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

  1. rest on your oars
  2. lay on your oars
  3. stick your oar in
  4. poke your oar in
  5. put your oar in
  6. feel your oats
  7. get your oats
  8. off your oats
  9. sow your wild oats
  10. no object
  11. Occam's Razor
  12. odd one out
  13. odd man out
  14. ask no odds
  15. by all odds
  16. it makes no odds
  17. lay odds
  18. give odds
  19. over the odds
  20. shout the odds
  21. what is the odds?
  22. be in good odour with someone
  23. be in bad odour with someone
  24. odour of sanctity
  25. off and on
  26. off and running
  27. a hanging offence
  28. good offices
  29. just another day at the office
  30. in the offing
  31. burn the midnight oil
  32. oil his palm
  33. no oil painting
  34. oil and water
  35. oil the wheels
  36. pour oil on troubled waters
  37. come the old soldier
  38. any old how
  39. play the old soldier
  40. make old bones
  41. of the old school
  42. old as the hills
  43. the old Adam
  44. ancient as the hills
  45. the old boy network
  46. the old days
  47. old enough to be his father
  48. old enough to be his mother
  49. an old one
  50. an old one
  51. the old school tie
  52. old Spanish customs
  53. old Spanish practices
  54. an old wives' tale
  55. an old wives' fable
  56. play Old Harry with
  57. play the devil with
  58. hold out an olive branch
  59. offer an olive branch,
  60. be on about
  61. be on at someone
  62. be on to someone
  63. be on to something
  64. it is not on
  65. on and off
  66. on it
  67. on side
  68. you are on
  69. once a fool always a fool
  70. once and for all
  71. once for all
  72. once and future
  73. once bitten twice shy
  74. once burned twice shy
  75. once in a while
  76. every once in a while
  77. get something in one
  78. one on one
  79. one to one
  80. the one that got away
  81. public enemy number one
  82. rolled into one
  83. all rolled into one
  84. take care of number one
  85. look after number one
  86. one-horse race
  87. one-horse town
  88. know your onions
  89. be open with
  90. an open book
  91. in the open
  92. into the open
  93. open-and-shut
  94. open sesame
  95. with your eyes open
  96. with open eyes
  97. for openers
  98. the opium of the people
  99. the opium of the masses
  100. opportunity knocks
  101. keep your options open
  102. leave your options open
  103. all Lombard Street to a China orange
  104. squeeze an orange
  105. suck an orange
  106. into orbit
  107. orders are orders
  108. out of order
  109. a tall order
  110. how the other half lives
  111. at outs
  112. on the outs
  113. out and about
  114. out and away
  115. out at elbows
  116. out for
  117. out-Herod Herod
  118. out of it
  119. out of order
  120. out of pocket
  121. pay out of pocket
  122. out to lunch
  123. out with someone
  124. out with something
  125. out with it
  126. the great outdoors
  127. get outside of
  128. on the outside looking in
  129. over and done with
  130. go overboard
  131. throw something overboard
  132. Mexican overdrive
  133. over-egg the pudding
  134. over-egg the cake
  135. overplay your hand
  136. overshoot the mark
  137. overstep the mark
  138. owe someone one
  139. as if you own the place
  140. be your own man
  141. be your own woman
  142. be your own person
  143. come into its own
  144. come into your own
  145. get your own back
  146. hold your own
  147. the world is your oyster

Object lesson: An object lesson serves as a warning to others. (In some varieties of English 'abject lesson' is used.)

Odds and ends: Odds and ends are small, remnant articles and things- the same as bits and bobs.

Off colour: If someone looks off colour/color, they look ill.

Off the beaten track: Somewhere that's off the beaten track is in a remote location.

Off the chart: If something goes off the chart, it far exceeds the normal standards, good or bad, for something.

Off the cuff: If you do something off the cuff, you do it without any preparation.

Off the grid: Someone who is off the grid lives outside society and chooses not to follow its rules and conventions.

Off the hook: If someone is off the hook, they have avoided punishment or criticism for something they have done.

Off the mark: If something is off the mark, it is inaccurate or incorrect.

Off the rails: If someone has gone off the rails, they have lost track of reality.

Off the scale: If something goes off the scale, it far exceeds the normal standards, good or bad, for something.

Off the shelf: If a product is off the shelf, it can be used straightaway without any setting-up.

Off the top of your head: If you say something off the top of your head, you don't think about it beforehand.

Off the track: If something puts or throws you off your track, it distracts you or keeps you from achieving what you want.

Off the wall: Something that is off the wall is unconventional.

Off your chump: (UK) If someone is off their chump, they are crazy or irrational.

Off your rocker: (UK) Someone who is off their rocker is crazy.

Off-hand: Off-hand means without preparation. People say that they don't know the answer off-hand, meaning that they don't know it at that time.

Oh, my goodness! : An expression of surprise

Old chestnut: An old chestnut is something that has been repeated so many times that it has lost its impact.

Old flames die hard: It's very difficult to forget old things, especially the first love.

Old friends and old wine are best: This idiom means that the things and people that we know well are better than the unfamiliar.

Old hat: If something's old hat, it seems rather old fashioned and dated.

Old wive's tale: A proverb or piece of advice that is commonly accepted as truth and is handed down the generations, but is normally false

Oldest trick in the book: The oldest trick in the book is a well-known way of deceiving someone, though still effective.

Olive branch: If you hold out or offer an olive branch, you make a gesture to indicate that you want peace.

On a fishing expedition: If someone is on a fishing expedition, they are trying to get information, often using incorrect or improper ways to find things out.

On a roll: If you're on a roll, you're moving from success to success.

On a silver platter: If you hand or give something on a silver platter to someone, you let them have it too easily.

On all fours: If someone is on all fours, they crawl.

On Carey Street: (UK) If someone is on Carey Street, they are heavily in debt or have gone bankrupt.

On good terms: If people are on good terms, they have a good relationship.

On hold: If something is on hold, no action is being taken.

On ice: If plans are put on ice, they are delayed and no action will be taken for the foreseeable future.

On pins and needles: If you are on pins and needles, you are very worried about something.

On tenterhooks: This means that she is waiting impatiently and excitedly for something.

On the ball: If someone's on the ball, they are well-informed and know what's going on in their area of responsibility or interest.

On the blink: (UK) Is a machine is on the blink; it isn't working properly or is out of order.

On the blower: (UK) If someone is on the blower, they are on the phone.

On the case: If someone is on the case, they are dealing with a problem.

On the cheap: If you do something on the cheap, you spend as little as possible to do it.

On the dot: If someone says that they're leaving at seven on the dot, don't be late; they mean at exactly seven o'clock.

On the factory floor: On the factory floor means the place where things are actually produced.

On the fiddle: (UK) Someone who is stealing money from work is on the fiddle, especially if they are doing it by fraud.

On the flip side: On the reverse or the other side

On the fly: If you do things on the fly, you do things without preparation, responding to events as they happen.

On the game: (UK) A person who is on the game works as a prostitute.

On the ground: Events on the ground are where things are actually happening, not at a distance.

On the hoof: If you decide something on the hoof, you do it without planning, responding to events as they happen.

On the house: If you get something for free that would normally have to be bought, especially in a bar or restaurant, it is on the house.

On the lam: If someone is on the lam, they are hiding from the police or authorities, especially to avoid arrest or prison.

On the level: If someone is honest and trustworthy, they are on the level.

On the line: If somebody's job is on the line, they stand a very good chance of losing it.

On the make: If someone is on the make, they are trying to make a lot of money, usually illegally.

On the map: If a place becomes widely known, it is put on the map. A place that remains unknown is off the map.

On the never-never: (UK) If you buy something on the never-never, you buy it on long-term credit.

On the nod: (UK) If something is accepted by parliament or a committee majority, it is on the nod.

On the nod: (UK) Someone who's on the nod is either asleep or falling asleep, especially when the shouldn't or are are in a position unusual for sleep, like sitting or standing.

On the nod: (UK) When a horse runs, its head moves backwards and forwards alternately - in horse racing, if 2 horses cross the line together the one whose head happens to be going forward often wins and is said to win 'on the nod'.

On the nose: This means right on time.

On the rebound: If someone is on the rebound, their relationship has recently ended and they are emotionally unstable.

On the right foot: If you start something or set off on the right foot, you get off to a good start.

On the ropes: When something or someone is on the ropes, it or they are doing badly and likely to fail.

On the run: If someone is on the run, they are avoiding arrest and hiding from the police.

On the same page: If people are on the same page, they have the same information and are thinking the same way.

On the same wavelength: If people are on the same wavelength, they have the same ideas and opinions about something.

On the shelf: If something like a project is on the shelf, nothing is being done about it at the moment.

On the skids: When things or people are on the skids, they are in serious decline and trouble.

On the sly: If someone does something on the sly, they do it furtively or secretly.

On the stump: When politicians are campaigning for support and votes, they are on the stump.

On the take: (UK) Someone who is stealing from work is on the take.

On the tip of your tongue: If a word is on the tip of your tongue, you know you know the word, but you just can't quite remember it at the moment.

On the trot: (UK) This idiom means 'consecutively'; I'd saw them three days on the trot, which means that I saw them on three consecutive days.

On the up and up: If you are on the up and up, you are making very good progress in life and doing well.

On the up and up: When someone is on the up and up, he or she is truthful, honest, and straightforward. It can also mean that they are very successful in life at the moment.

On the wagon: If someone is on the wagon, they have stopped drinking alcohol.

On the wallaby track: (AU) In Australian English, if you're on the wallaby track, you are unemployed.

On top of the world: If you are on top of the world, everything is going well for you.

On your high horse: When someone is on their high horse, they are being inflexible, arrogant and will not make any compromises.

On your last legs: If someone's on their last legs, they're close to dying.

On your soapbox: If someone is up on their soapbox about something, they are very overtly and verbally passionate about the topic.

On your tod: If you are on your tod, you are alone.

On your toes: Someone on his or her toes is alert and ready to go.

Once bitten, twice shy: If somebody is said to be once bitten twice shy, it means that someone who has been hurt or who has had something go wrong will be far more careful the next time.

Once in a blue moon: If something happens once in a blue moon, it happens very rarely indeed.

One bad apple: The full form of this proverb is 'one bad apple spoils the barrel', meaning that a bad person, policy, etc, can ruin everything around it.

One fell swoop: If something is done at one fell swoop, it is done in a single period of activity, usually swiftly and ruthlessly.

One for the road: A last drink before leaving a pub or bar is one for the road.

One good turn deserves another: This means that when people do something good, something good will happens to them.

One hand washes the other: This idiom means that we need other people to get on as cooperation benefits us all.

One man's loss is another man's gain: This means that one person's setback benefits someone else.

One man's meat is another man's poison: This idiom means that one person can like something very much, but another can hate it.

One man's trash is another man's treasure: What is useless to one person might be valuable to another.

One over the eight: (UK) Someone who is one over the eight is drunk.

One swallow does not make a summer: This means that one good or positive event does not mean that everything is all right.

One-man band: If one person does all the work or has all the responsibility somewhere, then they are a one-man band.

One-off: A one-off event only happens once and will not be repeated.

One-trick pony: A one-trick pony is someone who does one thing well, but has limited skills in other areas.

Oops a daisy: An expression used to indicate surprise.

Open all hours: If a shop or suchlike is open all hours, it only closes, if at all, terribly late.

Open book: If a person is an open book, it is easy to know what they think or how they feel about things.

Open old sores: When a sore is almost healed, and if a person rips or tears it open, it is way of preventing the healing process and further aggravating the pain. This phrase, metaphorically suggests, to revive or reopen a quarrel or enmity which was almost forgotten.

Open old wounds: If you open old wounds, you revive a quarrel or problem that caused a lot of trouble in the past.

Opening a can of worms: If you open a can of worms, you do something that will cause a lot of problems and is, on balance, probably going to cause more trouble than it's worth.

Opportunity knocks but once: This idiom means that you only get one chance to achieve what you really want to do.

Other side of the coin: The other side of the coin is a different, usually opposing, view of a situation. ('Flip side of the coin' is an alternative.)

Out and about: If someone is out and about, they have left their home and are getting things done that they need to do.

Out in the sticks: (UK) If someone lives out in the sticks, they live out in the country, a long way from any metropolitan area.

Out like a light: If you are out like a light, you fall fast asleep.

Out of hand: If something gets out of hand, it gets out of control.

Out of my league: If someone or something is out of your league, you aren't good enough or rich enough, etc, for it or them.

Out of pocket: If you are out of pocket on a deal, you have lost money.

Out of sight, out of mind: Out of sight, out of mind is used to suggest that someone will not think or worry about something if it isn't directly visible or available to them.

Out of sorts: If you are feeling a bit upset and depressed, you are out of sorts.

Out of the blue: If something happens out of the blue, it happens suddenly and unexpectedly.

Out of the box: Thinking out of the box is thinking in a creative way. However, it can also be used for a ready-made product that requires no specialist knowledge to set it up.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire: If you get out of one problem, but find yourself in a worse situation, you are out of the frying pan, into the fire.

Out of the woods: If you are out of the woods, you have emerged safely from a dangerous situation, though the idiom is often used in the negative.

Out of this world: If something is out of this world, it is fantastic.

Out of your hair: If you get someone out of your hair, you get them to stop bothering or annoying you. ('Stay/keep/get out of my hair!' can be used as imperatives)

Out of your mind: If someone is out of the mind, they are so emotional about something that they are no longer rational.

Out of your own pocket: If someone does something out of their own pocket, they pay all the expenses involved.

Out on a limb: If somebody's out on a limb, they are in a very exposed position and could get into difficulties.

Out to lunch: If someone's out to lunch, they are crazy or out of touch.

Over a barrel: If someone has you over a barrel, they have you in a position where you have no choice but to accept what they want.

Over and over: If something happens over and over, it happens repeatedly.

Over my dead body: If you say that something will happen over your dead body, you will not let it happen.

Over the counter: Medicines and drugs that can be sold without a doctor's prescription are sold over the counter.

Over the hill: If someone is over the hill they have reached an age at which they can longer perform as well as they used to.

Over the moon: If you are over the moon about something, you are overjoyed.

Over the top: If something is over the top, it is excessive or unnecessary. It refers to the moment a soldier leaves the trenches.

Over your head: If something is over your head, or goes over your head, it is too complex or difficult for you to understand.

Over-egg the pudding: (UK) If you over-egg the pudding, you spoil something by trying to improve it excessively. It is also used nowadays with the meaning of making something look bigger or more important than it really is. ('Over-egg' alone is often used in this sense.)

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