Santa Monica College Reading Lab


American English Idioms

Choose an idiom from the list below or from the dictionary that is linked to the pictures. Write its meaning along with a description of a real life experience that demonstrates the meaning of the idiom. If an idiom that is on the list is not in the dictionary, choose any idiom that appeals to you.

For definitions,  click on the picture of the  GoEnglish Idiom Dictionary.                            

Once there, click on the word that begins your idiom. Then, click on the idiom wording for a detailed description and examples of the idiom.



  1. About face

  2. Add fuel to the fire

  3. Against the clock

  4. Against the grain

  5. All bark and no bite

  6. All in the same boat

  7. Apple of your eye

  8. An arm and a leg

  9. An axe to grind

  10. Around the block

  11. At the drop of a hat

  12. At wit's end


  1. Barking up the wrong tree

  2. Beat a dead horse

  3. Best of both worlds

  4. Better late than never

  5. Bite off more than you can chew

  6. Bite your tongue

  7. Blessings in disguise

  8. Break the tie

  9. Burn your bridges

  10. Bury the hatchet


  1. Cat got your tongue?

  2. A chip on your shoulder

  3. Cold turkey

  4. Come alive

  5. Come hell or high water

  6. Cut the mustard


  1. Dead heat

  2. Different strokes for different folks

  3. Dime a dozen

  4. Dog-eat-dog

  5. Down to the wire

  6. Dressed to kill

  7. Dressed to the teeth

  8. Drive someone up the wall

  9. Duck soup


  1. Early bird catches the worm

  2. Everything but the kitchen sink


  1. Fair and fair alike

  2. Find your feet

  3. Fixed in your ways

  4. Flash in the pan

  5. From rags to riches


  1. Get away clean

  2. Get in someone's hair

  3. Get off someone's back

  4. Get the ax

  5. Get the ball rolling

  6. Get the jump on someone

  7. Get up on the wrong side of the bed

  8. Give it one's best shot

  9. Give someone the slip

  10. Go for broke.

  11. Go fly a kite.

  12. Go to bat for someone

  13. Go to the dogs


  1. Have no idea

  2. Have the world by the tail

  3. Head over heals

  4. Hit the ceiling

  5. Hit the hay

  6. Horse around

  7. Horse of a different color

  8. Hot under the collar


  1. Icing on the cake

  2. In and out

  3. In the dog house

  4. In the heat of the moment

  5. In over your head

  6. In the hole


  1. Jump down someone's throat

  2. Jump the gun


  1. Keep an eye on him.

  2. Keep under one's hat

  3. Kick the bucket

  4. Kick up one's heels

  5. Knock someone's socks off


  1. Labor of love

  2. Lend me your ear

  3. Lost his head

  4. Lose one's shirt


  1. Make a splash

  2. Make ends meet

  3. Mind one's p's and q's

  4. Money talks.


  1. Not have a leg to stand on


  1. On ice

  2. On one's last legs

  3. On the line

  4. Out of the woods

  5. Out on a limb


  1. Paint the town red

  2. Pay through the nose

  3. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

  4. Play it by ear

  5. Pull someone's leg

  6. Pull strings

  7. Put one's money where one's mouth is



  1. Raise a stink


  1. Scratch someone's back

  2. Sell someone down the river

  3. Sell someone short

  4. Shake a leg.

  5. Shape up or ship out.

  6. Shoot off one's mouth

  7. Shoot the breeze

  8. Sitting pretty

  9. Smell a rat

  10. Snow job

  11. Spill the beans

  12. Spread oneself too thin

  13. Stick out one's neck

  14. Stick to one's guns

  15. Straight from the horse's mouth

  16. String someone along


  1. Take the bull by the horns

  2. Talk through one's hat

  3. Tongue-in-cheek

  4. Toot one's own horn

  5. Turn someone off


  1. Up one's sleeve


  1. Wet blanket