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 F.

Face like thunder: If someone has a face like thunder, they are clearly very angry or upset about something.


Face the music: If you have to face the music, you have to accept the negative consequences of something you have done wrong.


Face value: If you take something at face value, you accept the appearance rather than looking deeper into the matter.


Face your demons: If you face your demons, you confront your fears or something that you have been trying hard to avoid.


Facts of life: When someone is taught the facts of life, they learn about sex and reproduction.


Failure is the mother of success: Failure is often a stepping stone towards success.


Faint heart never won fair lady: This means that you will not get the partner of your dreams if you lack the confidence to let them know how you feel.


Fair and square: If someone wins something fair and square, they follow the rules and win conclusively.


Fair crack of the whip: (UK) If everybody has a fair crack of the whip, they all have equal opportunities to do something.


Fair shake of the whip: (USA) If everybody has a fair shake of the whip, they all have equal opportunities to do something.


Fair thee well: Meaning completely and fully: I am tied up today to a fair-thee-well.


Fairweather friend: A fair-weather friend is the type who is always there when times are good but forgets about you when things get difficult or problems crop up.


Fall by the wayside: To fall by the wayside is to give up or fail before completion.


Fall off the back of a lorry: (UK) If someone tries to sell you something that has fallen of the back of a lorry, they are trying to sell you stolen goods.


Fall off the turnip truck: (USA) If someone has just fallen off the turnip truck, they are uninformed, naive and gullible. (Often used in the negative)


Fall on our feet: If you fall on your feet, you succeed in doing something where there was a risk of failure.


Fall on your sword: If someone falls on their sword, they resign or accept the consequences of some wrongdoing.


Familiarity breeds contempt: This means that the more you know something or someone, the more you start to find faults and dislike things about it or them.


Famous last words: This expression is used as a way of showing disbelief, rejection or self-deprecation.’ They said we had no chance of winning- famous last words!'


Fast and furious: Things that happen fast and furious happen very quickly without stopping or pausing.


Fat cat: A fat cat is a person who makes a lot of money and enjoys a privileged position in society.


Fat chance! : This idiom is a way of telling someone they have no chance.


Fat head: A fat head is a dull, stupid person.


Fat hits the fire: When the fat hits the fire, trouble breaks out.


Fat of the land: Living off the fat of the land means having the best of everything in life


Fate worse than death: Describing something as a fate worse than death is a fairly common way of implying that it is unpleasant.


Feather in your cap: A success or achievement that may help you in the future is a feather in your cap.


Feather your own nest: If someone feathers their own nest, they use their position or job for personal gain.


Feathers fly: When people are fighting or arguing angrily, we can say that feathers are flying.


Fed up to the back teeth: When you are extremely irritated and fed up with something or someone, you are fed up to the back teeth.


Feel at home: If you feel relaxed and comfortable somewhere or with someone, you feel at home.


Feel free: If you ask for permission to do something and are told to feel free, the other person means that there is absolutely no problem


Feel like a million: If you feel like a million, you are feeling very well (healthy) and happy.


Feel the pinch: If someone is short of money or feeling restricted in some other way, they are feeling the pinch.


Feeling blue: If you feel blue, you are feeling unwell, mainly associated with depression or unhappiness.


Feet of clay: If someone has feet of clay, they have flaws that make them seem more human and like normal people.


Feet on the ground: A practical and realistic person has their feet on the ground.


Fence sitter: Someone that try to support both side of an argument without committing to either is a fence sitter.


Fiddle while Rome burns: If people are fiddling while Rome burns, they are wasting their time on futile things while problems threaten to destroy them.


Fifth columnist: (UK) A fifth columnist is a member of a subversive organisation who tries to help an enemy invade.


Fifth wheel: (USA) A fifth wheel is something unnecessary or useless.


Fight an uphill battle: When you fight an uphill battle, you have to struggle against very unfavourable circumstances.


Fight tooth and nail: If someone will fight tooth and nail for something, they will not stop at anything to get what they want. ('Fight tooth and claw' is an alternative.)


Fighting chance: If you have a fighting chance, you have a reasonable possibility of success.


Find your feet: When you are finding your feet, you are in the process of gaining confidence and experience in something.


Fine and dandy: (UK) If thing's are fine and dandy, then everything is going well.


Fine tuning: Small adjustments to improve something or to get it working are called fine tuning.


Fine words butter no parsnips: This idiom means that it's easy to talk, but talk is not action.


Finger in the pie: If you have a finger in the pie, you have an interest in something.


Fingers and thumbs: If you are all fingers and thumbs, you are being clumsy and not very skilled with your hands.


Fire away: If you want to ask someone a question and they tell you to fire away, they mean that you are free to ask what you want.


Fire on all cylinders: If something is firing on all cylinders, it is going as well as it could.


First come, first served: This means there will be no preferential treatment and a service will be provided to those that arrive first.


First out of the gate: When someone is first out of the gate, they are the first to do something that others are trying to do.


First port of call: The first place you stop to do something is your first port of call.


Fish or cut bait: (USA) This idiom is used when you want to tell someone that it is time to take action.


Fish out of water: If you are placed in a situation that is completely new to you and confuses you, you are like a fish out of water.


Fishy: If there is something fishy about someone or something, there is something suspicious; a feeling that there is something wrong, though it isn't clear what it is.


Fit as a fiddle: If you are fit as a fiddle, you are in perfect health.


Fit for a king: If something is fit for a king, it is of the very highest quality or standard.


Fit of pique: If someone reacts badly because their pride is hurt, this is a fit of pique.


Fit the bill: If something fits the bill, it is what is required for the task.


Fit to be tied: If someone is fit to be tied, they are extremely angry.


Flash in the pan: If something is a flash in the pan, it is very noticeable but doesn't last long, like most singers, who are very successful for a while, then forgotten.


Flat as a pancake: It is so flat that it is like a pancake- there is no head on that beer it is as flat as a pancake.


Flat out: If you work flat out, you work as hard and fast as you possibly can.


Fleet of foot: If someone is fleet of foot, they are very quick.


Flesh and blood: Your flesh and blood are your blood relatives, especially your immediate family.


Flogging a dead horse: (UK) If someone is trying to convince people to do or feel something without any hope of succeeding, they're flogging 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.


Flowery speech: Flowery speech is full of lovely words, but may well lack substance.


Fly by the seat of one's pants: If you fly by the seat of one's pants, you do something difficult even though you don't have the experience or training required.


Fly in the ointment: A fly in the ointment is something that spoils or prevents complete enjoyment of something.


Fly off the handle: If someone flies off the handle, they get very angry.


Fly on the wall: If you are able to see and hear events as they happen, you are a fly on the wall.


Fly the coop: When children leave home to live away from their parents, they fly the coop.


Fly the flag: If someone flies the flag, they represent or support their country. ('Wave the flag' and 'show the flag' are alternative forms of this idiom)


Food for thought: If something is food for thought, it is worth thinking about or considering seriously.


Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me: This means that you should learn from your mistakes and not allow people to take advantage of you repeatedly.


Fools rush in where angels fear to tread: This idiom is used where people who are inexperienced or lack knowledge do something that more informed people would avoid.


Foot in mouth: This is used to describe someone who has just said something embarrassing, inappropriate, wrong or stupid.


Foot in the door: If you have or get your foot in the door, you start working in a company or organisation at a low level, hoping that you will be able to progress from there.


Foot the bill: The person who foots the bill pays the bill for everybody.


Football's a game of two halves: (UK) If something's a game of two halves, it means that it's possible for someone's fortunes or luck to change and the person who's winning could end up a loser.


For a song: If you buy or sell something for a song, it is very cheap.


For donkey's years: (UK) If people have done something, usually without much if any change, for an awfully long time, they can be said to have done it for donkey's years.


For England: (UK) A person who talks for England, talks a lot- if you do something for England, you do it a lot or to the limit.


For kicks: If you do something for kicks, or just for kicks, you do it purely for fun or thrills.


For my money: This idiom means 'in my opinion'.


For Pete's sake: This is used as an exclamation to show exasperation or irritation.


For the birds: If something is worthless or ridiculous, it is for the birds.


For the love of Pete: Usually used in exasperation, as in 'Oh, for the love of Pete!'


For the time being: For the time being indicates that an action or state will continue into the future, but is temporary. I'm sharing an office for the time being.


Forbidden fruit: Something enjoyable that is illegal or immoral is forbidden fruit.


Foregone conclusion: If the result of, say, a football match is a foregone conclusion, then the result is obvious before the game has even begun.


Forest for the trees: (USA) If someone can't see the forest for the trees, they get so caught up in small details that they fail to understand the bigger picture.


Fortune knocks once at every man's door: Everyone gets one good chance in a lifetime.


Foul play: If the police suspect foul play, they think a crime was committed.


Four corners of the earth: If something goes to, or comes from, the four corners of the earth, it goes or comes absolutely everywhere.


Four-eyes: A person who wears glasses


Four-square behind: If someone stands four-square behind someone, they give that person their full support.


Fourth estate: This is an idiomatic way of describing the media, especially the newspapers.


Free rein: If someone has a free rein, they have the authority to make the decisions they want without any restrictions. ('Free reign' is a common mistake.)


Free-for-all: A free-for-all is a fight or contest in which everyone gets involved and rules are not respected.


Fresh from the oven: If something is fresh from the oven, it is very new.


Freudian Slip: If someone makes a Freudian slip, they accidentally use the wrong word, but in doing so reveal what they are really thinking rather than what they think the other person wants to hear.


Friendly footing: When relationships are on a friendly footing, they are going well.


From a different angle: If you look at something from a different angle, you look at it from a different point of view.


From Missouri: (USA) If someone is from Missouri, then they require clear proof before they will believe something.


From pillar to post: If something is going from pillar to post, it is moving around in a meaningless way, from one disaster to another.


From rags to riches: Someone who starts life very poor and makes a fortune goes from rags to riches.


From scratch: This idiom means 'from the beginning'.


From soup to nuts: If you do something from soup to nuts, you do it from the beginning right to the very end.


From the bottom of your heart: If someone does something from the bottom of their heart, then they do it with genuine emotion and feeling.


From the get-go: (USA) If something happens from the get-go, it happens from the very beginning.


From the horse's mouth: If you hear something from the horse's mouth, you hear it directly from the person concerned or responsible.


From the sublime to the ridiculous: If something declines considerably in quality or importance, it is said to have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.


From the word go: From the word go means from the very beginning of something.


Full bore: If something is full bore, it involves the maximum effort or is complete and thorough.


Full circle: When something has come full circle, it has ended up where it started.


Full Monty: (UK) If something is the Full Monty, it is the real thing, not reduced in any way.


Full of beans: If someone's full of beans, they are very energetic.


Full of hot air: Someone who is full of hot air talks a lot of rubbish.


Full of oneself: Someone who acts in an arrogant or egotistical manner is full of himself/herself.


Full of piss and vinegar: Someone who's full of piss and vinegar is full of youthful energy.


Full of the joys of spring: If you are full of the joys of spring, you are very happy and full of energy.


Full swing: If a something is in full swing, it is going or doing well.


Fullness of time: If something happens in the fullness of time, it will happen when the time is right and appropriate.


Fur coat and no knickers: Someone with airs and graces, but no real class is fur coat and no knickers.


Fuzzy thinking: Thinking or ideas that do not agree with the facts or information available


Idioms and Phrases Index



From Idioms and Phrases to HOME PAGE