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.

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Here is the list of idioms beginning with H.

Hail-fellow-well-met: Someone whose behavior is hearty, friendly and congenial

Hair of the dog: If someone has a hair of the dog, they have an alcoholic drink as a way of getting rid of a hangover, the unpleasant effects of having drunk too much alcohol the night before. It is commonly used as a way of excusing having a drink early on in the day.

Hairy at the heel: (UK) Someone who is hairy at the heel is dangerous or untrustworthy.

Hale and hearty: Someone who is hale and hearty is in very good health.

Half a mind: If you have half a mind to do something, you haven't decided to do it, but are thinking seriously about doing it.

Half-baked: A half-baked idea or scheme hasn't not been thought through or planned very well.

Hammer and tongs: If people are going at it hammer and tongs, they are arguing fiercely. The idiom can also be used hen people are doing something energetically.

Hand in glove: If people are hand in glove, they have an extremely close relationship.

Hand in hand: Hand in hand= work together closely When people in a group, say in an office or in a project, work together with mutual understanding to achieve the target, we say they work hand in hand. There is no lack of co-operation and each synchoranises the activity with that of the other.

Hand that rocks the cradle: Women have a great power and influence because they have the greatest influence over the development of children- the hand that rocks the cradle. ('The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world' is the full form.)

Hand to mouth: Someone who's living from hand to mouth is very poor and needs the little money they have coming in to cover their expenses.

Hands down: If someone is better hands down than everyone else, they are much better.

Handwriting like chicken scratch: If your handwriting is very hard to read, it is like chicken scratch.

Hang by a thread: If something hangs by a thread, there is a very small chance indeed of it being successful or surviving.

Hang in the balance: If an outcome is hanging in the balance, there are at least two possibilities and it is impossible to predict which will win out.

Hang out to dry: If you hang someone out to dry, you abandon them when they are in trouble.

Hangdog expression: A hangdog expression is one where the person's showing their emotions very clearly, maybe a little too clearly for your liking. It's that mixture of misery and self-pity that is similar to a dog when it's trying to get something it wants but daren't take without permission.

Hanged for a sheep as a lamb: This is an expression meaning that if you are going to get into trouble for doing something, then you ought to stop worrying and should try to get everything you can before you get caught.

Happy medium: If you reach a happy medium, you are making a compromise; reaching a conclusion or decision.

Hard as nails: A person who is as hard as nails is either physically tough or has little or no respect for other people's feelings.

Hard cheese: (UK) Hard cheese means hard luck.

Hard of hearing: Someone who's hard of hearing is a bit deaf.

Hard on someone's heels: If you are hard on someone's heels, you are close to them and trying to catch or overtake them. ('Hot on someone's heels' is also used.)

Hard sell: If someone puts a lot of pressure on you to do or buy something, they are hard selling it.

Hard to come by: If something is hard to come by, it is difficult to find.

Hard up: If you are hard up, you have very little money.

Haste makes waste: This idiom means that if you try to do something quickly, without planning it, you're likely to end up spending more time, money, etc, doing it.

Hat trick: Three successes one after the other is a hat trick.

Hatchet job: A piece of criticism that destroys someone's reputation is a hatchet job.

Have a ball: If you have a ball, you have a great time, a lot of fun.

Have a bash: If you have a bash at something, you try to do it, especially when there isn't much chance of success.

Have a go: If you have a go, you try to do something, often when you don't think you have much chance of succeeding.

Have a heart: If someone has a heart, they are kind and sympathetic. If you say, 'Have a heart' to someone, you are asking them to be understanding and sympathetic.

Have a ripper: If you have a ripper of a time, you enjoy yourself.

Have a trick up your sleeve: If you have a trick up your sleeve, you have a secret strategy to use when the time is right.

Have the floor: If someone has the floor, it is their turn to speak at a meeting.

Have your cake and eat it too: If someone wants to have their cake and eat it too, they want everything their way, especially when their wishes are contradictory.

Have your collar felt: If someone has their collar felt, they are arrested.

Have your fill: If you have had your fill, you are fed up of somebody or something.

Have your moments: Someone who has his or her moments exhibits a positive behavior pattern on an occasional basis but not generally.

Have your tail up: If someone has their tail up, they are optimistic and expect to be successful.

Have your work cut out: If you have your work cut out, you are very busy indeed.

Having a gas: If you're having a gas, you are having a laugh and enjoying yourself in company.

Hay is for horses: This idiom is used as a way of telling children not to say the word 'hey' as in hey you or hey there.

He that travels far knows much: People who travel widely have a wide knowledge.

He'll rue the day: He'll rue the day that he crossed me. This means that the person will one day bitterly regret what they have done.

Head for the hills: If people head for the hills, they run away from trouble.

Head is in the clouds: If a person has their head in the clouds, they have unrealistic, impractical ideas.

Head nor tail: If you can't make head nor tail of something, you cannot understand it at all or make any sense of it.

Head on a spike: If someone wants a head on a spike, they want to be able to destroy or really punish a person.

Head on the block: If someone's head is on the block, they are going to be held responsible and suffer the consequences for something that has gone wrong.

Head over heels in love: When someone falls passionately in love and is intoxicated by the feeling has fallen head over heels in love.

Head south: If something head south, it begins to fail or start going bad. ‘The project proceeded well for the first two months, but then it headed south.'

Heads will roll: If heads will roll, people will be punished or sacked for something that has gone wrong.

Heads-up: A heads-up is advanced information or a warning

Headstrong: A headstrong person is obstinate and does not take other people's advice readily.

Healthy as a horse: If you're as healthy as a horse, you're very healthy.

Hear a pin drop: If there is complete silence in a room, you can hear a pin drop.

Hear on the grapevine: To receive information indirectly through a series of third parties, similar to a rumour

Heart in the right place: If someone's heart is in the right place, they are good and kind, though they might not always appear to be so.

Heart in your boots: If you're heart is in your boots, you are very unhappy.

Heart in your mouth: If your heart is in your mouth, then you feel nervous or scared.

Heart isn't in it: If your heart is not in something, then you don't really believe in it or support it.

Heart misses a beat: If your heart misses a beat, you are suddenly shocked or surprised. ('Heart skips a beat' is an alternative)

Heart of gold: Someone with a heart of gold is a genuinely kind and caring person.

Heart-to-heart: A heart-to-heart is a frank and honest conversation with someone, where you talk honestly and plainly about issues, no matter how painful.

Heaven knows: If you ask someone a question and they say this, they have no idea.

Heavenly bodies: The heavenly bodies are the stars.

Heavy-handed: If someone is heavy-handed, they are insensitive and use excessive force or authority when dealing with a problem.

Hedge your bets: If you hedge your bets, you don't risk everything on one opportunity, but try more than one thing.

Hell for leather: If you do something hell for leather, especially running, you do it as fast as you can.

Hell in a handcart: If something is going to hell in a handcart, it is getting worse and worse, with no hope of stopping the decline.

Herding cats: If you have to try to co-ordinate a very difficult situation, where people want to do very different things, you are herding cats.

Here today, gone tomorrow: Money, happiness and other desirable things are often here today, gone tomorrow, which means that they don't last for very long.

Hiding to nothing: If people are on a hiding to nothing, their schemes and plans have no chance of succeeding. 'Hiding to nowhere' is an alternative.

High and dry: If you are left high and dry, you are left alone and given no help at all when you need it.

High and mighty: The High And Mighty are the people with authority and power. If a person is high and mighty, they behave in a superior and condescending way.

High-handed: If someone is high-handed, they behave arrogantly and pompously.

High-wire act: A high-wire act is a dangerous or risky strategy, plan, task, etc.

Himalayan blunder: A Himalayan blunder is a very serious mistake or error.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty: After something has gone wrong, it is easy to look back and make criticisms.

Hit a nerve: If something hits a nerve, it upsets someone or causes them pain, often when it is something they are trying to hide.

Hit and miss: Something that is hit and miss is unpredictable and may produce results or may fail.

Hit me with your best shot: If someone tells you to hit them with your best shot, they are telling you that no matter what you do it won't hurt them or make a difference to them.

Hit rough weather: If you hit rough weather, you experience difficulties or problems.

Hit the airwaves: If someone hits the airwaves, they go on radio and TV to promote something or to tell their side of a story.

Hit the books: If you hit the books, you study or read hard.

Hit the bull's-eye: If someone hits the bull's-eye, they are exactly right about something or achieve the best result possible. "Bulls-eye" and "bulls eye" are alternative spellings.

Hit the ceiling: If someone hits the ceiling, they lose their temper and become very angry.

Hit the fan: When it hits the fan, or, more rudely, the shit hits the fan, serious trouble starts.

Hit the ground running: If someone hits the ground running, they start a new job or position in a very dynamic manner.

Hit the hay: When you hit the hay, you go to bed.

Hit the mark: If someone hits the mark, they are right about something.

Hit the nail on the head: If someone hits the nail on the head, they are exactly right about something.

Hit the road: When people hit the road, they leave a place to go somewhere else.

Hit the roof: If you lose your temper and get very angry, you hit the roof.

Hit the sack: When you hit the sack, you go to bed.

Hive of worker bees: A hive of worker bees is a group of people working actively and cooperatively. Example: The classroom was a hive of worker bees.

Hobson's choice: A Hobson's choice is something that appears to be a free choice, but is really no choice as there is no genuine alternative.

Hoist with your own petard: If you are hoist with your own petard, you get into trouble or caught in a trap that you had set for someone else.

Hold all the aces: If you hold all the aces, you have all the advantages and your opponents or rivals are in a weak position.

Hold the baby: (UK) If someone is responsible for something, they are holding the baby.

Hold the bag: (USA) If someone is responsible for something, they are holding the bag.

Hold the fort: If you hold the fort, you look after something or assume someone's responsibilities while they are away.

Hold the torch: If you hold the torch for someone, you have an unrequited or unspoken love.

Hold your horses: If someone tells you to hold your horses, you are doing something too fast and they would like you to slow down.

Hold your own: If you can hold your own, you can compete or perform equally with other people.

Hold your tongue: If you hold your tongue, you keep silent even though you want to speak.

Holier-than-thou: Someone who is holier-than-thou believes that they are morally superior to other people.

Hollow victory: A hollow victory is where someone wins something in name, but are seen not to have gained anything by winning.

Holy smoke! : This is a way of expressing surprise: "Holy smoke! Look at all of those geese!"

Home and hearth: 'Home and hearth' is an idiom evoking warmth and security.

Home stretch: The home stretch is the last part of something, like a journey, race or project.

Home, James: (UK) This is a clichéd way of telling the driver of a vehicle to start driving. It is supposed to be an order to a chauffeur (a privately employed driver). The full phrase is 'Home, James, and don't spare the horses'.

Honest truth: If someone claims that something is the honest truth, they wish to sound extra-sincere about something.

Honor among thieves: If someone says there is honor among thieves, this means that even corrupt or bad people sometimes have a sense of honor or integrity, or justice, even if it is skewed. ('Honour among thieves' is the British English version.)

Honours are even: If honours are even, then a competition has ended with neither side emerging as a winner.

Hook, line, and sinker: If somebody accepts or believes something hook, line, and sinker, they accept it completely.

Hop, skip, and a jump: If a place is a hop, skip, and a jump from somewhere, it's only a short distance away.

Hope against hope: If you hope against hope, you hope for something even though there is little or no chance of your wish being fulfilled.

Hope in hell: If something hasn't got a hope in hell, it stands absolutely no chance of succeeding.

Hornets' nest: A hornets' nest is a violent situation or one with a lot of dispute. (If you create the problem, you 'stir up a hornets' nest'.)

Horns of a dilemma: If you are on the horns of a dilemma, you are faced with two equally unpleasant options and have to choose one.

Horse of a different color: (USA) If something is a horse of a different color, it's a different matter or separate issue altogether.

Horse trading: Horse trading is an idiom used to describe negotiations, especially where these are difficult and involve a lot of compromise.

Horses for courses: Horses for courses means that what is suitable for one person or situation might be unsuitable for another.

Hostile takeover: If a company is bought out when it does not want to be, it is known as a hostile takeover.

Hot air: Language that is full of words but means little or nothing is hot air.

Hot as blue blazes: If something's as hot as blue blazes, it's extremely hot.

Hot as Hades: If something's as hot as Hades, it's extremely hot.

Hot button: (USA) A hot button is a topic or issue that people feel very strongly about.

Hot foot: If you hot foot it out of a place, you leave very quickly, often running.

Hot ticket: (USA) A hot ticket is something that is very much in demand at the moment.

Hot to trot: If someone is hot to trot, they are sexually aroused or eager to do something.

Hot under the collar: If you're hot under the collar, you're feeling angry or bothered.

Hot water: If you get into hot water, you get into trouble.

Hot-blooded: Someone who is hot-blooded is easily excitable or passionate.

Hot-headed: A hot-headed person gets angry very easily. (The noun 'hothead' can also be used.)

Hour of need: A time when someone really needs something, almost a last chance, is their hour of need.

House of cards: Something that is poorly thought out and can easily collapse or fail is a house of cards.

How come: If you want to show disbelief or surprise about an action, you can ask a question using 'how come'. How come he got the job? (You can't believe that they gave the job to somebody like him)

How do you like them apples: (USA) This idiomatic expression is used to express surprise or shock at something that has happened. It can also be used to boast about something you have done.

How long is a piece of string: If someone has no idea of the answer to a question, they can ask 'How long is a piece of string?' as a way of indicating their ignorance.

How's tricks? : This is used as a way of asking people how they are and how things have been going in their life.

Hue and cry: Hue and cry is an expression that used to mean all the people who joined in chasing a criminal or villain. Nowadays, if you do something without hue and cry, you do it discreetly and without drawing attention.

Hung the moon: If you refer to someone as having hung the moon, you think they are extremely wonderful, or amazing, or good.

Hungry as a bear: If you are hungry as a bear, it means that you are really hungry.

Hunky Dory: If something is hunky dory, it is perfectly satisfactory, fine.

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