Quiz: Can You Guess the Origins of These Phrases?
Can You Guess the Origins of These Phrases?
By: Becky Stigall
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Whether they originate in another era, another country or another language, few of the phrases we use today are original to us. Take this quiz to find out how well you know the origins of these phrases.

2.0 of 35
The expression "cat got your tongue" has nothing to do with felines, but which other "cat"?
3.0 of 35
To "butter someone up" is a phrase from what culture?
4.0 of 35
Someone who is "mad as a hatter" might be from 17th century ______.
5.0 of 35
To be "caught red-handed" was to be caught doing something wrong. But what wrongdoing might have spurred the use of the phrase?
6.0 of 35
The phrase "barking up the wrong tree" has its origins in what activity?
7.0 of 35
Someone who "turns a blind eye" is clearly ignoring reality. But with whom did the phrase originate?
8.0 of 35
One might "bury the hatchet" to make peace, but what peacemakers were the originators of this phrase?
9.0 of 35
The phrase "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" has what murky origins?
10.0 of 35
Someone who gets the "cold shoulder" might be unwelcome, according to what tradition?
11.0 of 35
To go the "whole nine yards" meant you tried your best. This phrase originated in what combative situation?
12.0 of 35
If you "let your hair down," you are likely to be relaxed. But where did the phrase originate?
13.0 of 35
To "rub someone the wrong way" is annoying. The expression may have originated with what practice?
14.0 of 35
When something is "above board," we know it is legit. What tricky practice might have spurred the origins of this phrase?
15.0 of 35
The expression, "armed to the teeth" has its origins in what practice?
16.0 of 35
Some people take it to the limit and go "balls to the wall," but what high-flying origins did this phrase have?
17.0 of 35
"Beating around the bush" signifies avoidance. This phrase likely originated as part of what activity?
18.0 of 35
Someone who has "cold feet" is reluctant to do something. This phrase most likely originated with what pursuit?
19.0 of 35
One would be disappointed by a "flash in the pan," a phrase that has what explosive origins?
20.0 of 35
Someone who "gets your goat" is likely to be irritating. But where did this equine phrase originate?
21.0 of 35
Who "let the cat out of the bag," and where did this trade phrase originate?
22.0 of 35
The phrase "making the grade" originated with what transportation industry?
23.0 of 35
Most people hate encountering someone who is "mealy mouthed." But what ancient origins does this phrase have?
24.0 of 35
If your "ears are burning," you know someone is talking about you. This ancient phrase has its roots in what culture?
25.0 of 35
If you're "over a barrel," you're probably in trouble. This phrase originated when?
26.0 of 35
"Passing the buck" has nothing to do with money. This phrase originated as a result of what pastime?
27.0 of 35
When we "pull out all the stops," we give something our all. This phrase has its origins in what activity?
28.0 of 35
The phrase "raining cats and dogs" has what ancient origins?
29.0 of 35
The phrase "up to scratch" originated with what activity?
30.0 of 35
We know that crocodiles don't cry, so where did the old phrase "crocodile tears" come from?
31.0 of 35
The phrase "resting on your laurels" has what origin?
32.0 of 35
If you've been "read the riot act," you've been the recipient of a phrase with what legal origins?
33.0 of 35
If you've ever "painted the town red," you know that it's a sign of revelry. What celebratory roots does this phrase have?
34.0 of 35
The phrase "run amok" has its roots in what serious business?
35.0 of 35
If you've ever gotten "the third degree," you may have wondered what mysterious origins this phrase has?
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