Tackle an issue

If you tackle an issue or problem, you resolve or deal with it.

Take a leaf out of someone’s book

If you take a leaf out of someone’s book, you copy something they do because it will help you.

Take a straw poll

If you take a straw poll, you sound a number of people out to see their opinions on an issue or topic.

Take by the scruff of the neck

If you take something by the scruff on the neck, you take complete control of it.

Take it on the chin

If you take something on the chin, something bad happens to you and you take it directly without fuss.

Take someone down a peg

If someone is taken down a peg (or taken down a peg or two), they lose status in the eyes of others because of something they have done wrong or badly.

Take someone for a ride

If you are taken for a ride, you are deceived by someone.

Take someone to the woodshed

If someone is taken to the woodshed, they are punished for something they have done.

Take the biscuit

(UK) If something takes the biscuit, it is the absolute limit.

Take the bull by its horns

Taking a bull by its horns would be the most direct but also the most dangerous way to try to compete with such an animal. When we use the phrase in everyday talk, we mean that the person we are talking about tackles their problems directly and is not worried about any risks involved.

Take the chair

If you take the chair, your become the chairman or chairwoman of a committee, etc.

Take the plunge

If you take the plunge, you decide to do something or commit yourself even though you know there is an element of risk involved.

Take the rough with the smooth

People say that you have to take the rough with the smooth, meaning that you have to be prepared to accept the disadvantages as well of the advantages of something.

Take your breath away Top

If something takes your breath away, it astonishes or surprises you.

Take your eye off the ball

If someone takes their eye off the ball, they don’t concentrate on something important that they should be looking at.

Take your eye off the ball

If you take your eye off the ball, you don’t pay attention to something when you should be and miss something important.

Take your hat off to somebody

If you take your hat off to someone, you acknowledge that they have done something exceptional or otherwise deserve your respect.

Taken as read

If something can be taken as read, it is so definite that it’s not necessary to talk about it.

Talk a blue streak

(USA) If someone talks a blue streak, they speak quickly and at length. (‚Talk up a blue streak’ is also used.)

Talk nineteen to the dozen

If someone talks very quickly, they talk nineteen to the dozen.

Talk of the town

When everybody is talking about particular people and events, they are he talk of the town.

Talk out of the back of your head

If someone is talking out of the back of their head, they are talking rubbish.

Talk out of your hat

If someone is talking out of their hat, they’re talking utter rubbish, especially if compounded with total ignorance of the subject on which they are pontificating.

Talk shop

If you talk shop, you talk about work matters, especially if you do this outside work.

Talk the hind legs off a donkey

A person who is excessively or extremely talkative can talk the hind legs off a donkey.

Tall order

Something that is likely to be hard to achieve or fulfil is a tall order.

Tall story

A tall story is one that is untrue and unbelievable.

Tally ho!

(UK) This is an exclamation used for encouragement before doing something difficult or dangerous.

Taste blood

If someone has tasted blood, they have achieved something and are encouraged to think that victory is within their grasp.

Taste of your own medicine

If you give someone a taste of their own medicine, you do something bad to someone that they have done to you to teach them a lesson.

Teach your grandmother to suck eggs Top

When people say ‚don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs’, they mean that people shouldn’t try to teach someone who has experience or is an expert in that area.

Tear your hair out

If someone is tearing their hair out, they are extremely worried or agitated about something.

Tears before bedtime

(UK) This idiom is used when something seems certain to go wrong or cause trouble.

Teething problems

The problems that a project has when it’s starting are the teething problems.

Ten a penny

(UK) If something is ten a penny, it is very common. ("Two a penny" is also used.)

Test the waters

If you test the waters, or test the water, you experiment to see how successful or acceptable something is before implementing it.

That is the way the cookie crumbles

"That’s the way the cookie crumbles" means that things don’t always turn out the way we want.

That’s all she wrote

(USA) This idiom is used to show that something has ended and there is nothing more to say about something.

The ball’s in your court

If somebody says this to you, they mean that it’s up to you to decide or take the next step.

The be all and end all

The phrase ‚The be all and end all’ means that a something is the final, or ultimate outcome or result of a situation or event.

The common weal

If something is done for the common weal, it is done in the interests and for the benefit of the majority or the general public.

The grass is always greener

This idiom means that what other people have or do looks preferable to our life. The complete phrase is ‚The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’.

The more the merrier

The more the merrier means that the greater the quantity or the bigger the number of something, the happier the speaker will be.

The penny dropped

When the penny drops, someone belatedly understands something that everyone else has long since understood.

The plot thickens

When the plot thickens, a situation become more complicated and difficult.

The sands of time Top

The sands of time is an idiom meaning that time runs out either through something reaching an end or through a person’s death. It comes from the sand used in hourglasses, an ancient way of measuring time.

The short straw

If you take the short straw, you lose a selection process, which means that you have to do something unpleasant.

The world and his wife

If the world and his wife were somewhere, then huge numbers of people were present.

Their bark is worse than their bite

If someone’s bark is worse than their bite, they get angry and shout and make threats, but don’t actually do anything.

There are many ways to skin a cat

This is an expression meaning there are many different ways of doing the same thing.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch

This idiom means that you don’t get things for free, so if something appears to be free, there’s a catch and you’ll have to pay in some way.

There’s the rub

The meaning of this idiom is ‚that’s the problem’.

Thick and fast

If things are happening thick and fast, they are happening so fast they seemed to be joined together.

Thick as thieves

If people are thick as thieves, they are very close friends who have no secrets from each other.


If a person is thick-skinned, they are not affected by criticism.

Thin as a rake

A rake is a garden tool with a long, thin, wooden handle, so someone very thin is thin as a rake.

Thin blue line

(UK) The thin blue line is a term for the police, suggesting that they stand between an ordered society and potential chaos. (Police uniforms are blue.)

Thin end of the wedge

The thin end of the wedge is something small and seemingly unimportant that will lead to something much bigger and more serious.

Thin line

If there’s a thin line between things, it’s hard to distinguish them- there’s a thin line between love and hate.


If somebody is thin-skinned, they are very sensitive to any sort of criticism.


A person who is thin-skinned is very sensitive to things like criticism.

Think outside the box

If you think outside the box, you think in an imaginative and creative way.

Think the world of

To hold something or someone in very high esteem. To love or admire immensely.

Third degree

If someone is given the third degree, they are put under a great deal of pressure and intimidation to force them to tell the truth about something.

Third rail

The third rail of something is dangerous to alter or change. Originally, the third rail is the one carrying the electricity for a train.

Thorn in your side

A thorn in your side is someone or something that causes trouble or makes life difficult for you.

Those who live by the sword die by the sword

This means that violent people will be treated violently themselves.

Three sheets to the wind Top

If someone is three sheets to the wind, they are drunk.

Thrilled to bits

If you are thrilled to bits, you are extremely pleased or excited about something.

Through the ceiling

If prices go through the ceiling, they rise very quickly.

Through the floor

If prices go, or fall, through the floor, they fall very quickly.

Through thick and thin

If someone supports you through thick and thin, they support you during good times and bad.

Throw a sickie

If you pretend to be ill to take a day off work or school, you throw a sickie.

Throw caution to the wind

When people throw caution to the wind, they take a great risk.

Throw down the gauntlet

Throw down the gauntlet is to issue a challenge to somebody.

Throw in the towel

If you throw in the towel, you admit that you are defeated or cannot do something.

Throw someone to the wolves

If someone is thrown to the wolves, they are abandoned and have to face trouble without any support.

Throw the baby out with the bath water

If you get rid of useful things when discarding inessential things, you throw the baby out with the bath water.

Throw the book at someone

If you throw the book at someone, you punish them as severely as possible.

Throw your hat in the ring

If someone throws their hat in the ring, they announce that they want to take part in a competition or contest. ‚Toss your hat in the ring’ is an alternative.

Throw your weight around

If someone throws their weight around, they use their authority or force of personality to get what they want in the face of opposition.

Thumb your nose at

If you thumb your nose at something, you reject it or scorn it.

Thumbs down & thumbs up

If something gets the thumbs up, it gets approval, while the thumbs down means disapproval.

Tickled pink

If you are very pleased about something, you are tickled pink.

Tie the knot Top

When people tie the knot, they get married.

Tight rein

If things or people are kept on a tight rein, they are given very little freedom or controlled carefully.

Tight ship

If you run a tight ship, you control something strictly and don’t allow people much freedom of action.

Tighten your belt

If you have to tighten your belt, you have to economise.

Till the pips squeak

If someone will do something till the pips squeak, they will do it to the limit, even though it will make other people suffer.

Till you’re blue in the face

If you do something till you’re blue in the face, you do it repeatedly without achieving the desired result until you’re incredibly frustrated.

Tilt at windmills

A person who tilts at windmills, tries to do things that will never work in practice.

Time and again

If something happens time and again, it happens repeatedly. (‚Time and time again’ is also used.)

Time and tide wait for no man

This is used as a way of suggestion that people should act without delay.

Time of your life

If you’re having the time of your life, you are enjoying yourself very much indeed.

Time-honoured practice

A time-honoured practice is a traditional way of doing something that has become almost universally accepted as the most appropriate or suitable way.

Tip of the iceberg

The tip of the iceberg is the part of a problem that can be seen, with far more serious problems lying underneath.

Tipping point

Small changes may have little effect until they build up to critical mass, then the next small change may suddenly change everything. this is the tipping point.

Tired and emotional

(UK) This idiom is a euphemism used to mean ‚drunk’, especially when talking about politicians.

Tit for tat

If someone responds to an insult by being rude back, it’s tit for tat- repaying something negative the same way.

To a fault

If something does something to a fault, they do it excessively. So someone who is generous to a fault is too generous.

To a man Top

If a group of people does, believes, thinks, etc, something to a man, then they all do it.

To a T

If something is done to a T, it is done perfectly.

To err is human, to forgive divine

This idiom is used when someone has done something wrong, suggesting that they should be forgiven.

To little avail

If something is to little avail, it means that, despite great efforts, something ended in failure, but taking comfort from the knowledge that nothing else could have been done to avert or avoid the result.

To the end of time

To the end of time is an extravagant way of saying ‚forever’.

Toe the line

If someone toes the line, they follow and respect the rules and regulations.

Tomorrow’s another day

This means that things might turn out better or that there might be another opportunity in the future.

Tongue in cheek

If something is tongue in cheek, it isn’t serious or meant to be taken seriously.

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians

When there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians, there are two many managers and not enough workers to work efficiently.

Too many cooks spoil the broth

This means that where there are too many people trying to do something, they make a mess of it.

Toot you own horn

If someone toot their own horn, they like to boast about their achievements.

Top dog

The most important or influential person is the top dog.

Top notch

If something is top notch, it’s excellent, of the highest quality or standard.

Touch base

If you touch base with someone, you contact them.

Touch wood

This idiom is used to wish for good luck. (‚Knock on wood’ is also used.)


If something is touch-and-go, it is very uncertain; if someone is ill and may well die, then it is touch-and-go.

Tough as old boots

Something or someone that is as tough as old boots is strong and resilient.

Tough cookie

A tough cookie is a person who will do everything necessary to achieve what they want.

Tough nut to crack

If something is a tough nut to crack, it is difficult to find the answer or solution. When used about a person, it means that it is difficult to get them to do or allow what you want. ‚Hard nut to crack’ is an alternative.

Tough row to hoe

(USA) A tough row to hoe is a situation that is difficult to handle. (‚A hard row to hoe’ is an alternative form.)

Tread the boards

When someone treads the boards, they perform on stage in a theatre.

Tread water

If someone is treading water, they are making no progress.

Tried and tested

If a method has been tried and tested, it is known to work or be effective because it has been successfully used long enough to be trusted.

True blue Top

A person who is true blue is loyal and dependable, someone who can be relied on in all circumstances.

Trump card

A trump card is a resource or strategy that is held back for use at a crucial time when it will beat rivals or opponents.

Truth will out

Truth will out means that, given time, the facts of a case will emerge no matter how people might try to conceal them.

Turf war

If people or organisations are fighting for control of something, it is a turf war.

Turn a blind eye

When people turn a blind eye, they deliberately ignore something, especially if people are doing something wrong.

Turn a deaf ear

If someone turns a deaf ear to you, they don’t listen to you.

Turn a new leaf

If someone turns a new leaf, they change their behaviour and stop doing wrong or bad things.

Turn the other cheek

If you turn the other cheek, you are humble and do not retaliate or get outwardly angry when someone offends or hurts you, in fact, you give them the opportunity to re-offend instead and compound their unpleasantness.

Turn the tables

If circumstances change completely, giving an advantage to those who seemed to be losing, the tables are turned.

Turn up like a bad penny

If someone turns up like a bad penny, they go somewhere where they are not wanted.

Turn your nose up

If someone turns their nose up at something, they reject it or look odwn on it because they don’t think it is good enough for them.

Twenty-four seven

Twenty-four seven or 24/7 means all the time, coming from 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Twinkling of an eye

If something happens in the twinkling of an eye, it happens very quickly.

Twist someone’s arm

If you twist someone’s arm, you put pressure on them to try to make them do what you want them to do.

Two cents

If you add or throw in your two cents, you give your opinion on an issue.

Two left feet

A person with two left feet can’t dance.


Someone who is two-faced will say one thing to your face and another when you’re not there.


If a government changes its position radically on an issue, especially when they have promised not to do so, this is a U-turn.

Ugly duckling

An ugly duckling is a child who shows little promise, but who develops later into a real talent or beauty.

Uncharted waters Top

If you’re in uncharted waters, you are in a situation that is unfamiliar to you, that you have no experience of and don’t know what might happen. (‚Unchartered waters’ is an incorrect form that is a common mistake.)

Uncle Sam

(USA) Uncle Sam is the government of the USA.

Under a cloud

If someone is suspected of having done something wrong, they are under a cloud.

Under a flag of convenience

If a ship sails under a flag of convenience, it is registered in a country where taxes, etc, are lower than in the country it comes from, so if someone does something under a flag of convenience, they attempt to avoid regulations and taxes by a similar means.

Under false colours

If someone does something under false colours/colors, they pretend to be something they are not in order to deceive people so that they can succeed.

Under fire

If someone is being attacked and cricitised heavily, they are under fire.

Under the radar

If something slips under the radar, it isn’t detected or noticed.

Under the table

Bribes or illegal payments are often described as money under the table.

Under the weather

If you are feeling a bit ill, sad or lack energy, you are under the weather.

Under the wire

(USA) If a person does something under the wire, they do it at the last possible moment.

Under your breath

If you say something under your breath, you whisper or say it very quietly.

Under your nose

If something happens right in front of you, especially if it is surprising or audacious, it happens under your nose.

Under your skin

If someone gets under your skin, they really annoy you.

Unwavering loyalty

Unwavering loyalty does not question or doubt the person or issue and supports them completely.

Up for grabs

If something is up for grabs, it is available and whoever is first or is successful will get it.

Up in the air

If a matter is up in the air, no decision has been made and there is uncertainty about it.

Up sticks

(UK) If you up sticks, you leave somewhere, usually permanently and without warning- he upped sticks and went to work abroad.

Up the ante Top

If you up the ante, you increase the importance or value of something, especially where there’s an element of risk as the term comes from gambling, where it means to increase the stake (the amount of money bet).

Up the creek

If someone or something is up the creek, they are in real trouble. ‚Up the creek without a paddle’ is an alternative, and ‚up shit creek (without a paddle)’ is a ruder form.

Up the duff

(UK) If a woman is up the duff, she’s pregnant.

Up the spout

(UK) If something has gone up the spout, it has gone wrong or been ruined.

Up the stick

(UK) If a woman is up the stick, she’s pregnant.

Up the wall

If someone goes up the wall, they get very angry.

Up to scratch

If something doesn’t come up to scratch, it doesn’t meet the standard required or expected.

Up to snuff

If something isn’t up to snuff, it doesn’t meet the standard expected.

Up to speed

If you bring someone up to speed, you update them on something.

Up to the neck

If someone’s in something up to the neck, they are very involved in it, especially when it’s something wrong.

Up to your neck

If someone is very involved in something, they are up to their neck in it, especially if it is something bad or immoral.

Upper crust

The upper crust are the upper classes and the establishment.

Upper hand

If you have the upper hand, you have the advantage.

Upset the apple cart

If you upset the apple cart, you cause trouble and upset people.

Vale of tears

This vale of tears is the world and the suffering that life brings.

Velvet glove

This idiom is used to describe a person who appears gentle, but is determined and inflexible underneath.

Vent your spleen

If someone vents their spleen, they release all their anger about something.

Vicar of Bray

(UK) A person who changes their beliefs and principles to stay popular with people above them is a Vicar of Bray

Vicious circle

A vicious circle is a sequence of events that make each other worse- someone drinks because they are unhappy at work, then loses their job… ‚Vicious cycle’ is also used.

Virgin territory Top

If something is virgin territory, it hasn’t been explored before.


If you do a volte-face on something, you make a sudden and complete change in your stance or position over an issue.

Waiting in the wings

If someone is waiting in the wings, or in the wings, they are in the background, but nearby, ready to act on short notice.

Wake-up call

A wake-up call is a warning of a threat or a challenge, especially when it means that people will have to change their behaviour to meet it.

Walk a fine line

If you have to walk a fine line, you have to be very careful not to annoy or anger people or groups that are competing. (‚Walk a thin line’ is an alternative.)

Walk a mile in my shoes

This idiom means that you should try to understand someone before criticizing them.

Walk a tightrope

If you walk a tightrope, you have to be very careful not to annoy or anger people who could become enemies.

Walk on eggshells

If you have to walk on eggshells when with someone, you have to be very careful because they get angry or offended very easily.


A woman politician given an unimportant government position so that the government can pretend it takes women seriously is a wallflower.

War of words

A war of words is a bitter argument between people or organisations, etc.

Warm the cockles of your heart

If something warms the cockles of your heart, it makes you feel happy.


If someone is on the warpath, they are very angry about something and will do anything to get things sorted the way they want.

Warts and all

If you like someone warts and all, you like them with all their faults.

Wash your hands of something

If you wash your hands of something, you disassociate yourself and accept no responsibility for what will happen.

Waste not, want not

If you don’t waste things, you are less likely to end up lacking.

Watch your six

(USA) This idiom means that you should look behind you for dangers coming that you can’t see.

Watching paint dry

If something is like watching paint dry, it is really boring.

Water off a duck’s back

If criticism or something similar is like water off a duck’s back to somebody, they aren’t affected by it in the slightest.

Water over the dam

(USA) If something has happened and cannot be changed, it is water over the dam.

Water under the bridge

If something belongs to the past and isn’t important or troubling any more, it is water under the bridge.

Watering hole Top

(UK) A watering hole is a pub.

Wear sackcloth and ashes

If someone displays their grief or contrition publicly, they wear sackcloth and ashes.

Weather a storm

If you weather a storm, you get through a crisis or hard times.

Weight off your shoulders

If something is a weight off your shoulders, you have relieved yourself of a burden, normally a something that has been troubling you or worrying you.

Wet behind the ears

Someone who is wet behind the ears is either very young or inexperienced.

Wet blanket

A wet blanket is someone who tries to spoil other people’s fun.

Wet your whistle

If you are thirsty and have an alcoholic drink, you wet your whistle. "Whet your whistle" is also used.

What can you expect from a hog but a grunt?

(USA) This means that you can’t expect people to behave in a way that is not in their character- a ‚hog’ is a ‚pig’, so an unrefined person can’t be expected to behave in a refined way.

What goes around comes around

This saying means that of people do bad things to other people, bad things will happen to them.

What will be will be

The expression what will be will be is used to describe the notion that fate will decide the outcome of a course of events, even if action is taken to try to alter it.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander

This idiom means that the sexes should be treated the same way and not be subjected to different standards.
What’s your take on that?

Whatever floats your boat

When people say this, they mean that you should do whatever makes you happy.

Wheels fall off

When the wheels fall off something, it goes wrong or fails. (‚Wheels come off’ is an alternative.)

When in Rome, do as the Romans

This idiom means that when you are visiting a different place or culture, you should try to follow their customs and practices.

When it rains, it pours

This idiom means that when things go wrong, a lot of things go wrong at the same time.

Where the rubber meets the road

(USA) Where the rubber meets the road is the most important point for something, the moment of truth. An athlete can train all day, but the race is where the rubber meets the road and they’ll know how good they really are.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

This idiom means that if people really want to do something, they will manage to find a way of doing it.

Whet your appetite Top

If something whets your appetite, it interests you and makes you want more of it.

Which came first the chicken or the egg?

This idiomatic expression is used when it is not clear who or what caused something.

While the cat’s away, the mouse will play

People whose behaviour is strictly controlled go over the top when the authority is not around, which is why most teenagers have parties when their parents have gone on holiday. The parents are the scary authority figures, but the cat’s away and the kids are the mice partying and enjoying their freedom.

Whistle for it

If someone says that you can whistle for something, they are determined to ensure that you don’t get it.

Whistle-stop tour

A whistle-stop tour is when someone visits a number of places quickly, not stopping for long.

Whistling Dixie

(USA) If someone is whistling Dixie, they talk about things in a more positive way than the reality.

Whistling in the dark

If someone is whistling in the dark, they believe in a positive result, even though everybody else is sure it will not happen.

White as a sheet

A bad shock can make somebody go as white as a sheet.

White as snow

If something or someone is as white as snow, they are perfect or completely uncorrupted and honest.

White elephant

A white elephant is an expensive burden; something that costs far too much money to run, like the Millennium Dome in the UK.

White lie

If you tell a white lie, you lie in order not to hurt someone’s feelings.

Who wears the pants?

(USA) The person who wears the pants in a relationship is the dominant person who controls things.

Who wears the trousers?

(UK) The person who wears the trousers in a relationship is the dominant person who controls things.

Whole ball of wax

(USA) The whole ball of wax is everything.

Whole new ball game

If something’s a whole new ball game, it is completely new or different.

Whole shebang

The whole shebang includes every aspect of something.

Wide berth

If you give someone a wide berth, you keep yourself well away from them because they are dangerous.

Wide of the mark Top

If something is wide of the mark, it is inaccurate or incorrect.

Wild goose chase

A wild goose chase is a waste of time- time spent trying to do something unsuccessfully.

Will never fly

If an idea or project, etc, will never fly, it has no chance of succeeding.


Something that deceives by its appearance is a will-o’-the-wisp; it looks good, but turns out to be a disappointment.

Win by a nose

If somebody wins by a nose, they only just beat the others.

Window dressing

If something is done to pretend to be dealing with an issue or problem, rather than actually dealing with it, it is window dressing.

Wing and a prayer

If you do something on a wing and a prayer, you try to do something and hope you’ll succeed even though you have very little chance of success.

Winner takes all

If everything goes to the winner, as in an election, the winner takes all.

Wipe the floor with

(UK) If you wipe the floor with someone, you destroy the arguments or defeat them easily.

Wipe the smile of someone’s face

If you wipe the smile of someone’s face, you do something to make someone feel less pleased with themselves.

With a heavy hand

If someone does something with a heavy hand, they do it in a strict way, exerting a lot of control.

With child

(UK) If a woman’s with child, she’s pregnant.

With flying colours (colors)

If you pass something with flying colours (colors), you pass easily, with a very high mark or grade.

Wither on the vine

If something withers on the vine, it fails to get the intended result, doesn’t come to fruition.

Wolf in sheep’s clothing

A wolf in sheep’s clothing is something dangerous that looks quite safe and innocent.

Wood for the trees

(UK) If someone can’t see the wood for the trees, they get so caught up in small details that they fail to understand the bigger picture.

Word of mouth

If something becomes known by word of mouth, it is because people are talking about it, not through publicity, etc.

Word of the law

The word of the law means that the law is interpreted in an absolutely literal way which goes against the ideas that the lawmakers had wished to implement.

Words fail me

If words fail you, you can’t find the words to express what you are trying to say.

Work like a dog

If you work like a dog, you work very hard.

Work your fingers to the bone

If you work your fingers to the bone, you work extremely hard on something.

Work your socks off

If you work your socks off, you work very hard.

Work your socks off

If you work your socks off, you work very hard indeed.

World at your feet

If everything is going well and the future looks full of opportunity, you have the world at your feet.

World is your oyster

When the world is your oyster, you are getting everything you want from life.

Worm information Top

If you worm information out of somebody, you persuade them to tell you something they wanted to keep from you.

Worm’s eye view

A worm’s eye view of something is the view from below, either physically or socially.

Worse for wear

If something’s worse for wear, it has been used for a long time and, consequently, isn’t in very good condition. A person who’s worse for wear is drunk or high on drugs and looking rough.

Worse things happen at sea

This idiomatic expression is used as a way of telling someone not to worry so much about their problems.

Worth your salt

Someone who is worth their salt deserves respect.

Wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole

(UK) If you wouldn’t touch something with a bargepole, you would not consider being involved under any circumstances. (In American English, people say they wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole)

Wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole

(USA) If you wouldn’t touch something with a ten-foot pole, you would not consider being involved under any circumstances. (In British English, people say they wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole)

Wrap yourself in the flag

If someone wraps themselves in the flag, they pretend to be doing something for patriotic reasons or out of loyalty, but their real motives are selfish. (‚Drape yourself in the flag’ is an alternative form of this idiom)

Wrench in the works

(USA) If someone puts or throws a wrench, or monkey wrench, in the works, they ruin a plan. In British English, ‚spanner’ is used instead of ‚wrench’.

Writ large

If something is writ large, it is emphasised or highlighted.

Writing on the wall

If the writing’s on the wall for something, it is doomed to fail.

Written all over your face

If someone has done something wrong or secret, but cannot hide it in their expression, it is written all over their face.

Wrong end of the stick

If someone has got the wrong end of the stick, they have misunderstood what someone has said to them.

Wrong foot

If you start something on the wrong foot, you start badly.

X factor

The dangers for people in the military that civilians do not face, for which they receive payment, are known as the X factor.

X marks the spot

This is used to say where something is located or hidden.


If something is x-rated, it is not suitable for children.

Yah boo sucks

Yah boo & yah boo sucks can be used to show that you have no sympathy with someone.

Yellow press

The yellow press is a term for the popular and sensationalist newspapers.

Yellow streak

If someone has a yellow streak, they are cowardly about something.


A yellow-bellied person is a coward.


If you have a yen to do something, you have a desire to do it.


Someone who always agrees with people in authority is a yes-man.

Yesterday’s man or Yesterday’s woman

Someone, especially a politician or celebrity, whose career is over or on the decline is yesterday’s man or woman.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink

This idiom means you can offer something to someone, like good advice, but you cannot make them take it.

You can say that again

If you want to agree strongly with what someone has said, you can say ‚You can say that again’ as a way of doing so.

You can’t have cake and the topping, too

(USA) This idiom means that you can’t have everything the way you want it, especially if your desires are contradictory.

You can’t have your cake and eat it

This idiom means that you can’t have things both ways. For example, you can’t have very low taxes and a high standard of state care.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

If something isn’t very good to start with, you can’t do much to improve it.

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs

This idiom means that in order to achieve something or make progress, there are often losers in the process.

You could have knocked me down with a feather

This idiom is used to mean that the person was very shocked or surprised.

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours

This idiom means that if you do something for me, I’ll return the favour.

You what?

This is a very colloquial way of expressing surprise or disbelief at something you have heard. It can also be used to ask someone to say something again.

You’ve made your bed- you’ll have to lie in it

This means that someone will have to live with the consequences of their own actions.

Young blood

Young people with new ideas and fresh approaches are young blood.

Young Turk

A Young Turk is a young person who is rebellious and difficult to control in a company, team or organisation.

Your name is mud

If someone’s name is mud, then they have a bad reputation.

Your sins will find you out

This idiom means that things you do wrong will become known.

Zero hour

The time when something important is to begin is zero hour.

Zero tolerance Top

If the police have a zero tolerance policy, they will not overlook any crime, no matter how small or trivial.

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