If ever you've struggled to make out figurative phrases, this quiz will help loads! Try your best to identify these common phrases, most of which also have literal meanings and some of which have more than one metaphorical definition. The English language is rife with idioms that sum up just about every human emotion and practical phenomenon imaginable. Surely you will recognize many of the phrases in this quiz, but knowing their meanings is an entirely different story.
Let's face it, idioms are confusing. Studying a standard English language dictionary will barely prepare you for this wordsmith workout. A culture connoisseur is your best resource for decoding common English phrases. If you spot a literal explanation of a phrase on this test, chances are it's not the correct answer. Beyond that advice, things get even trickier.
Set your sights on clever expressions, especially when describing emotions. English idioms often express vivid imagery that's meant to ignite a particular emotion. Another "rule of thumb" for figuring out idiom meanings is to think sarcastically, as with the phrase "working for peanuts," since working for very little (peanuts) is counterintuitive.
To sum up your newfound idiom strategy: literal = "probably wrong"; ironic or dramatic = "probably right." Armed with these rules, nail as many common phrases as you can!
Censorship may be implied by the phrase "Bite your tongue." If someone actually bites their tongue, they're probably unable to speak. The phrase is suggested immediately after a bitter truth is uttered.
In the technology age, educators struggle to find a sound balance between online and face-to-face educational techniques. Many argue that the seemingly endless supply of online instructional tools should merely complement essential one-on-one student-teacher learning opportunities.
The phrase "bite the bullet" is similar to "make the best of [something]." Both idioms recognize that a challenging situation is at hand. Dealing with cumbersome issues in the best way instead of complaining about them is encouraged.
The phrase "not as young as I used to be" is spoken by older people or anyone attempting to make light of a diminished personal skill or trait. The phrase usually suggests that a person is getting older - which, of course, we all are.
"Cut both ways" concerns treating two sides of an issue the same way. For example, during 2013 trade negotiations between the United States and Belgium, at issue was fair market access. Both countries were held to the same trade restrictions, so the rules would cut both ways.
This common phrase implies doing something impulsively, without good reason or consideration. In 1995, President Clinton characterized the U.S. House Republicans' collective choice to slash taxes for rich Americans while searching for Medicare savings as jumping "off the deep end."
"Not bat an eyelid" is a variant of the idiom "not bat an eye." It is more reasonable to assume that people bat eyelids and not the eyes themselves. The shortened version of the phrase is a testament to how well the phrase is understood to mean rigid fearlessness.
To "take away from" has two figurative meanings. The phrase describes a situation in which someone attempts to understand something they have already observed, or it can mean the act of devaluing a sentiment, idea, condition or object.
In biology, the "abandon-ship hypothesis" predicts that low-performing organisms subjected to stressful environments will increase sexual reproduction in order to strengthen the genetic material of future generations. In modern language, the phrase means to leave a bad situation, as you would abandon an actual sinking ship.
If someone says that they were "not born yesterday," they are calling attention to their knowledge or experience. The phrase is used as a response when someone speaks nonsense or lies.
This idiom refers to remote areas that are not frequently accessed, along with easily accessible spaces. For example, if you thoroughly clean something by disassembling the item and cleaning every piece, you've cleaned "every nook and cranny" of it.
When exercising power over something, that "something" or person is subjected to an influential force or authority. Dictators, court judges and other entities can use their powers to considerably control the actions of others who are less powerful or even powerless.
To "kowtow" means to suck up to someone or something in an obvious way. At the same time, you are conceding to the demands of someone or some entity that you either deem more powerful or want to appease for whatever reason.
If you "get off on the wrong foot," you have started an endeavor poorly. The phrase is often expressed when people meet for the first time and one or more of them recognizes that the first encounter could have gone better.
"Get with the program" is a call to conform with the way things are conventionally done or to accept the reasons why something is perceived to be correct. "Get on board" is a similar expression.
The phrase means that you know something or someone very well. Consider that you could easily recognize the back of your own hand, as compared with others. Senator Russ Feingold once campaigned with ads that included a photo of the back of his left hand and the slogan that he "knows Wisconsin like the back of his hand."
Anyone who "flies off the handle" loses their temper. The phrase comes from the notion that an axe head suddenly separating from its handle during a swing would be terrifying.
In 2015, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used this common phrase profusely when he took to social media to warn potential combatants. Abbott asserted that there would be no more benefit of the doubt, or blind consideration, for the prospect of entry at the country's borders.
The idiom has taken on a more appealing sense, referring to striking physical beauty. But the phrase was initially used as a reaction to someone who flashes a scowl - or "shoots daggers" - to communicate dissatisfaction.
The phrase "able to fog a mirror" is said in jest about someone who isn't very energetic or impressive - they function at a basic level. Holding a mirror under a sleeping person's nose to see if it fogs from breath condensation is an alternative to checking their pulse for a sign of life.
"Saturday Night Live" character "The Ladies Man," also known as Leon Phelps, exaggerates the essence of the phrase. A ladies' man is typically well-liked by the requisite assortment of females he desires at any given time. Phelps' character attracts women that are just as hyperreal as he is.
Nursing mothers are encouraged to be avid clock-watchers so that feeding times might run as smoothly as possible. Of course, just about every kid in school could be called a clock-watcher as well.
"Hacking your way through [something]" literally means exerting yourself in order to cut through something dense, as when using a machete to move through a jungle. Figuratively, the phrase is used to describe the effort and willpower needed to complete a daunting task.
"Just" in this context means "fair." "Deserts" describes what a person deserves, based on their actions. No pies are involved, as that would be "desserts."
Being "ill-disposed to [something]" means "possessing a strong dislike." We hope that you are ill-disposed to leaving quizzes unfinished.
"Jockeying around" is not about avoiding or defending yourself from something; it is about improving your position. You might jockey around to get a better view at a concert.
To "have a stake in [something]" usually implies financial interest: an investor has a stake in the company they invest in, for example. The idiom also refers to interest in general. A person who is disinterested in a particular thing has no stake in it and, therefore, doesn't care about it.
A "landslide victory" usually pertains to political elections and describes a win by a very large margin. Following such an election result, the losing candidate probably won't request a recount.
To "preach to the choir" means trying to convince someone who doesn't need convincing. Telling Sherlock Holmes fans that mysteries are entertaining would be preaching to the choir.
Someone who is "destined for greatness" is expected to be successful in the ventures they pursue. The phrase is usually attributed to young people who've demonstrated unique or exceptional talent.
The phrase "make up for lost time" is often used in situations where people want to get reacquainted. The idiom can also apply to situations where prompt catching up is desired, due to a prior lag in performance or productivity.
To "rob the cradle" is to date or marry a person who is considerably younger than you are. The phrase is more commonly associated with older males who date younger females, as opposed to older females partnering with younger males.
The phrase "curse like a sailor" holds similar meaning to "swear like a trooper." The two phrases emphasize a person's ability to not only use swear words boldly, but also to use them often, with skillful ease.
"Sweating [something] out" concerns suffering through a physical or emotional ordeal that is unpleasant. The phrase also has a literal meaning, as when someone is ill and needs to "sweat a fever out," for example.
What an unpleasant picture the phrase "diarrhea of the mouth" paints! The phrase obviously describes the nonstop blather of a person who just can't ... stop... talking. Is there a pill for that?