English Idioms A - Z - Idiomatic Expressions


The Cambridge dictionary defines an idiom as a group of words in a fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word understood on its own: For example
To "have bitten off more than you can chew" is an idiom that means you have tried to do something which is too difficult for you.We have offered you a list of commonly used idioms from A to Z.

Idioms A - Idiomatic expressions beginning with A

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  • About

    Be about to do sth
    be going to do sth immediately

    I was about to phone him when he walked into the office.

    That’s about all/it
    Used to say that you have finished telling smb about sth and there is nothing to add

    ‘Anything else?’ ‘No, that’s about it for now’.

  • Above
  • Be/get above yourself
    behave as if you are better or more important than you really are

    She’s getting a bit above herself. She’s only been working for me for two weeks and already she’s telling me what to do!

  • Abreast
  • Keep abreast of sth
    Make sure that you know all the most recent facts about a subject

    It is almost impossible to keep abreast of all the latest developments in computing.

  • Accord
  • Of your own accord
    without being asked or forced

    I didn’t need to tell her to apologize; she did it of her own accord.

  • Accounts
  • By/from all accounts
    used when the speaker does not have the direct experience of the thing mentioned but is reporting the ideas, etc of others

    I’ve never seen any of her films but she is a brilliant director, by all accounts.

  • Acid
  • The acid test (of sth)
    a situation which finally proves whether sth is good or bad, true or false

    They’ve always been good friends, but the acid test will come when they have to share a flat.

  • Acquired taste
  • An acquired taste
    a thing which you find unpleasant or do not appreciate at first but which you gradually learn to like

    Whiskey is an acquired taste.

  • Act
  • An act of God (law)
    an event caused by natural sources which people cannot control or prevent, for example  a hurricane, earthquake, etc.

    The insurance policy covers your house against all types of damage, excluding those caused by acts of God.

  • Add
  • Add fuel to the fire/flames

    do or say sth which makes a difficult situation worse, or makes smb even more angry, etc.

    She was already furious and his apologies and excuses only added fuel to the flames.

  • Advantage
  • Take advantage of sth/smb
    make good use of sth; to make use of an opportunity;

    We made sure that we took full advantage of the hotel facilities.

    Make use of smb/sth in a way that is unfair or dishonest

    He took advantage of my generosity (for example, by taking more than I had intended to give).

  • After
  • After all
    used to show that sth is the opposite of what you first intend to do or expect to happen

    I think I will have something to eat after all.

    used when you are explaining sth, or giving a reason

    Can’t I stay up late tonight? After all, there’s no school tomorrow!

  • Again
  • Then / there again
    used for introducing an extra piece of information which explains sth or gives another explanation for sth

    I thought he liked me, but then again maybe he didn’t.

  • Air
  • (Up) in  the air
    (of plans, etc) uncertain; not yet decided

    I’m hoping to take a holiday this month but my plans are still very much up in the air.

  • Airs
  • Give yourself / put on airs
    behave in a way which shows that you feel you are important

    The nice thing about her is that, in spite of being so rich, she doesn’t put on any airs.

  • All
  • All along
    from the beginning

    I said all along that this would happen.

    All in all
    when everything is considered

    All in all the film was a great success, despite the bad publicity.

    Be all over smb
    show a lot of affection for or enthusiasm about smb

    He was all over her at the party.

  • Allowances
  • Make allowances for smb
    Not judge smb too strictly because of certain problems or difficulties

    The court was asked to make allowances for the age of the accused.

  • Amends
  • To make amends(to smb) (for sth/doing sth)
    do sth for smb in order to show that you are sorry for sth wrong or unfair that you have done

    I’m sorry I upset you – how can I make amends?

  • Apart
  • Be poles / worlds apart
    be widely separated; have no interests that you share

    Politically, the two leaders are two poles apart.

  • Apple
  • The apple of smb’s eye
    a person, usually a child, who smb loves very much; a favourite child

    The second child, John, was the apple of his mother’s eye.

  • Arm
  • Cost/pay an arm and a leg
    cost/pay a lot of money

    We want to redecorate the living room, but I’m afraid it’s going to cost us an arm and a leg.

    keep smb at arm’s length
    avoid becoming too friendly with smb

    He’s the kind of man who’s best kept at arm’s length, in my opinion.

  • Astray
  • Go astray

    become lost, be stolen

    Several letters went astray or were not delivered.

    go in the wrong direction or have the wrong result

    Fortunately, the gunman’s shots went astray.

  • Authority
  • Have (got) sth on good authority
    be able to believe sth because you trust the person who gave you the information

    I have it on good authority that the chairman is going to resign.


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