1. In high spirits
Example – He was in high spirits when I met him in the office.
Meaning – In a cheerful mood.
2. Struck several bad patches
Example – He struck several bad patches before he made good.
Meaning – Had many professional difficulties.
3. A chip off the old block
Example – Truly he is a chip off the old block.
Meaning – Very similar to his father.
4. Bitten off more than one can chew
Example – Suresh has unknowingly bitten off more than he can chew.
Meaning – To take up a task which one may not be able to accomplish due to lack of ability.
5. The bare bones
Example – The bare bones of the conversation had been that he hated my performances in that project.
Meaning – The main point.
Idioms came in last 10 years WBCS Preliminary Examination
6. Takes no prisoners
Example – The Indian Army’s order was to take no prisoners.
Meaning – To kill the enemy rather than seize them as prisoners.
NOTE: Generally ‘takes no prisoners’ is associated with war, but we can use it in other situations too.
For example – The new manager takes no prisoners, he is very determined and ruthless. (Here the proverbs means ‘to be extremely ruthless with the opposition’)
7. Pandora’s box
Example – Unfortunately, his decisions opens a Pandora’s box of domestic violence.
Meaning – To do something that causes a lot of new problems that one did not expect.
8. Beat a dead horse
Example – Do you think its’ worth sending the reapplication to the company or I am beating a dead horse.
Meaning – To waste time doing something that has already been attempted.
9. Left to his own devices
Example – Sumit’s father left to his own devices for the new project.
Meaning – To allow you to decide for yourself what you do.
10. Shoestring budgets
Example – The restaurant is running on a shoestring budget, so they can’t afford more stuff.
Meaning – Characterized by a small amount of money.
11. In the same boat
Example – Suddenly Rohit was in the same boat as any other employees who had lost their job.
Meaning – Experiencing the same situation or condition.
12. Keep one’s word
Example – Keeping one’s word is necessary to the legal profession.
Meaning – To do what you promise to do./To uphold one’s promise.
13. Knocked over
Example – I didn’t mean to knock you over./The thief knocked over the television set from my house.
Meaning – To push or strike someone or something./To steal something.
14. To catch a tartar
Example – Our neighbor thought I would give up if my complaint had to go to the court. They will soon realize that they have caught a Tartar.
Meaning – To deal with someone or something that proves unexpectedly troublesome or powerful.
15. To lose face
Example – He denied that he made a mistake because he didn’t want to lose his face.
Meaning – To do something which makes other people stop respecting you.
16. The rank and file
Example – The party leadership seems to be losing the support of the rank and file.
Meaning – The ordinary members of an organization and not its leaders.
17. Once in a blue moon
Example – Once in a blue moon day, I get time to travel.
Meaning – Something that happens very rarely.
18. Beating around the bush
Example – The politician was beating around the bush when people demanded a reason for the scam.
Meaning – Avoiding the topic.
19. Chip on your shoulder
Example – He has a chip on his shoulder for being abandoned by his friends in school days.
Meaning – When someone is upset about something that happened a while ago.
20. A piece of cake
Example – Music is my piece of cake.
Meaning – Something that is easy to understand or do.
#15 different rules of changing Singular noun into Plural
21. Blessing in disguise
Example – The course that I took was a blessing in disguise and I realize it now.
Meaning – Something good or useful that did not initially seem that way.
22. Come hell or high water
Example – I have decided that come hell or high water, I will finish my work.
Meaning – Possible obstacles in your path.
23. Taste of your own medicine
Example – Bad people will surely have a chance to taste their own medicine.
Meaning – When someone receives the same treatment, usually negative, that he/she gives to others.
24. Golden handshake
Example – It’s better to offer a golden handshake to the aged employees.
Meaning – A big amount of money given to a person when he/she leaves a company or retires.
25. Apple of one’s eye
Example – My mother is always an apple of my family’s eye.
Meaning – Being cherished more than others are.
26. Feeling a bit under weather
Example – I am not going to gym today as I am feeling a bit under weather.
Meaning – Feeling slightly ill.
27. Mean business
Example – The border is surrounded by forces who mean business.
Meaning – Being serious/ dedicated.
28. The best of both worlds
Example – I had the best of both world since I worked as an ordinary member but got to learn from the leaders.
Meaning – The benefit of widely different situations, enjoyed at the same time.
29. Hear it on grapevine
Example – I heard it on grapevine that he has cheated the organization.
Meaning – To hear rumors about something or someone.
30. Can’t judge a book by its cover
Example – It is wise not to judge a book by its cover.
Meaning – Can’t judge something primarily by it’s appearance./ Don’t judge someone based on how the person looks like.
31. The icing on the cake
Example – I got MS in the University that I wished to and scholarship was like the icing on the cake.
Meaning – Something that turns good into great.
32. Jump the bandwagon
Example – When I put on few kgs, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon and join the gym.
Meaning – To join a popular activity or trend.
33. Cost an arm and a leg
Example – My laziness costs me an arm and a leg every time.
Meaning – Be very expensive.
34. The ball is in your court
Example – Now the ball is in my court and I will take the revenge on him.
Meaning – When it is up to you to take the next step or decision.
35. It takes two to tango
Example – The manager realizes that it takes two to tango before taking the decision.
Meaning – Actions or communications need more than one person.
36. Last straw
Example – If I complete this last straw, I will complete this level.
Meaning – The final problem in a series of problems.
37. Break the ice
Example – Always break the ice in a group discussion.
Meaning – To initiate a social conversation or interaction.
38. A bird’s eye view
Example – The building gives you a bird’s eye view of the whole city.
Meaning – A view from a very high place that allows seeing a very large area.
39. Be on cloud nine
Example – I will be on cloud nine when I pass the exam.
Meaning – Be very happy.
40. Eat humble pie
Example – The employee will have to eat humble pie for his misbehavior to his boss.
Meaning – To apologize humbly.
41. To show the white feather
Example – Becky showed the white feather and backed down.
Meaning – To act like a coward
42. To play fast and loose
Example – The TN reporter is known for playing fast and loose with the facts.
Meaning – To act in an unreliable way./Act carelessly or irresponsibly
43. Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve
Example – Sumit always wears his heart on his sleeve, so there is no doubt who he’ll be supporting.
Meaning – To make your feelings and opinions obvious to other people.
44. To make a long face
Example – Why have you got such a long face? Better luck next time.
Meaning – To look depressed.
45. In apple pie order
Example – Please put everything in apple pie order before you leave.
Meaning – Perfectly methodical arrangement./Very well organized.
46. To strain every nerve
Example – I was straining every nerve to break the code but failed every time.
Meaning – To try extremely hard to do something.
47. To have an axe to grind
Example – The best reporting is done by people who don’t have an axe to grind.
Meaning – To have a selfish interest to serve.
48. To draw the line
Example – It’s hard to keep young people under control, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
Meaning – To set limits/To separate one thing from another.
49. Beat around the bush
Example – Don’t beat around the bush, just tell me what’s happening here.
Meaning – To avoid talking about an embarrassing subject as you are worried about upsetting the person you are talking to.
50. A wild goose chase
Example – After five hours spent wandering in the city, we realized that we were on a wild goose chase.
Meaning – An absurdly hopeless enterprise./ Wasting time looking for something that you are not going to find.
51. A litmus test
Example – His performance in the Test matches served as a litmus test whether he would join the One-day team.
Meaning – An experiment that seeks to determine the state of one important factor./ A method that helps to know if something is correct.
52. To cry wolf
Example – Don’t pay attention to her. She is just crying wolf again.
Meaning – To cry or complain about something when nothing is really wrong.
53. To be hard up
Example – James was hard up for cash to pay his bills.
Meaning – To be short of money.
54. To take to one’s heels
Example – The man took to his heels to try to get the bus before it leaves the bus stop.
Meaning – To run very fast.
55. Cry over spilt milk
Example – There is no use of crying over spilt milk, instead of being careful in the future.
Meaning – Complaining about a loss or failure from the past.
56. At the drop of a hat
Example – She is always ready to go for an outing at the drop of a hat.
Meaning – Willingness to do something instantly.
57. Afraid of one’s own shadow
Example – My grandfather always had panic attacks. He was the kind of a person who was afraid of his own shadow.
Meaning – To become easily frightened.
58. A house of cards
Example – That well-reputed company turned out to be a house of cards within a year.
Meaning – A poor plan or organization that is very weak and can be easily destroyed.
59. Black and Blue
Example – The thief was beaten black and blue by the public.
Meaning – Full of bruises (Black marks caused by being hit).
60. To be in the doldrums
Example – My friend is in doldrums since a week and nothing I do seems to cheer him up.
Meaning – To feel sad and lack of energy to do something.
61. Be on cloud nine
Example – I will be on cloud nine when I pass UPSC exam this year.
Meaning – Be very happy
62. Fool’s paradise
Example – They were living in a fool’s paradise, refusing to accept that they were facing poverty.
Meaning – False sense of happiness or success.
63. Give cold shoulder
Example – The principal has given the cold shoulder to the proposal to arrange an inter-school dance competition.
Meaning – To ignore
64. Get a raw deal
Example – It is very sad that the backward class poor children get a raw deal in education.
Meaning – not to be treated as well as others.
65. Hit the nail on the head
Example – He always hit the nail on the head in troubled situations.
Meaning – to do the correct thing
66. Hand to mouth
Example – Heavy rainfall led the farmers to live hand to mouth.
Meaning – Live on only basic necessities.
67. Hit the bull’s eye
Example – Your suggestion hits the bull’s eye in the exam.
Meaning – To be exactly right about something or to achieve the best result possible.
[ Hit the bull’s eye also mean to hit the very center of a circular target. For example; The Bowman hits the bull’s eye three times in a row.]
68. Let the cat out of the bag
Example – John had planned a surprise party for his wife. But their five-year-old son let the cat out of the bag and ruined the party.
Meaning – To reveal the secret carelessly or by mistake.
69. Make a face
Example – Do you have any better suggestion? If not, then don’t make a face.
Meaning – To show dislike or disappointment through facial expression.
70. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Example – Try to invest in different ways. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Meaning – Do not put all your resources in one place.
71. To be a good Samaritan
Example – I was stuck in the middle of the highway, and then a good Samaritan offered me a ride.
Meaning – To be kind and compassionate to someone in distress.
72. To put in a nutshell
Example – One of my lecturers is expert in teaching the topic in a nutshell.
Meaning – To say in a few words./ To make something concise.
73. To pour oil on troubled waters
Example – The argument between Jack & David has turned worse, so I tried to pour oil on troubled waters but failed to do so.
Meaning – To do or say something in order to make people stop arguing and become calmer.
74. To move heaven and earth
Example – The ACP ordered the police to move heaven and earth to find the murderer.
Meaning – To do everything possible to achieve the result.
75. Bear the palm
Example – India may bear the palm in the Champions Trophy.
Meaning – to win.
NOTE: Palm leaves were formerly used as symbols of victory.
76. To egg someone on
Example – My classmates egged on me to talk with the principal.
Meaning – To urge someone to do something that is usually negative.
77. On the spur of the moment
Example – I decided to go on the spur of the moment.
Meaning – Suddenly, without any planning
78. A man of straw
Example – In today’s match, the opponent team members are like men of straw.
Meaning – A person or idea that is weak and easy to defeat.
79. Cut the mustard
Example – Mr. Bansal appointed Rajesh as the project manager, but can he cut the mustard?
Meaning – To succeed./ To come up to expectations.
80. To fish in troubled waters
Example – My uncle is fishing in troubled waters by buying shares of that software company.
Meaning – Involving oneself in a difficult situation in the hope of gaining some personal advantage.
81. The green-eyed monster
Example – She criticized Maya’s effort of presenting the demonstration. Do you think it is valid or is just a case of green-eyed monster?
Meaning – The feeling of being jealous.
82. End in smoke
Example – He is trying to figure out the programming error since two days. But unfortunately, all his efforts end in smoke at last.
Meaning – No concrete or positive result.
83. To get into hot water
Example – Rajesh gets into hot water after he had a fight with the manager.
Meaning – To get into trouble.
84. To bury the hatchet
Example – These two teammates should bury the hatchet to win the final match.
Meaning – To forget about arguments and disagreements with someone.
85. To wet one’s whistle
Example – You must be tired after all days work. Would you like to wet your whistle?
Meaning – To take a drink, especially an alcoholic drink.
86. Cloak and dagger
Example – How many days you will cloak and dagger like this? Why don’t you tell your boss about your new job?
Meaning – Involving or characterized by secrecy or mystery.
87. A bread and butter letter
Example – After I came back from the tour, I have decided to write a bread and butter letter to the tour organizer for such an amazing service.
Meaning – A thank you letter./ A letter or note to follow up on a visit.
88. Thick and thin
Example – From last ten years, we have been together through thick and thin.
Meaning – Including both good times and bad times.
89. Cool one’s heels
Example – When you were busy in the meeting, I was cooling my heels in the waiting room.
Meaning – To wait for something to happen.
90. Take fancy
Example – I think Maya has taken a fancy to you.
Meaning – Suddenly start to like something or someone.
91. Take to task
Example – I failed to impress the foreign clients so my boss took me to task in front of everyone.
Meaning – To scold someone.
92. The worse for wear
Example – The radio is really worse for the wear. Send it to the repair centre.
Meaning – In a poor condition.
93. A lion’s share
Example – The lion’s share of the company’s profit goes to the charitable trust.
Meaning – The biggest part of something.
94. To turn one’s back on
Example – I can’t turn my back on what I have done. It was my responsibility to take care of everything.
Meaning – To deny or reject or abandon.
95. To bite the dust
Example – The soldier was too young to bite the dust.
Meaning – To break/fail/die/give out.
96. Bolt from the blue
Example – I had met my uncle last week. He was so energetic and fit. Today his death news came as a bolt from the blue.
Meaning – A sudden and unexpected event.
97. To draw a blank
Example – I tried to remember the address. But I could only draw a blank.
Meaning – To fail to remember something./ To get no response.
98. To go against the tide
Example – It’s not easy to go against the tide in defence of our principles.
Meaning – To do the opposite of what other people are doing.
99. To pick a hole in my coat
Example – My boss is waiting for a chance to pick a hole in my coat.
Meaning – To find a mistake in something someone has done or said.
100. On tenterhooks
Example – People were on tenterhooks when the possibility of an earthquake was announced.