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

Mad as a badger: If someone is as mad as a badger, they are crazy.

Mad as a bag of hammers: Someone who is as mad as a bag of hammers is crazy or stupid. ('Daft as a bag of hammers' is also used.)

Mad as a cut snake: (USA) One who is mad as a cut snake has lost all sense of reason, is crazy, out of control.

Mad as a hornet: (USA) If someone is as mad as a hornet, they are very angry indeed.

Mad as a March hare: Someone who is excitable and unpredictable is as mad as a March hare.

Made in the shade: One has an easy time in life or in a given situation. Finding things working to one's benefit.

Made of money: If you are made of money, you have a lot of money.

Mailed fist: Someone who rules or controls something with a mailed fist is in absolute control and tolerates no dissent. A mailed fist in a velvet glove is used to describe someone who appears soft on the outside, but underneath is very hard. 'Iron fist' is an alternative form.

Major league: Something major league is very important.

Make a better fist: If someone makes a better fist of doing something, they do a better job.

Make a clean breast: If someone makes a clean breast, they confess in full to something they have done.

Make a killing: If you make a killing, you do something that makes you a lot of money.

Make a meal: If someone makes a meal of something, they spend too long doing it or make it look more difficult than it really is.

Make a mint: If someone is making a mint, they are making a lot of money.

Make a monkey of someone: If you make a monkey of someone, you make them look foolish.

Make a mountain out of a molehill: If somebody makes a mountain out of a molehill, they exaggerate the importance or seriousness of a problem.

Make a pitch: If you make a pitch for something, you make a bid, offer or other attempt to get it.

Make a request: If you request something, or make a request, you are asking for something you want or need.

Make a song and dance: (UK) If someone makes a song and dance, they make a unnecessary fuss about something unimportant.

Make an enquiry: If you make an enquiry, you ask for general information about something.

Make bets in a burning house: (USA) If people are making bets in a burning house, they are engaged in futile activity while serious problems around them are getting worse.

Make ends meet: If somebody finds it hard to make ends meet, they have problems living on the money they earn.

Make hay: If you make hay, or may hay while the sun shines, you take advantage of an opportunity as soon as it arises and do not waste time.

Make headway: If you make headway, you make progress.

Make money hand over fist: If you make money hand over fist, you make a lot of money without any difficulty.

Make my day: If something makes your day, it satisfies you or makes you happy.

Make no bones about it: If somebody make no bones about a scandal in their past, they are open and honest about it and show no shame or embarrassment.

Make out like a bandit: (USA) If someone is extremely successful in a venture, they make out like a bandit.

Make waves: If someone makes waves, they cause a lot of trouble.

Make your blood boil: If something makes your blood boil, it makes you very angry.

Make your flesh crawl: If something makes your flesh crawl, it really scares or revolts you. ('Make Your flesh creep' is an alternative. 'Make your skin crawl' is also used.)

Make your hair stand on end: If something makes your hair stand on end, it terrifies you.

Make yourself scarce: If someone makes themselves scarce, they go away from a place, especially to avoid trouble or so that they can't be found.

Man Friday: From 'Robinson Crusoe', a 'Man Friday' refers to an assistant or companion, usually a capable one. The common feminine equivalent is 'Girl Friday'. (Also, 'right-hand man'. )

Man in the street: The man in the street is an idiom to describe ordinary people, especially when talking about their opinions and ideas.

Man of his word: A man of his word is a person who does what he says and keeps his promises.

Man of letters: A man of letters is someone who is an expert in the arts and literature, and often a writer too.

Man of means: A man, or woman, of means is wealthy.

Man of parts: A man of parts is a person who is talented in a number of different areas or ways.

Man of straw: A weak person that can easily be beaten of changed is a man of straw.

Man of the cloth: A man of the cloth is a priest.

Man on the Clapham omnibus: (UK) The man on the Clapham omnibus is the ordinary person in the street.

Man proposes, God disposes: Your fate lies in the hands of God.

Man upstairs: When people refer to the man upstairs, they are referring to God.

Man's best friend: This is an idiomatic term for dogs.

Man's man: A man's man is a man who does things enjoyed by men and is respected by other men.

Many a slip twixt cup and lip: There's many a slip twixt cup and lip means that many things can go wrong before something is achieved.

Many hands make light work: This idiom means that when everyone gets involved in something, the work gets done quickly.

Many happy returns: This expression is used to wish someone a happy birthday.

Many moons ago: A very long time ago

March to the beat of your own drum: If people march to the beat of their own drum, they do things the way they want without taking other people into consideration.

Mark my words: Mark my words is an expression used to lend an air of seriousness to what the speaker is about to say when talking about the future. You often hear drunks say it before they deliver some particularly spurious nonsense.

Mark someone's card: If you mark someone's card, you correct them in a forceful and prompt manner when they say something wrong.

Marked man: A marked man is a person who is being targeted by people who want to do them harm or cause them trouble.

Matter of life and death: If something is a matter of life and death, it is extremely important.

Mealy-mouthed: A mealy-mouthed person doesn't say what they mean clearly.

Meat and drink:If something is meat and drink to you, you enjoy it and are naturally good at it, though many find it difficult.

Meat and potatoes: The meat and potatoes are the most important part of something. A meat and potatoes person is someone who prefers plain things to fancy ones.

Meet someone halfway: If you meet someone halfway, you accept some of their ideas and make concessions.

Meet your expectations: If something doesn't meet your expectations, it means that it wasn't as good as you had thought it was going to be; a disappointment.

Meet your Maker: If someone has gone to meet their Maker, they have died.

Meet your match: If you meet your match, you meet a person who is at least as good if not better than you are at something.

Megaphone diplomacy: If negotiations between countries or parties are held through press releases and announcements, this is megaphone diplomacy, aiming to force the other party into adopting a desired position.

Melt your heart: If something melts your heart, it affects you emotionally and you cannot control the feeling.

Melting pot: A melting pot is a place where people from many ethnicities and nationalities live together.

Memory like a sieve: If somebody can't retain things for long in his or her memory and quickly forgets, he or she has a memory like a sieve. A sieve has lots of tiny holes in it to let liquids out while keeping the solids inside.

Memory like an elephant: 'An elephant never forgets' is a saying, so if a person has a memory like an elephant, he or she has a very good memory indeed.

Mend fences: When people mend fences, they try to improve or restore relations that have been damaged by disputes or arguments.

Mess with a bull, you get the horns: If you do something stupid or dangerous, you can get hurt.

Method in his madness: If there's method in someone's madness, they do things in a strange and unorthodox way, but manage to get results.

Mexican standoff: When there is a deadlock in strategy and neither side can do anything that will ensure victory, it's a Mexican standoff.

Mickey Mouse: If something is Mickey Mouse, it is intellectually trivial or not of a very high standard.

Midas touch: If someone has the Midas touch, they make a lot of money out of any scheme they try.

Middle of nowhere: If someone says that he/she is in the middle of nowhere, he/she means that he/she is not sure where he/she is.

Might and main: This means with all your effort and strength. As he failed in the previous exam, the student tried might and main to pass the next one.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow: Big or great things start very small.

Millstone round your neck: A millstone around your neck is a problem that prevents you from doing what you want to do.

Mince words: If people mince words, or mince their words, they don't say what they really mean clearly.

Mind over matter: This idiom is used when someone uses their willpower to rise above adversity.

Mind the gap: Mind the gap is an instruction used on the Underground in the UK to warn passengers to be careful when leaving the tube or train as there is quite a distance between the train and the platform.

Mind your own beeswax: (USA) This idiom means that people should mind their own business and not interfere in other people's affairs.

Mind Your P's and Q's: If you are careful about the way you behave and are polite, you mind Your P's and Q's.

Mind your P's and Q's: This is used as a way of telling someone to be polite and behave well.

Mint condition: If something is in mint condition, it is in perfect condition.

Misery guts: A misery guts is a person who's always unhappy and tries to make others feel negative.

Miss is as good as a mile: A miss is as good as a mile means that if you fail, even by the smallest margin, it is still a failure.

Miss the boat: If you miss the boat, you are too late to take advantage of an opportunity.

Mom and pop: (USA) a mom and pop business is a small business, especially if it is run by members of a family. It can be used in a wider sense to mean that something is small scale.

Monday morning quarterback: (USA) A Monday morning quarterback is someone who, with the benefit of hindsight, knows what should have been done in a situation.

Money doesn’t grow on trees: This means that you have to work to earn money; it doesn't come easily or without effort.

Money for jam: If something's money for jam, it's a very easy way of making money

Money for old rope: (UK) If something's money for old rope, it's a very easy way of making money

Money laundering: If people launder money, they get money made illegally into the mainstream so that it is believed to be legitimate and clean.

Money makes many things: This means that money is important.

Money talks: This means that people can convey many messages with money, and many things can be discovered about people by observing the way they use their money.

Money to burn: If someone is very rich, they have money to burn.

Monkey business: If children get up to monkey business, they are behaving naughtily or mischievously. This is the same as monkeying around.

Monkey see, monkey do: This idiom means that children will learn their behavior by copying what they see happening around them.

Moot point: If something's a moot point, there's some disagreement about it: a debatable point. In the U.S., this expression usually means that there is no point in debating something, because it just doesn't matter. An example: If you are arguing over whether to go the beach or to the park, but you find out the car won't start and you can't go anywhere, then the destination is said to be a moot point.

Moral fibre: Moral fibre is the inner strength to do what you believe to be right in difficult situations Example: He lacked the moral fibre to be leader (In American English the correct spelling is 'fiber'.)

Moral high ground: If people have/take/claim/seize, etc, the moral high ground, they claim that their arguments, beliefs, etc, are morally superior to those being put forward by other people.

More front than Brighton: (UK) If you have more front than Brighton, you are very self-confident, possibly excessively so.

More haste, less speed: The faster you try to do something, the more likely you are to make mistakes that make you take longer than it would have you planned it.

More heat than light: If a discussion generates more heat than light, it doesn't provide answers, but does make people angry.

More holes than Swiss cheese: If something has more holes than a Swiss cheese, it is incomplete, and lacks many parts.

More than meets the eye: If there is more than meets the eye to something, it is more complex or difficult than it appears.

More than one string to their bow: A person who has more than one string to their bow has different talents or skills to fall back on.

More than one way to skin a cat: When people say that there is more than one way to skin a cat, they mean that there are different ways of achieving the same thing.

Mountain to climb: If you have a mountain to climb, you have to work hard or make a lot of progress to achieve something.

Move heaven and earth: This expression indicates a person's determined intention of getting a work done in spite of all odds he may face. He will use all and every means to accomplish the target. Example: He moved heaven and earth to get his literary work recognized by the committee of experts.

Move mountains: If you would move mountains to do something, you would make any effort to achieve your aim. When people say that faith can move mountains, they mean that it can achieve a lot.

Move the goalposts: When people move the goalposts, they change the standards required for something to their advantage.

Mover and shaker: A person who is a mover and shaker is a highly respected, key figure in their particular area with a lot of influence and importance.

Much ado about nothing: If there's a lot of fuss about something trivial, there's much ado about nothing.

Muck or nettles: 'Muck or nettles' means 'all or nothing'.

Mud in the fire: The things that cannot be changed in the past that we usually forget about are mud in the fire.

Mud in your eye: This is a way of saying 'cheers' when you are about to drink something, normally alcohol.

Mud-slinging: If someone is mud-slinging, they are insulting someone and trying to damage that person's reputation.

Muddy the waters: If somebody muddies the waters, he or she makes the situation more complex or less clear.

Mum's the word: When people use this idiom, they mean that you should keep quiet about something and not tell other people.

Murder will out: This idiom means that bad deeds can't be kept secret forever.

Murky waters: Where people are behaving in morally and ethically questionable ways, they are in murky waters.

Music to my ears: If something someone says is music to your ears, it is exactly what you had wanted to hear.

Mutton dressed as lamb: Mutton dressed as lamb is term for middle-aged or elderly people trying to look younger.

My dogs are barking: (USA) When someone says this, they mean that their feet are hurting.

My eye: This idiom is added to an adjective to show that you disagree with it: 'He's shy.' 'Shy my eye- he's just planning something secret.'

My foot! : This idiom is used to show that you do not believe what someone has just said.

My hands are full: If your hands are full, you have so much to do that you cannot take on any more work, responsibilities and so on.

My hands are tied: If your hands are tied, you are unable to act for some reason.

My heart bleeds: If your heart bleeds for someone, you feel genuine sympathy and sadness for them.

My heart goes out to someone: If your heart goes out to someone, you feel genuine sympathy for them.

My way or the highway: This idiom is used to say that if people don't do what you say, they will have to leave or quit the project, etc.

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