Words and Their Stories
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Idioms, Proverbs, Expressions and Interesting Words
- Expressions with the Word "Cold"
cold, cold-blooded, cold-blooded killer, get cold feet, cold shoulder, cold fish, cold-hearted, out in the cold
- Expressions with the Word "Hot"
hot potato, not so hot, hot shot, hothead, hot under the collar, hot line
- Expressions with the Word "Easy"
as easy as falling off a log, a piece of cake, as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, easy come, easy go, Easy Street, go easy on a person, an easy touch, a soft touch, take it easy
- "Bird" Expressions
for the birds, eats like a bird, a birds-eye-view, birds and the bees, birds of a feather flock together
- "Cat" Expressions
looks like the cat that ate the canary, play cat and mouse with someone, that looks like something the cat dragged in, the cat's meow and the cat's pajamas.
- "Dog" Expressions
lead a dog's life, live in a dog-eat-dog world, work like a dog, dog-tired, sick as a dog, every dog has its day, you can never teach an old dog new tricks, meaner than a junkyard dog, his bark is worse than his bite, he is in the doghouse, let sleeping dogs lie, the dog days of summer, rain cats and dogs
- "Fish" Expressions
a fish out of water, fishing for a compliment, going on a fishing expedition, a red herring, holy mackerel, like shooting fish in a barrel, green around the gills, packed in like sardines, a cold fish, drinks like a fish, This is a fine kettle of fish, a big fish in a small pond, there are plenty of other fish in the sea
- "Horse" Expressions
get off her high horse, hold your horses, stop horsing around, a one-horse town, wild horses could not drag me away, straight from the horse's mouth, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink, beat a dead horse, dark-horse candidate, do not change horses in midstream
- "Insect" Expressions
as busy as a bee, a beehive of activity, made a beeline, the bee's knees, a bee in her bonnet, that is none of your beeswax, the birds and the bees, as mad as a hornet, stir up a hornet's nest, have butterflies in your stomach, have ants in your pants, stop bugging me, put a bug in your ear, snug as a bug in a rug, sleep tight -- don't let the bed bugs bite
- "Monkey" Expressions
monkeyshines, monkey around, monkey business, more fun than a barrel of monkeys, monkey suits
- "Pig" and "Hog" Expressions
"You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig." / "A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog." / "You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." / in a pig's eye, casting pearls before swine, piggy bank, high on the hog, hog-wild, "Do not hog the couch.", road hog, earmarks, a lot of pork in a budget proposal, bring home the bacon, catching a greased pig
- "Wildcat" Expressions
as fast as a wildcat, putting a tiger in your tank, wildcat congressmen, a wildcat bill, a wildcat bank note, wildcat banks, wildcat oil wells, wildcat strike, wildcat strikers
Body & Health
- Expressions with the Word "Eyes"
catch his eye, he sets eyes on her, make eyes at him, give him the eye, get hit between the eyes, stars in her eyes, the apple of her eye, "I only have eyes for you.", his eyes might be bigger than his stomach, his eyes might pop out, don't believe your own eyes, all eyes, cause raised eyebrows, see eye to eye, an eye for an eye, pull the wool over a person's eyes, the evil eye, keep an eye on, have eyes in the back of his head
- Expressions with the Word "Face"
face the music, face up to, face-to-face, as plain as the nose on your face
- Expressions with the Word "Hair"
not a hair was out of place, have a bad hair day, made my hair stand on end, curl your hair, a hair-raising experience, get in my hair, be ready to pull my hair out, not harm a hair on their heads, put hair on your chest, a hair's breadth, split hairs, not seen hide nor hair of him, let my hair down
- Expressions with the Word "Hand"
get a hand, hands down, upper hand, on the other hand, out of hand, hand it to someone, lend a hand, helping hand, bite the hand that feeds us, a free hand, hand over hand, take a hand in, hand in glove, take it in hand, throw up our hands, wash our hands
- Expressions with the Word "Heart" - 1
lose your heart, won your heart, broken heart, hard-hearted, have a heart of stone, pour out your heart, have a heart, has her heart in the right place, not to wear your heart on your sleeve, my heart bleeds for you, chicken-hearted, lose heart, strong-hearted, a heart to heart talk, have a change of heart, put your heart at rest
- Expressions with the Word "Heart" - 2
get to the heart of the matter, take heart, a heavy heart, break my heart, a heart to heart discussion, from the bottom of my heart, open up my heart to you, with all my heart, wears her heart on her sleeve, his heart is in the right place, kind-hearted, have a heart of gold, a change of heart, have a heart of stone, my heart might stand still or skip a beat, at heart, lose heart, My heart goes out to anyone who ..., cross my heart, had my heart set on it
- Expressions with the Word "Mouth"
"Do not bad mouth me." / "I really put my foot in my mouth this time." / "Do not put words in my mouth." / "You took the words right out of my mouth!" / "I had my heart in my mouth." / word of mouth, left a bad taste in my mouth, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, live from hand to mouth, a mouthy child, stop mouthing off, have been running my mouth
- Expressions with the Words "Nose" and "Ears"
lead other people by the nose, be hard-nosed, pay through the nose, keep their nose out of other people's business, nose around, be nosey, keeps his nose to the grindstone, keeps his nose clean, that is no skin off my nose, cuts off his nose to spite his face, look down one's nose at someone, turn up one's nose at something, have one's nose in the air, thumb their nose at their teacher, be right under your nose, be all ears, put a bug in your ear, keep your ear to the ground, lend an ear, play it by ear
- Expressions That Use (Other) Body Parts
on my back, get off my back, turn my back on her, behind my back, stab in the back, pat on the back, I will scratch your back if you will scratch mine., straight from the shoulder, on her shoulders, rub shoulders, cold shoulder, at the top of my lungs, off my chest, save my breath
- Health Expressions
under the weather, splitting headache, running a fever, blacked out, out cold, bring me around, take a turn for the worse, be at death's door, come down with a cold, physical, check-ups, the flu, over the worst, go under the knife, just what the doctor ordered, on the mend, back on my feet, clean bill of health, feel on top of the world, look like the picture of health
- Color Expressions
red hot, in the pink, blues music, look very green, green with envy, greenbacks, black day, blacklisted, a brown out
- Green Expressions
green, a greenhorn, have a green thumb, the Green Revolution, green-eyed monster, suffer from the green-eyed monster, a green light
Jobs, Occupations, Work
- Expressions That Come From Farming
farm, hedge, hedging, hedging his bet, make hay while the sun shines, not worth a hill of beans, altogether not worth a bean
- Military Expressions
doughboy, GI, GI Joe, We GI'd the place, a grunt, leatherneck
- Sailors Are Responsible for Many Expressions
deep six, give it the deep-six, batten down the hatches, sail under false colors, show one's true colors
- What American Workers Call Their Employers
the brass, top brass, brass hats, big cheese, a big thing, big leader, works like a Trojan
Money, Finance, Business
- "Money" Expressions - 1
make money hand over fist, lotteries, windfall, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, hard up
- "Money" Expressions - 2
loaded, make ends meet, live from hand to mouth, bring home the bacon
- "Money" Expressions - 3
at all costs, ante up. cold, hard cash, clean up, break the bank
- Special Terms in the World of Business
sweetheart deal, a blue chip company, banker's hours, cut corners, cold call, hard sell, at a loss, cut backs, broke even, (break even), gain ground, sell like hotcakes, in the black, in the red, a big gun, take it public, strike while the iron is hot, a ball park estimate, bean-counter, crunch the numbers, in black and white, get a break, got a bang for the buck
- Stock Market Expressions
stock exchange, Big Board, New York Stock Exchange, bull market, bear market, windfall
- Financial Words and Expressions Used in Business and the Stock Market
in the red, in the black, run on the bank, day trading
- Money Talks, It's a Jungle Out There, ...
money talks, it is a jungle out there, bogus, ripped off, get down to brass tacks
- Talking About Economic Troubles
feel the pinch, be up against it, throw in the towel
- Get Your Act Together & Cut to the Chase
get your act together, cut to the chase
- Battle-Axe & Bear the Brunt
battle axe, bear the brunt
- Expressions Using the Number One
on the one hand, I for one, number one, looking out for number one, taking care of number one, the one and only, pull a fast one, one in a million, one of the boys, one of those days, a quick one, one or two, one too many, one for the road, one by one, at one with himself, at one time, rolled up into one, one of these days, for one thing, one of those things, the one that got away, one good turn deserves another, number would have been up, back to square one
- Expressions Using Numbers Other Than One
put two and two together, two heads are better than one, there are no two ways about it, be of two minds, in two shakes of a lamb's tail, kill two birds with one stone, two wrongs don't make a right, two's company, three's a crowd, the three R's, give three cheers, at sixes and sevens, six of one, half a dozen the other, be in seventh heaven, be on cloud nine, nine times out of ten, nine-to-five, dress to the nines, a hundred to one shot, a million to one, catch forty winks, at the eleventh hour, her lucky number came up
- Some People's Names Have Special Meanings in American Expressions
a cup of Joe, an average Joe, did not know Jack, John Q. Public, Jeez Louise, for Pete's sake, be a doubting Thomas, Joe Blow, a plain Jane, No way, Jose, did not know either of these two people from Adam, a Jack of all trades, Uncle Sam, sign his John Hancock, Johnny One Note
- Expressions to Describe People We Think Are Important
bigwig, big wheel, rolled a big wheel, top banana, kingpin
- Expressions with the Word "Dutch"
A Dutch agreement, Dutch courage, Dutch leave, Dutch treat, in Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch, talk to someone like a Dutch uncle
- Proverbs 1
"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." / "A penny saved is a penny earned." / "All is fair in love and war." / "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." / "Out of sight, out of mind." / "Love is blind." / "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." / "Beauty is only skin deep." / "Actions speak louder than words." / "All good things must come to an end."
- Proverbs 2
an apple a day keeps the doctor away, you are what you eat, the early bird catches the worm, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, doo not count your chickens before they are hatched, do not put all your eggs in one basket, a fool and his money are soon parted, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, never put off until tomorrow what you can do today, haste makes waste, honesty is the best policy, there is no use crying over spilled milk, children should be seen and not heard, hard work never hurt anyone, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones
- Proverbs 3
the apple does not fall far from the tree, good things come in small packages, all that glitters is not gold, do not judge a book by its cover, do not bite off more than you can chew, two heads are better than one, too many cooks spoil the broth, two wrongs do not make a right, every cloud has a silver lining, hope for the best and prepare for the worst, do not cross that bridge until you come to it, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
- Proverbs 4 - Some Listeners' Favorite Sayings
"Where there is a will, there is a way." / "Strike while the iron is hot." / "Birds of a feather flock together." / "Blood is thicker than water." / "Charity begins at home." / "He who would climb a ladder must begin at the bottom." / "Tell me who walks with you, and I'll tell you who you are." / "It does not matter the speed you go. The most important thing is to never stop." / Think twice, act wise." / "Practice makes perfect." / "If you want something done right, do it yourself." / "If you risk nothing, then you risk everything." / "Your defeat now is your victory in the future."
Sports, Games, Entertainment and Free Time
- Expressions That Come From Baseball
on the ball, threw a curve ball, steps up to the plate, pinch hitter, strikes out, goes down swinging, three strikes and you are out, hit a home run, hit it out of the park, right off the bat, batting one thousand, touch base, touched all the bases, covered my bases, way off base, out in left field, a ballpark figure, a ballpark estimate, in the ballpark, we are not in the same ballpark, that is a whole new ballgame
- Touch All Bases
to touch all bases, play ball
- Fall Guy, Take a Fall and Receive a Bum Rap
a fall guy, be fixed, take the fall, take the rap, receive a bum rap, be framed
- Some Unusual Words Describe How People Spend Their Free Time
couch potato, mouse potato, get cabin fever, nesting or cocooning, to have left the nest, empty nest, empty nester
- Circus Words and Expressions
circus, the big top, clown around, jumbo
- Expressions from the Card Game of Poker
ace in the hole, stack the deck, dealing off the bottom, the cards are stacked against you, a poker face, bluffing, hold your cards close to your vest
- State Nicknames, Part 1
Alabama - Hawaii
- State Nicknames, Part 2
Idaho - Oregon
- State Nicknames, Part 3
Maryland - North and South Carolina
- State Nicknames, Part 4
Ohio - Wyoming
- Expressions with the Word "Apple"
apple pie order, apple of discord, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, one rotten apple spoils the barrel
- Expressions with the Word "Bag"
bagman, let the cat out of the bag, be left holding the bag
- Blizzards, Get Snowed Under & Snow Job
blizzard, snowed under, snow job
- Expressions with the Word "Chip"
carry a chip on your shoulder, chip off the old block, let the chips fall where they may
- Expressions About Clothes - Part 1 ... and Shoes
off the cuff, ants in their pants, fly by the seat of their pants, be caught with one's pants down, she wears the pants in the family, burn a hole in your pocket, tighten your belt, under your belt, take one's hat off to someone, at the drop of a hat, pull money out of a hat, be too big for their boots, bet your boots, fill their shoes, be a stuffed shirt, wears his heart on his sleeve, keep his shirt on, lost his shirt, rolls up his sleeves, have a card up one's sleeve
- Expressions About Clothes - Part 2 ... and Hats
talk through one's hat, keep it under one's hat, old hat, a wolf in sheep's clothing, dressed up, decked out, dressed to the nines, dressed to the teeth, dressed to kill, fashionable, come into fashion, birthday suit, handle them with kid gloves, fit like a glove, burst at the seams, hand-me-downs, live on a shoestring, the shoe will be on the other foot, walk in another person's shoes, ride someone else's coat tails, if the shoe fits, wear it
- Computer Words: Mouse, Cursor, Blog, Spam and Googling
hacker, google something or someone, blog, spam
- Expressions with the Word "Water"
be in hot water, be in deep water, keep your head above water, water over the dam, hold water, throw cold water
- Expressions with the Word "Hang"
hang tight, hang loose, hang around, hang out, let it all hang out, hang-up, a hangover, get the hang of something
- Expressions with the Word "Hit"
hit the road, hit the spot, hit bottom, hit the ceiling, hit the nail on the head, hit the hay
- Expressions with the Word "Kick"
signs of life kicking inside her womb, kick the bucket, kick over the traces, kick back, kick around, kick a person upstairs, kick the habit
Focusing on One Word or Expression
- Baloney: It's Just Not True
baloney, blarney, pull the wool over someone's eyes
It means "to make small, unimportant."
- A Jazz Buff, A Civil War Buff & A Fire Buff
The word buff has several meanings.
- Eureka! (It Is an Expletive)
The expletive, eureka.
I want no more of these fireworks in my courtroom. / Cartoons show fireworks to represent the excitement of a kiss.
- Get Your Act Together & Cut to the Chase
get your act together, cut to the chase
- Got It by the Grapevine / Heard It on the Grapevine
by way of the grapevine, hush hush, by the grapevine
- Great Scott (It Expresses Surprise or Shock)
Great Scott!, Holy Mackerel!, Holy Toledo!
- I Am Afraid I Am Losing It & I Must Be Losing It
"I am afraid I am losing it." / "Am I losing it?" / "I must be losing it."
- It Panned Out Well & The Critic Panned My Work
panning, pan the work
- It Will Not Wash
It just will not wash, talking turkey
- Keep a Person on a Short Leash
people on a short leash, Mickey Mouse
- Let's Get Down to Brass Tacks
It means to get serious about something, to get to the bottom of the situation.
- Like a Rolling Stone
An old saying that has had a big influence on rock-and-roll music.
- Nuts and Bolts
Nuts and bolts are basic, necessary elements.
- The Story of the Sign 'Rx' Seen on Medicine Bottles
We see this sign on drug stores.
- Santa Claus
- Swan Song (It Means a Person's Final Effort)
swan song, the last hurrah, the hurrah boys, his last hurrahs
- You Do Not Have to Be a Rocket Scientist
"You do not need to be a rocket scientist."
Focusing on Two Words or Expressions
- To Buffalo & To Bulldoze
Two words that are close in meaning.
- American Election Expressions
swing states, battleground states, running mate, front-runner, neck and neck, the home stretch, on the campaign trail, stump speech, on the stump, grassroots campaign, rank and file, mudslinging, smear campaign, landslide victory
- Chickenfeed, Work for Peanuts, ...
chickenfeed, peanut agitators, working for peanuts, peanut gallery
- Down to Earth, Have a Big Head, ...
down to earth, go to their heads, have a big head, have his nose in the air, have both feet on the ground, have his head in the clouds
- Expressions for When There Is Really No Choice at All
Hobson's choice, be caught between a rock and a hard place, between the devil and the deep blue sea, on the horns of a dilemma
- Nicknames for New York City
The Big Apple, The Capital of the World, Empire City, Gotham, The City So Nice They Named it Twice, The City That Never Sleeps.
- Nicknames for Los Angeles
L.A., the City of Angels, the City of Flowers and Sunshine, the Big Orange, the Entertainment Capital of the World, Tinseltown, La-La Land.
- Nicknames for Chicago
The Second City, the Windy City, Hog Butcher for the World, The City of the Big Shoulders or City of Broad Shoulders
- Where Did 'OK' Come From?
OK, okay, A-OK, okey-dokey, okey-doke, okely-dokely
- Nicknames for New Orleans and Las Vegas
The Big Easy, The Crescent City. The Birthplace of Jazz, Mardi Gras City, NOLA, The Gambling Capital of the World, The Entertainment Capital of the World, Sin City, Lost Wages
- Nicknames for Cleveland and Detroit
Forest City, The Best Location in the Nation, The Mistake on the Lake, The Rock and Roll Capital of the World, The Motor City, Motown, Hitsville USA
- Nicknames for Philadelphia and Boston
The City of Brotherly Love, The Quaker City, The Cradle of Liberty, The Birthplace of America, Philly, The Cradle of Modern America
- "Mayday" and Other English Words with French Origins
sabotage, laissez-faire, entrepreneur, film noir, avant-garde, résumé, unique, bon appétit, bon voyage
- Expressions with the Word "Golden"
golden, golden rule, golden ratio, golden mean, Golden Age, golden age, Golden Age of Radio, silence is golden, good as gold, The Golden Boy, you are golden, Gold digger, gold digger, golden oldies, The Golden Girls, golden years
- Food Expressions - 1 (Vegetables & Fruits)
as cool as a cucumber, in a pickle, two peas in a pod, full of beans, does not amount to a hill of beans, don’t know beans about something, spill the beans, small potatoes, hot potatoes, couch potato, you cannot squeeze blood out of a turnip, separating the wheat from the chaff, the cream of the crop, forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest, go bananas, If life gives you lemons, make lemonade
- Food Expressions - 2 (Good Things)
the best thing since sliced bread, breadwinner, bread and butter issues, half a loaf is better than none, you know which side your bread is buttered on, you’re toast, a piece of cake, icing on the cake, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too, selling like hotcakes, drop him like a hotcake, flat as a pancake, a tough cookie, a sharp cookie, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, easy as pie, eat humble pie, pie in the sky, taking candy from a baby
- Food Expressions - 3 (Misc.)
here is no use crying over spilled milk, a good egg, walk on eggshells, you have to break some eggs to make an omelet, you are what you eat, meat and potatoes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, the salt of the earth, pour salt on a wound, take it with a grain of salt, brings home the bacon, cut the mustard, all drink of water, packed like sardines, out to lunch, there is no such thing as a free lunch, wake up and smell the coffee, egg on my face, not my cup of tea, ood for thought
- Expressions with the Word "Hold"
can’t hold a candle to, hold your tongue, hold out, hold up, hold on, hold the line
- These are good for people studying English because it is possible to read along while listening.
- These are in VOA's Special English.
- These will print very cleanly (without printing the MP3 player and menu.)
- The source of the original pre-edited material is http://voanews.com/specialenglish/.
- "All text, audio and video material produced exclusively by the Voice of America
is public domain. However, some images and graphics are licensed for use and
covered by all applicable copyright laws."
- "All text, audio and video material produced exclusively by the Voice of America
- Though the source material was in the public domain, I have done some editing. If you need the public domain version of any of these stories, please visit http://voanews.com/specialenglish/.