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 B - Idiomatic expressions beginning with B

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  • Back

Get off smb’s back
stop annoying smb, for example, by telling them what to do or trying to force them to do smth; make smb stop annoying you in this way.
I’ve done all that already, so why don’t you just get off my back?

  1. Bad

Take the bad with the good
accept the bad aspects of smth as well as the good ones.
You must learn to take the bad with the good in this job. Things don’t always go as well as you hope they should.

  1. Ball

A ball and chain (BrE)
a problem that prevents you from doing what you would like to do.

The business never made any money and was regarded more as a ball and chain than anything else.
(humorous) smb’s husband or wife
I must get home to the ball and chain.
Be on the ball
be aware of what is happening and be able to react or deal with it quickly
For the assistant manager’s job we need someone who’s really on the ball.
Get/keep/set/start/ the ball rolling
begin/continue an activity, discussion etc.

  1. Bananas

Go bananas (slang)
become angry, crazy or silly
If I’m late again my dad’ll go bananas!

  1. Bang

Go (off) with a bang (informal)
(of an event, etc) be very successful
Last night’s party really went off with a bang.

  1. Bar

Bar none
without exception
This is the best pudding I’ve ever tasted, bar none.

  1. Barking

Be barking up the wrong tree
be mistaken about smth
The police are barking up the wrong tree if they think I had anything to do with the crime! I wasn’t even in the country when it happened!

  1. Basics

Get/go back to basics
Think about the simple or most important ideas within a subject or an activity instead of new ideas or complicated details
It’s time for us all to get back to basics and concentrate on what really matters.

  1. Bay

Hold keep smb/sth at bay
prevent smb or smth from coming too close or attacking
Vitamin C helps to keep colds and flu at bay.

  1. Bear

Bear the brunt of smth
suffer most as the result of an attack, a loss, bad luck
We all lost money when the business collapsed, but I bore the brunt of it because I had invested the most.

  1. Beat

Beat about the bush
take too long before saying what you want to say
Don’t beat about the bush. Tell me exactly what you think about my work.

  1. Bed

Get out of bed on the wrong side
be bad-tempered from the moment you get up
Why is Pete so irritable this morning? Did he get out of bed on the wrong side again?

  1. Bee

Have (got) a bee in your bonnet
think and talk about smth all the time and believe it is very important
Harry’s always going around opening windows. He’s got a bee in his bonnet about fresh air.

  1. Been

Been there done that
used to show that you think a place or an activity is not very interesting or impressive because you have already experienced it
Not camping again! Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

  1. Bell

Give smb a bell (informal)
call smb by telephone
I’ll give you a bell tomorrow.

  1. Belt

Below the belt
(of a comment, attack etc) unfair and unkind
Her remarks about his age were a bit below the belt.

  1. Bend

Bend the truth
say smth that is not completely true
In the end he admitted bending the truth. He had done some of his essay but he hadn’t finished it.

  1. Bent

Be bent on smth / on doing smth
be determined to do or have smth
I advised her against it but she was bent on taking part in the marathon.

  1. Best

Put your best foot forward
go, work, etc. as fast as you can
If we put our best foot forward, we should be there by noon.
To the best of your belief / knowledge
as far as you know
He never made a will, to the best of my knowledge.

  1. Better

Against your better judgement
although you know your action, decision, etc is not sensible
She was persuaded against her better judgement to lend him the money and now she is regretting it.
(all) the better for smth
made better by doing smth; benefiting from smth
You’ll be all the better for  (having had) a holiday by the sea.

  1. Beyond

Be beyond smb
be impossible for smb to imagine, understand or do

Why she decided to marry such a boring man is beyond me.

  1. Bide

Bide your time
wait for a suitable opportunity to do smth
She’s just biding her time until the right job comes.

  1. Big

Too big for your boots
thinking that you are more important than you really are
His political rivals had decided that he was getting too big for his boots.

  1. Birds

The birds and the bees (old-fashioned or humorous)
the basic facts about sex and reproduction, the “facts of life”, as told to children.
Now that Jamie is eleven, isn’t it time you told him about the birds and the bees?

  1. Bite

Bite the dust (informal)
fail, or be defeated or destroyed
Thousands of small businesses bite the dust every year.
2.(humorous) die
Bite off more than you can chew (informal)
attempt to do smth that is too difficult for you or that you do not have enough time to do.
He’s promised to get all this work finished by the weekend but I’ve got a feeling he’s bitten off more than he can chew.
Bite your tongue
stop yourself from saying smth that might upset smb or cause an argument, although you want to speak
I didn’t believe her explanation but I bit my tongue

  1. Black

Black and blue
covered with bruises (= blue, brown or purple marks on the body)
She was black and blue all over after falling downstairs.

  1. Bleed

Bleed smb dry / white (disapproving)
take away all smb’s money
He used to be quite wealthy, but his children have bled him dry.

  1. Blessing

A blessing in disguise
a thing that seems bad, unpleasant, etc. at first but that has advantages in the end
Not getting that job turned out tom be a blessing in disguise, as the firm went out of business only a few months later.

  1. Blood

In the/smb’s blood/genes
part of smb’s nature and shared by other members of their family
Both his father and his mother were writers, so literature runs in his blood.
Make smb’s blood boil
make smb very angry
Seeing him beating that little dog made my blood boil.

  1. Blue

Out of the blue
Suddenly and unexpectedly
She had no idea that anything was wrong until he announced out of the blue that he wanted a divorce.

  1. Board

Take smth on board (informal)
accept (an idea, suggestion, etc); recognize (a problem, etc)
I hope the committee takes our recommendations on board when coming to a decision.

  1. Bob

(and) Bob’s your uncle (BrE, informal)
Often used after explaining how to do smth, solve a problem, etc to emphasize how easy it is
To make the alarm go off at the right time, you just press this button, set the clock, and Bob’s your uncle!

  1. Bones

Make no bones about (doing) smth
not hesitate to do smth; be honest and open about smth
She made no bones about telling him she wanted a pay rise.
He makes no bones about the fact that he’s been in prison.

  1. Bore

Bore smb to tears; bore smb stiff; bore smb out of their mind (informal)
(often used in the passive) bore smb very much
He bored me to tears with stories about his childhood.
After listening to the speech for three hours I was bored stiff.

  1. Bothered

Can’t be bothered (to do smth) (BrE, informal)
not willing to make the effort (to do smth)
I got home so late last night that I couldn’t be bothered to cook dinner.

  1. Bottom

The bottom line (informal)
the important conclusion, judgement or result
We’ve had some success this year, but the bottom line is that the business is still losing money.

  1. Break

Break even
make neither a profit not a loss
In the first year of the business we only just managed to break even.

  1. Breath

A breath of fresh air
a person or thing that is new and different and therefore interesting and exciting
Having these young people living with us is like a breath of fresh air after years on our own.

  1. Broad

In broad daylight
in the clear light of day when it is easy to see
He was attacked right in the centre of town in broad daylight.

  1. Burn

Burn your bridges (BrE also ‘burn your boats)
do smth that makes it impossible for you to return to a previous situation
Once you have signed your documents, you’ll have burned your boats, and will have to go ahead with the sale.
Burn the candle at both ends
Make yourself very tired by doing too much, especially by going to bed late and getting up early
You look exhausted. Been burning the candle at both ends, have you?

  1. Buck

To make a fast/quick buck (informal, often disapproving)
Earn money quickly and easily
He didn’t really care about the business, he just wanted to make a fast buck.

  1. Bursting

(be) bursting to do smth
want to do smth so much that you can hardly stop yourself
She was just bursting to tell us the news.

  1. Bust

Go bust
(of a business) fail financially; become bankrupt
The firm went bust and fifty workers lost their jobs.

  1. Busy

(as) busy as a bee
very busy

  1. Buzz

Give smb a buzz (informal)
telephone smb
I’ll give you a buzz before I leave.
(also ‘get a buzz from sth/from doing smth’)
If smth gives you a buzz or you get a buzz from it, it provides interest and enjoyment for you
If the work gives you a buzz, then you do your job better.



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