Figurative Expressions



Figurative Expressions


Above: above all—chiefly, before everything else.
Account: on account of—for the sake of.
Account: on no account not for any reason.
Account: to give a good account of oneself to act with credit to oneself.
Achates A faithful friend.
Achilles The heel of Achilles—a weak spot. (Achilles, the famous Greek hero of the Iliad, when a child had been dipped by his mother, Thetis, in the river Styx in order to make him invulnerable. The heel by which she held him was not touched by the water, and throughout his life this part of his body was his weak point. He was killed by Paris, who pierced his heel with an arrow).
Adonis: an Adonis—a very handsome man.
Air: to build castles in the air—to think of something
Aloof: to stand aloof—To keep to oneself and not mix with others.
Altar: to lead to the altar—to marry.
Amazon: an Amazon—a warlike woman; a masculine woman; a virago.

Ananias: an Ananias—a liar (See Acts V 1-2).
Anchor: to weigh anchor—to be about to sail. to cast anchor—to drop anchor into the sea; to fix oneself.
Apollo: an Apollo—a man with a perfect physique.
Apple: the apple of discord—a cause of strife, contention, or
Apron: to be tied to his mother's apron strings—to be under
Arcadia: Arcadian life—a blissfully happy, rural and simple
Arms: to keep a person at arms length—to avoid coming in
Attic: Attic salt — refined, subtle wit, (for which the
Augean: to cleanse the Augean stables—to effect great improvements in government, or to abolish great abuses, in a very short time. (One of the twelve labours of Hercules was to clean the stables of Augeas,
Axe: to have an axe to grind—to have some selfish objective
Babel: a Babel—a confused noise (see Genesis XI).
Back stairs influence Influence exerted in an under
hand or clandestine manner
Back: to break the back of anything—to perform the most
Bad: to breed bad blood—to cause strife and enmity.
Bag: bag and baggage—with all one's belongings.
Ball: To keep the ball rolling—to keep things going (esp.
Bandy: To bandy words—to wrangle or exchange arguments.
Baptism: Baptism of fire—a soldier's first experience of actual
Bar: To call to the bar—to admit as a Barrister
Bark: His bark is worse than his bite—He usually makes a
Barmecide: Barmecide's feast—imaginary benefits.

Bat: Off the bat—without previous preparation.
Bear: To bear down on—to sail in the direction of.
Beat: To beat about the bush—to approach a matter in an
Bed: Bed and board—lodgings and food.
Bee: To have a bee in one's bonnet — to hold fantastic
Beg: To go a-begging—to be sold very cheaply because
Behind: Behind one's back—without one's knowledge.
Believe: To make believe—to feign or pretend.
Bell: To bell the cat—to do something which is extremely
Belt: To hit below the belt—to act unfairly in a contest.
Benedick A Benedick—a newly married man. (From Benedick —in Shakespeare's " Much Ado about Nothing.")
Berth: To give a person a wide berth—to keep as far away
Better: His better half—-a man's wife.
Bird: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush—Certainty
Bit: To take the bit between one's teeth—to get out of
Bite: To bite the dust—to be defeated in battle—to die.
Black: Let me see it in black and white—write it on paper
Blanket: A wet blanket—a person who discourages others.
Blarney: To have kissed the blarney stone—to have a very
Blood: In cold blood—deliberately; not in passion.
blow: To blow hot and cold—to do one thing at one time
blue: A blue stocking—a woman of great literary abilities.
blush: At first blush—at first sight.
boat: In the same boat—in the same misfortune or
bobby: A Bobby—a policeman (from Sir Robert Peel who
Bolt: A bolt from the blue—a sudden and unexpected
bone: A bone of contention—a cause of dispute.
book: A bookworm—a person always poring over books.
bound: By leaps and bounds—with remarkable speed.
Bowdlerise To Bowdlerise—to remove all the objectionable passages from a book. (Thomas Bowdler in 1818 published an expurgated version of Shakespeare's works—hence the name.)
Boycott: To boycott—to avoid; to shun; to have no dealings
Breach: Breach of Promise—failure to keep a promise to marry one to whom you are betrothed.
Bread: One's bread and butter—one's means of livelihood. His bread is well buttered — he is in fortunate circumstances. The Bread Winner—one who provides the means of livelihood for himself and his family.
Break: To break in—to tame; to bring under control in a gentle manner. To break the news—to reveal something unpleasant in a gentle manner. To break the ice—to be the first to begin; to take the first step.
Breast: To make a clean breast of anything—to make a full confession.
Breathe: To breathe one's last—to die. To breathe freely again—to be no longer in fear or anxiety.
Bricks: To make bricks without straw—to attempt to do some- thing without proper materials or due preparation.
Bridge: Never cross the bridge until you come to it—do not anticipate difficulties
Bring: To bring down the house—to cause rapturous applause. To bring up the rear—to be the last in line.
Broad: It is as broad as it is long—it is the same whichever way you view it.
Brow: To knit the brow—to frown. To brow beat—to bully.
Bucket: To kick the bucket—to die.
Buckle: To buckle on one's armor — to set to work energetically.
Bug: A big bug—a person of some importance.
Bull: To take the bull by the horns—to tackle any difficulty in a bold and direct manner. Not to know a B from a bull's foot—to be ignorant
Burke: To burke a question—to suppress or prevent any discussion on it. (From a notorious Irish criminal named Burke who used to waylay people, suffocate them, and sell the bodies to the medical schools.)
Bury: To bury the hatchet—to forget past quarrels and be friends again. (The American Indians had the custom of burying their tomahawks when peace was concluded, as a symbol of their peaceful intentions.)
Bush: Good wine needs no bush—there is no need to advertise something good.
But: But me no buts—do not bring forward any objections.
Cain: To raise Cain—to rebuke severely.
Cake: To take the cake—to take the first prize; to be the best of the lot.
Candle: in two directions at the same time. The game is not worth the candle—the undertaking is not worth the trouble.
Canoe: To paddle your own canoe—to be responsible for your actions; to act independently.
Cap: If the cap fits, wear it—if you think the remarks made refer to you, then act accordingly. To go cap in hand—to beseech in a humble manner.
Capital: Capital Punishment—the death sentence or penalty. Capital Ship—a warship of the most powerful kind.
Cart: To put the cart before the horse—to do first what ought to be done afterwards; to reverse the proper order of things.
Cat: To let the cat out of the bag—to expose the trick;
Catch: To catch one's eye—to attract attention.
Cerberus: To give a sop to Cerberus—to appease someone by gift or bribe; to bribe. (Cerberus was a three-headed dog supposed to guard the entrance to Hades and prevent the dead from escaping. When a person died the Romans used to put a cake in his hand as a sop to Cerberus.)
Chair: To take the chair—to preside at a meeting.
Change: To ring the changes—to pass counterfeit money; to try all methods of achieving something.
Chauvinism: Chauvinism—devoted patriotism which manifests itself in warlike conduct. (From Nicholas Chauvin, a soldier ardently devoted to Napoleon.)
Chicken: She is no chicken—she is older than she says, or
Chip: A chip of the old block—a son resembling his father in face, disposition, habits etc.
Chock: Chock full—full to overflowing.
Choice: Hobson's Choice—no alternative; take what you are offered or none at all. (Hobson, a Cambridge livery-stable keeper used to hire out horses, but insisted that the customer should take the first horse nearest the stable door, or none at all.)
Choose: To pick and choose—to make a careful selection.
Cicerone: A Cicerone—a guide who takes strangers and tourists over a country and explains to them all the curiosities and features of the place. (Cicero, the Roman Orator, had an easy, flowing style.)
Cimmerian: Cimmerian darkness—profound darkness.
Cipher: The dreaded cipher—to make O in arithmetic.
Circle: To square the circle—to attempt something impossible.
Close: Close fisted—mean, miserly.
Cloud: Every cloud has a silver lining—adverse conditions do not last forever; brighter days are usually in store for us. To have one's head in the clouds—to live in dreamland; to have fanciful ideas.
Clover: To live in clover; to be in clover—to be living in great luxury.
Coals: To carry coals to Newcastle—to do anything super-
Coast: The coast is clear—the danger is past; there is no
Coat: Cut your coat according to your cloth—Live within
Cock: A cock and bull story—a foolishly incredible story.
Cold: To throw cold water upon anything—to discourage
Colour: Off colour—not in the usual form.
Commit: To commit to memory—to learn by heart.
Cook: Too many cooks spoil the broth—when there are more
Coventry: To send to Coventry—to boycott; to refuse to be on familiar terms or to have any dealings with someone.
Crichton An admirable Crichton—a very talented person.
Crocodile: Crocodile tears—hypocritical tears.
Crook: By hook or crook—by fair means or foul
Crow: As the crow flies—in a direct line, the shortest distance
Cudgel: To take up the cudgels—to champion or fight for
Curry: To curry favour—to seek favour by flattery.
Cut: To cut a dash—to make an impression. A cut-throat—a murderer.
Dagger: To be at daggers drawn—to be deadly enemies.
Damocles: To have the sword of Damocles hanging over one's head—to be in imminent danger of losing one's life; to live in constant fear of some impending danger.
Daniel: A Daniel—an impartial judge. (Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice (Daniel I-VI).
Dare: A dare devil—a fearless, reckless man.
Date: Up to date—recent, modern. Out of date—obsolete.
Davy: In Davy Jones' locker—drowned, at the bottom of the sea.
Day: He has seen better days—he was once prosperous.
Dead: Evil days—a period of misfortune. Dead beat—quite exhausted. Dead broke—penniless. To run dead heat—a race in which the contestants came in together. A dead letter—something which no longer exists. To step into dead men's shoes—to come into an inheritance.
Devil: To give the devil his due—give a person credit for his good qualities however worthless he may be Go to the devil—be off. Devil's playthings—playing cards. Devil's bones—dice. To be between the devil and the deep sea—to be faced with two dangerous situations, each of which is to be dreaded as much as the other.
Dilemma: To be on the horns of a dilemma—to be in such a position that it is difficult to choose which course to pursue.
Dog: Give a dog a bad name and hang him—When once a person loses his reputation, he is likely to be blamed for the misdeeds of others. To be a dog in the manger—to prevent others from using what one cannot use himself; to be selfish. Dog cheap—extremely cheap. Every dog has his day—Corrupt or unscrupulous people do not prosper forever, the day of retribution
Doldrums: To be in the doldrums-out of sorts, to be in low spirits; to be
Dole: The Dole—money given in charity, and also allowances to the unemployed in Britain. To dole out—to give out in small quantities.
Door: To darken one's door—to pay a visit to one's house.
Down: Ups and downs—varying fortunes; changes and chances of life. Down and out—penniless, ruined.
Draconian: Draconian legislation—very severe laws. (From Draco, an Athenian Legislator, whose laws were extremely severe.)
Draw: To draw the long bow—to relate fantastic stories. To draw the line at—to refuse to go beyond a certain limit.
Dust: To throw dust in one's eyes—to try to deceive someone.
Dutch: Dutch courage—bravery induced by alcoholic liquors.
Eagle: Eagle-eye—quick to discover; very discerning.
Ear: To set by the ears—to cause strife or incite to quarrel.
Eat: To eat one's words—to apologise; to take back what one has said.
Egg: A bad egg—a worthless person. To egg on—to spur on to further action. Do not put all your eggs in one basket—Do not stake all your money on a single industry. Spread your resources over a variety of transactions.
Elephant: A white Elephant—a useless possession which is extremely expensive to upkeep. (The Kings of Siam when they wished to ruin one of their Courtiers presented him with a White Elephant, an animal sacred in Siam. The cost of its upkeep was so ruinous that the wealth of the Noble soon dwindled away.)
Eleven: At the eleventh hour—at the last moment.
Ell: Give him an inch he'll take an ell—he will abuse his privilege and take great liberties.
Elysian: Elysian Happiness—a state of perfect bliss. (From Greek Mythology, Elysium, a region of perfect happiness whither the soul of the virtuous departed.)
End: At his wit's end— utterly confounded. At the end of his tether—unable to proceed any farther. Odds and ends—remnant. To make both ends meet—to keep the expenses within the income. Without end— everlasting.
Escutcheon: A blot on the Escutcheon — a disgrace on the reputation of a family.
Exodus: An Exodus—the departure of a large body of people. (From the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses.)
Eye: An eye-servant — one who works only under supervision.
Fabian: Fabian Tactics—a. policy of wearing down an opponent by delaying action; harassing an enemy by avoiding open battle. (Fabius Maximus, a Roman Consul wore down Hannibal by refraining from engaging him in actual battle in the second Punic War.)
Face: To save one's face—to avoid disgrace.
Fair: The fairer sex—women.
Faith: Bad faith—dishonest intentions. In good faith—with honest intentions. A breach of faith—to act contrary to what one had professed.
Gift: Do not look a gift-horse in the mouth—do not examine a gift too critically; do not criticise what is given for nothing; accept a gift for the sentiments which inspire it, and not for its value.
Glass: Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones—people who do not live blameless lives should not find fault with others.
Gnat: To strain at a gnat and swallow a camel—to be over particular in small things and lax in more important issues.
Gold: All is not gold that glitters—Things are not always as attractive as they appear.
Good: A good for nothing—a worthless person. A good Samaritan—a friend in need. (St. Luke X 33.)
Goose: A wild goose chase—a vain attempt. To kill the goose that laid the golden egg—to lose a valuable source of income through greed
Gordian: To cut the Gordian knot—to solve a difficult problem by adopting bold or drastic measures.
Grade: To grade up—to improve the stock by crossing with a better breed.
Greek: A Greek gift—a gift given with some treacherous motive.

Green: He has a green eye—he is jealous.
Grist: To bring grist to the mill—to bring profitable business or gain.
Hairs: To split hairs—to argue about trifles.
Hand: From hand to hand—from one person to another. To take a person in hand—to undertake to correct a person of his faults; to discipline. To live from hand to mouth—to spend all one's earnings; to make no provision for the future.
Hansard: proceedings of the British The verbatim reports of the Parliament. The reports of the ordinance and proceedings of British Colonial Legislatures.
Hard: Hard and fast rules—strict rules. Hard of hearing—almost deaf. A die-hard—one who yields a point only after a struggle.
Hare: To run with the hare and hunt with the hounds—to act treacherously; to play both sides.
Harness: Back in harness—to resume work after a holiday. To die in harness—to continue at one's occupation until death.
Harp: To harp on the same string—to refer repeatedly to the same subject.
Haste: to be badly done necessitating the job being done all over again. The overall time spent is usually more than if the job had been carefully done from the start.
Hat: To hang up one's hat—to make oneself comfortable in another person's home. To pass the hat around—to ask for subscriptions.
Hay: Make hay while the sun shines—take advantage of all opportunities. To seek a needle in a haystack—to expend a great deal of energy over something trifling.
Head: To keep one's head on—to remain calm. To lose one's head—to be carried away by excitement. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown—Rulers and other people in authority have no easy time—their responsibilities weigh heavily upon them..
Heart: To have one's heart in one's mouth—to be afraid. His heart is in his boots—he is a coward.
Hector: To hector a person—to bully someone.
Heels: To show a clean pair of heels—to run at a great speed. To take to one's heels—to run at great speed.
Hermetically as to exclude air. Hermetically sealed—sealed closely and perfectly so Sealed:
Herod: To out-Herod Herod—to outdo someone in a quality for which he is noted.
Hole: To pick holes in—to find fault with.
Hoof: To show the cloven hoof—to reveal one's evil intentions.
Hook: By hook or crook—by fair means or foul.
Horse: To flog a dead horse—to attempt to put life into a movement which is past all hopes of resuscitation; to make fruitless efforts. Tell it to the Horse Marines—an incredible story.
Hot: To be in hot water—to be in trouble or difficulty.
Hour: At the eleventh hour—at the last moment. The darkest hour is nearest the dawn—Relief is often just around the corner when things appear at their blackest.
Humble: To eat humble pie—to submit oneself to humiliation and insult; to apologise humbly; to take an inferior place.
Ice: To break the ice—to be the first person to begin; to prepare the way.
Ignorance: Where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise—It is foolish to try to educate people who are happy to remain in their state of ignorance.
Iron: To have too many irons in the fire—to be attempting too many prospects at the same time. An iron-bound coast—a coast surrounded by rocks. Strike while the iron is hot—take advantage of favourable opportunities.
Jezebel: A Jezebel—a wicked, bold or vicious woman— especially one who paints her face. (From wife of Ahab, King of Israel.)
Jiffy: In a jiffy—in an exceedingly short time.
John Bull: John Bull—an Englishman.
Jowl: Cheek by jowl—with cheeks close together; close together.
Kin: Next of kin—nearest of blood relation.
Kind: (To give or pay) in kind—to give or pay in produce or commodities, not in money.
Kiss: To kiss the book—to take the oath in the court of law by touching the Bible with the lips. To kiss the dust—to be defeated in battle; to be slain.
Knight: A carpet Knight—a soldier who has seen no active service.
Kowtow: To kowtow to anyone—to act in a very servile manner.
Laconic: A laconic speech—a concise, pithy, epigrammatic speech.
Lamp: To smell of the lamp—to show signs of strenuous preparation for an examination or a speech etc.
Laurels: To look to one's laurels—to take care not to lose one's place; to guard against defeat by a rival. To win laurels—to gain distinction or glory in a contest. To rest on one's laurels—to retire from active life after gaining distinction or glory in the field of sports, athletics etc.
Law: To go to law—to take legal proceedings. To take the law into one's hands—to try to gain revenge or satisfaction by force, and without recourse to the law courts.
Leaf: To take a leaf out of one's book—to imitate, to follow the example of another. To turn over a new leaf—to change one's mode of life or conduct for the better.
Leap: Look before you leap—think before acting.
Lie: To give the lie to—to prove to be false. A white lie—an excusable untruth. Let sleeping dogs lie—Do not recall matters which are likely to cause pain or grief or embarrassment to those concerned.
Light: To bring to light—to reveal, to disclose, to bring to public notice. To come to light—to become known. To see the light—to be born. To throw some light upon—to explain. To make light of—to treat slightly; to disregard.
Lilliputian: A Lilliputian—a Pygmy; a very short person.
Lines: Hard lines — a hard unenviable position. To read between the lines—to detect the hidden meaning.
Lion: The lion's share—the largest part; almost the whole. To beard the lion in his den—to defy a tyrant in his own domain; to openly resist one who is generally feared. To twist the lion's tail—to insult or provoke the British Government or the British people.
Lock: Lock, stock and barrel—the whole of everything.
Long: Before long—soon; in a short while. In the long run—eventually. The long and short of it—everything summed up in a few words.
Look: Look before you leap—think carefully before acting. To look down upon—to spurn, despise, or think someone inferior.
Lurch: To leave in the lurch—to desert someone still in difficulties.
Machiavellian A policy in which any means, however unscrupulous
policy:or treacherous, may be employed to achieve the end.
Malapropism: A grotesque misuse of words. (From Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan's " Rivals ".)
Marines: Tell it to the marines—you may be sure we think the story incredible.
Mark: Not up to mark—not measuring up to a required standard. To make one's mark—to distinguish oneself; to succeed brilliantly. To be beside the mark, to be wide of the mark—to miss the point completely.
Marriage: A Gretna Green Marriage—a runaway marriage. (As Scots marriage to Gretna Green, a village in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, near the English border, to be married there.) laws were less strict than English laws, eloping couples used to go to Gretna Green
Martinet: A Martinet—a very strict disciplinarian. (From Jean Martinet, a very strict officer under Louis XIV.)
Means: By all means—certainly. By any means—in any way possible. By no means—on no account whatever.
Medes: The laws of the Medes and Persians—unalterable laws.
Mercury: A Mercurial temperament — light-hearted; fickle; flighty.
Miss: A miss is as good as a mile—the result is the same whether a person just misses the mark he has aimed at, or comes nowhere near it.
Morpheus: In the arms of Morpheus—asleep.
Move: To move heaven and earth—to exert all efforts; to leave no stone unturned.
Much: Much of a muchness—almost alike; practically the same.
Nail: Nail the lie to the counter—Expose it publicly. To hit the nail on the head—to mention the true facts of a case; to do the correct thing.
Needle: To look for a needle in a haystack—To begin a search for something with only a slim chance of success.
Nick: In the nick of time—at the right moment; just before too late.
Nine: A stitch in time saves nine—If we give due attention to the little details of life in the long run we will save ourselves from considerable time, worry and expense.
Nose: To lead by the nose—to lead blindly. To turn up the nose—to express contempt To put one's nose into something—to be unduly meddlesome. Under one's nose—under one's close observation
Nut: A hard nut to crack—a person difficult to convince; a problem difficult to solve. In a nutshell—summed up in a few words. To put in a nutshell—to express in very concise terms; to say in a few words.
Oil: To pour oil on troubled waters—to make peace.
Olive: To hold out the olive branch—to ask for peace.
Out: Out of sorts—unwell. Out of temper—angry. Out of the wood—out of danger.
P & Q To mind one's P's and Q's—to be very particular about one's behaviour. (In the old days in the Ale House the host used to mark up the pints and quarts consumed by his customers on the wall or a blackboard.) It therefore behoved the customer to mind his P(ints) and Q(uarts) in order that he did not get overcharged.
Parthian: Parthian Shot—a parting word; a sharp retort at the end of a conversation.

Pass: To come to pass—to happen. To pass on—to proceed.
Pave: To pave the way—to facilitate.
Pay: To pay the piper—to pay the expense.
Pearls: To cast pearls before swine—to bestow good things upon people who cannot appreciate them.

Penny: In for a penny, in for a pound—since I am to attempt a little I might as well attempt a lot.

Peter: To rob Peter to pay Paul—to take what belongs to one person and pay another; to satisfy one person at the expense of another.
Petticoat: Petticoat Government—to be under the rule of a female, especially a wife or mother.
Pick: To pick to pieces—to analyse critically.
Pig: To buy a pig in a poke—to 'purchase something on mere reputation and without examining it beforehand.
Pin: To pin one's faith on—to rely on. Pin money—a husband's allowance to his wife for dress, toilet necessaries etc
Plough: To put one's hand to the plough—to begin a task earnestly. To plough the sands—to labour uselessly. To plough a lonely furrow—to hold a view opposed to all your associates; to pursue with determination an unusual course of action or branch of study.
Point: To make a point of something—to attach special importance to doing something. To the point—fit; appropriate; relevant.
Pooh: To pooh-pooh an idea—to express contempt for an idea.
Port: Any port in a storm—When one is in great difficulty one looks for help from any quarter.
Pot: To take pot-luck—to share in a meal not specially prepared for guests.
Pudding: The proof of the pudding is in the eating—people are judged by their actions.
Pull: To pull down a person—to degrade or humiliate a person. To pull to pieces—to criticise. To pull through—to pass an examination, or succeed in something after a great deal of difficulty. To pull together—to co-operate. To pull strings—to court the favour of highly placed officials in order to secure remunerative jobs or positions.
Pulse: To feel one's pulse—to try to find out one's views or intentions.
Purse: An empty purse, a light purse—poverty. A heavy purse—wealth or riches. To hold the purse strings—to have control of finance. To make a silk purse out of a sow's ear—to attempt to accomplish great things with inferior materials.

Pyrrhic: Pyrrhic Victory—a victory that is as costly as defeat.
Quandary: To be in a quandary—to be in an unenviable position.
Queen: The Queen can do no wrong—For every official act of the Queen some Minister of Government is held responsible.
Queer: To be in Queer Street—to be in an embarrassing position; to be in trouble.
Question: Out of the question—Not worth discussing.
Qui Vive: To be on the qui vive—to be on the look out; to be on the alert.
Quixotic: To be quixotic—to be extremely romantic, with very lofty but impractical ideals. (From Don Quixote, hero of Cervantes' romance, Don Quixote.)
Rain: It never rains but it pours—Good fortune is usually the forerunner of great prosperity; similarly a streak of bad luck is just the beginning of great misfortune.
Rat: To be like a drowned rat—to be soaking wet. To smell a rat—to suspect something.
Reckoning: Days of reckoning—the time when one will have to settle accounts, or to give some account of one's work.
Record: To break the record — to surpass all previous achievements in competition, especially in the field of sports.
Red: Red flag—the symbol of revolution. To be caught red handed—to be caught in the very act of committing a crime. To draw a red herring across the trail — to turn attention from the real issue by irrelevant discussion. Red-letter day—a memorable day; a day of great importance. Red-tape — a term used to describe the delay in attending to matters in Government Departments because of official routine and formality.
Rein: To give rein to—to allow a person to have his own way. To take the reins—to assume command.
Roland: A Roland for an Oliver—tit for tat, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, an effective retort.
Rome: Rome was not built in a day — It takes time to accomplish anything really worthwhile. (Rome was the Capital City of the Great Roman Empire.)
Rope: To give 'a person) plenty of rope—to allow a person to act as he pleases in order that he may commit some blunder. To know the ropes—to be thoroughly acquainted with the particular situation.

Rough: To rough it—to put up with inconveniences and hardships. Rough and ready—hastily prepared, without neatness or adornment. Rough and tumble—in a disorderly manner. To ride roughshod over—to treat in a high-handed fashion.
Rubber: To win the rubber—to win the majority of a given set of matches in a tournament, e.g. cricket.
Rubicon: To cross the Rubicon—to take a decisive step from which there is no turning back; to cast the die.
Salt: Below the salt — in the company of the less distinguished To take with a grain of salt—to accept with doubt or misgiving.
Samaritan: To be a good Samaritan — to be kind and compassionate to someone in distress.
Sauce: What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander—' the conditions are the same for all parties concerned.
Score: To pay off old scores—to have one's revenge for an offence of long standing.
Scylla: To be between Scylla and Charybdis—to be faced with two dangerous alternatives, so that escape from one will involve ruin from the other.
See: To see daylight—to begin to understand. To see the light—to be born.
Shave: A close shave—a narrow escape.
Silk: To take silk—to become a Q.C. (Queen's Counsel).
Skeleton: A skeleton in the cupboard, the family skeleton—a dreadful domestic secret.
Skin: By the skin of the teeth—very narrowly. To save one's skin—to escape harm or injury.
Snake: A snake in the grass—an enemy who strikes under cover.
Spade: To call a spade a spade—to be brutally frank, out- spoken, blunt in speech.

Spartan: A Spartan life — a life of extreme self-discipline, aimed at promoting health of body and mind.
Spick and
Span; Spick and span—smart and clean.
Sponge: To throw in the sponge—to acknowledge defeat.
Steal: To steal a march on—to go ahead of; to go beforehand.
Stone: A rolling stone gathers no moss—Unstable people never achieve anything worthwhile; people who cannot settle down to business are never successful.
Sunday: A month of Sundays—an indefinitely long period.
Swallow: One swallow does not make a summer—-It is unreliable to base one's conclusions on only a single test or incident.
Tables: To turn the tables—to reverse the conditions.
Tail: To turn tail—to desert, to run away.
Tangent: To go off at a tangent, to fly off at a tangent—to change suddenly to a different course of thought or action.
Tapis: On the tapis—under consideration.
Tar: To spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar—To ruin some- thing extremely valuable by failure to spend trifling sums on maintenance and repairs.
Tenterhooks: To be on tenterhooks—to be in a state of suspense and anxiety.
Thespian: Thespian Art—the art of tragedy or drama.
Towel: To throw in the towel—To acknowledge defeat.
Triton: A triton among the minnows — a person who completely dominates all his fellows.
Turtle: To turn turtle—to overturn, to make a complete somersault.
Vessels: Empty vessels make the most noise—Those who know or have little often shout the loudest.
Wheel: To put one's shoulder to the wheel—to work hard in order to succeed.
Wind: To take the wind out of one's sail—to frustrate by using a person's own materials or methods.
Wire: Wire-pulling—to court the favour of highly placed officials with a view of using their influence for furthering one's position.
Wishes: If wishes were horses, beggars might ride — If all people's wishes came true everybody would be rich.
Wonder: A nine days' wonder—an event which creates sensation for a time but is soon forgotten.
Yellow: Yellow Press—newspapers which violently express extreme or Leftist ideas.

Loud enough to be heard


Fit for food


Fit to be chosen or selected


Writing that is difficult to decipher


Born of unmarried parents


Unable to read


Not distinct enough to be heard


Unfit for human consumption


Not having the qualities of being chosen


(Writing) that is easy to read


Born of married parents


Able to read




For those students that presented work on English we gathered a lot of useful reference information that became a STUDENT's COMPENDIUM here are some samples of student work

Please note there are some excellent links to assist with these pages

see at the end for the links for further information. 

Please note there are some excellent links to assist with these pages

see at the end for the links for further information. 

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Page last updated 2nd March 2020