20 Most Common English Idioms
Top 20 common English idioms

English Idioms Are Used Every Day By Native English Speakers All Around The World

We hear English Idioms in movies and we hear English Idioms in songs; from colleagues, friends, and family, as well as strangers on the street! In other words, they surround us in everyday discussion.

But what exactly is an English Idiom?

Well, in short, an English Idiom is a group of words that form a phrase with a special meaning. Moreover, it is a phrase that has a hidden meaning that we may not understand at first. However, the more we hear English Idioms and use them, the more we can relate them to real-life experiences; plus, they are a lot of fun to use!

So, let’s take a look at the top 20 most commonly used English idioms.

See if you can guess their hidden meanings!  “Break a leg!” (Good luck!)

Most Common English Idioms

1 - A piece of cake

A piece of cake English Idiom

If something is a piece of cake; it means that it is easy.

For example:

  • “Hey Tim, how was your English exam yesterday?”, “Oh, it was a piece of cake! I finished it after only thirty minutes!

Another example: 

  • “Chris, how did your interview go today?” asked Sarah. “It was a piece of cake!” replied Chris

2 - Raining cat and dogs

If someone says that it is raining cats and dogs, it means that it is raining a lot or raining heavily!

For example:

  • “Let’s go to the park this afternoon!” said Mary, “No way!” replied Fiona, “It’s raining cats and dogs outside, I’m not going anywhere today!

3 - You can't judge a book by its cover

This means that you cannot tell what somebody or something is really like before you get to know them or it properly

For example:

  • “When I met Joe, I thought he was really quiet and shy, but now I know that he is very funny and loves to meet new people to talk to” explained Sheila; “You really can’t judge a book by its cover!”

Another example:

  • “How was the movie?” asked Ricky, “Well, I thought it was going to be so boring because the poster was not good, but when it started, I could not stop watching it; it was amazing! You really can’t judge a book by its cover!” replied Ricky.

4 - Under the weather

Under the weather English Idiom

This English Idiom is very popular. If someone feels under the weather, it means they do not feel well; they feel a little ill.

For example:

  • “Wake up Peter! It’s time to get up for school!” shouted Mum, “Oh I don’t think I can go to school today” Peter whimpered, “I feel under the weather” he said as he wiped his nose.

5 - Kill two birds with one stone

Kill Two birds one stone

This means to do two things at the same time.

For example:

  • “Where are you going?” asked Bobby, “I am going to send a letter in the post office; I can also collect my parcel while I am there. I will kill two birds with one stone” Julia replied.

Another example:

  • “I am going to walk to the store to buy some milk. That way, I can get the milk and also get some exercise for today. I’m killing two birds with one stone.”

Short English Idioms

6 - Hit the hay

Girl Hit the hay

To hit the hay means to go to bed.

For example:

  • “Would you like to stay up and watch a movie with us?” asked Derek, “No thank you” replied John “I have to get up early tomorrow so I am going to hit the hay now. Goodnight!”.

Another example:

  •  “What time will you hit the hay tonight?” asked Nora, “About ten o’clock, after I have finished my studies” replied Laura.

7 - Break a leg

If someone tells you to break a leg, they are wishing you good luck with something you will do.

For example:

  • “I have my swimming race tomorrow morning, I’m so nervous” exclaimed Michael, “Don’t worry, you will be great; break a leg!” replied Harry

8 - Blow off steam

Blow off steam English Idiom

To blow off steam means to do something to help you feel calm after you have been angered or upset by something.

For example:

  • “I am so angry that she spoke to me that way!” shouted Karl, “I’m going to go for a run in the park now to blow off some steam.”

Another example:

  • “What is your ideal way to blow off steam?” asked the reporter, “I usually go to the gym and listen to some rock music” replied the athlete.

9 - The last straw

Angry Man pointing his finger

If something is the last straw, then it means that someone has had enough and has no more patience for someone else.

For example:

  • “This is her fourth day to come to work late this week!” shouted the Boss “This is the last straw! I need to call her in for a meeting today! “he raged.

10 - Know the ropes

To know the ropes means to know what you are doing / to have lots of experience with something.

For example:

“Liam can work on Friday when I am not here” said the manager, “He has been working here for the past ten years so he knows the ropes”.

Long English Idioms

11 - Bite off more than you can chew

If you bite off more than you can chew, it means that you tried to take on too much work, but now you cannot finish it.

For example:

  • “Why are you so worried Karen?” asked Greta. “I have been trying to clean the house, prepare tomorrow’s meals, wash the kid’s clothes, and I also need to go buy food! I have bitten off more than I can chew!” she wailed.

12 - Hit the nail on the head

Hit the nail on the head English Idioms

This means that someone is able to describe a situation exactly right.

For example:

“Rosie did not spend enough time studying for her exam, and that is why she failed” said her Teacher, “you have hit the nail on the head” agreed her Father.

13 - Let the cat out of the bag

Girls Talking

To let the cat out of the bag means to tell a secret.

For example:

  • “Please don’t be angry with me!” whispered Rachel “Our boss knows that you got a new job, I let the cat out of the bag by accident, I am very sorry!”

Another example:

  • “We are going to have a surprise birthday party for Nick this Saturday; please do not let the cat out of the bag!” begged Sammy.

14 - Costs an arm and a leg

Costs an arm and a leg English Idioms

If something costs an arm and a leg, it means that it is very expensive.

For example:

  • “There is no way I can buy that beautiful dress! “exclaimed Jasmine, “It costs an arm and a leg! I will have to buy a cheaper dress instead”.

Other Popular English Idioms

15 - Once in a blue moon

Once in a blue moon

This refers to something that very rarely happens.

For example:

  • “Let’s get some pizza and French fries for dinner tonight!” exclaimed Sarah,” No not tonight, I am on a diet” replied Mandy, “I only eat fast food once in a blue moon”.

Another example:

  • “How often do you go on a holiday?” asked George. “Once in a blue moon! I am far too busy with work!” replied David.

16 - Driving me up the wall

If someone is driving you up the wall, it means that they are making you feel angry or annoyed over a period of time.

For example:

  • “Can you take care of the kids for a while?!” asked Emma, “They have been running around and screaming all day; they are driving me up the wall!” she exclaimed.

17 - A blessing in disguise

A blessing in disguise

If something is a blessing in disguise, it means that something good happens after something bad had happened.

For example:

  • “I can’t believe my luck” said Tina, “I was so sad when I lost my office job, but then I began to focus on my music and yesterday I was offered my dream job in a music studio! This really was a blessing in disguise!”

Another example:

  • “Last weekend, I was supposed to go camping, but then I had to go to work instead! But it was very stormy and windy that weekend, so I am glad I could not go camping. It was a blessing in disguise!” explained Alice.

18 - Call it a day

To call it a day means to stop working after a long day of working or to give up on something.

For example:

  • “It’s almost 8.00 PM; we have been working since 9.00 AM this morning” said Ray, “Let’s call it a day.”

Another example:

  • “We have been looking for our lost cat for almost 2 weeks now; I don’t think we will find it. Let’s call it a day” said Kyle sadly.

19 - Play it by ear

Man looking at the window

To play it by ear means to wait and see what happens as time goes on.

For example:

“Would you like to go to the beach this weekend?” asked Brian, “I would like to, but I think it will be raining on Saturday” replied Kevin, “Let’s play it by ear”.

20 - Stabbed in the back

Stabbed in the back English Idioms

To be stabbed in the back means to be betrayed by someone you know so that you cannot trust them anymore.

For example:

  • “I cannot be friends with her anymore” cried Susan. “She said she was my friend, but then she took the job that I wanted! She stabbed me in the back!”

So, now we have looked at the top 20 most commonly used English idioms!

So, did you correctly guess what these English Idioms meant? Or were you left scratching your head in confusion?

To simplify; some English Idioms can be self-explanatory, whilst others can take more thought and understanding to know their hidden meaning.

Either way, English Idioms are used in almost every conversation held by native English speakers, so, if you want to speak like a native; then knowing English idioms and learning to use them in the correct context is a must!

To conclude; have a think about the idioms we looked at today. For instance; what were your favourite English idioms on this list? And how could you use them in a certain situation?

Also think about if there any other English idioms that you have heard, that were not included in this list? Amazing! Keep learning and moving forward with learning English idioms, and you’ll be speaking like a native in no time at all!

As a very popular idiom goes; “Practice makes perfect!”

More Useful Tips To Help You Improve Your English

“Don’t give up!” or “Catch up” are common expressions that native speakers use. Here we have the Top 25 English Phrasal Verbs to help you!

Are you working on your English listening skills? Have a look at our 14 Tips to improve your English listening skills.

Want to improve your English? Read our Top 10 Tips to Improve your English skills.

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