cut it fine
  577. cut things fine
  578. cut the Gordian knot
  579. cut it out
  580. cut loose
  581. cut your losses
  582. cut the mustard
  583. cut no ice
  584. cut someone off in their prime
  585. cut someone down in their prime
  586. the cut of his jib
  587. cut a rug
  588. cut the rug
  589. cut someone some slack
  590. cut your teeth
  591. cut to the chase
  592. cut up rough
  593. cut your coat according to your cloth
  594. have your work cut out
  595. make the cut
  596. miss the cut
  597. firing on all cylinders
  598. firing on all four cylinders



Cake's not worth the candle : If someone says that the cake's not worth the candle, they mean that the result will not be worth the effort put in to achieve it.


Calf lick: A calf lick is the weird parting in your fringe where your hair grows in a different direction, usually to one side.


Call a spade a spade: A person who calls a spade a spade is one speaks frankly and makes little or no attempt to conceal their opinions or to spare the feelings of their audience.


Call on the carpet: If you are called on the carpet, you are summoned for a reprimand by superiors or others in power.


Call the dogs off: If someone calls off their dogs, they stop attacking or criticizing someone.


Call the shots: If you call the shots, you are in charge and tell people what to do.


Call the tune: The person who calls the tune makes the important decisions about something.


Calm before the storm: A calm time immediately before period of violent activity or argument is the calm before the storm.


Can of worms: If an action can create serious problems, it is opening a can of worms.


Can't dance and it's too wet to plow: (USA) When you can't dance and it's too wet to plow, you may as well do something because you can't or don't have the opportunity to do anything else.


Can't do it for toffee: If you can't so something for toffee, you are incapable of doing something properly or to any sort of standard.


Can't hold a candle: If something can't hold a candle to something else, it is much worse.


Can't see the forest for its trees: If someone can't see the forest for its trees, they are too focused on specific details to see the picture as a whole.


Canary in a coal mine: (UK) A canary in a coal mine is an early warning of danger.


Card up your sleeve: If you have a card up your sleeve, you have a surprise plan or idea that you are keeping back until the time is right.


Carpetbagger: A carpetbagger is an opportunist without any scruples or ethics, or a politican who wants to represent a place they have no connection with.


Carrot and stick: If someone offers a carrot and stick, they offer an incentive to do something combined with the threat of punishment.


Carry the can: If you carry the can, you take the blame for something, even though you didn't do it or are only partly at fault.


Case by case: If things are done case by case, each situation or issue is handled separately on its own merits and demerits.


Case in point: Meaning an instance of something has just occurred that was previously discussed. For instance, a person may have told another that something always happens. Later that day, they see it happening, and the informer might say, 'case in point'.


Cash in your chips: If you cash in your chips, you sell something to get what profit you can because you think its value is going to fall. It can also mean 'to die'.


Cast a long shadow: Something or someone that casts a long shadow has considerable influence on other people or events.


Cast aspersion: If you cast aspersion, you try to blacken someone's name and make people think badly of them.


Cast doubt on: If you make other people not sure about a matter, then you have cast doubt on it.


Cast iron stomach: A person with a cast iron stomach can eat or drink anything without any ill effects.


Cast pearls before swine: If you cast pearls before swine, you offer something of value to someone who doesn't appreciate it- 'swine' are 'pigs'.


Cast sheep's eyes at: If you cast sheep's eyes at someone, you look lovingly or with longing at them.


Cast your mind back: If somebody tells you to cast your mind back on something, they want you to think about something that happened in the past, but which you might not remember very well, and to try to remember as much as possible.


Cast your net widely: If you cast your net widely, you use a wide range of sources when trying to find something.


Casting vote: The casting vote is a vote given to a chairman or president that is used when there is a deadlock.


Castles in the air: Plans that are impractical and will never work out are castles in the air.


Cat among the pigeons: If something or someone puts, or sets or lets, the cat among the pigeons, they create a disturbance and cause trouble.


Cat and dog life: If people lead a cat and dog life, they are always arguing.


Cat burglar: A cat burglar is a skillful thief who breaks into places without disturbing people or setting off alarms.


Cat fur and kitty britches: (USA) when I used to ask my grandma what was for dinner, she would say 'cat fur and kitty britches'. This was her Ozark way of telling me that I would get what she cooked. (Ozark is a region in the center of the United States)


Cat got your tongue? : If someone asks if the cat has got your tongue, they want to know why you are not speaking when they think you should.


Cat nap: If you have a short sleep during the day, you are cat napping.


Cat's lick: (Scot) A cat's lick is a very quick wash.


Cat's pajamas: (USA) something that is the cat's pajamas is excellent.


Cat's whiskers: Something excellent is the cat's whiskers.


Catch as catch can: This means that people should try to get something any way they can.


Catch hell: If you catch hell, you get into trouble or get scolded. ('Catch heck' is also used.)


Catch someone red-handed: If someone is caught red-handed, they are found doing something wrong or illegal.


Caught with your hand in the cookie jar: (USA) If someone is caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar, he or she is caught doing something wrong.


Chalk and cheese: Things, or people, that are like chalk and cheese are very different and have nothing in common.


Champ at the bit: If someone is champing at the bit, they are very eager to accomplish something. ('Chomping at the bit' is also used.)


Change horses in midstream: If people change horses in midstream, they change plans or leaders when they are in the middle of something, even though it may be very risky to do so.


Change of heart: If you change the way you think or feel about something, you have a change of heart.


Change tack: If you change tack, you use a different method for dealing with something.


Change your tune: If someone changes their ideas or the way they talk about them, they change their tune.


Charity begins at home: This idiom means that family members are more important than anyone else, and should be the focus of a person's efforts.


Chase rainbows: If someone chases rainbows, they try to do something that they will never achieve.


Chase your tail: If you are chasing your tail, you are very busy but not being very productive.


Cheap as chips: (UK) If something is very inexpensive, it is as cheap as chips.


Cheap at half the price: If something's cheap at half the price, it's very cheap indeed.


Cheap shot: A cheap shot is an unprincipled criticism.


Cheat death: If someone cheats death, they narrowly avoid a major problem or accident.


Cheek by jowl: If things or people are cheek by jowl, they are very close together.


Cherry pick: If people cherry pick, they choose things that support their position, while ignoring things that contradict it.


Chew on a bone: If someone is chewing on a bone, he or she is thinking about something intently.


Chew the cud: If you chew the cud, you think carefully about something.


Chew the fat: If you chew the fat with someone, you talk at leisure with them.


Chickenfeed: If something is small or unimportant, especially money, it is chickenfeed.


Chinese walls: Chinese walls are regulatory information barriers that aim to stop the flow of information that could be misused, especially in financial corporations.


Chinese whispers: (UK) when a story is told from person to person, especially if it is gossip or scandal, it inevitably gets distorted and exaggerated. This process is called Chinese whispers.


Chip off the old block: If someone is a chip off the old block, they closely resemble one or both of the parents in character.


Chip on your shoulder: If someone has a chip on their shoulder, they are resentful about something and feel that they have been treated badly.


Chop and change: If things chop and change, they keep changing, often unexpectedly.


Cigarette paper: If you cannot get or put a cigarette paper between people, they are so closely bonded that nothing will separate them or their positions on issues.


Circle the wagons: (USA) If you circle the wagons, you stop communicating with people who don't think the same way as you to avoid their ideas. It can also mean to bring everyone together to defend a group against an attack.


Circling the drain: If someone is circling the drain, they are very near death and have little time to live. The phrase can also describe a project or plan or campaign that that is on the brink of failure.


Class act: Someone who's a class act is exceptional in what they do.


Clean as a whistle: If something is as clean as a whistle, it is extremely clean, spotless. It can also be used to mean 'completely', though this meaning is less common nowadays. If somebody is clean as a whistle, they are not involved in anything illegal.


Clean bill of health: If something or someone has a clean bill of health, then there's nothing wrong; everything's fine.


Clean break: If you make a clean break, you break away completely from something.


Clean hands: Someone with clean hands, or who keeps their hands clean, is not involved in illegal or immoral activities.


Clean sheet: When someone has a clean sheet, they have got no criminal record or problems affecting their reputation. In football and other sports, a goalkeeper has a clean sheet when let no goals in.


Clean slate: If you start something with a clean slate, then nothing bad from your past is taken into account.


Clean sweep : If someone makes a clean sweep, they win absolutely everything in a competition or contest.


Clear as a bell: If something is as clear as a bell, it is very clear or easy to understand.


Clear as mud: If something is as clear as mud, then it is very confusing and unclear.


Cliffhanger: If something like a sports match or an election is a cliffhanger, then the result is so close that it cannot be predicted and will only be known at the very end.


Climb on the bandwagon: When people climb on the bandwagon they do something because it is popular and everyone else is doing it.


Cling to hope: If people cling to hope, they continue to hope though the chances of success are very small.


Close at hand: If something is close at hand, it is nearby or conveniently located.


Close but no cigar: (USA) If you are close but no cigar, you are close to success, but have not got there.


Close call: If the result of something is a close call, it is almost impossible to distinguish between the parties involved and to say who has won or whatever.


Close shave: If you have a close shave, you very nearly have a serious accident or get into trouble.


Close the stable door after the horse has bolted: If people try to fix something after the problem has occurred, they are trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. 'Close the barn door after the horse has bolted' is alternative, often used in American English.


Close to your heart: If something is close to your heart, you care a lot about it. ('Dear to your heart' is an alternative.)


Closed book to me: If a subject is a closed book to you, it is something that you don't understand or know anything about.


Cloth ears: If you don't listen to people, they may suggest you have cloth ears.


Cloud cuckoo land: If someone has ideas or plans that are completely unrealistic, they are living on cloud cuckoo land.


Cloud nine: If you are on cloud nine, you are extremely happy. (‘Cloud seven' is a less common alternative)


Cloud of suspicion: If a cloud of suspicion hangs over an individual, it means that they are not believed or are distrusted.


Cloud on the horizon: If you can see a problem ahead, you can call it a cloud on the horizon.


Clutch at straws: If someone is in serious trouble and tries anything to help them, even though their chances of success are probably nil, they are clutching at straws.


Coals to Newcastle: (UK) Taking, bringing, or carrying coals to Newcastle is doing something that is completely unnecessary.


Cock a snook: To make a rude gesture by putting one thumb to the nose with the fingers outstretched.


Cock and bull story: A cock and bull story is a lie someone tells that is completely unbelievable.


Cock in the henhouse: This is used to describe a male in an all-female environment.


Cold day in hell: This is used as a prediction there is no chance some event or condition will ever happen.’ There will be a cold day in hell before he manages it.'


Cold feet: If you get cold feet about something, you lose the courage to do it.


Cold fish: A cold fish is a person who doesn't show how they feel.


Cold light of day: If you see things in the cold light of day, you see them as they really are, not as you might want them to be.


Cold shoulder: If you give or show someone the cold shoulder, you are deliberately unfriendly and unco-operative towards them.


Cold sweat: If something brings you out in a cold sweat, it frightens you a lot.


Cold turkey: If someone suddenly stops taking drugs, instead of slowly cutting down, they do cold turkey.


Colder than a witches tit: If it is colder than a witches tit, it is extremely cold outside.


Collateral damage: Accidental or unintended damage or casualties are collateral damage.


Collect dust: If something is collecting dust, it isn't being used any more.


Color bar: Rules that restrict access on the basis of race or ethnicity are a color bar.


Come a cropper: (UK) Someone whose actions or lifestyle will inevitably result in trouble is going to come a cropper.


Come clean: If someone comes clean about something, they admit to deceit or wrongdoing.


Come hell or high water: If someone says they'll do something come hell or high water, they mean that nothing will stop them, no matter what happens.


Come on the heels of: If something comes on the heels of something, it follows very soon after it.


Come out in the wash: If something will come out in the wash, it won't have any permanent negative effect.


Come out of the woodwork: When things come out of the woodwork, they appear unexpectedly. ('Crawl out of the woodwork' is also used.)


Come out of your shell: If someone comes out of their shell, they stop being shy and withdrawn and become more friendly and sociable.


Come rain or shine: If I say I'll be at a place come rain or shine, I mean that I can be relied on to turn up; nothing, not even the vagaries of British weather, will deter me or stop me from being there.


Come to bear: If something comes to bear on you, you start to feel the pressure or effect of it.


Come to call: If someone comes to call, they respond to an order or summons directly.


Come to grips: If you come to grips with a problem or issue, you face up to it and deal with it.


Come to heel: If someone comes to heel, they stop behaving in a way that is annoying to someone in authority and start being obedient.


Come up roses: If things come up roses, they produce a positive result, especially when things seemed to be going badly at first.


Come up smelling of roses: (UK) If someone comes up smelling of roses, they emerge from a situation with their reputation undamaged.


Come up trumps: When someone is said to have 'come up trumps', they have completed an activity successfully or produced a good result, especially when they were not expected to.


Come what may: If you're prepared to do something come what may, it means that nothing will stop or distract you, no matter how hard or difficult it becomes.


Come with the territory: If something comes with the territory, it is part of a job or responsibility and just has to be accepted, even if unpleasant.


Comes with the territory: If something comes with the territory, especially when undesirable, it is automatically included with something else, like a job, responsibility, etc.('Goes with the territory' is also used.)


Comfort zone: It is the temperature range in which the body doesn't shiver or sweat, but has an idiomatic sense of a place where people feel comfortable, where they can avoid the worries of the world. It can be physical or mental.


Constitution of an ox: If someone has the constitution of an ox, they are less affected than most people by things like tiredness, illness, alcohol, etc.


Cook someone's goose: If you cook someone's goose, you ruin their plans.


Cook up a storm: If someone cooks up a storm, they cause a big fuss or generate a lot of talk about something.


Cool as a cat: To act fine when you a actually scared or nervous


Cool your heels: If you leave someone to cool their heels, you make them wait until they have calmed down.


Coon's age: (USA) A very long time, as in 'I haven't seen her in a coon's age!'


Corner a market: If a business is dominant in an area and unlikely to be challenged by other companies, it has cornered the market.


Couch potato: A couch potato is an extremely idle or lazy person who chooses to spend most of their leisure time horizontal in front of the TV and eats a diet that is mainly junk food.


Could eat a horse: If you are very hungry, you could eat a horse.


Couldn't give two hoots: If you couldn't give two hoots about something, you don't care at all about it.


Count Sheep: If people cannot sleep, they are advised to count sheep mentally.


Country mile: (USA) A country mile is used to describe a long distance.


Cover all the bases: If you cover all the bases, you deal with all aspects of a situation or issue, or anticipate all possibilities. ('Cover all bases' is also used.)


Crack a nut with a sledgehammer: If you use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, you apply too much force to achieve a result. ('Jackhammer' is also used.)


Crash a party: If you crash a party, or are a gatecrasher, you go somewhere you haven't been invited to.


Cream of the crop: The cream of the crop is the best there is.


Cream rises to the top: A good person or idea cannot go unnoticed for long, just as cream poured in coffee or tea eventually rises to the top.


Creature comforts: If a person said "I hate camping. I don't like giving up my creature comforts." the person would be referring; in particular, to the comfortable things he/she would have at home but not when camping. At home, for example, he/she would have complete shelter from the weather, a television, a nice comfortable warm bed, the ability to take a warm bath or shower, comfortable lounge chairs to relax in and so on. The person doesn't like giving up the material and psychological benefits of his/her normal life.


Crème de la crème: The crème de la crème is the very best of something.


Crocodile tears: If someone cries crocodile tears, they pretend to be upset or affected by something.


Crooked as a dog's hind leg: Someone who is very dishonest is as crooked as a dog's hind leg.


Cross swords: When people cross swords, they argue or dispute. This expression is used when some groups accuse each other for non-adherence to norms. Actually no sword is used but the tempo of the argument is high enough to cause worsening of the already bad situation. It is a tussle (vehement struggle without use of arms) between the parties to establish supremacy.


Cross that bridge when you come to it: If you will cross that bridge when you come to it, you will deal with a problem when it arises, but not until that point


Cross to bear: If someone has a cross to bear, they have a heavy burden of responsibility or a problem that they alone must cope with.


Crossing the Rubicon: When you are crossing the Rubicon, you are passing a point of no return. After you do this thing, there is no way of turning around. The only way left is forward.


Crunch time: When people, companies, etc, have to make an important decision that will have a considerable effect on their future, it is crunch time.


Cry wolf: If someone cries wolf, they raise a false alarm about something.


Cry your eyes out: If you cry your eyes out, you cry uncontrollably.


Cry-baby: A cry-baby is a person who gets emotional and cries too easily.


Cuckoo in the nest: Is an issue or a problem, etc, is a cuckoo in the nest, it grows quickly and crowds out everything else.


Cupboard love: (UK) To show love to gain something from someone


Curate's egg: (UK) If something is a bit of a curate's egg, it is only good in parts.


Curiosity killed the cat: As cats are naturally curious animals, we use this expression to suggest to people that excessive curiosity is not necessarily a good thing, especially where it is not their business.


Curry favour: If people try to curry favour, they try to get people to support them. ('Curry favor' is the American spelling.)


Curve ball: (USA) If something is a curve ball, it is deceptive.


Cut a rug: To cut a rug is to dance.


Cut above: If a person is described as a cut above other people, they are better in some way.


Cut and dried: If something is cut and dried, then everything has already been decided and, in the case of an opinion, might be a little stale and predictable.


Cut and run: If people cut and run, they take what they can get and leave before they lose everything.


Cut corners: If people try to do something as cheaply or as quickly as possible, often sacrificing quality, they are cutting corners.


Cut down the tall poppies: (AU) If people cut down the tall poppies, they criticise people who stand out from the crowd.


Cut it fine: If you cut it fine, you only just manage to do something- at the very last moment. 'Cut things fine' is the same. 'Cut it a bit fine' is a common variation.


Cut off your nose to spite your face: If you cut off your nose to spite your face, you do something rash or silly that ends up making things worse for you, often because you are angry or upset.


Cut someone some slack: To relax a rule or make an allowance, as in allowing someone more time to finish something.


Cut the Gordian knot: If someone cuts the Gordian knot, they solve a very complex problem in a simple way.


Cut the mustard: (UK) If somebody or something doesn't cut the mustard, they fail or it fails to reach the required standard.


Cut to the chase: If you cut to the chase, you get to the point, or the most interesting or important part of something without delay.


Cut to the quick: If someone's cut to the quick by something, they are very hurt and upset indeed.


Cut your coat according to your cloth: If you cut your coat according to your cloth, you only buy things that you have sufficient money to pay for.


Cut your teeth on: The place where you gain your early experience is where you cut your teeth.


Cute as a bug: (USA) If something is as cute as a bug, it is sweet and endearing.


Cuts no ice: If something cuts no ice, it doesn't have any effect or influence.


Cutting edge: Something that is cutting edge is at the forefront of progress in its area.


Idioms and Phrases Index



From Idioms and Phrases to HOME PAGE