10:26 pm - Thursday August 17, 2017

Idioms and their meanings

Idioms

Alphabetically

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

B

back and forth

– backwards and forwards, first one way and then the other way

The argument went back and forth before the judge made a decision.

back down (from someone or something)

– to fail to carry through on a threat to do something

The government backed down from their plan to sell the national airline.

back in circulation

– to be available to the public again (a library book)

The books were back in circulation after we returned them to the library.

back in circulation

– to be socially active again (after the breakup of a relationship between two people)

My friend stopped dating his girlfriend and he is now back in circulation.

(one’s) back is against the wall

– one is in a very difficult position

The man’s back was against the wall and there was nothing that he could do to change the situation.

back of beyond

– somewhere very remote

Every summer we go to the back of beyond for a camping trip.

back off

– to retreat or move away (from a fight or argument or an object)

The man wanted to start an argument but finally he backed off.

back on one`s feet

– to return to good financial or physical health

My friend is back on his feet after his company went out of business.

back on the front burner

– to be talked about in the news again, to be important and under discussion again

The problem with the large supplier is back on the front burner again.

back out (something) from a parking space or back (something) out of a parking space

– to drive a vehicle out of a parking space

The woman backed the car out of the parking space.

back out (of something)

– to withdraw from an agreement or promise, to fail to fulfill a promise or obligation

Our company backed out of the agreement with the foreign firm.

back the wrong horse

– to support someone or something that cannot win or succeed

We backed the wrong horse in the election and our candidate lost badly.

back-to-back

– something follows immediately after something else, two people touching backs

There were two back-to-back games today because of the rain last week.
We sat back-to-back during the contest.

back to square one

– to go back to the beginning of something

The city went back to square one in their effort to build a new bridge.

back to the drawing board

– to go back and start a project or idea from the beginning

Our boss does not like our idea so we must go back to the drawing board.

back to the salt mines

– to return to work or return to something else that you do not want to do

We finished our lunch and went back to the salt mines.

back up (something) or back (something) up

– to drive or go backwards

The driver had to back the truck up.

back up (someone or something) or back (someone or something) up

– to support someone or something

The supervisor made a mistake and his manager refused to back him up.

bad blood (between people)

– unpleasant feelings between people

There was much bad blood between the three brothers.

bad hair day

– a day when one’s hair looks messy, a day of mishaps and other problems

The girl is having a bad hair day. She looks terrible.
I am having a bad hair day. Everything is going wrong.

bad-mouth (someone or something)

– to say bad things about someone or something

The supervisor has the habit of bad-mouthing her boss.

bag of tricks

– a collection of special techniques or methods

The teacher has a bag of tricks to keep her students occupied.

bail out (of something)

– to abandon a situation, to jump out of an airplane

The plan to buy a summer home with our friends was becoming too expensive so we decided to bail out.

bail out (someone)or bail (someone) out

– to pay a sum of money that allows someone to leave jail while waiting for a trial

The singer had to pay much money to bail himself out of prison.

bail out (someone or something) or bail (someone or something) out

– to help or rescue someone or something

The government decided to bail out the troubled bank.

balance the books

– to check that all the money in a business is accounted for

The accountant spent several days trying to balance the books of his company.

ball is in (someone’s) court

– it is up to this person to make the next move (from tennis or a similar game)

We made an offer to buy the business and now the ball is in the owner’s court to accept our offer or not.

ball of fire

– an active and energetic person

The woman is a ball of fire and is always busy doing something.

ballpark estimate/figure

-a guess that is in a certain area or range

We had a ballpark estimate about how much it would cost to buy the business.

bang one’s head against the wall

– to try to do something that is hopeless

I am banging my head against the wall when I try to ask my boss for something.

bank on (someone or something)

– to be sure of someone or something, to count on someone or something

You can bank on my sister to help you.

banker’s hours

– short work hours (like the old hours of a bank when they were rather short)

The man has his own company and likes to work banker’s hours.

baptism of fire

– a first experience of something (often difficult or unpleasant)

We went through a baptism of fire when we had to learn how to operate the small business.

bargain for (something)

– to anticipate something, to take something into account

The difficulty of the job was more than I had bargained for.

bargain for (something)

– to negotiate the price and other terms of something

We spent all morning bargaining for the car.

bargain on (something)

– to plan or expect something

We did not bargain on having heavy rain during our summer birthday party.

barge in on (someone or something)

– to interrupt someone or something, to intrude on someone or something

My sister often barges in on me when I am with my friends.

bark is worse than one`s bite

– someone is not as bad as they sound

“Don`t worry if the boss is angry – his bark is worse than his bite.”

bark up the wrong tree

– to make a wrong assumption about something

The police are barking up the wrong tree in their investigation of the criminal.

base one’s opinion on (something)

– to form an opinion from something

I based my opinion on the man’s previous work and decided not to give him a job.

bat a thousand

– to be successful in everything that you do

The salesman was batting a thousand during his sales trip to Europe.

batten down the hatches

– to prepare for difficult times, to close the hatches in a boat before a storm

A big storm was coming so we decided to batten down the hatches and stay home.

bawl out (someone) or bawl (someone) out

– to scold someone loudly

The woman bawled out her child in the supermarket.

be a new one on (someone)

– to be something that one has not heard before and something that is difficult to believe

It was a new one on me when my friend said that he was studying Russian.

be all ears

– to listen eagerly and carefully

The boy was all ears when the teacher began to talk about the circus.

be all things to all people

– to be everything that is wanted by all people

The politician tries to be all things to all people and it is difficult to know what he really believes.

be bound to

– to be certain, to be sure to

We are bound to be late if we do not hurry.

be curtains for (someone or something)

– to be the end or death for someone or something

It was curtains for my old computer when it finally stopped working.

be game

– to be ready for action or agreeable to participate in something

All of the students were game to go to the science exhibition.

be had

– to be victimized or cheated

I was had by the salesman on the telephone.

be in

– to be popular or fashionable

Recently, long skirts are in.

be in

– to be at one’s home or at one’s workplace

If my friend is in I will visit him tonight.

be into (something)

– to be interested or involved in something

My friend is very much into music and writing songs.

be of the persuasion that (something) is so

– to believe that something is true or exists

My grandfather was of the persuasion that it is more important to work than to go to school.

be off

– to leave or depart

I plan to be off very early tomorrow morning to go to the airport.

be off to a bad start

– to start something under bad circumstances

The production of the play was off to a bad start when the lights did not work.

be off on the wrong foot

– to start something under bad circumstances

I tried to talk to my new neighbor but it seems that we are off on the wrong foot already.

be out

– to be away from one’s work or home

My friend was out so I could not visit him.

be over

– to be finished, to end

We will go home when the class is over.

be that as it may

– even if what you say is true

“Be that as it may, we are not going to permit the school dance to take place.”

be the case

– to be true, to be an actual situation

“I do not care if it was the case last year, this year we will do things differently.”

be the death of (someone)

– to be the ruin or downfall or death of someone (often used for some kind of problem)

The woman said that her young son’s bad behavior would be the death of her.

be the matter

– to be unsatisfactory, to be improper, to be wrong

I do not know what is the matter with the boy.

be through

– to be finished, to end

I do not know when the movie will be through.

be to blame

– to be responsible for something bad or unfortunate

The woman is not to blame for breaking the computer.

be up

– to expire, to be finished

The time was up so we went home.

be with it

– to be able to focus or concentrate on something

The man is not with it and cannot understand what I am saying.

bean counter

– an accountant

We asked the bean counters to look at the figures in the new budget.

bear a grudge (against someone)

– to continue to be angry at someone for something that happened in the past, to not forgive someone for something

The woman continued to bear a grudge against her friend for many years.

bear fruit

– to yield or give results

The girl’s hard work began to bear fruit when she won the dance contest.

bear in mind

– to consider that something is so

We have to bear in mind that the child is only three years old when he does something bad.

bear one’s cross

– to carry or bear a burden

Raising three children by herself was the way that the woman had to bear her cross.

bear (someone or something) in mind

– to remember and think about someone or something

We had to bear in mind that the child was only three years old.

bear (something) out or bear (out) something

– to prove that something is right

Always being late bore out the fact that the man could never continue with one job for a long time.

bear the brunt of (something)

– to withstand the worst part or the strongest part of something

The small island bore the brunt of the tropical storm.

bear with (someone or something)

– to be patient with someone or something, to endure someone or something

We had to bear with our teacher as she explained the material to the new students.

beat a hasty retreat

– to retreat or withdraw very quickly

The soldiers beat a hasty retreat when the guerrillas attacked them.

beat a path to (someone’s) door

– to come to someone in great numbers

The customers beat a path to the door of the new computer store.

beat around the bush

– to avoid discussing something directly, to speak indirectly, to evade an issue

“Stop beating around the bush and give us your final decision.”

beat one’s brains out

– to work very hard (to do something)

We beat our brains out in order to think of a name for the new magazine.

beat one’s head against the wall

– to waste one’s time trying to do something that is hopeless

I was beating my head against the wall to try and convince my friend to come to the restaurant.

beat (someone) to the draw

– to do something before others do it

I beat my friend to the draw and got the remaining tickets for the basketball game.

beat (someone) to the punch

– to do something before others do it

My friend beat me to the punch and arrived at the interview first.

beat (something) into (someone’s) head

– to force someone to learn something

The teacher thinks that she must beat the material into the students’ heads.

beat the clock

– to finish something before the time is up

The basketball team worked hard to beat the clock and win the game.

beat the living daylights out of (someone)

– to beat someone severely

The two men beat the living daylights out of the man at the gas station.

beat the pants off (someone)

– to beat someone severely, to win against someone easily in a race or a game

Our team beat the pants off the other team very easily.

beat the rap

– to escape conviction and punishment (for a crime)

The man beat the rap and did not have to go to jail.

beat the tar out of (someone)

– to beat someone severely

The older boy beat the tar out of the young boy in the schoolyard..

beat up (someone) or beat (someone) up

– to harm someone by hitting or beating them

The young boy beat up one of the older students.

Beat’s me.

– I don’t know.

Q) “What time does the meeting start?”
A) “Beat’s me.”

become engaged to (someone)

– to make a plan to marry someone

My friend plans to become engaged to her boyfriend next month.

become engaged with (someone)

– to make a plan to marry someone

The girl has recently become engaged with her boyfriend.

become of (someone or something)

– to happen to someone or something

I do not know what became of my pencil.
I do not know what became of my friend from high school.

becoming on/to (someone)

– to make someone look good

The red dress looked very becoming on my girlfriend.

(no) bed of roses

– a situation that is happy and comfortable (usually used in the negative)

The new job was very difficult and certainly no bed of roses.

bee in one`s bonnet

– to have an idea that continually occupies one`s thoughts.

My friend has a bee in her bonnet about going to Europe next year.

beef up (something) or beef (something) up

– to make something stronger

The police beefed up the security around the convention site.

before long

– soon

I had to wait a few minutes but before long my friend arrived.

beg the question

– to invite the question that follows

Buying the expensive car begged the question of where the man got the money.

beg to differ with (someone)

– to politely disagree with someone

“I’m sorry, but I beg to differ with you about what happened.”

begin to see the light

– to begin to understand (something)

My sister began to see the light and decided to leave her boyfriend.

behind closed doors

– in secret

The meeting to settle the dispute took place behind closed doors.

behind in (something)

– to be late with something

I was behind in my studies and stayed home all weekend to study.
The man is always behind in his reading.

behind on (something)

– to be late with bill payments

I was behind on my credit card payments.

behind schedule

– unable to do something by the time on the schedule, after the time on a schedule

The trains were behind schedule because of the accident early in the morning.

behind (someone`s) back

– without someone`s knowledge, secretly

The man is very angry because his friend borrowed his car behind his back.

behind the eight ball

– in a difficult situation from which you probably cannot escape

The man was now behind the eight ball and could not pay his loan.

behind the scenes

– privately, out of public view

The diplomats worked behind the scenes to try and solve the crisis.

behind the times

– old-fashioned

My aunt is behind the times.

belabor the point

– to spend too much time on a point of discussion

I tried not to belabor the point but I needed to explain things in detail for everyone to understand.

below average

– to be lower or worse than average

The amount of rain was below average during the winter.

believe in (someone)

– to trust or have confidence in someone

The manager believed in his staff and trusted them completely.

believe in (something)

– to favor something, to support something, to think that something is true

The man does not believe in flying saucers.

belt (something) out or belt out (something)

– to sing or play a song with lots of energy

The man stood up and belted out several songs.

bend (someone’s) ear

– to talk to someone (sometimes annoying them)

I did not want to go into my supervisor’s office and have him bend my ear for a long time.

bend over backwards (to do something)

– to try very hard to do something

“I will bend over backwards to help you get a job in this company.”

bent on doing (something)

– to be determined to do something

The young boys are bent on buying the old car to fix it up.

beside oneself (with something)

– to be very upset or excited about something

The boy was beside himself with joy after winning the contest.

beside the point

– to have no connection with what is being discussed

“What you are saying is beside the point. We are not talking about salary now.”

best bib and tucker

– one’s best clothing

The man wore his best bib and tucker to the meeting.

best part of (something)

– to be almost all of something

We spent the best part of a day trying to fix the lamp.

bet on the wrong horse

– to misjudge a coming event, to misread the future

I think that my uncle bet on the wrong horse by investing all of his money in the new stock.

bet one’s bottom dollar

– to be very certain about something

I would bet my bottom dollar that my friend will be late for the movie.

better off

– to be in a better situation than before

My friend would be better off if he sold his old car and bought a new one.

better part of (something)

– to be almost all of something

I spent the better part of an hour trying to fix the vacuum cleaner.

better safe than sorry

– it is better to be careful than to take risks

Better safe than sorry so I always leave early when I go to the airport.

better to be a live dog than a dead lion

– it is better to be a live coward than a dead hero (this is from Ecclesiastes in the Bible)

It is better to be a live dog than a dead lion so I walked away and did not try and fight with the man.

better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion

– it is better to be the leader of a small group than a follower of a bigger one

The young athlete always played for his hometown team rather than moving to a larger city with a bigger team. He thought that it was better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion.

between a rock and a hard place

– to be in a very difficult position

We are between a rock and a hard place in our effort to solve the problem.

between jobs

– to be unemployed

My friend is between jobs again. He lost his job last week.

between the devil and the deep blue sea

– to be in a very difficult position

The mayor was between the devil and the deep blue sea when he tried to keep the two groups happy.

betwixt and between

– to be undecided, to be between two decisions

We were betwixt and between in our effort to decide which school to send our child to.

beyond a shadow of a doubt

– to be completely without doubt

Everyone believes beyond a shadow of a doubt that the man stole the money.

beyond measure

– to be more than can be measured

The man’s love for his city is beyond measure.

beyond one’s depth

– to be beyond one’s ability, to be in deep water

The apartment manager was beyond her depth in her effort to manage the apartment.
The swimmer was in deep water and very much beyond her depth.

beyond one’s means

– to be more than one can afford

The expensive boat was beyond our means.

beyond the pale

– to be outside the bounds of acceptable behavior

What they are doing is unacceptable and beyond the pale.

beyond words

– to be more than one can say

The mother’s love for her new baby is beyond words.

bid adieu to (someone or something)

– to say good-bye to someone or something

Everybody gathered to bid adieu to the popular supervisor.

bide one`s time

– to patiently wait for an opportunity to occur.

The vice-president is biding his time as he waits to become president of the company.

big fish in a small pond

– an important person in a less important place

The woman was a big fish in a small pond when she moved to the small town.

big frog in a small pond

– an important person in a less important place

The manager is a big frog in a small pond in his company.

big of (someone)

– to be generous of someone

It was big of the man to share his house with the other people.

big shot

– an important and powerful person

The man is a big shot in the oil and gas industry.

bird in hand is worth two in the bush

– something that you already have is better than something that you might get

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush so we decided to sell the car rather than wait to get a higher price.

birds and the bees

– information about human sex and reproduction

The father tried to tell his son about the birds and the bees.

birds-eye view

– a view from high above, a brief look at something

We had a birds-eye view of the playing field from our seats high up in the stadium.

birthday suit

– a completely naked body

The little boy was running down the street in his birthday suit.

bit by bit

– gradually

I am finishing my school project bit by bit.

bite off more than one can chew

– to try to do more than one is able to do

I bit off more than I can chew by agreeing to do another assignment.

bite one’s nails

– to be nervous or anxious about something

The children were biting their nails as they waited for the test results.

bite one’s tongue

– to try not to say something that you really want to say

I had to bite my tongue and not tell our boss what happened.

bite (someone’s) head off

– to speak angrily to someone

I am afraid to speak to my teacher because she may bite my head off.

bite the bullet

– to endure a difficult situation, to face a difficult situation bravely

I have decided to bite the bullet and begin to study for my Master`s degree.

bite the dust

– to be killed, to break down, to be defeated

I think that my car will bite the dust soon.

bite the hand that feeds you

– to harm or oppose someone who does good things for you

The man is biting the hand that feeds him when he criticizes and fights against his boss.

bitter pill to swallow

– an unpleasant fact that one must accept

Losing the election was a bitter pill to swallow for the candidate.

black-and-blue

– bruised, showing signs of having been physically harmed

My arm was black-and-blue after falling down the stairs.

black out

– to faint or pass out

The young woman blacked out while she was standing in front of the computer.

black sheep of the family

– the worst member of a family

The boy was the black sheep of the family and nobody liked him.

blast off

– to shoot into the sky (used for a rocket)

The rocket blasted off at noon.

blaze a trail (in something)

– to create or develop a new area of study

The football player blazed a trail for the other players to follow with his unique skills.

bleep (something) out

– to replace a word in a radio or television broadcast with a musical tone (often used to bleep out a bad word)

The remarks of the coach were bleeped out during the television interview.

blessing in disguise

– something that turns out to be good but which seemed to be bad at first

The elderly woman was in very much pain and it was a blessing in disguise when she quietly passed away.

blind leading the blind

– someone who does not understand something but tries to explain it to others

It is like the blind leading the blind to watch the man try to explain how to operate the new computer.

blood on the carpet

– much trouble

There was much blood on the carpet after the meeting.

blood, sweat and tears

– signs of great personal effort

We put much blood, sweat and tears into building the house.

blow a deal

– to ruin a business deal with someone

We are working hard so that we do not blow the deal with our new customer.

blow a fuse

– to burn out a fuse, to become angry

We replaced the old fuse when our house blew a fuse last night.
My friend blew a fuse when I told him that I had lost his book

blow-by-blow account/description

– a description or account that provides much detail

I gave my friend a blow-by-blow account of the game last night.

blow one`s own horn

– to boast or praise oneself

My friend is always blowing his own horn and is very annoying at times.

blow one’s stack

– to become very angry

The customer blew his stack when they refused to exchange his purchase at the store.

blow one’s top

– to become very angry

The supervisor blew his top when the employee was late.

blow out (something) or blow (something) out

– to extinguish something by blowing

The little boy tried to blow out the candles.

blow over

– to die down, to calm down

The problem with the lost receipts has blown over and everybody is happy again.

blow (someone) away or blow away (someone)

– to overcome someone emotionally

The performance was so wonderful that it blew me away.

blow (someone’s) cover

– to reveal someone’s true identity or purpose

The police blew the secret detectives cover by mistake.

blow (someone’s) mind

– to overwhelm or excite someone

The beauty of the African wildlife parks blew my mind during our holiday.

blow (someone or something) off

– to avoid someone, to not attend something

We blew off the chance to go to the general meeting.

blow (something)

– to fail at something, to ruin something

I think that I blew the final math exam last week.

blow (something) out of all proportion

– to make a bigger issue about something than it really is

The problem was very small but the manager blew it out of all proportion.

blow the lid off (something)

– to reveal something (often a wrongdoing)

The government investigation blew the lid off the illegal activities.

blow the whistle (on someone)

– to report someone’s wrongdoing to the police or other authorities

The employee blew the whistle on the illegal practices of the company.

blow to smithereens

– to explode into tiny pieces

The gas tanker was blown to smithereens during the accident.

blow up (at someone)

– to get angry, to lose one’s temper

The passenger who was waiting in the line blew up at the ticket agent.

blow up in (someone’s) face

– to be ruined while one is working on it (a plan or project etc.), to explode suddenly

The secret plan blew up in our face when we discovered that everybody already knew about it.
The bomb blew up in the man’s face.

blow up (something) or blow (something) up

– to inflate something, to fill something with air

The little boy likes to blow up balloons.

blow up (something) or blow (something) up

– to explode, to destroy something by explosion

The truck blew up after the accident.

blue blood

– someone from a noble or wealthy or aristocratic family

The art exhibition attracted many of the blue bloods in the town.

blue in the face

– to be exhausted and speechless

You can argue with him until you are blue in the face but you will never change his mind.

board a plane

– to enter a plane

I would like to board the plane early.

bog down

– to slow down and make no progress, to become stuck (a bog is an area of land that is wet and muddy – like a swamp)

I quickly became bogged down with all of the work that I had to do.

boggle (someone’s) mind

– to confuse or overwhelm someone

The amount of waste in the city program really boggles my mind.

boil down to (something)

– to reduce something to its essential or main part

The reason that we could not go on a holiday boiled down to the fact that we had no money.

bolt down (something) or bolt (something) down

– to eat something very quickly

The man bolted down his food before going back to work.

bone of contention

– a reason for a quarrel, the subject of a fight

The family cottage was a major bone of contention after the father died.

bone up (on something)

– to study or review (something)

I decided to take a course at night to bone up on my Spanish.

book a hotel/flight/room

– to reserve a hotel/flight/room in advance

We booked a room for our holiday.
I plan to book a flight this weekend.

book (someone)

– to register someone as a suspect for a crime

The police booked the man for dangerous driving.

boot out (someone) or boot (someone) out

– to make someone leave, to get rid of someone

The boy was booted out of high school for smoking on the school grounds.

bore (someone) stiff

– to bore someone very much

Most of the guests at the wedding were bored stiff with the long speeches.

bore (someone) to death

– to bore someone very much

The movie bored me to death.

bore the pants off (someone)

– to frighten someone very badly

The new teacher bored the pants off the students.

born out of wedlock

– to be born to an unmarried mother

The young mother had two children who were born out of wedlock.

born with a silver spoon in one`s mouth

– to be born rich, to have more than everything that you need since birth

The boy was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has never worked in his life.

boss (someone) around or boss around (someone)

– to keep telling someone what to do, to be bossy toward someone

The little girl always wants to boss her friends around.

bottle (something) up or bottle up (something)

– to hold one’s feelings inside of you

My aunt bottles up her feelings and has much stress because of it.

bottom line

– the result or final outcome of something, the last figure on a financial statement

Although I do not want to buy a new car, the bottom line is that I need a new car for work.

bottom out

– to reach the lowest point

The stock market bottomed out at its lowest level in many months.

bounce (something) off (someone)

– to test someone’s reaction to an idea

I bounced my idea for a new restaurant off my friend.

bound and determined

– to be determined

The man’s wife is bound and determined to visit her sister this summer.

bound for (somewhere)

– to be on the way somewhere or planning to go somewhere

My friend was bound for college when I last met him.

bound to (do something)

– to be certain to do something

“If you ask your father, he is bound to help you with your problem.”

bow and scrape

– to be very humble and subservient

I was forced to bow and scrape to get some money from my parents.

bow out

– to quit, to resign from something

I wanted to join the tour but at the last minute I had to bow out.

bowl (someone) over or bowl over (someone)

– to surprise or overwhelm someone

The salesman bowled me over with his sales talk.

brand-new

– absolutely new

I was finally able to buy a brand-new car.

break a habit

– to end a habit

My sister worked very hard to break her habit of eating too much chocolate.

break a law

– to fail to obey a law

The young man broke the law when he drove his friend’s car without a proper license.

break a record

– to set a new record that is better than an old one

The team tried hard to break a record during the last week of the season.

break camp

– to close down a campsite and move

We decided to break camp and begin on our journey.

break down

– to lose control of one’s emotions, to have a nervous collapse

The woman broke down while the lawyer questioned her at the trial.

break down

– to stop working because of mechanical failure

The car broke down on the quiet road.

break down (something) or break (something) down

– to analyze something

We must break down these figures for further study.

break down (something) or break (something) down

– to divide into parts, to separate into simpler substances

We tried to break down the sentence for further study.
The sugar began to break down soon after it was swallowed.

break down (something) or break (something) down

– to explain something to someone in simple terms

My teacher broke down the scientific theory so that the class could understand it easily.

break even

– to have income equal to expenses

After only a few months our business began to break even and we started to make money.

break fresh/new ground

– to deal with something in a new way

The researchers were able to break fresh ground in their search for a cancer cure.

break ground for (something)

– to start digging the foundation for a building

The hospital will break ground for the new building soon.

break in (someone or something) or break (someone or something) in

– to train someone to do a job, to make something the right size or feel comfortable by wearing or using it

It took me a long time to break in my new shoes.

break into (someone’s) conversation

– to interrupt someone who is speaking

The woman was very loud and kept breaking into our conversation.

break into tears

– to start crying suddenly

The woman broke into tears when she heard the bad news.

break loose (from someone or something)

– to get away from someone or something that is holding you

The horse broke loose from the rope and began running from the farm.

break new ground

– to enter a new area of discovery or knowledge

The researchers are breaking new ground in their research.

break off (something) or break (something) off

– to discontinue something, to terminate something

The two countries broke off their relations.

break one’s word

– to not keep one’s promise

The young child promised his parents that he would not break his word.

break out

– to become widespread suddenly

An influenza epidemic broke out last month.
A fire broke out in the old building.

break out in a cold sweat

– to perspire from fever or anxiety

I usually break out in a cold sweat when I have to make a speech.

break out in (something)

– to erupt in a rash or pimples

The girl usually breaks out in a rash when she eats shrimp.

break out of (something)

– to escape from something

Several prisoners tried to break out of prison last month.

break (someone’s) fall

– to lessen the impact of a falling person

The baby fell out of the window but the bushes broke her fall.

break (something) to (someone)

– to tell bad news to someone

The man broke the bad news to his sister.

break the back of (something)

– to reduce the power of something

The company tried very hard to break the back of the union.

break the bank

– to win all the money at a casino gambling table

The man did not break the bank but he did win a lot of money.

break the ice

– to do or say something to ease tensions between people, to relax and start a conversation in a formal situation

Everybody at the party was very quiet until the host helped to break the ice.

break the news (to someone)

– to tell someone some information first

The manager will break the news about the job transfers tomorrow.

break through

– to make sudden progress by pushing through an obstacle

The university students worked very hard to break through with their research.

break up (something) or break (something) up

– to separate, to divide into groups or pieces, to put an end to something

Nobody wanted to break up their groups.
We usually break up into small groups during our class.

break up (with someone)

– to end a relationship with someone

My niece broke up with her boyfriend last June.

breath of fresh air

– a fresh and imaginative approach to something

The new coach was a breath of fresh air compared to the previous coach.

breathe down (someone’s) neck

– to watch someone closely, to try to make someone hurry

The supervisor is always breathing down the necks of the employees.

breathe easy

– to relax after a stressful situation

I could breathe easy after I found my lost wallet.

breathe one’s last

– to die

The woman breathed her last several days after she became ill.

brew a plot

– to make a plot

The generals in the small country were brewing a plot to take control of the government.

bright and early

– very early

The woman likes to get up bright and early every morning.

bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

– to be eager and cheerful

Everybody was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when we started out on the trip.

brimming with (something)

– to be full of some kind of happy behavior

The children were brimming with energy on the morning of the circus.

bring about (something) or bring (something) about

– to make something happen

The company president worked hard to bring about change in his company.

bring around (someone) or bring (someone) around

– to bring someone for a visit

I asked my friend to bring his new girlfriend around for a visit.

bring back (something) or bring (something) back

– to return an item that you bought or borrowed (used when you are speaking at the place where something is bought or borrowed)

My friend plans to bring back my book tomorrow.

bring down the house

– to cause much laughter in an audience

The comedian brought down the house with his jokes.

bring home the bacon

– to work and earn money for your family

My friend works hard to bring home the bacon for his family.

bring home the importance of (something) to (someone)

– to make someone understand that something is important

I tried to bring home the importance of the new company policy.

bring out (something) or bring (something) out

– to make something available, to introduce something to the public

The woman brought out some snacks for the children.
The computer company brought out a new computer last month.

bring some new facts to light

– to discover some new facts about something, to make some new facts about something known

The lawyer was able to bring some new facts to light in the trial of the killer.

bring (someone) around

– to bring someone back to consciousness

The medical staff helped to bring the man around after the accident.

bring (someone) around (to something)

– to change someones’s mind about something, to convince or persuade someone about something

My friend did not agree with me at the start but I was able to bring him around later.

bring (someone) into line

– to persuade or force someone to agree with you

The woman was able to bring the disagreeing members of the committee into line.

bring (someone) to

– to wake someone up, to bring someone to consciousness

The doctor tried to bring the small boy to after he fell into the swimming pool.

bring (someone) up to speed

– to update someone with new information about something

The manager brought everybody up to speed about the new equipment.

bring (something) home to (someone) or bring home (something) to (someone) or bring home to (someone) (something)

– to cause someone to realize the truth or importance of something

The dry conditions are bringing home to the farmers the importance of saving water.

bring (something) into focus

– to make something clear

The lawyer helped to bring the problem into focus.

bring (something) into question

– to raise a question about something

The actions of our supervisor bring into question his interest in the case.

bring (something) into the open

– to reveal something, to expose something

The marriage counselor helped to bring the couple’s problems into the open.

bring (something) off or bring off (something)

– to make something happen

The students tried hard to bring off a successful dance to collect money for their club.

bring (something) on or bring on (something)

– to cause something to develop rapidly

I do not know what brought on my friend’s anger but I will avoid him until he calms down.

bring (something) to a head

– to cause something to reach a point where a decision or some action is necessary

The accident will bring the issue of safety to a head.

bring (something) to (someone’s) attention

– to make someone aware of something

There was a mistake in the textbook which the student brought to the teacher’s attention.

bring (something) to the table

– to have something to offer during a negotiation

We were able to bring a new offer to the table during the negotiations.

bring to mind

– to recall something

The woman’s acting brought to mind some of the great actresses of the past.

bring up (a child)

– to raise or care for a child

My sister is bringing up three children.

bring up (a subject)

– to introduce a subject into a discussion

They brought up the subject of taxes at the meeting but nobody in the government wanted to talk about it.

bring up the rear

– to be at the end of the line or in the last position

The youngest runner was bringing up the rear in the school relay race.

broad in the beam

– to have wide hips or large buttocks

The woman in the store was rather broad in the beam.

broke

– to have no money

I spent all of my money on my holiday and I am now broke.

brush up on (something)

– to review something that one has already learned

I am going to brush up on my English before my trip to New York.

a brush with death

– a near-death experience

The man had a brush with death in the car accident.

a brush with the law

– a brief encounter or experience with the police because of a crime

The man had a brush with the law when he was young but now he is totally honest.

buck for (something)

– to aim or try for a goal

The soldier was bucking for a promotion.

buckle down and do (something)

– to make a big effort to do something, to give one’s complete attention or effort to do something

I have to buckle down and study or I will fail the exam.

bug (someone)

– to irritate or bother someone

The boy’s rude behavior is beginning to bug me.

build a fire under (someone)

– to stimulate someone to do something

We keep trying to build a fire under our friend but he refuses to study or look for a job.

build castles in the air/in Spain

– to make plans that are impossible

The girl is always building castles in the air and none of her plans have any chance to succeed.

build (something) to order

– to make something especially for a customer

The family wanted to build their kitchen table to order.

build up (someone or something) or build (someone or something) up

– to make someone or something bigger or stronger, to promote someone or something

The woman is always trying to build up her boss.

build up to (something)

– to lead up to something

Things were building up to be a very serious problem.

bull in a china shop

– someone who is clumsy and upsets other people or plans

Our boss was like a bull in a china shop when I saw him at the meeting last week.

bump into (someone)

– to meet someone by chance

I bumped into my friend at the department store yesterday.

bump off (someone) or bump (someone) off

– to kill someone

The criminal gang bumped off the leader of the other gang.

bump (someone) up

– to upgrade someone’s flight or room or car rental etc.

They bumped me up to first class for my flight.

bundle of nerves

– a very nervous or anxious person

The woman is a bundle of nerves after looking after her three children.

bundle up

– to put on warm clothes, to dress warmly

We bundled up and went for a walk in the park.

burn a hole in one`s pocket

– to stimulate someone to spend money quickly

I got paid today and the money is burning a hole in my pocket.

burn down

– to burn completely (usually used for buildings)

My neighbor`s house burned down last night.

burn one`s bridges behind one

– to do something that makes going back impossible

The man burned his bridges behind him and is unable to work in the same industry again.

burn (oneself) out

– to become very tired and almost sick from doing something for a long time or from working too hard

After working long hours for many months the woman finally burned herself out.

burn out

– to stop working because of overuse

The light bulb is burned out.

burn (someone) in effigy

– to burn a dummy that represents a hated person

The crowd of people burned the Prime Minister in effigy.

burn the candle at both ends

– to work or play too hard without enough rest

The man has been burning the candle at both ends with his work and he is now sick.

burn the midnight oil

– to study until very late at night

We burned the midnight oil for three nights in order to study for the exam.

burn up

– to burn completely (usually things and not buildings)

The uniforms burned up in the fire.

burst at the seams

– to explode with pride or laughter, to be full to the breaking point

The train was bursting at the seams as it entered the station.
I was bursting at the seams from laughter.

burst in on (someone or something)

– to enter a room and interrupt someone or some activity

The woman burst in on the meeting just as it started.

burst into flames

– to catch fire suddenly

The curtains burst into flames after touching the stove.

burst into tears

– to begin to cry suddenly

The parents burst into tears of happiness when their daughter graduated.

burst onto the scene

– to appear suddenly in some location

The young singer burst onto the scene when she was a teenager.

burst out

– to leave quickly, to depart quickly

The girl became angry and burst out of the room.

burst out crying/laughing/singing

– to begin to cry/laugh/sing suddenly

We burst out laughing when the man screamed after seeing the mouse.
The little boy burst out crying in the restaurant.

burst with joy

– to be full of happiness and feel that you will explode or burst

My grandmother burst with joy when she saw her new baby granddaughter.

burst with pride

– to be full of pride and ready to burst

The girl’s parents were bursting with pride at the graduation ceremony.

bury one`s head in the sand

– to refuse to see something, to know something unpleasant but not want to deal with it

The man always buries his head in the sand and never wants to hear about family problems.

bury the hatchet

– to stop arguing and become friendly with someone

My friend buried the hatchet with his brother and they are now friendly again.

business as usual

– to continue as usual

It was business as usual for the small store after the fire destroyed the shopping area.

busman’s holiday

– a holiday where you spend your time doing the same thing that you would do if you were working

The doctor felt that he was on a busman’s holiday when everyone at the meeting began to ask him about their medical problems.

busy as a beaver

– to be very busy

I have been as busy as a beaver all morning.

but for (someone or something)

– if it were not for someone or something

The man would have easily got the new job, but for the fact that he was not honest about his previous experience.

butt heads with (someone)

– to quarrel or argue about something with someone

The man often butts heads with his boss during a meeting.

butt in (on someone or something)

– to interrupt someone or something

I do not like that woman because she always butts in on our conversation while we are talking.

butter (someone) up or butter up (someone)

– to flatter someone

The man is trying to butter up his boss so that he can leave early on Friday.

button one’s lip

– to become quiet, to not speak

I decided to button my lip rather than give my opinion of our supervisor.

buy a lemon

– to buy something that is worthless or does not work well

The used car that I bought is not very good. I think that I bought a lemon.

buy a pig in a poke

– to buy something without seeing it or knowing anything about it

It is like buying a pig in a poke if you buy that car without first inspecting it.

buy into (something)

– to accept and agree with something

I do not buy into my friend’s idea about starting a business.

buy off (someone) or buy (someone) off

– to bribe someone

The union tried to buy off the politician.

buy out (someone or something) or buy (someone or something) out

– to purchase a business or a company, to buy all of someone’s shares in a company

The large company wants to buy out the small company.
The company plans to buy out the president.

buy (something) for a song

– to buy something cheaply

We were able to buy the boat for a song.

buy (something) on credit

– to buy something now and pay for it later

We decided to buy the computer on credit because we did not have much money.

buy (something) sight unseen

– to buy something without seeing it first

My sister made a big mistake when she bought the used car sight unseen.

buy up (something) or buy (something) up

– to buy the total amount of something

The customers bought up all of the products.

buyer’s market

– a situation where there are more sellers than buyers of a product or service and the buyers have an advantage

It was a buyer’s market and the price of fruit was very cheap.

by a hair

– just barely, by a very small amount

I only passed the exam by a hair.

by a mile

– by a great distance

The runner won the race by a mile.

by a whisker

– just barely, by a very small amount

The marathon runner won the race by a whisker.

by all accounts

– from all reports, from what everyone is saying

By all accounts, the new manager is a very good person.

by all appearances

– apparently, according to what one sees

By all appearances, the small car was the cause of the accident.

by all means

– certainly, yes

“By all means, I will come to dinner next week.”

by and by

– before long, after some time has passed

By and by, all of the family moved back to the city.

by and large

– generally, on the whole

By and large, we had a good meeting even though it was very short.

by any means

– by any way possible

We need to find a computer by any means.

by chance

– without planning

By chance, I saw my father’s friend in the supermarket.

by far

– greatly, by a great margin

The man is by far the smartest person in his company.

by fits and starts

– irregularly, with many stops and starts

By fits and starts the company was able to begin business.

by heart

– by memorizing

The boy knows the poem by heart.

by hook or by crook

– in any way necessary

My sister wants to go to Italy next year by hook or by crook.

by leaps and bounds

– rapidly, by large movements forward

The construction of the new airport is progressing by leaps and bounds.

by means of

– with the use of something

We were able to enter the old building by means of a small window in the back.

by no means

– absolutely not

By no means will I permit my child to play the new video game.

by the book

– according to the rules

The police officer does everything by the book when he arrests someone.

by the day

– one day at a time

My father was very sick but now he is getting better by the day.

by the dozen

– twelve at a time

We usually buy bottles of water by the dozen.

by the handful

– in measurements equal to a handful

We were eating fresh blueberries by the handful.

by the hour

– after each hour, one hour at a time

We had to pay for our parking space by the hour.

by the month

– one month at a time

The rent for the apartment is paid by the month.

by the nape of the neck

– by the back of the neck

The dog liked to be picked up by the nape of the neck.

by the same token

– similarly, for the same reason

“By the same token, I do not want to go downtown again today.”

by the seat of one’s pants

– by luck and with very little skill

I was able to complete the course by the seat of my pants.

by the skin of one`s teeth

– by a very small margin, barely

I arrived at the train station and was on time by the skin of my teeth.

by the sweat of one`s brow

– by hard work

The farmer managed to make enough money to buy the farm by the sweat of his brow.

by the way

– incidentally

“By the way, could you please bring your computer tomorrow.”

by the week

– one week at a time

We rented the car by the week.

by the year

– one year at a time

The contract for the garbage pickup is renewed by the year.

by virtue of (something)

– because of something

My father got his new job by virtue of his volunteer work in the community.

by way of (something)

– as a substitute for something, as a form or example of something

By way of introduction the man gave everyone his business card.

by way of (something or somewhere)

– passing through or by a place

We drove to the airport by way of the small town.

by word of mouth

– by speaking rather than writing

We learned about the party by word of mouth.

 

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