The Meaning of Idiom: What It Is and How To Use It

What’s an idiom? This article will give you examples of idioms and teach you how to use them. Read on for information on the meaning of idioms.

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What is an idiom? You probably use idioms every day and don’t even know it! In this article, you’ll familiarize yourself with all kinds of idioms. 

First, we’ll start with the definition and origin of the word idiom. Then, you’ll learn about examples of idioms and translations of idioms. So, keep reading to learn all about idioms!

What Does Idiom Mean?

According to Dictionary, an idiom is a figure of speech in which a figurative meaning of a phrase is used instead of a literal one. Since the meaning of the group of words is not decipherable from the words’ actual meanings, they are established through colloquial usage. The pronunciation of idiom is ˈɪdiəm.

Idioms are often phrasal verbs or nouns, but idioms can also be other parts of speech, like adverbs. Many times, idioms are phrases made up of individual words. The adjective form of the word idiom is idiomatical. Idioms are very common in everyday speech.

What Are Examples of Idioms?

The easiest way to learn idioms is to look at examples of idioms. You probably use many idioms in everyday speech that you might not even realize are idioms! 

Take a glance at these example sentences using common idioms from Your Dictionary. Next to the idiom, you will learn what its meaning is!

  • Break a leg // good luck
  • Once in a blue moon // once every so often.
  • Raining cats and dogs // raining very hard
  • Wolf in sheep’s clothing // A person who pretends to be nice but is not
  • Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched //Don’t get ahead of yourself
  • Stir a hornet’s nest // To cause a lot of trouble
  • To make a mountain out of a molehill // To make something unimportant into a big deal
  • I’m all ears // You have my full attention
  • Have second thoughts // Have doubts
  • Different kettle of fish // Something completely different
  • As easy as ABC // Something is very easy
  • A gray area // Something unclear
  • Put a bug in his ear // Make a suggestion
  • Add fuel to the fire // To add more to an existing problem
  • Birdbrain // Someone who is not very smart
  • Get your act together // Behave properly
  • Mumbo jumbo // To call something total nonsense
  • When pigs fly // To say something is impossible
  • I’ve got your number // To say that someone can’t fool you
  • Snail’s pace // To move extremely slow
  • Fill in the blanks // Provide more information
  • To let the cat out of the bag// To tell a secret
  • Play it by ear // Improvise
  • Get a kick out of something // Really enjoy or like something
  • Second to none // The best
  • Hold your horses // Wait a minute
  • Top banana // First place, in charge
  • Doggy bag // A bag to take home leftovers from a restaurant
  • Out of the blue // With no warning
  • Bee in her bonnet // She is upset
  • Have mixed feelings // Be unsure of how you feel
  • Horse of a different color // Something that is quite different, a separate issue
  • Call it a day // Time to quit

What Is the Etymology of the Word Idiom?

The word idiom entered the English language in the mid-1500s. This term comes from the French idiome, Latin idiōma and Greek idíōma. These terms come from the Greek stem idioûsthai

When you learn the origin of certain words and what their root words mean, it can make it easier to decipher the meaning of those words. Can you think of any root words that you know?

What Are Translations of Idiom?

Often, idioms are specific to different languages. Many American English idioms will only make sense to English speakers, so it is important not to use English idioms in other languages or to non-native speakers. 

Do you know any idioms in other languages, and do they make sense in English? Take a glance at this list of translations of the word idiom from Nice Translator to expand your knowledge.

  • Russian: идиома
  • Hindi: मुहावरा
  • Hungarian: idióma
  • Spanish: idioma
  • Chinese (PRC): 成语
  • Gujarati: રૂ id
  • Filipino: idyoma
  • Latvian: idioma
  • Amharic: ፈሊጥ
  • Indonesian: idiom
  • Lithuanian: idioma
  • Italian: idioma
  • Catalan: idioma
  • Swahili: idiom
  • Urdu: محاورے
  • Greek: ιδίωμα
  • Turkish: deyim
  • Slovenian: idiom
  • Polish: idiom
  • Czech: idiom
  • Croatian: idiom
  • Vietnamese: cách diễn đạt
  • Korean: 관용구
  • Arabic: لغة. مثل
  • German: Idiom
  • Portuguese (Portugal): idioma
  • Ukrainian: ідіома
  • Thai: สำนวน
  • Danish: idiom
  • Romanian: idiom
  • Bulgarian: Идиом
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 成語
  • Hebrew: נִיב
  • Portuguese (Brazil): idioma
  • French: idiome
  • Marathi: आयडिओम
  • Estonian: idioom
  • Welsh: idiomau
  • Malayalam: ഭാഷാശൈലി
  • Kannada: ಈಜಿಯಂ
  • Slovak: idiom
  • Tamil: முட்டாள்தனம்
  • Japanese: 熟語
  • Swedish: idiom
  • Telugu: ఇడియమ్
  • Basque: esapide
  • Bengali: idiom
  • Serbian: идиом
  • Dutch: idioom
  • Finnish: idiomi
  • Norwegian: form


The definition of an idiom is a type of language that uses the figurative meaning of a phrase rather than a literal one. Idioms are used in everyday life, as well as in poetry and literature. 

Do you have a favorite idiom or an idiom that you use all the time? With this article, learning the use of idioms and idiomatic expressions is a piece of cake!


  1. Idiom Definition & Meaning | 
  2. 68 Examples of Idioms for Kids | Your Dictionary
  3. Idiom | Nice Translator