An idiom is a phrase where the words together have a meaning that is different from the dictionary definitions of the individual words, which can make idioms hard for ESL students and learners to understand. (

An idiom (Latin: idioma, “special property”, f. Greek: δίωμα — idiōma, “special feature, special phrasing”, f. Greek: διος — idios, “one’s own”) is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made. There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in American English.

In linguistics, idioms are usually presumed to be figures of speech contradicting the principle of compositionality; yet the matter remains debated. John Saeed defines an “idiom” as words collocated that became affixed to each other until metamorphosing into a fossilised term. This collocation — words commonly used in a group — redefines each component word in the word-group and becomes an idiomatic expression. The words develop a specialized meaning as an entity, as an idiom. Moreover, an idiom is an expression, word, or phrase whose sense means something different from what the words literally imply. When a speaker uses an idiom, the listener might mistake its actual meaning, if he or she has not heard this figure of speech before. Idioms usually do not translate well; in some cases, when an idiom is translated into another language, either its meaning is changed or it is meaningless. (

antsy: restless; impatient and tired of waiting.

“I hope Katy calls soon. Just sitting around and waiting is making me antsy.”

as easy as pie: very easy.

“I thought you said this was a difficult problem. It isn’t. In fact, it’s as easy as pie.”

at the eleventh hour: at the last minute; almost too late.

“Yes, I got the work done in time. I finished it at the eleventh hour, but I wasn’t late.

Don’t count your chickens until (before) they hatch (they’ve hatched).: Don’t assume
that something will happen until it has happened.

A: I’m sure that I’m going to win a lot of money in Las Vegas.”
B: “Don’t count your chickens until they hatch!”

do a bang-up job: do a very good job; do very well at something.

“Have you seen Frank’s home page? He did a bang-up job with it.”

down in the dumps: depressed; “blue.”

A: “Is something wrong?”
B: “Not really, but I feel kind of down in the dumps.

Easy does it!: Be very careful! / Don’t do anything too fast or too hard!

A: “I’m going to move the table just a little further from the window.”
B: “Easy does it! If you move too fast, you might knock over the plant!”

an egghead: a very intelligent person.

Jake didn’t make very good grades in school, but his sister was a real egghead.”

on time: at the scheduled time.

“It’s getting late. You’d better hurry if you want to get to work on time.”

get it: understand something (often negative).

“I don’t get it. What do you mean?”

get lost!: go away

“I wish he’d get lost and stop bothering me. I don’t want to talk to him!”

go with the flow: take things as they come.

“There’s no need to worry. Everything will be OK if you just go with the flow.”

green: inexperienced.

“I don’t think you can depend on Jack to do that job by himself. He’s too green.”






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