Idioms and Colourful Words

Words are, of course,
The most powerful drug used by mankind.
Rudyard Kipling

Everyday Idioms: Main List
Everyday Idioms: Useful Short List
Idioms with Proper Names
• Idioms with people's names
• Idioms with the names of countries, cities, streets and nationalities
• Idioms with the names of months and days
• Idioms from mythology and ancient history

Idioms of Comparison
• Part 1 Idioms with
• Miscellaneous idioms with as
• Part 2 Idioms with like
• List 1
• List 2
Books of idioms and other useful resources

An idiom is a set expression, the meaning of which is different from the literal meanings of its components. Idioms present a great variety of structures and combinations that are mostly unchangeable and often not logical and may not follow basic rules of grammar.

Everyday Idioms: Main List  

Idioms, with definitions or synonyms



above board - honest, open

His business dealings are above board.

честный, открытый

ad lib - improvise, interpolate

The actor forgot his lines and ad libbed.


after all - in spite of the situation, nevertheless

I knew it! After all, I was right! He returned to his hometown after all.

все-таки, все же, в конце концов

against the grain - contrary to someone's feelings, principles

His plan goes against the grain with her because she doesn't like cheating.

против чьих-то чувств, принципов, желаний

all along - all the time

I knew about his little secret all along.

все время, всегда

all ears - eager to listen

I am all ears.

весь внимание

all of a sudden - suddenly

All of a sudden, he refused to pay.


all the same - no difference

If it's all the same to you, let's start at two.

все равно, без разницы

all thumbs - clumsy

He can't fix anything, he's all thumbs.

неуклюжий, неумелый

apple of one's eye - very dear, precious

Her son is the apple of her eye.

очень дорогой, драгоценный, зеница ока

apple of discord - subject of envy or quarrel

This question is an apple of discord in our family.

яблоко раздора

as a rule - usually

As a rule, we offer a 5% discount.

как правило

as far as I know - if I have correct information

As far as I know, he stayed home all day.

насколько я знаю

as far as someone / something is concerned - concerning, in reference to

As far as I am concerned, both the book and the movie are good. As far as your report is concerned, we'll discuss it tomorrow.

что касается кого-то, чего-то

as for / as to - concerning, in reference to

As for me, you can always rely on my support. As for your report, we'll discuss it tomorrow.

что касается, относительно

as well - also, too

He knows math and physics as well.

тоже, также

at all - (not) in the smallest degree

He doesn't know French at all. I don't like it at all.

совсем (не)

at first sight - from the first glance, at once, at first glance

It was love at first sight. At first sight, it seems easy to do.

с первого взгляда, сразу же, на первый взгляд

at odds with - in disagreement

He is at odds with everyone!

не в ладах

at random - without order

He chose those places at random.

наугад, без плана

at this point - at this time

At this point, we can't turn back.

на данном этапе

backseat driver - a passenger who tells you how to drive

His wife is a backseat driver always telling him how to drive.

пассажир, который указывает, как вести машину

ballpark figure - approximate estimate (in figures)

I can give you only a ballpark figure at this time.

приблизительное оценка (в цифрах)

bark up the wrong tree - make a false assumption or wrong choice

The detective was sure he got a suspect, but he was barking up the wrong tree.

напасть на ложный след

be about to do something - be close to doing something, be on the verge of doing something

I was about to leave when you called. I was about to open the door but something stopped me.

быть готовым сделать что-то, собираться сделать что-то

be all in - be extremely tired

I'm all in, I'd better go to bed now.

очень устать


be back on one's feet - healthy again or better financially

He's back on his feet after a long period of debt and unemployment.

встать на ноги после трудного времени

be behind the times - be old-fashioned, outdated

Some of the managers here are behind the times, their methods are not modern.

отстать от жизни, быть несовременным, устаревшим

be beside oneself - be very upset, nervous, worried

She was beside herself with worry / with grief.

быть вне себя от волнения, горя

be beside the point - be off the point

What I said to him privately is beside the point.

не по существу, не относится к делу

be better off - be in a better situation (financially)

He'll be better off with a new job.

в лучшей ситуации (материально)

be broke - have no money at all, be penniless, bankrupt

I spent all my money, I'm broke.

быть без гроша, быть совсем без денег, разориться

be cut out to be someone; be cut out for it - have the ability to do something

He is cut out to be a leader. She isn't cut out to be a surgeon. She isn't cut out for it.

быть созданным для какой-то работы

be hard on something / someone - treat roughly

My son is hard on shoes, they don't last long with him. Life was pretty hard on Tom.

не беречь что-то, кого-то

be high on one's list - be one of the most important things

A new car is high on my list of priorities. A new TV is not high on my list.

быть в начале списка нужных вещей

be in charge of something - be responsible for

He is in charge of marketing.

быть ответственным за что-то

be in good health - be healthy

She is in good health.

иметь хорошее здоровье

be in poor health - not healthy

She is in poor health.

иметь слабое здоровье

be in good shape - be physically fit

He exercises regularly and is in good shape.

быть в хорошей форме, быть в порядке

be in bad shape - be in bad state

The patient is in bad shape. His affairs are in bad shape.

быть в плохом состоянии, не в порядке, не в форме

be in the red - be in debt

Our sales were in the red last year.

быть убыточным

be on one's way

I'm on my way.

быть уже в пути: Я уже еду.

be on the point of something, be at the point of something - be on the verge of something, be close to doing something

He was on the point of death two years ago. She was on the point of telling him the truth, but his words stopped her.

быть на грани чего-то, на грани сделать что-то

be out of date - be outdated

This information is out of date.


be out of sorts - in bad temper

Leave him alone, he's out of sorts today.

быть не в духе

be pressed for time, for money - not have enough time, money

I'm pressed for time now. We are pressed for money at the moment.

не хватать времени, денег и др.

be to blame - be responsible for a mistake, for something wrong

Who is to blame for this awful mistake? Tom is to blame for this mix-up.

винить за ошибку, неправильные действия

be touch and go - be uncertain of the result

He was very sick, and for some time it was touch and go, but he is better now.

на грани; неясно, куда повернется

be up and around / about - able to be out of bed after an illness

He was sick for a month, but now he is up and around.

встать на ноги, поправиться

be up to one's ears in (work) - very busy

I'm up to my ears in work.

по уши в (делах, работе)

beat around the bush / beat about the bush - avoid giving a clear or definite answer

Stop beating around the bush! Get to the point!

ходить вокруг да около

beat one's brains out - make great efforts, often unsuccessfully

He beats his brains out at work, but his boss doesn't even notice his hard work.

очень стараться (часто безуспешно)

before long - soon

He will understand before long what a terrible mistake he has made.

скоро, в скором времени

big shot - important person

He is a big shot around here.

важная персона

bite off more than one can chew - try to do more than one can

I couldn't handle two jobs and family. I really bit off more than I could chew.

переоценить свои силы, пытаться сделать непосильное

bite the bullet - to accept painful but necessary action

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do what's necessary to do.

стиснуть зубы и терпеть мучительное, но необходимое

bite the dust - die, be killed, suffer defeat

Many of them bit the dust in that war.

умереть, быть убитым, потерпеть поражение

bite the hand that feeds one - to repay kindness with evil

She is so ungrateful! She is biting the hand that feeds her!

отплатить злом на добро

black sheep - a good-for-nothing member of the family

Their second son is the black sheep of the family, he is good for nothing.

паршивая овца

blind date - a meeting of a man and woman arranged by friends

She refuses to go on a blind date again because she had bad experience.

свидание вслепую

blow it - lose the chance

He understood that he blew it.

потерять шанс

bottom line - main result / factor

The bottom line is, I don't have enough money.

итог, основной момент

break someone's heart - hurt deeply

The news of her death broke his heart.

разбить чье-то сердце, сильно огорчить

break the ice - overcome shyness in making the first step

The party was dull until someone broke the ice with a joke and we all laughed.

преодолеть неловкость при первом знакомстве

break the news - tell new important facts

CNN is breaking the news right now.

сообщить важную новость

bring home the bacon - earn the living for the family

He works very hard at several places to bring home the bacon.

обеспечивать семью

by all means - definitely, certainly

Do you need my help? - By all means.

обязательно, конечно

by heart - by memorizing

Learn this poem by heart for tomorrow.


by hook or by crook - by any possible means

She will get what she wants by hook or by crook.

любым путем, любым способом

by oneself (by myself, by himself, etc.) - alone, on one's own

She spent the evening by herself. He did it all by himself.

один, в одиночку, сам, сам по себе

by the way - incidentally

By the way, I found the book that you recommended.


call a halt to something - terminate, stop something

His father called a halt to his activity.

остановить, прекратить что-то

call a spade a spade - use plain, direct words

He always tells the truth and calls a spade a spade.

называть вещи своими именами

call it a day - consider work finished for the day

We've been working for 10 straight hours. Let's call it a day.

считать работу законченной на этот день

call the shots - to give orders, to be in control of something

He calls the shots in this company.

распоряжаться, иметь контроль над чем-то

call the tune - to give orders, to be the most important person in some situation

Since he was paying for it, he called the tune.

распоряжаться, быть главным в какой-то ситуации

carry weight - be important

His advice always carries weight here.

иметь вес

castles in the air - daydreaming about success

Instead of working hard, he spends time building castles in the air.

(строить) воздушные замки

catch someone's eye - attract attention

This picture caught my eye.

привлечь чье-то внимание

catch one's breath - stop and rest

I can't run, I need to catch my breath.

перевести дух, остановиться и передохнуть

catch someone off guard - catch someone unprepared

He caught me off guard with his question.

застать врасплох

catch someone red-handed - find someone in the act of doing wrong

The manager caught the boy red-handed when he was stealing cigarettes.

поймать за руку, когда делал плохое

close call - a narrow escape, a bad thing that almost happened

The speeding car almost hit the man. That was really a close call.

что-то плохое, что едва не случилось

come to one's senses - act normally and reasonably again

He finally came to his senses, began to work hard and passed his exams.

взяться за ум, прийти в себя

come true - become reality

His dream came true when he met Kate.


cross one's mind - occur to someone

It never crossed my mind that he might be ill.

прийти в голову

cut corners - 1. to take a short-cut; 2. to limit one's spending

He ran fast, cutting corners where he could. I have to cut corners this week.

1. срезать углы, идти напрямик; 2. ограничить расходы

do one's best - try very hard

I did my best to help him in his work.

сделать все, что смог

do one's bit - do what's needed

I'll do my bit, you can count on me.

сделать положенное

do someone good - be good for someone

Fresh air and exercise will do you good

принести пользу

do something behind someone's back - do (harmful) things secretively

I hate people who do things behind my back. He did it behind my back again.

делать (вредные) дела за спиной

down to earth - practical

He's quiet, sensible and down to earth.

практичный, приземленный

draw the line - set a limit, impose a restriction

I draw the line at spending so much on food. He drew the line for her at $100 a day.

установить границу дозволенного, положить предел

duty calls - must fulfill obligations

He said, "Duty calls" and left for work.

долг обязывает

easier said than done

It's easier said than done, but I'll try to do it.

легче сказать, чем сделать

eat one's words - take back one's words

He had to eat his words after her report.

брать назад свои слова

even so - nevertheless, but

I work hard. Even so, I like my job.

тем не менее

every now and then - occasionally

Every now and then I visit my old aunt.

время от времени

every other - every second one

She washes her hair every other day.

через один

fall in love (with) - begin to love

Tom fell in love with Sue at first sight.

влюбиться (в)

fall out of love - stop loving

They soon fell out of love and divorced.


false alarm - untrue signal, untrue rumor

I heard that he quit his job, but it was a false alarm.

ложная тревога

a far cry from something - very different, almost opposite, not as good

His second book wasn't bad, but it was a far cry from his first book.

далеко не такой хороший, как

feel it in one's bones - expect something bad to happen

I feel it in my bones that something terrible is going to happen.

нутром чувствовать, что случится плохое

feel like doing something - want to do, be inclined to do something

I feel like going for a walk. I don't feel like working now, I'm tired.

быть склонным к занятию чем-то

few and far between - rare, scarce

Her visits are few and far between.

слишком редкие


Miscellaneous idioms with AS

as chance would have it - по воле случая; как нарочно; случилось так, что;

as luck would have it - 1. к счастью; 2. к несчастью, как нарочно, как назло;

as if by magic - как будто по волшебству;

as if rooted to the spot - как вкопанный, как прирос к месту;

as if touched with a magic wand - как по мановению волшебной палочки;

as the crow flies - по прямой, по самому краткому пути;

as the saying goes - как говорится

have as many faces as the moon - быть изменчивым, неискренним, лживым;

have as many lives as a cat - быть живучим как кошка, быть очень живучим;

sob as though one's heart would break - рыдать как будто сердце разорвется;



Part 2. Idioms with LIKE

List 1

like a bat out of hell - стремительно, неожиданно и быстро, со всех ног, сломя голову, пулей;

like a bear with a sore head - злой, раздраженный;

like a bolt from the blue; like a bolt out of a clear sky - как гром среди ясного неба;

like a breeze - очень легко (справиться с чем-то)

like a bull in a china shop - как слон в посудной лавке;

like a cat on hot bricks; like a cat on a hot tin roof - как на угольях, как на иголках;

like a clock; like clockwork - пунктуально, как часы;

like a dog in the manger - как собака на сене;

like a dog with two tails - очень довольный, очень гордый и счастливый;

like a drowned rat - промокший до костей;

like a fish out of water - как рыба, вынутая из воды;

like a full moon - круглое как полная луна (о лице);

like a hog on ice - как корова на льду;

like a house on fire - быстро, стремительно, легко;

like a lamb - безропотно, покорно;

like a needle in a bundle of hay; like a needle in a haystack - как иголка в стоге сена;

like an oven - очень жарко, как на раскаленной сковороде;

like anything - очень сильно, стремительно, чрезвычайно;

like a rat in a hole - в безвыходном положении;

like a red rag to a bull - как красная тряпка на быка;

like a shot - стремительно, сразу же, моментально, мгновенно, пулей;

like a streak of lightning; like lightning, like a flash - с быстротой молнии, молниеносно, стремительно;

like a thief in the night - тайком, украдкой;

like a ton of bricks - очень сильно, с огромной силой;

like a two-year-old - как малое дитя;

like a weathercock in the wind - как флюгер, непостоянный, изменчивый, семь пятниц на неделе;

like a whirlwind - как вихрь, мгновенно, очень быстро;

like crazy; like mad - изо всех сил, с бешеной энергией, чрезвычайно сильно, как безумный;

like hell - 1. очень энергично, изо всех сил, чрезвычайно; 2. никогда, ни за что, черта с два;

like herrings in a barrel - битком набито, очень тесно, как сельди в бочке;

like hotcakes - нарасхват, очень быстро;

like pigs in clover - очень довольные, в полном счастье;

like the wind - очень быстро, стремительно;

like water off a duck's back - как с гуся вода, все нипочем;

List 2

avoid someone like the plague - избегать кого-то как чумы;

be off like a shot - моментально уйти, быстро убежать откуда-то;

brought like a lamb to the slaughter - приведен как овца на заклание, безропотно, покорно;

blush like a schoolgirl - краснеть как школьница;

caught like a rat in a trap - пойманный как мышь в мышеловку;

collapse like a pack of cards - распасться как колода карт;

come down on someone like a ton of bricks; come down on someone like a cartload of bricks - обрушиться на кого-то, неистово наброситься на кого-то;

come like a dog at a whistle - являться по первому зову, немедленно;

crawl like a snail - ползти как улитка;

die like a dog - сдохнуть как собака;

die like flies; dying like flies - мрут как мухи;

drink like a fish - пить много спиртного;

drop someone like a hot potato - спешно прекратить знакомство с кем-то, спешно бросить кого-то;

eat like a bird - есть как птичка, есть совсем мало;

eat like a horse - есть очень много;

eat like a pig - есть много и с жадностью;

fight like a lion - сражаться как лев;

fight like cat and dog - ссориться как кошка с собакой, постоянно ссориться;

fight like Kilkenny cats - бороться насмерть, до взаимного уничтожения;

fit like a glove - быть впору, хорошо сидеть (об одежде);

flow like water - литься рекой, обильно, щедро;

get on like a house on fire - быстро продвигаться вперед, делать большие успехи, быстро распространяться;

go like hotcakes; sell like hotcakes - расходиться нарасхват; распродаваться нарасхват;

grin like a Cheshire cat - загадочно улыбаться, иметь загадочную улыбку;

hit someone like a ton of bricks; drop like a cartload of bricks - произвести на кого-то огромное впечатление, как обухом по голове;

hold on (to something) like grim death; cling like grim death - держаться до последнего, держаться изо всех сил, отчаянно цепляться (за что-то);

hate like poison - ненавидеть всей душой;

have a hide like a rhinoceros - быть толстокожим;

have a memory like an elephant - иметь очень хорошую память, все помнить;

have a memory like a sieve - иметь очень плохую память, постоянно забывать;

have nine lives like a cat - быть живучим как кошка, быть очень живучим;

jump around like a cat on hot bricks - запрыгать как на угольях, метаться, места не находить;

know something like the palm of one's hand - знать что-то как свои пять пальцев;

live like a king; live like a lord; live like a prince; live like a fighting cock - жить в изобилии, кататься как сыр в масле;

live like there's no tomorrow - прожигать жизнь, жить неумеренно, расточительно;

look like the cat who swallowed the canary; look like the cat after it had eaten the canary - иметь очень довольный вид;

look like a dying duck in a thunderstorm - иметь очень растерянный вид;

look like a million dollars - прекрасно выглядеть;

look like grim death - ужасно выглядеть, выглядеть как смерть;

lost like a needle in a haystack; look for a needle in a haystack - потерян как иголка в стоге сена; искать иголку в стоге сена, заниматься безнадежным делом;

read someone like a book - видеть кого-то насквозь;

return like for like - отплатить той же монетой;

roar like a bull, roar like a lion - реветь как бык, рычать как лев;

run like a hare; run like a deer; run like the wind - мчаться со всех ног, нестись во весь опор, бежать как заяц / как олень, нестись как ветер;

shake like a leaf; tremble like a leaf; shake / tremble like an aspen leaf - дрожать как осиновый лист (от холода, страха);

sing like an angel; sing like a bird; sing like a lark; sing like a nightingale - очень хорошо / нежно петь, петь как соловей;

sink like a stone - пойти ко дну как камень;

sleep like a log - спать как бревно, очень крепко спать;

smoke like a chimney - очень много курить;

soar like an eagle - парить как орел, взмыть как орел;

speak like a book; talk like a book - говорить как по-писаному, без запинки, по-ученому;

spend money like water - сорить деньгами;

spread like wildfire - распространяться чрезвычайно быстро;

spring up like mushrooms overnight - появиться как грибы после дождя;

swear like a sailor; swear like a trooper - ругаться как извозчик, ругаться на чем свет стоит;

sweat like a pig - очень сильно потеть;

swim like a fish - плавать как рыба, плавать очень хорошо;

take to something like a duck to water - охотно приняться за что-то, почувствовать себя в своей стихии, как рыба в воде;

talk to someone like a Dutch uncle - учить уму-разуму, наставлять, увещевать кого-то;

tell it like it is - рассказать все как есть, рассказать всю правду без прикрас;

turn up (again) like a bad penny; turn up (again) like a bad shilling - возвращаться к владельцу (снова) против его желания, (опять) свалиться кому-то на голову;

wander around like a lost soul; walk around like a lost soul - бесцельно бродить как потерянный, бродить как потерянная душа;

work like a charm; work like magic - сработать как по волшебству, оказать магическое действие;

work like a dog; work like a horse; work like a slave; work like a Trojan - работать не покладая рук, работать как вол, работать как каторжный.


Books of idioms and other useful resources

Idioms in American Life by Julie Howard, 1987. For beginning and intermediate students. A good introductory book of frequently used everyday idioms, with definitions and numerous exercises. A useful index at the end of the book gives a list of idioms with synonyms, definitions and examples.

Essential Idioms in English, New Edition by Robert J. Dixson, 1994. The book lists common English idioms, with definitions, examples, and exercises in three sections: elementary, in

English Idioms and How to Use Them by Jennifer Seidl and W. McMordie, 1978, 1988. A good reference book for intermediate and advanced students. Idioms are organized into chapters and explained, with a number of examples.termediate, and advanced.

The Idiom Connection A large collection of idiomatic expressions organized both in topics and alphabetically, with definitions, examples and exercises.

English-Russian idioms by Natalya Belinsky. A large collection of idiomatic expressions in alphabetical order, with Russian translation.

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