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

  1. on the gad
  2. upon the gad
  3. blow the gaff
  4. the gaiety of nations
  5. go your gait
  6. go your own gait
  7. dip your pen in gall
  8. wormwood and gall
  9. play to the gallery
  10. ahead of the game
  11. beat someone at their own game
  12. as game as Ned Kelly
  13. the game is up
  14. game on
  15. game over
  16. give the game away
  17. the name of the game
  18. off your game
  19. on your game
  20. on the game
  21. the only game in town
  22. play games
  23. play his game
  24. play the game
  25. two can play at that game
  26. what is your game?
  27. what is the game?
  28. run the gamut
  29. go gangbusters
  30. garbage in garbage out
  31. everything in the garden is lovely
  32. everything in the garden is rosy
  33. lead someone up the garden path
  34. all Sir Garnet
  35. all gas and gaiters
  36. run out of gas
  37. step on the gas
  38. blow a gasket
  39. your last gasp
  40. the last gasp
  41. get the gate
  42. be given the gate
  43. between you and me and the gatepost
  44. run the gauntlet
  45. throw down the gauntlet
  46. take up the gauntlet
  47. change gear
  48. give someone the gears
  49. let the genie out of the bottle
  50. put the genie back in the bottle
  51. the genuine article
  52. let George do it
  53. as soon as all get out
  54. be out to get someone
  55. do not get mad get even
  56. get it together
  57. get up and go
  58. get your own back
  59. the ghost in the machine
  60. the ghost walks
  61. give up the ghost
  62. look as if you have seen a ghost
  63. not have the ghost of a chance
  64. not stand the ghost of a chance
  65. the gift of the gab
  66. the gift of tongues
  67. God’s gift to sport
  68. God’s own gift to sport
  69. in the gift of
  70. look a gift horse in the mouth
  71. gild the lily
  72. green about the gills
  73. green around the gills
  74. green at the gills
  75. take the gilt off the gingerbread
  76. ginger group
  77. gird your loins
  78. gird up your loins
  79. page three girl
  80. give and take
  81. give as good as you get
  82. give him the best
  83. give it the best
  84. give him furiously to think
  85. give the game away
  86. give the show away
  87. give it to him
  88. give me it
  89. give or take it
  90. give up the ghost
  91. give someone what for
  92. give yourself airs
  93. not give a damn
  94. not give a hoot
  95. in your glad rags
  96. stick in your gizzard
  97. give someone the glad hand
  98. just the glassy
  99. the glassy
  100. a gleam in his eye
  101. a twinkle in his eye
  102. all that glitters is not gold
  103. doom and gloom
  104. crowning glory
  105. go to glory
  106. in your glory
  107. fit like a glove
  108. the gloves are off
  109. with the gloves off
  110. take the gloves off
  111. a glutton for punishment
  112. gnash your teeth
  113. strain at a gnat
  114. gnomes of zurich
  115. all systems go
  116. be all go
  117. from go to whoa
  118. from the word go
  119. go ape
  120. go as you please
  121. go ballistic
  122. go bananas
  123. go down with guns firing
  124. go down with all guns firing
  125. go figure
  126. go great guns
  127. go shares
  128. go halves
  129. go it
  130. go to it
  131. go postal
  132. go the way of all flesh
  133. go the whole hog
  134. go well
  135. have a go
  136. have a go at
  137. make a go of
  138. on the go
  139. to go
  140. score an own goal
  141. move the goalposts
  142. get his goat
  143. play the goat
  144. play the giddy goat
  145. act the giddy goat
  146. act the goat
  147. gods acre
  148. god’s gift to him
  149. god’s own gift to him
  150. god willing
  151. in the lap of the gods
  152. little tin god
  153. play god
  154. anything goes
  155. so far as it goes
  156. what goes around comes around
  157. who goes there
  158. going going gone
  159. going on for
  160. have it going for you
  161. while the going is good
  162. fool’s gold
  163. go gold
  164. pot of gold
  165. crock of gold
  166. worth your weight in gold
  167. like gold dust
  168. a golden age
  169. a golden calf
  170. a golden handshake
  171. the golden mean
  172. the golden section
  173. gone with the wind
  174. kick the gong around
  175. all to the good
  176. as good as
  177. as good as gold
  178. as good as new
  179. be good news
  180. be in good company
  181. be to the good
  182. come up with the goods
  183. deliver the goods
  184. get the goods on someone
  185. have the goods on someone
  186. good and
  187. good oil
  188. good samaritan
  189. have a good mind to do something
  190. in good time
  191. in his good books
  192. make good
  193. no good to gundy
  194. one good turn deserves another
  195. take something in good part
  196. up to no good
  197. full as a goog
  198. all his geese are swans
  199. cook his goose
  200. turn geese into swans
  201. what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander
  202. cut the Gordian knot
  203. cast the gorge at
  204. your gorge rises
  205. the gory details
  206. gospel truth
  207. a wise man of Gotham
  208. out of your gourd
  209. up for grabs
  210. be in his good graces
  211. be in his bad graces
  212. fall from grace
  213. with good grace
  214. with bad grace
  215. make the grade
  216. against the grain
  217. a grain of mustard seed
  218. a grand old man of
  219. the grand old man of
  220. delusions of grandeur
  221. teach your grandmother to suck eggs
  222. sour grapes
  223. hear something on the grapevine
  224. grasp at straws
  225. grasp the nettle
  226. at the grass roots
  227. the grass is always greener
  228. not let the grass grow under your feet
  229. put someone out to grass
  230. put something out to grass
  231. knee-high to a grasshopper
  232. dig your own grave
  233. have one foot in the grave
  234. silent as the grave
  235. quiet as the grave
  236. take the secret to the grave
  237. turn over in their grave
  238. a graven image
  239. board the gravy train
  240. grease his palm
  241. oil his palm
  242. grease the wheels
  243. like greased lightning
  244. greasy spoon
  245. the great and the good
  246. great and small
  247. a great one for
  248. it is all greek to me
  249. beware of the greeks bearing gifts
  250. fear the greeks bearing gifts
  251. green about the gills
  252. green around the gills
  253. green at the gills
  254. green light
  255. green with envy
  256. the green-eyed monster
  257. a grey area
  258. come to grief
  259. give someone grief
  260. like grim death
  261. for grim death
  262. the Grim Reaper
  263. grin and bear it
  264. grind to a halt
  265. come to a grinding halt
  266. keep your nose to the grindstone
  267. merry as a grig
  268. lively as a grig
  269. get to grips with
  270. come to grips with
  271. get a grip
  272. grist to the mill
  273. true grit
  274. Grody to the max
  275. in the groove
  276. into the groove
  277. by the gross
  278. break new ground
  279. break fresh ground
  280. cut the ground from under his feet
  281. get in on the ground floor
  282. get off the ground
  283. get something off the ground
  284. go to ground
  285. have your feet on the ground
  286. on the ground
  287. on your own ground
  288. prepare the ground
  289. run someone to ground
  290. run something to ground
  291. thick on the ground
  292. thin on the ground
  293. work yourself into the ground
  294. run yourself into the ground
  295. groves of Academe
  296. grow on trees
  297. lower your guard
  298. drop your guard
  299. let down your guard
  300. get a Guernsey
  301. anybody can guess
  302. by guess and by God
  303. be my guest - 1
  304. be my guest - 2
  305. stick in your gullet
  306. up a gum tree
  307. a big gun
  308. blow great guns
  309. go down with guns firing
  310. go down with all guns firing
  311. go great guns
  312. jump the gun
  313. smoking gun
  314. stick to your guns
  315. top gun
  316. under the gun
  317. with guns blazing
  318. with all guns blazing
  319. your guts out
  320. hate his guts
  321. have his guts for garters
  322. come a gutser
  323. give someone gyp

Game plan: A game plan is a strategy.

Garbage fee: A garbage fee is a charge that has no value and doesn't provide any real service.

Garbage in, garbage out: If a computer system or database is built badly, then the results will be bad.

Gardening leave: (UK) If someone is paid for a period when they are not working, either after they have given in their notice or when they are being investigated, they are on gardening leave.

Gather pace: If events gather pace, they move faster.

Gather steam: If something gathers speed, it moves or progresses at an increasing speed.

Get along famously: If people get along famously, they have an exceedingly good relationship.

Get away scot-free: If someone gets away scot-free, they are not punished when they have done something wrong. ('Get off scot-free' is an alternative.)

Get away with murder: If you get away with murder, you do something bad and don't get caught or punished.('Get away with blue murder' is also used.)

Get in on the act: If people want to get in on the act, they want to participate in something that is currently profitable or popular.

Get in on the ground floor: If you get in on the ground floor, you enter a project or venture at the start before people know how successful it might be.

Get it in the neck: (UK) If you get it in the neck, you are punished or criticised for something.

Get it off your chest: If you get something off your chest, you confess to something that has been troubling you.

Get my drift: If you get someone's drift, you understand what they are trying to say. ('Catch their drift' is an alternative form.)

Get on like a house on fire: If people get on like a house on fire, they have a very close and good relationship.

Get on your nerves: If something gets on your nerves, it annoys or irritates you.

Get on your soapbox: If someone on their soapbox, they hold forth (talk a lot) about a subject they feel strongly about.

Get out of bed on the wrong side: If you get out of bed on the wrong side, you wake up and start the day in a bad mood for no real reason.

Get the axe: If you get the axe, you lose your job. ('Get the ax' is the American spelling.)

Get the ball rolling: If you get the ball rolling, you start something so that it can start making progress.

Get the green light: If you get the green light to do something, you are given the necessary permission, authorisation.

Get the monkey off your back: If you get the monkey off your back, you pass on a problem to someone else.

Get the nod: (UK) If you get the nod to something, you get approval or permission to do it.

Get to grips: If you get to grips with something, you take control and do it properly.

Get up and go: If someone has lots of get up and go, they have lots of enthusiasm and energy.

Get wind of: If you get wind of something, you hear or learn about it, especially if it was meant to be secret.

Get your ducks in a row: If you get your ducks in a row, you organise yourself and your life.

Get your feathers in a bunch: If you get your feathers in a bunch, you get upset or angry about something.

Get your feet wet: If you get your feet wet, you gain your first experience of something.

Get your goat: If something gets your goat, it annoys you.

Get your hands dirty: If you get your hands dirty, you become involved in something where the realities might compromise your principles. It can also mean that a person is not just stuck in an ivory tower dictating strategy, but is prepared to put in the effort and hard work to make the details actually happen.

Get your head around something: If you get your head around something, you come to understand it even though it is difficult to comprehend.

Get your teeth into: If you get your teeth into something, you become involved in or do something that is intellectually challenging or satisfying. ('Dig you teeth into' and 'sink your teeth into' are also used.)

Get your wires crossed: If people get their wires cross, they misunderstand each other, especially when making arrangements. ('Get your lines crossed' is also used.)

Ghost of a chance: If something or someone hasn't got a ghost of a chance, they have no hope whatsoever of succeeding.

Ghostly presence: You can feel or otherwise sense a ghostly presence, but you cannot do it clearly only vaguely.

Gift of the gab: If someone has the gift of the gab, they speak in a persuasive and interesting way.

Gild the lily: If you gild the lily, you decorate something that is already ornate.

Gilded cage: If someone is in a gilded cage, they are trapped and have restricted or no freedom, but have very comfortable surroundings- many famous people live in luxury but cannot walk out of their house alone.

Girl Friday: A girl Friday is a female employee who assists someone without any specific duties.

Give a big hand: Applaud by clapping hands. 'Let's give all the contestants a big hand.'

Give a dog a bad name: A person who is generally known to have been guilty of some offence will always be suspected to be the author of all similar types of offence. Once someone has gained a bad reputation, it is very difficult to lose it.

Give and take: Where there is give and take, people make concessions in order to get things they want in negotiations.

Give as good as you get: If you give as good as you get, you are prepared to treat people as badly as they treat you and to fight for what you believe.

Give it some stick: (UK) If you give something some stick, you put a lot of effort into it.

Give me a hand: If someone gives you a hand, they help you.

Give me five: If someone says this, they want to hit your open hand against theirs as a way of congratulation or greeting.

Give someone a leg up: If you give someone a leg up, you help them to achieve something that they couldn't have done alone.

Give someone a piece of your mind: If you give someone a piece of your mind, you criticise them strongly and angrily.

Give someone a run for their money: If you can give someone a run for the money, you are as good, or nearly as good, as they are at something.

Give someone enough rope: If you give someone enough rope, you give them the chance to get themselves into trouble or expose themselves. (The full form is 'give someone enough rope and they'll hang themselves)

Give someone stick: (UK) If someone gives you stick, they criticise you or punish you.

Give the nod: (UK) If you give the nod to something, you approve it or give permission to do it.

Give up the ghost: People give up the ghost when they die. Machines stop working when they give up the ghost.

Give your eye teeth: If you really want something and would be prepared to sacrifice a lot to get it, you would give your eye teeth for it.

Given the day that's in it: (Irish) This idiom is used when something is obvious because of the day that it occurs: traffic, for example would be busy around a football stadium on game day, given the day that's in it. On any other day the traffic would be unexplainable, but because it’s game day its obvious why there is traffic.

Glass ceiling: The glass ceiling is the discrimination that prevents women and minorities from getting promoted to the highest levels of companies and organisations.

Gloves are off: When the gloves are off, people start to argue or fight in a more serious way. ('The gloves come off' and 'take the gloves off' are also used. It comes from boxing, where fighters normally wear gloves so that they don't do too much damage to each other.)

Glutton for punishment: If a person is described as a glutton for punishment, the happily accept jobs and tasks that most people would try to get out of. A glutton is a person who eats a lot.

Gnaw your vitals: If something gnaws your vitals, it troubles you greatly and affects you at a very deep level. ('Gnaw at your vitals' is also used.)

Go against the grain: A person, who does things in an unconventional manner, especially if their methods are not generally approved of, is said to go against the grain. Such an individual can be called a maverick.

Go awry: If things go awry, they go wrong.

Go bananas: If you go bananas, you are wild with excitement, anxiety, or worry.

Go blue: If you go blue, you are very cold indeed. ('Turn blue' is an alternative form.)

Go bust: If a company goes bust, it goes bankrupt.

Go by the boards: If something goes by the boards, it fails to get approved or accepted.

Go down swinging: If you want to go down swinging, you know you will probably fail, but you refuse to give up.

Go down without a fight: If someone goes down without a fight, they surrender without putting up any resistance.

Go Dutch: If you go Dutch in a restaurant, you pay equal shares for the meal.

Go fly a kite: (USA) This is used to tell someone to go away and leave you alone.

Go for broke: If someone goes for broke, they risk everything they have for a potentially greater gain.

Go fry an egg: (USA) This is used to tell someone to go away and leave you alone.

Go hand in hand: If things go hand in hand, they are associated and go together.

Go nuts: If someone goes nuts, they get excited over something.

Go off on a tangent: If someone goes off on a tangent, they change the subject completely in the middle of a conversation or talk.

Go pear-shaped: If things have gone wrong, they have gone pear-shaped.

Go play in traffic: This is used as a way of telling someone to go away.

Go round in circles: If people are going round in circles, they keep discussing the same thing without reaching any agreement or coming to a conclusion.

Go south: If things go south, they get worse or go wrong.

Go spare: (UK) If you go spare, you lose your temper completely.

Go the extra mile: If someone is prepared to go the extra mile, they will do everything they can to help or to make something succeed, going beyond their duty what could be expected of them .

Go the whole hog: If you go the whole hog, you do something completely or to its limits.

Go through the motions: When you go through the motions, you do something like an everyday routine and without any feelings whatsoever.

Go to seed: If someone has gone to seed, they have declined in quality or appearance.

Go to the wire: If someone goes to the wire, he risks his life, job, reputation, etc, to help someone.

Go under the hammer: If something goes under the hammer, it is sold in an auction.

Go west: If something goes west, it goes wrong. If someone goes west, they die.

Go with the flow: If you go with the flow, you accept things as they happen and do what everyone else wants to do.

Go-to guy: A go-to guy is a person whose knowledge of something is considerable so everyone wants to go to him or her for information or results.

Going overboard: If you go overboard with something, then you take something too far, or do too much.

Golden handshake: A golden handshake is a payment made to someone to get them to leave their job.

Golden rule: The golden rule is the most essential or fundamental rule associated with something. Originally, it was not a general reference to an all purpose first rule applicable to many groups or protocols, but referred to a verse in the Bible about treating people they way you would want them to treat you, which was considered the First Rule of behavior towards all by all.

Golden touch: Someone with a golden touch can make money from or be successful at anything they do.

Gone fishing: If someone has gone fishing, they are not very aware of what is happening around them.

Gone for a Burton: (UK) If something's gone for a Burton, it has been spoiled or ruined. If a person has gone for a Burton, they are either in serious trouble or have died.

Gone pear-shaped: (UK) If things have gone pear-shaped they have either gone wrong or produced an unexpected and unwanted result.

Gone to pot: If something has gone to pot, it has gone wrong and doesn't work any more.

Gone to the dogs: If something has gone to the dogs, it has gone badly wrong and lost all the good things it had.

Good antennae: Someone with good antennae is good at detecting things.

Good egg: A person who can be relied on is a good egg. Bad egg is the opposite.

Good fences make good neighbors: This means that it is better for people to mind their own business and to respect the privacy of others. ('Good fences make good neighbors' is the American English spelling.)

Good hand: If you are a good hand at something, you do it well.

Good Samaritan: A Good Samaritan is a person who helps others in need.

Good shape: If something's in good shape, it's in good condition. If a person's in good shape, they are fit and healthy.

Good spell: A spell can mean a fairly or relatively short period of time; you'll hear weather forecasts predict a dry spell. Sports commentators will say that a sportsperson is going through a good spell when they're performing consistently better than they normally do.

Good time: If you make good time on a journey, you manage to travel faster than you expected.

Good to go: Someone or something that meets one's approval. 'He is good to go.' 'The idea you had is good to go.'

Good walls make good neighbours: Your relationship with your neighbours depends, among other things, on respecting one another's privacy.

Goody two-shoes: A goody two-shoes is a self-righteous person who makes a great deal of their virtue.

Grab the bulls by its horns: If you grab (take) the bull by its horns, you deal head-on and directly with a problem.

Grain of salt: If you should take something with a grain of salt, you shouldn't necessarily believe it all. ('pinch of salt' is an alternative)

Grasp the nettle: (UK) If you grasp the nettle, you deal bravely with a problem.

Grass roots: This idiom is often used in politics, where it refers to the ordinary people or voters. It can be used to mean people at the bottom of a hierarchy.

Grass widow: A grass widow is a woman whose husband is often away on work, leaving her on her own.

Graveyard shift: If you have to work very late at night, it is the graveyard shift.

Gravy train: If someone is on the gravy train, they have found and easy way to make lots of money.

Grease monkey: A grease monkey is an idiomatic term for a mechanic.

Grease someone's palm: If you grease someone's palm, you bribe them to do something.

Grease the skids: If you grease the skids, you facilitate something.

Greased lightning: If something or someone moves like greased lightning, they move very fast indeed.

Great guns: If something or someone is going great guns, they are doing very well.

Great Scott: An exclamation of surprise

Great unwashed: This is a term used for the working class masses.

Great white hope: Someone who is expected to be a great success is a great white hope.

Greek to me: If you don't understand something, it's all Greek to you.

Green around the gills: If someone looks green around the gills, they look ill.

Green fingers: (UK) someone with green fingers has a talent for gardening.

Green light: If you are given the green light, you are given approval to do something.

Green thumb: (USA) someone with a talent for gardening has a green thumb.

Green with envy: If you are green with envy, you are very jealous.

Green-eyed monster: The green-eyed monster is an allegorical phrase for somebody's strong jealousy

Greenhorn: A greenhorn or someone who is described simply as green lacks the relevant experience and knowledge for their job or task

Grey area: A grey/gray area is one where there is no clear right or wrong.

Grey Cardinal: Someone who is a Grey Cardinal exerts power behind the scenes, without drawing attention to himself or herself.

Grey matter: Grey/gray matter is the human brain.

Grey pound: (UK) In the UK, the grey pound is an idiom for the economic power of elderly people.

Grey suits: The men in grey suits are people who have a lot of power in business or politics, but aren't well-known or charismatic.

Grin and bear it: If you have to grin and bear it, you have to accept something that you don't like.

Grin like a Cheshire cat: If someone has a very wide smile, they have a grin like a Cheshire cat.

Grist for the mill: Something that you can use to your advantage is grist for the mill. ('Grist to the mill' is also used.)

Guinea-pig: If you are a guinea-pig, you take part in an experiment of some sort and are used in the testing.

Gunboat diplomacy: If a nation conducts its diplomatic relations by threatening military action to get what it wants, it is using gunboat diplomacy.

Gung ho: If someone is gung ho about something, they support it blindly and don't think about the consequences.

Idioms and Phrases Index

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