A Huge Collection Of Idioms!(a To Z)

  • Work-from-home


*In search of Oyster Pearls*
Dec 31, 2009
A n3st!
- say nothing of the secret you know

Don`t worry mum`s the word on the party. I won`t tell anybody.

musical chairs

- the transfer of a number of officers in an organization into different jobs - especially each other`s jobs

They seem to be playing a game of musical chairs at the company as many people move from one position to another position.

music to one`s ears

- something one likes to hear

When he told me that I could go to the sales convention in the summer it was music to my ears.

my goodness (my God)

- used to express surprise or shock etc.

"My goodness," she said when she saw the small dog jump over the fence.


nail down
- make certain, make sure

I am trying to nail down the exact time that he will be able to meet with us.

name is mud

- a person`s reputation becomes bad, one is in trouble

His name is mud now that he has been charged by the police with stealing money from his company.

name of the game

- the main part of a matter

The name of the game is for the salesmen to sell cars and not to worry about other things.

name someone after

- give someone another`s name

He was named after his mother`s grandfather.

narrow escape

- an escape with no chance of error

He had a narrow escape when he almost fell from his bicycle.

neck and neck

- equal or nearly equal in a race or contest

The two teams were neck and neck in the race to win the national championship.

neck of the woods

- an area or part of the country

He has never been down to my neck of the woods since he was a child.

needle in a haystack

- something that is very hard to find

Looking for the lost receipt among the thousands of other receipts is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

neither fish nor fowl

- something that does not belong to a definite group

I don`t know where we should put those books in the library. They are neither fish nor fowl.

neither here nor there

- not relevant to the thing being discussed, off the subject

What you are saying is neither here nor there. We are talking about our plans to move this year - not 5 years in the future.

nervous Nellie

- a timid person who lacks determination and courage

He is a nervous Nellie and is afraid of most of the other students in the school.

nest egg

- money someone has saved up

He has a nice nest egg in the bank so he will have no financial problems if he leaves his company.

never mind

- don`t worry, don`t bother

If you don`t have time to pick up my laundry, never mind I will get it tomorrow.

new blood

- fresh energy or power, something or someone that gives new life or vigor to something

She a great employee and helped us to inject new blood into our organization.

new broom sweeps clean

- a new person makes many changes

We discovered the truth to the expression "a new broom sweeps clean" when our new boss changed everything in our organization.

new deal

- a complete change, a fresh start, another chance

He was given a new deal by the team although the previous year he was not very good.

new person

- a person who has become very much better

He is a new person now that he has quit smoking and quit drinking.

nick of time

- at the very last moment

He was able to board the airplane just in the nick of time.

nip and tuck

- evenly matched, hard fought to the finish

They were going along nip and tuck but he finally won the race in the end.

nip in the bud

- prevent at the start

They found out about the computer problem but were able to nip the problem in the bud.

no bed of roses

- difficult or bad situation

It is no bed of roses to have no job and a large family to support.

nobody's home

- one`s attention is somewhere else, having a simple mind

It looks like nobody`s home, I thought as I tried to have a conversation with the strange man.

nobody`s fool

- a smart person, a person who can take care of himself

She is nobody`s fool. You will not have to worry about her at all when she goes to New York.

no cigar

- not agreed to, refused or useless, no, certainly not

I almost got the job but in the end it was no cigar.

no deal

- not agreed to, refused or useless, no, certainly not

It was no deal I realized as I left the meeting and the other members had all said no to my plan.

No dice.

- No. Certainly not.

No dice. I will never lend you that much money.

no doubt

- without doubt, surely, certainly

No doubt he will be the one to win the contest again this year.

no end

- almost without stopping, continually

The little girl cried no end when she couldn`t find her favorite doll.

no end to (of)

- so many or so much of, to seem almost endless, very many or very much

He had no end of problems when he lived overseas for a year.

no go

- not agreed to, refused or useless, no, certainly not

It`s no go for our plan to have three games this weekend. We can only have two of them.

no great shakes

- mediocre, unimportant

The hotel was no great shakes and I wouldn`t recommend that you stay there if you go to Hawaii.

no love lost

- bad feelings, ill will

There is no love lost between my father and our next door neighbor.

no matter

- regardless of

No matter how hard that I try my tutor is never satisfied.

no picnic

- not pleasant, difficult

It was no picnic trying to drive to the lake during the storm.

nose around (about)

- look for something kept private or secret, pry

The secretary was nosing around in her boss's desk trying to discover what was going on.

nose down

- head down, bring down the nose of

The pilot began to nose down the plane as it neared the airport.

(have one`s) nose in something

- unwelcome interest in something, impolite curiosity

He always has his nose in other people`s private business where it doesn`t belong.


- a person who makes a reservation for something and then neither comes nor cancels it

There were several no-shows at the concert last night.

no sweat

- easily accomplished, uncomplicated

The work was no sweat. I finished it in about two hours.

no sweat

- no problem

No sweat. I will help you all day tomorrow if you need me.

not a leg to stand on

- no good proof or excuse, no good evidence or defence to offer someone

The company doesn`t have a leg to stand on if they try to refuse to pay you the money that they owe you.

not for the world

- not at any price, not for anything

I wouldn`t go out on a date with that woman for the world.

not give someone the time of day

- dislike someone so strongly that you totally ignore them

I hate her and would never even give her the time of day.

nothing doing

- I will not do it, certainly not, no indeed

Nothing doing. I am not going to stay and work late again this evening.

nothing if not

- without doubt, certainly

He is nothing if not punctual. He has never been late in his seven years with this company.

not much of

- rather bad

It`s not much of a hotel but I guess it will be okay for one night.

Not on your life.

- definitely not.

"May I borrow your car"? "Not on your life".

not so hot

- not very good

I have been feeling not so hot lately as I had a cold last week.

nothing to sneeze at

- something you should take seriously

His new salary is nothing to sneeze at.

not touch something with a ten-foot pole

- consider something completely undesirable or uninteresting

That class may be alright but because I hate the professor I wouldn`t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

no wonder

- not surprising

No wonder he is so tired after staying up all night.

now and then

- occasionally

He likes to go to that restaurant now and then.

number one

- oneself, one`s own interests

He is always looking out for number one and will never do anything for anyone else.

nurse a grudge

- keep a feeling of dislike toward some person

My old girlfriend is still nursing a grudge toward me even after three years.

nuts about

- enthusiastic about something

He has been nuts about cars ever since he was a little boy.

nutty as a fruitcake

- very crazy

The woman who lives next door to us is as nutty as a fruitcake.


*In search of Oyster Pearls*
Dec 31, 2009
A n3st!


- a person who doesn`t act like everyone else

He is an oddball and nobody at his company likes to work with him.

odds and ends

- various items

We made games for the children from odds and ends from around the house.

of age

- old enough to be allowed to do something (vote,drink etc.)

When he came of age we had a big party for him to celebrate.

of age

- fully developed, mature

Fast transportation came of age when the first jets began to be used regularly.

of course

- as one would expect

Of course you can use my car if you want to.

off and on

- occasionally

He`s been seeing the woman off and on but I don`t think that their relationship is very serious.

off balance

- not prepared, unable to meet the unexpected

I was caught a little off balance when he asked me to deliver the speech instead of him.

off base
- inaccurate

He was really off base on his estimate of next year`s budget.


- nonconventional, different from the usual

The movie was very offbeat which is just the kind of movie that I like.


- different from the usual pattern, not quite like most others, odd

The picture was off-center and didn`t really fit in with the rest of the photos.


- in bad taste, not polite, dirty

He likes to tell off-color jokes which most people don`t like at all.

off duty
- not working, having free time

The police officer was off duty when he came across the bank robbery.

off guard
- not alert to the unexpected

It caught me off guard when she suddenly asked me to lend her $800.

off one`s back

- stop from bothering someone

I wish he would get off my back and stop always asking me when I am going to look for another job.

off one`s chest

- talk about a problem to someone so that it doesn`t bother you anymore

I finally talked to my friend from work and was able to get some of my problems off my chest.

off one`s hands

- no longer in one`s care or possession

I sold my old computer and finally got it off my hands.

off one`s high horse

- not acting proud and scornful

We got him off his high horse when he was forced to admit that he had made many mistakes related to the new product launch.

off one`s rocker

- crazy

He must be off his rocker if he thinks that he can spend all that money and not have a problem.

off the beam

- wrong, mistaken

What he said about the new office was right off the beam and should be ignored by everyone.

off the beaten track

- not well known or often used, unusual

We went to a small restaurant off the beaten track last night and liked it very much.

off the cuff

- without preparing ahead of time what one will say, without preparation

He made a few remarks off the cuff but he has never really explained in full what he wants to do.

off the hook

- out of trouble or free from an embarrassing situation

I think that I am off the hook now and won`t have to worry about the problem anymore.

off the record

- privately, unofficially

He told the reporters off the record about the problems with the budget estimate.

off the top of one`s head

- from memory, spontaneously

He knew all of the team`s members off the top of his head.

off the wagon

- begin to drink alcohol again after stopping for awhile

He seems to be off the wagon again. I saw him yesterday and I am sure that he had been drinking.

(as) old as the hills

- very old

The old building at the library is as old as the hills.

old hat

- old-fashioned, not new or different

The job has become old hat and I am becoming a little tired of it.

on a dime

- in a very small space

His new car has very powerful brakes and is able to stop on a dime.

on again, off again (off again, on again)

- not settled, changeable, uncertain

The plans for the fireworks display were on again, off again because of the rainy and windy weather.

on and off

- intermittently, now and then

It has been raining on and off since early this morning.

on and on

- continually, at tedious length

The speech continued on and on until we finally left the gathering.

on an even keel

- in a well-ordered way or condition

We finally got the new department running on an even keel although it took a long time.

on a shoestring

- with very little money

He started the new company on a shoestring.

on behalf of

- representing a person

The lawyer went to the meeting on behalf of his client.

on board

- on a ship, plane or similar form of transportation

We had to get on board the airplane before it was able to take off.

on call

- available to be called out on duty

He works as a computer repair man and is always on call which is very tiring.

once and for all

- permanently

I told him once and for all that I would not take the new job.

once in a blue moon

- rarely

I only go to that restaurant once in a blue moon.

once in a while

- occasionally

We like Japanese food so we go to that restaurant once in a while.

once or twice

- a few times

We went to that restaurant once or twice but we quickly became tired of it.


- a quick look or examination of someone or something

He gave the rental car a once-over before he signed the contract.

on cloud nine

- very happy

She has been on cloud nine ever since she decided to get married last month.

on easy street

- having enough money to live comfortably

He has been on easy street since he sold his house and invested the money.

on edge

- be nervous or irritable

He has really been on edge lately because of his exams.

on end

- seemingly endless

We worked for hours on end last night but we still never finished the job.

on faith

- without question or proof

I took it on faith that he would help me when I had a lot of extra work to do.

on guard

- careful, wary

He has been keeping on guard since the accident last month.

on hand

- available

I`m sorry but I don`t have any aspirin on hand at the moment.

on hand

- nearby, within reach

Please keep your dictionary on hand in case we need to use it.

on hand

- present

The speaker will be on hand after the lecture if you have any questions that you want to ask her.

on ice

- away for safekeeping or later use, aside

The city decided to put the plans for a new stadium on ice until they can raise more money..

on one`s back

- making insistent demands of someone, being an annoyance or bother

She has been on my back all week trying to get me to finish my monthly report.

on one`s chest

- worrisome thoughts or feelings that one might need to share with someone else

I had a long talk with my friend last night and was able to get most of my problems off my chest.

on one`s coat-tails

- along with someone else, as a result of someone else doing something

The mayor was elected on the coat-tails of his brother who was a famous singer.

on one`s feet

- recovering from sickness or trouble

I was sick for a couple of weeks but now I am on my feet again.

on/upon one`s head

- on one`s self

He brought the anger on his own head and should not try and blame someone else.

on one`s high horse

- acting as if one is better than others, being very proud and scornful

He is always up on his high horse and never bothers to think about how other people feel.

on one`s/its last legs

- at the end of someone/something`s strength or usefulness

I think that his old car is on its last legs.

on one`s shoulders

- one`s responsibility

Please don`t try to put the failure of his marriage on my shoulders.

on one`s toes

- be alert

He always asks the students many questions to keep them on their toes.

on pins and needles

- excited, nervous

Her daughter has been on pins and needles all day waiting for the contest to begin.

on purpose

- intentionally

I think that she spilled the drink on purpose.

on shaky ground

- unstable, not secure

His position at the company has been on shaky ground for quite some time.

on the air

- broadcasting or being broadcast on radio or TV

That television program has been on the air for over three years now.

on the ball

- intelligent, able to do things well

He is really on the ball and can usually get all of his work done quickly.

on the bandwagon

- the newest popular group or activity, joining something because many others are doing it

Everybody in our company is on the bandwagon now to try and eliminate smoking in the workplace

on the beam

- doing well, just right or correct

What he said about the tax problem was right on the beam. .

on the blink

- not working

My stereo has been on the blink for the last few months.

on the block

- to be sold, for sale

Our house has been on the block for over a month now.

on the button

- exactly on time

I arrived for the meeting right on the button.

on the dole

- receiving welfare

The area is very poor and there are many people on the dole.

on the dot

- right on time

He always arrives for his meetings on the dot.

on the edge of one`s seat

- nervously and excitedly waiting

I have been on the edge of my seat all day while waiting for the contest to begin.

on the go

- busy running around

He has been on the go since early morning trying to get ready for the meeting.

on the house

- provided free by a business - especially a bar or restaurant

The room at the hotel was not ready when we arrived so they provided us with free drinks on the house.

on the level

- honest

He was really on the level with me when he told me about my job possibilities.

on the loose

- free to go, not shut in or stopped by anything

The animals at the zoo were on the loose for over three hours when the zookeeper discovered their escape.

on the make

- trying to get some advantage - money or sexual etc.

Be careful of him. He is on the make and will try and cheat you out of your money.

on the mend

- healing, becoming better

He broke his leg last week but it is on the mend now.

on the move

- moving around from place to place, in motion

She is in Europe and has been on the move for several months now.

on the nose

- just right, exactly

What he said about our new boss was right on the nose.

on the other hand

- looking at the opposite side of a matter

He is very intelligent but on the other hand he is very lazy and always gets low marks.

on the Q.T.

- secretly, without anyone knowing

I don`t want anyone to know about my plans so let`s go over them on the Q.T.

on the road

- travelling (especially as a salesman or performer)

Her husband is a salesman and is often on the road.

on the rocks

- breaking up (relationship), ruined

He has been married for seven years but his relationship seems to be on the
rocks now.

on the same wavelength

- thinking similarly about something

We have been on the same wavelength for months about the need for change in the company.

on the sly

- so that people won`t know, secretly

We went to the restaurant on the sly so that nobody would know where we were.

on the spot

- in a difficult or embarrassing situation

He was really put on the spot when the reporter asked him about the campaign donations.

on the spur of the moment

- on a sudden wish or decision, suddenly

On the spur of the moment we went and bought some ice cream.

on the tip of one`s tongue
- not quite able to remember something
The name of his latest movie is on the tip of my tongue.

on the up and up

- honest, trustworthy, sincere

I decided not to work for the company because I didn`t think that it was on the up and up.

on the wagon
- not drinking alcohol
He has been on the wagon for over seven months now.

on the warpath

- very angry, looking for trouble

He is really on the warpath today so you should stay out of his way.

on the whole

- in general

On the whole I think it is a good idea but I would still like to study it further.

on time

- at the scheduled time

Our train arrived right on time.

on top

- in the lead

He was on top of his class in the economics department.

on top of


*In search of Oyster Pearls*
Dec 31, 2009
A n3st!
- in addition to, along with

On top of everything else he wants me to work on Sunday as well.

on top of

- managing very well, in control of

We are able to keep on top of our work now that we have someone in to help us.

on top of

- knowing all about something, up-to-date

He reads the newspaper every morning and is always on top of the latest news.

one-armed bandit

- a slot machine for gambling

He spent the weekend with a one-armed bandit and now has no money.

one foot in the grave

- near death

Her grandmother has one foot in the grave and is not expected to live much longer.

one for the books

- something very unusual or remarkable

His latest complaint about noise at work is one for the books and is very stupid.

one-track mind

- thinking about only one thing

He has a one-track mind. All he thinks about is money.


- any quick or decisive action that takes the opposition by surprise

The salesman gave them the one-two and before they knew it they had agreed to buy the product.

one up
- having an advantage, being one step ahead

His brother was one up on the other students because he had studied very hard.


- ability to keep ahead of others, trying to keep an advantage

I get tired of his one-upmanship and his desire to always be better than everyone else.

open one`s heart

- talk about one`s feelings honestly, confide in someone

I opened my heart to my friend when I saw her at the restaurant last night.

open secret

- a secret that so many people know it is no longer a secret

It is an open secret that he will be leaving the company next month.

other fish to fry

- have more important things to do

I think he has other fish to fry and will not be content to continue with his current job.

out cold

- unconscious, in a faint

He was out cold when the nurse went into his room to check on him.

out in left field

- far from the right answer

What he said was totally out in left field. He has no idea what we were talking about.

out in the cold

- alone, not included

I was left out in the cold when the rest of the class went to the movie without me.

out like a light

- fall asleep very quickly

I was out like a light when I went to bed last night.

out of

- have none left

The restaurant was out of fish so we had meat instead.

out of breath

- be tired and breathing quickly.

He was out of breath after running from the station.

out of circulation

- not active, not joining in what others are doing

He has a new girlfriend so he will probably be out of circulation for awhile.


- no longer current or in style

Computers become out-of-date very quickly.

out of favor with someone

- not have a person`s goodwill

They have been out of favor with their boss for a few months now.

out of kilter

- not balanced right, not in a straight line or lined up right

The door handle seems to be out of kilter and doesn`t work well at all.

out of line

- unacceptable, not correct

His proposal to go to New York was out of line. We can never accept that.

out of one`s element

- where one does not belong or fit in

He is out of his element teaching the computer course. He doesn`t know anything at all about computers.

out of one`s hair

- get rid of someone who is a nuisance

She finally got her children out her hair and was able to study for her exam.

out of one`s shell

- out of one`s silence or shyness, into friendly conversation

We got her out of her shell and she decided to join in with the rest of the group.

out of order

- not working

The public telephone was out of order.

out of order

- against the rules, not suitable

His question was ruled to be out of order by the judge so he wasn`t able to ask it.

out of place

- in the wrong place or at the wrong time, improper

What he said at the party was totally out of place. He should talk about it at another time.

out of sorts

- in a bad mood

He is a little out of sorts today so maybe you should wait until tomorrow to speak to him.

out of step

- not in step, not keeping pace with someone

The soldiers were out of step when they were marching in the parade.

out of step

- out of harmony, not keeping up

He is out of step with the rest of the group and needs to think about what he should be doing.

out of the blue

- unexpectedly, from nowhere

From right out of the blue he asked her if she wanted to get married.

out of the frying pan and into the fire

- out of one trouble and into more trouble, from something bad to something worse

When he changed jobs he went out of the frying pan and into the fire. His new job is much worse.

out of the question
- impossible

You have no money so going to Hong Kong for your holiday is out of the question.

out of the way
- remote, no longer an obstacle

We went to an out of the way place for our first dinner together.

out of the woods
- out of danger, in the clear

His injury was very serious and I don`t think he is out of the woods yet.

out of thin air

- out of nothing or from nowhere

The deer seemed to jump out of thin air and onto the road.

out of this world
- wonderful, fantastic
The new dessert that she made last weekend was right out of this world.

out of tune
- not in agreement, not going well together

They are out of tune with what the other members of the group think.

out on a limb
- in a dangerous or risky position

He really went out on a limb to offer his brother the job.

outside of

- other than, except for

Outside of the weather our vacation was really quite enjoyable.

out to lunch
- crazy, mad

He is totally out to lunch but is still a very nice person.

over a barrel
- in a helpless or trapped position

I think that we have them over a barrel and should be able to win the contract easily.

over and over
- repeated many times

I told him over and over that I do not want to go to that restaurant again.

over one`s dead body
- never, under no circumstances

Over my dead body will I let him come to the party next week.

over one`s head

- too difficult for someone to understand

The joke went over her head so we had to explain it to her.

over one`s head

- go to a more important person in charge, go to a higher official

We didn`t receive a good answer from the official so we went over his head to talk to his boss.

over the hill

- past one`s prime, unable to function as one used to

He thought that his friend was over the hill and shouldn`t be working so hard.

over the long run

- in the end, over a long period of time

Over the long run he plans to expand his business and then sell it and retire.

over with

- at the end of, finished with

When the game on television is over with we can eat dinner.

own up

- take the blame, admit one`s guilt

The suspected murderer finally owned up to the murder of his wife.


*In search of Oyster Pearls*
Dec 31, 2009
A n3st!

pad the bill
- add false expenses

He always pads the bill when he goes on a business trip.

pain in the neck (ass)
- an annoying thing or person, bothersome

Dealing with my neighbor is always a pain in the neck.

paint oneself into a corner

- get oneself into a bad situation that is difficult or impossible to get out of

He has painted himself into a corner now that he has begun to fight with his supervisor.

paint the town red
- go out and party and have a good time

We decided to go out and paint the town red after we all passed our exams.

palm off
- deceive someone by a trick or a lie, sell or give by tricking

He palmed off his old television set as one that was new and reliable.

pan out
- end or finish favorably, work out well

I hope that your plans to go back to school pan out well.

par for the course
- just what was expected, nothing unusual

That was par for the course. He always comes late when there is a lot of work to do.

part and parcel
- a necessary or important part, something necessary to a larger thing

The house that he bought was part and parcel of a much larger piece of land.

pass away
- die

His father passed away when he was about 96 years old.

pass muster
- pass a test or checkup, be good enough

I wrote some of the instructions of the computer manual and will send them to my partner to see if they pass muster.

pass off
- sell or give something by false claims, offer something as genuine

The man passed off the diamond watch as a real one and received much more money than it was worth

pass off
- claim to be someone one is not, pretend to be someone else

He passed himself off as a reporter and was able to get into the concert.

pass on
- give away something that you don`t use anymore

She always passes on her old clothes to her younger sister.

pass on
- die

Her grandmother passed on when she was 92 years old.

pass out
- faint

Three teenage girls passed out at the rock concert.

pass the buck
- shift responsibility to others

He always tries to pass the buck if someone tries to criticize his work.

pat on the back
- praise

He gave me a pat on the back after I finished the project.

patch up
- fix

I have been trying to patch up our differences for many months now.

pay attention
- look at or listen to with full attention

He never pays attention to what his supervisor tells him.

pay dirt

- dirt in which much gold is found, a valuable discovery

The company hit pay dirt when they invented the new Internet equipment.

pay off

- pay in full and be free from a debt, yield good results (the risk paid off)

She finally paid off her car so she has lots of extra money to spend.


- results of one`s work, a bribe

He expects to get a big pay-off from his education when he finally begins to look for a job.

pay through the nose

- pay a lot of money for something

My uncle always pays through the nose when he buys a new car.

pecking order

- the way people are ranked in relation to each other

The pecking order in his company is very difficult to understand for most of the workers.

peeping Tom

- someone who looks in people`s windows

The police arrested a peeping Tom near our apartment building last week.

penny for one`s thoughts

- Please tell me what you are thinking about.

"A penny for your thoughts," she said as she saw her boyfriend looking out of the window.

penny-wise and pound-foolish

- wise or careful in small things to the costly neglect of important things

He is penny-wise and pound-foolish and is always wasting his money on things that he doesn`t need.

people who live in glass houses should not throw stones

- do not complain about other people if you are as bad as they are

You should not criticize other people so much. Remember, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

pep talk

- a speech to encourage people to try harder and not give up

The coach gave his team a pep talk after they lost three games last month.

perk up

- become energetic or happy after being sad or tired

My sister began to perk up after she had a chance to rest for awhile.

peter out

- die down gradually, grow less strong

The large crowd from the football game has begun to peter out and the streets around the stadium are becoming quiet now.


- food or a drink one takes when one feels tired or weak

I stopped at the restaurant on my way home from work for a quick pick-me-up.

pick a quarrel

- start a quarrel with someone on purpose

I don`t like her because she is always trying to pick a quarrel with others.

pick on

- do or say bad things to someone

He always picked on his sister when they were children.

pick out

- choose or select

I tried to pick out a suitable necktie for my father.

pick someone`s brains

- extract ideas or information from someone for one`s own use

They are always picking his brains to get new ideas for their business.

pick up

- get, receive

I picked up my dry cleaning after I finished work yesterday.

pick up

- take on passengers, receive

The bus picked us up at about six o`clock in the morning.

pick up

- make neat and tidy

He decided to pick up his room before his friend came to visit.

pick up

- get without trying, accidentally

He picked up a lot of French when he lived in France for a year.

pick up

- catch or receive the sound of a radio etc.

We couldn`t pick up the radio station when we were travelling through the mountains.

pick up

- take to the police station, arrest someone

The police picked up the man because they thought he had been drinking.

pick up

- pick up something that has fallen on the floor etc.

Could you please pick up my pen from the floor.

pick up

- start again after interruption, go on

It was getting late so we decided to stop work for the evening and pick up where we left off the next day..

pick up a trail/scent

- recognize the trail of a hunted person or animal

The tracking dogs were able to pick up the trail of the criminal easily.

pick up speed

- increase the speed of

The car picked up speed as it began to go down the hill.

pick up the tab

- pay the bill for someone else

He picked up the tab for the dinner at the restaurant.

piece of cake

- easy

That job was a piece of cake. It was the easiest thing I ever did.


- sitting or being carried on the back and shoulders

The man was carrying his child around the room piggyback style.

piggy bank

- a small bank (sometimes in the shape of a pig) for saving coins

Her daughter put all of her spare money into her piggy bank.

pig in a poke

- something accepted or bought without looking at it carefully

The stereo system he bought was a pig in a poke. He has no idea if it will work well.

pile up

- accumulate, put things on top of each other

He piled up the magazines on top of the small table.

pinch pennies

- be careful with money, be thrifty

He has been pinching pennies for months in order to save money for his vacation.

pin down

- keep someone from moving, make someone stay in a place or position

The wrestler won the match after he pinned his opponent down for almost a minute.

pin down

- make someone tell the truth or make a commitment

I couldn`t pin him down as to exactly when he would pay back the money that he owed me.

pink slip

- dismissal notice from a job

He received his pink slip yesterday and no longer has a job.


*In search of Oyster Pearls*
Dec 31, 2009
A n3st!
pipe dream

- an unrealistic plan

He always has a lot of pipe dreams about what he wants to do in the future.

pipe up

- speak louder

We asked the speaker to pipe up so that we could hear him.


- a small, unimportant person

He called his friend a pip-squeak which made him very angry.

piss off

- bother or annoy someone, make someone angry

My supervisor pissed me off when he asked me to work late again last night.

pitch a tent

- put up a tent

We pitched the tent in a nice field beside a stream.

pitch in

- give help or money for something

They pitched in and helped him finish the job quickly.

play ball with someone

- cooperate fairly with someone

If you agree to play ball with the new manager things should go well for you.

play by ear

- play a musical instrument by remembering the tune and not by reading the music

Although she can`t read music at all she can play by ear and is a great musician.

play cat and mouse with someone

- tease or fool someone by pretending to let him go free and then catching him again

The boxer was playing cat and mouse with his opponent although he could have won easily.

play down

- give less emphasis or make something seem less important

The politician played down the polls that showed that he was becoming less popular.

played out

- tired out, worn out, exhausted

I was totally played out last night so I went to bed early.

play footsie

- touch the feet of a member of the opposite sex under the table while flirting

The couple in the restaurant were playing footsie under the table during their dinner.

play footsie

- engage in any kind of collaboration or flirtation especially in a political situation

The opposition party was playing footsie with the government in order to have their opinions heard.

play (someone) for something

- treat someone as something, act toward someone as something

He was trying to play me for a fool but I could easily see what he was trying to do.

play hooky

- stay away from school or work without permission

When he was a student he often played hooky and didn`t go to school.

play into someone`s hands

- do something that gives someone else an advantage

If you walk out of the meeting in anger you will only be playing into his hands.

play it by ear

- decide on something according to the situation

Let`s play it by ear and decide what to do after we see the movie.

play off

- match opposing persons, forces or interests for one`s own gain

Nobody likes the supervisor because he is always trying to play off one group of workers against another.

play off

- settle a score between two teams or contestants by more play

We went to the game last night as our team had to play off against the other team.

play on/upon (something)

- cause an effect on, influence

They played on his feelings of loneliness to get him to come and buy them dinner every night.

play on words

- a humorous use of a word to suggest a different meaning

There are many cases of using a play on words in the newspaper headlines.

play one`s cards right

- take advantage of your opportunities

If you play your cards right you will probably get a promotion soon.

play second fiddle to someone

- be second in importance to someone

He has been playing second fiddle to his boss for years and has finally decided to quit.

play the field

- date many different people, avoid steady dates with the same person

After my sister stopped seeing her boyfriend she decided to play the field until she met someone nice.

play up

- call attention to, emphasize

During the job interview he played up his experience as an experienced computer operator.

play up to someone

- flatter or please someone to try and gain some advantage

He is always playing up to his boss so he can leave work early.

play with fire

- invite danger or trouble

You are playing with fire if you get involved with those people.

plow into

- attack vigorously

We plowed into the food as soon as the waiter brought it to our table.

plow into

- crash into with force

The truck plowed into the group of people waiting for the bus.

pluck up


*In search of Oyster Pearls*
Dec 31, 2009
A n3st!
- make oneself have courage

He plucked up his courage and went and asked the woman for a date.

point out

- explain, call attention to

She was very kind when she pointed out the mistakes that I had made.

pointed remark

- a remark clearly aimed at a particular person or thing

He made a pointed remark during the meeting that was clearly designed to get my attention.

poke fun at

- joke about, laugh at, tease

She is always poking fun at the way her husband plays golf.

polish off

- finish completely, finish doing something quickly

We polished off the work early and went to the beach for the day.

polish the apple

- try to win favor by flattering someone

The teacher doesn`t like students who are always trying to polish the apple with her.

pony up

- pay

It is time to pony up and pay for the equipment that he bought.

pooped out

- worn out, exhausted

We spent all day painting the house and were pooped out by the time we got home.

pop the question

- ask someone to marry you

He finally popped the question to her after they had been going out together for two years.

pop up

- appear suddenly or unexpectedly

I hadn`t seen my friend for almost a year but suddenly he popped up for a visit last week.

pot calling the kettle black

- a person who is criticizing someone else is as guilty as the person he criticizes

I was joking to her about why she was afraid to look for another job but she said it was like the pot calling the kettle black as I also never tried to change jobs.

pound the pavement

- look for a job

He has been pounding the pavement for a few months now but still has not found a job.

pour it on thick

- flatter greatly

He has been pouring it on thick but she still doesn`t like him.

pour oil on troubled waters

- calm down a quarrel, say something to lessen anger and bring peace to a situation

They tried to pour oil on troubled waters after they noticed the argument among the students.

pour out

- tell everything about something

She poured out her heart to her mother when she returned home from work.

pour out

- come out in great number or quantity, stream out

After the football game thousands of fans poured out of the stadium.

press (push) one`s luck

- depend too much on luck, expect to continue to be lucky

He is pushing his luck if he thinks that he will continue to make a lot of money on the stock market.

pressed for time

- have barely enough time

He was pressed for time so I didn`t have a chance to speak to him.

prey on (upon)

- catch for food, kill and eat

Cats usually prey on mice and small birds if they can catch them.

prey on (upon)
- cheat, rob

Criminals usually prey on people who are living in poor areas.

promise the moon
- mentally alert, ready to do something

Before the elections the politicians were promising everyone the moon but when they were elected they began to talk differently.

psyched up
- mentally alert, ready to do something

The team was psyched up for the game but they lost anyway.

psych out
- find out the real motives of (someone)

I tried to psych out the salesman to see what he really wanted to sell the car for.

pull a fast one
- cheat, deceive

They pulled a fast one on him when they sold him the used car.

pull (something) off
- accomplish something remarkable

He really is lucky in being able to pull off the new business merger with no problems.

pull one`s socks up
- make a greater effort

You had better begin to pull your socks up or you will not be able to continue working here.

pull one`s weight
- do one`s fair share of the work

If everyone pulls their weight we can quickly finish and go home.

pull someone`s leg
- trick or fool someone playfully

Her grandfather is always pulling her leg when he comes to visit.

pull out of a hat
- get as if by magic, invent, imagine

I didn`t think that he was going to be able to find a dictionary but he suddenly pulled one out of a hat and gave it to me.

pull over
- drive to the side of the road and stop

The police pulled over the man because he had been drinking.

pull rank
- assert one`s superior position or authority on a person of lower rank in order to get a privilege or favor

The navy officer pulled rank on the other officers and was able to stay in the best hotel during the trip.

pull strings
- secretly use influence and power

He was able to pull some strings and get his son a job for the summer.

pull the plug
- expose someone`s secret activities

The company decided to pull the plug on the salesman and tell everyone about his illegal sales methods.

pull the plug
- quit a job

He suddenly decided to pull the plug and is no longer here.

pull the rug out from under
- spoil someone`s plans, withdraw support

He pulled the rug out from under our plans to open a branch office in New York.

pull the wool over someone`s eyes
- deceive or fool someone

Don`t let him pull the wool over your eyes with his excuses.

pull through
- recover from an illness or misfortune

It looked like he was going to die from cancer but in the end he pulled through and is now doing very well.

pull up stakes
- move to another location

They decided to pull up stakes and move to London.

push (someone) around
- make someone do what you want

He is always pushing around his salesmen and saleswomen.

push off
- start, leave

The boat pushed off from the dock and started out to sea.

push the panic button
- become very frightened or excited at a time of danger or worry

At first he thought that his wallet had been stolen but before he pushed the panic button and told everyone he looked around again and found it.

put a damper on
- discourage, spoil a person`s fun

The death of the president put a damper on the anniversary celebrations.

put across
- explain clearly, make oneself understood

He spends a lot of effort trying to put across clearly what he wants to say.

put all one`s eggs in one basket
- place all one`s efforts, interests or hopes in a single person or thing

You should not put all your eggs in one basket and invest all of your money in the stock market.

put away
- put an animal to death, kill

We had to have our dog put away because he tried to bite the small girl next door.

put down
- stop by force, crush

The government easily put down the rebellion by the militants.

put down
- write a record of something, write down

He was asked by his company to put down his request for a transfer in writing.

put down
- criticize, make someone look bad

He is always putting down his girlfriend in front of his friends.

put in
- plant flowers

We decided to put in some roses in our garden last year.

put in
- stop at a port on a journey by water

The ship put in at several ports during the cruise.

put in
- add to what has already been said

Suddenly he put in that he was tired and wanted to go home.

put in for something
- apply for something

I put in for a transfer to another department of our company but it was refused.

put in (time)
- spend time

He has put in a lot of time fixing up his house and now it looks beautiful.

put in one`s two cents
- give one`s opinion

She always wants to put in her two cents when she has a chance.

put off
- postpone

The game was put off because of the rain.

put off
- discourage, cause a bad feeling

He put me off with his complaints about the hotel room that I had reserved for him.

put on
- dress in and wear clothes

Please put on your jacket before you go out.

put on

- fool or joke with someone, tease, pretend

I think that he is putting me on. I don`t believe that he will move to Rome.

put on
- produce or arrange a play etc.

My sister helped to put on the school play.

put on one`s thinking cap

- think hard and long about something

I will put on my thinking cap and try and decide what to do about finding a new job.

put on the map
- make a place well known

The Woodstock rock concert really put the town of Woodstock on the map.

put on weight
- gain weight

He has put on a lot of weight since he stopped going to the gym.

put one`s cards on the table

- be frank, tell everything

I put my cards on the table and told him everything about the plans for next year.

put one`s finger on something

- locate precisely, remember exactly

I was unable to put my finger on the exact date of his arrival.

put one`s foot down

- object strongly, take firm action

He put his foot down and didn`t allow any more money to be spent on company entertainment.

put one`s foot in one`s mouth

- say something that is the wrong thing to say in a situation

He really put his foot in his mouth when he told her about the surprise party.

put one`s own house in order

- organize one`s own private affairs

He should put his own house in order before he tells others what to do.

put our heads together

- confer, discuss

We put our heads together and finally thought of a new name for the football team.

put out

- make a flame or light stop burning, extinguish

The man put out his cigarette on the theater carpet.

put out
- produce, make

The company decided to put out a newsletter to give news to the employees.

(be) put out

- be inconvenienced or irritated

She was a little put out that you didn`t call her when you were in town.

put (someone) out
- inconvenience, bother,

She shouldn`t put herself out so much when people come and visit her.

put someone in his or her place
- scold someone for rude or bad behavior

She was very angry and really put him in his place over the rude remark.

put someone in the picture

- tell someone what the situation is

They have finally decided to put me in the picture about the new work procedures.

put (something or someone) out of one`s head (mind)

- try not to think about something

He has been trying to put his girlfriend out of his mind since they decided to stop seeing each other.

put (something) over on someone

- fool, trick

He was trying to put something over on his boss when he said that he was sick and couldn`t come to wo


*In search of Oyster Pearls*
Dec 31, 2009
A n3st!
put (something) past someone (negative)

- be surprised by what someone does

I wouldn`t put it past him to try and sell the main part of the company and leave the rest.

put the bite on someone
- ask for money or favors

He is always trying to put the bite on his friends to collect money for charity.

put the cart before the horse

- do things in the wrong order

I think that he is putting the cart before the horse by talking about fixing up the house before he even buys it.

put the screws to someone

- try to force someone to do or say what you want

The police were putting the screws to the criminal to try and get some information.

put through the wringer

- cause a lot of stress

He really put his wife through the wringer when he asked her for a divorce.

put two and two together

- understand or figure something out after learning the facts

I finally put two and two together and realized that she was his boyfriend.

put up
- provide money or something needed

The telephone company put up most of the money for the new stadium.

put up a good fight

- try hard

They put up a good fight but were unable to win the tournament.

put up a good front

- pretend to be happy, fool people about one`s status

He always puts up a good front but actually he is very unhappy.

put up at a hotel etc.

- stay at a hotel or someone`s home

We decided to put up at a hotel and continue our trip the next day.

put up or shut up

- prove something or stop saying it, bet money on what one says or stop saying it

The politician was forced to put up or shut up over the plans to build a new convention center.

put up to

- persuade or get someone to do something

His friend put him up to cheating on the examination.

put up with

- patiently accept, endure

He makes a great effort to put up with his wife`s complaints.

put words in one`s mouth

- say something for someone else

Her husband is always putting words in her mouth which makes her a little angry.

quite a few

- many

He has quite a few videos at home.


*In search of Oyster Pearls*
Dec 31, 2009
A n3st!

rack one`s brains
- try hard to think or remember something
I have been racking my brains all day trying to remember his name.

rain cats and dogs
- rain very hard
It has been raining cats and dogs all morning.

rain check
- a free ticket to an event in place of one cancelled because of rain
We received two rain checks to the baseball game after it was cancelled because of the rain.

rain check
- a promise to repeat an invitation at a later date
I didn`t have time to go to the restaurant with my friend so I took a rain check instead.

raise a fuss
- make trouble, make a disturbance
The woman at the restaurant raised a fuss when her meal arrived late.

raise a hand
- do something, do one`s share, help
Nobody likes him because he will never raise a hand to help his friends.

raise Cain
- create a disturbance, cause trouble
They began to raise Cain at the dance and were asked to leave.

raise eyebrows
- cause surprise or disapproval
It really raised eyebrows when she appeared at the party unannounced.

rake in the money
- make a lot of money
His new pizza franchise has been raking in the money since it first opened.

rake someone over the coals
- scold, reprimand
His boss raked him over the coals when he heard about the lost sales report.

ram (something) down one`s throat
- force one to do or agree to something not wanted

She always tries to ram her ideas down our throats which makes us very angry.

rat out on

- desert or betray someone, leave at a critical time

His friend ratted out on him when he refused to support him in his fight with the neighborhood bully.

rat race

- endless hurried existence

He likes working for a major corporation although sometimes he finds it too much of a rat race.

raw deal

- unfair treatment

he got a raw deal when he was forced to resign from his company.

read between the lines

- find a hidden meaning in something

I know that he didn`t say it but I can read between the lines so I know what he means.

read the riot act

- give someone a strong warning or scolding

The teacher read the riot act to her students when they began to misbehave in class.

real McCoy

- the genuine thing

That new camera is the real McCoy and will let you do everything that you want.

red herring

- something that draws attention away from the matter under consideration

The issue of the pay cut is a red herring and is not related to the main issues.

red letter day

- a day that is memorable because of some important event

Saturday was a red letter day when we finally won the championship.

red tape

- excessive formalities in official transactions

There was much red tape when we went to city hall to get a business license.

regular guy

- a friendly person who everyone gets along with

The former Prime Minister was a regular guy and was well liked by most people.

rest on one`s laurels

- be satisfied with the success one has already won

He is always willing to work hard and is not the type of person to rest on his laurels.

rhyme or reason

- a good plan or reason, a reasonable purpose or explanation

Without rhyme or reason he suddenly decided to quit his job.

ride herd on

- watch closely and control

The new supervisor plans to ride herd on the people who work for him.

ride out

- survive safely, endure

We were able to easily ride out the storm at the small restaurant.

riding high

- attracting attention, enjoying great popularity

The new government has been riding high in the polls for several months now.

right away

- immediately

I forgot to bring the book today but I will go home and get it right away.

right off the bat

- immediately, from the beginning

I told him right off the bat that we didn`t need a new computer for the office.

right on

- indicates approval, "that`s right", "yes"

He called out "right on" every time that the politician promised a new program to help unemployed people.

right out

- plainly, in a way that hides nothing

He told the new supervisor right out that he did not like him.

right under one`s nose

- in an obvious, nearby place

I found the calculator right under my nose after searching for it for an hour.

ring a bell

- remind one of something

The name doesn`t ring a bell. I`m sure I have never heard of him.

ring up

- add and record on a cash register

I went to the cash register to have them ring up the things that I had bought.

ring up

- telephone someone

You should ring up the police if you see anybody strange around your house.

rip off

- cheat, rob

I was ripped off by the mechanics at that gas station.

road hog

- a car driver who takes up more than his share of the road

My father becomes very angry at the road hogs when he is driving.

rob Peter to pay Paul

- take from one person or thing to pay another

When the government began to take money from education to pay for the medical system it was like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

rob the cradle

- have dates with or marry a person much younger than oneself

Everyone said that my friend was robbing the cradle when he married the young woman at his company.

rock the boat

- upset the way things are

He is a very quiet worker and never likes to rock the boat at work.

roll around

- return at a regular or usual time, come back

Every time that his birthday rolls around he has a big party.

roll in

- arrive in great numbers or quantity