1. A hot potato
Meaning: Something that is difficult or dangerous to deal with.
Example: Terrorism is a political hot potato in Afghanistan.
2. A penny for your thoughts
Meaning: Way of asking what someone is thinking.
Example: After several minutes of silence he finally looked at her and said, “A penny for your thoughts, Lily.”
3. Actions speak louder than words
Meaning: What you do is more significant than what you say.
Example: He: I’m sorry. I’ll try to be a better person henceforth.
She: Actions speak louder than words.
4. Add insult to injury
Meaning: To make a bad situation worse.
Example: Their basement was flooded, and then, to add insult to injury, a pipe burst in the kitchen.
5. An arm and a leg
Meaning: A lot of money.
Example: It’s the best cruise in the world, but it will cost you an arm and a leg.
6. At the drop of a hat
Meaning: Immediately; without any hesitation
7. Back to the drawing board
Meaning: Start something all over again.
Example: I failed this semester, but now I am back to the drawing board.
8. Ball is in your court.
Meaning: It is up to you to take the next step
Example: I’ve made my decision, now the ball is in your court.
9. Barking up the wrong tree
Meaning: Looking in the wrong place; accusing the wrong person.
Example: He did not commit the crime, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
10. Be glad to see the back of
Meaning: Be glad to see someone leave.
Example: I never liked her. I’ll be glad to see the back of her.
11. Beat around the bush
Meaning: Avoid answering a question; not speaking directly about the issue.
Example: Tell me what the problem is, stop beating around the bush.
12. Best of both the worlds
Meaning: Situation wherein one can enjoy two different opportunities.
Example: She had the privilege of a professor and freedom of a student. She had the best of both worlds.
13. Best thing since sliced bread
Meaning: A good idea or plan; an excellent new invention.
Example: I love your idea. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.
14. Bite off more than you can chew
Meaning: To take on a task that is way too big.
Example: Our boss bit off more than she could chew when she promised the client we’d have the project ready by next week.
15. Blessing in disguise
Meaning: Something good that isn’t recognized at first.
Example: Ashok’s losing his job was a blessing in disguise; it gave him an opportunity to pursue higher studies.
16. Burn the midnight oil
Meaning: To stay up working, especially studying, late at night.
Example: She’s been burning the midnight oil for the last few months; her hard work will definitely pay off in the coming exams.
17. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Meaning: Don’t judge something primarily by its appearance.
She: He doesn’t look intelligent.
He: You can’t judge a book by its cover.
18. Caught between two stools.
Meaning: When someone finds it difficult to choose between two alternatives.
Example: He had committed to both and now he’s caught between two stools.
19. Cross that bridge when you come to it.
Meaning: Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary.
Example: He: I think I need to hire a lawyer.
She: Cross that bridge when you come to it.
20. Cry over spilled milk
Meaning: To be unhappy about something that cannot be undone.
Example: It can’t he helped, don’t cry over spilled milk.
21. Curiosity killed the cat : Being too curious can get you into trouble.
21. Curiosity killed the cat : Being too curious can get you into trouble.
Example: Don’t ask about his divorce-curiosity killed the cat!
22. Cut corners
Meaning: To take shortcuts; when something is done badly to save money.
Example: They always put quality first; they won’t cut corners just to save money.
23. Cut the mustard
Meaning: Perform satisfactorily; to succeed.
Example: We need a better catcher; this one just doesn’t cut the mustard.
24. Devil’s advocate
Meaning: To present a counter argument
Example: The teacher always played devil’s advocate to provoke discussion in the classroom.
25. Don’t count your chickens before the eggs have hatched.
Meaning: Don’t make plans for something that might not happen.
Example: You might not win the prize and you’ve already spent the money? Don’t count your chickens before the eggs have hatched.
26. Don’t give up the day job
Meaning: You’re not very good at something. You could definitely not do it professionally.
Example: Why did you invest in business even after failing in it in the past? Don’t give up the day job!
27. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Meaning: Don’t focus all of your attention on one thing or one area.
Example: I know you love Harvard, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to other colleges too.
28. Drastic times call for drastic measures
Meaning: When you’re extremely desperate you need to take drastic actions.
Example: Yes we had to let go of five of our workers! Drastic times call for drastic measures.
29. Elvis has left the building
Meaning: The show has come to an end. It’s all over.
Example: We waited for another performance by the band but it looked like Elvis had left the building.
30. Every cloud has a silver lining
Meaning: Be optimistic, even difficult times will lead to better days.
Example: I’m sorry your business is going badly, but remember every cloud has a silver lining.
31. Far cry from
Meaning: A thing that is very different from something else.
Example: What you did was a far cry from what you said you were going to do.
32. Feel a bit under the weather
Meaning: Feeling sick or unhealthy.
Example: I’m not coming to office today, I’m feeling a bit under the weather.
33. Give the benefit of doubt
Meaning: Believe someone’s statement without proof.
Example: I knew him since the past 5 years, so I gave him the benefit of doubt.
34. Hear through the grapevine
Meaning: To hear news from someone who heard that news from someone else
Example: I heard through the grapevine that she’s pregnant.
35. Hit the nail on the head
Meaning: To do or say exactly the right thing.
Example: You’ve spotted the flaw, Robert. You’ve hit the nail on the head.
36. Hit the sack/sheets/hay
Meaning: To go to bed.
Example: I’m exhausted. I think I’ll just hit the sack.
37. In the heat of the moment
Meaning: Overwhelmed by what’s happening at the moment.
Example: He doesn’t hate you. He just said that in the heat of the moment.
38. It takes two to tango
Meaning: Both people involved in a bad situation are responsible for it.
Example: He blamed her for his lack of attention; well it takes two to tango.
39. Jump on the bandwagon
Meaning: Join a popular trend or activity.
Example: So many people are playing that game that I might as well jump on the bandwagon and check it out.
40. Keep something at bay
Meaning: Keep something away
Example: A good way to keep your anxiety at bay is through meditation.
41. Kill two birds with one stone
Meaning: To solve two problems at a time with just one action
Example: John practiced his words while peeling the potatoes. He was killing two birds with one stone.
42. Last straw
Meaning: The final problem in a series of problems
Example: This is the last straw. I’m calling the police.
43. Let sleeping dogs lie
Meaning: Leave something alone if it might cause trouble.
Example: I thought I would ask him if he wanted me to pay him back right away, but then I decided to let the sleeping dogs lie.
44. Let the cat out of the bag
Meaning: To share information that was previously concealed.
Example: It’s our secret. Don’t let the cat out of the bag.
45. Make a long story short
Meaning: Come to the point – leave out the details.
Example: And – to make the long story short – I never got back the money I lent him.
46. Method in the madness
Meaning: A purpose in what one is doing, even though it seems to be crazy.
Example: What I’m doing might seem strange, but there is method in my madness.
47. Miss the boat
Meaning: To miss out on something.
Example: Pay attention, John, or you’ll miss the boat and never learn algebra.
48. Not a spark of decency
Meaning: A person who has no manners
Example: Her brother has not a spark of decency. I don’t like the way he acts in public.
49. Not playing with the full deck
Meaning: Someone who is mentally, psychologically or intellectually deficient.
Example: He’s an intelligent guy, but with all that crazy things he does, I wonder if he’s not playing with the full deck.
50. On the ball
Meaning: When someone understands a situation well; attentive.
Example: If you were on the ball, this wouldn’t have happened.