Our Hardest Common Phrases Quiz

By: Talin Vartanian

What does the phrase "ships passing in the night" mean?

The phrase "two ships passing in the night" is an analogy for two people who have met by chance. They then go their own separate ways, like ships that pass by each other.

To "swing for the fences" means to...?

If someone tells you to "swing for the fences," they want you to give 100% of your best effort. This phrase is often used in sports competitions.

If someone says the phrase "shot in the dark," what does that mean?

Here's an example of how this phrase is used: If person A says "Who won the Super Bowl last year," Person B might say "OK, shot in the dark here, but I think it was the Patriots." "A shot in the dark" is used to guess or take a chance on something that is probably not going to be right.

What is the definition of this meaning: "To successfully go unpunished from something."

To go unpunished from a situation means that you are "scot-free." This can also be referring to jail time, custody or a potential punishment from your parents.

"When the rubber hits the road" is often used to signify...

"When the rubber hits the road" means that a proposition or an idea is being implemented. This is often used for newfound hypotheses.

If I say my mother "wouldn't harm a fly," what am I really saying about her?

Flies are often a nuisance, so if someone "wouldn't harm a fly," it means that they are too kind to not only hurt flies, but anybody. This is often used to signify how kind and gentle a person is.

What does this phrase mean: "What am I, chopped liver?"

Someone who doesn't feel as valued as someone else may use the expression, "What am I, chopped liver?" The food "chopped liver" is an analogy for feeling like just another "side" item.

If someone uses the phrase "whole nine yards," what are they saying?

"The whole nine yards" refers to the "whole" of something. So if I say "I want the whole nine yards of this turkey," that means I want all of the turkey.

If I tell you that you're "sitting on the fence," I'm trying to say that you're...

"Sitting on the fence" means that someone is indecisive. In other words, the person can't make up their mind on a decision.

If I tell you, "Don't pull wool over other people's eyes," what am I really saying?

The common phrase, "Don't pull wool over other people's eyes" means to not make people think that you like them. The phrase is also used to tell someone that they are being deceptive.

If I say that my dad comes around "once in a blue moon," I'm saying that...

"Once in a blue moon" refers to the rarity of a situation. So if I say that my dad only comes around once in a blue moon, I'm saying that it's rare that he pays a visit.

If I say that you are "off your rocker," what am I trying to tell you?

Someone who is "off their rocker" is someone who is not behaving appropriately. This often means that they are acting stupid, crazy or childish.

Someone who is not very smart would be equated to which of these phrases?

To "not play with a full deck" means that someone is not thinking very intelligently. This can refer to their overall intelligence or to a particular situation.

What does the phrase "not a spark of decency" mean?

Somebody who does not have a "spark of decency" means that they are not a very polite person. This also refers to a lack of manners.

If someone tells you to just "let the sleeping dogs lie," they are telling you to...

"Let the sleeping dogs lie" means to not bother someone or something. This also means to just let something be, and to not disrupt it.

If you "heard something on the grapevine," it means that you...

If you "heard something on the grapevine," it means that you heard gossip or secretive information about a situation. This can refer to both true or false kinds of information.

You might hear an optimist say, "Every cloud has a silver lining," which means...?

"Every cloud has a silver lining" is an optimistic way of saying that, "Good days will come soon." This is often acknowledging that the bad times are current, but that they will pass.

If someone says, "Elvis has left the building," what are they saying?

"Elvis has left the building" means that the show is over. This also means that a situation is over, which does not necessarily have to refer to a show.

If someone "cuts the mustard" it means that they were...

To be successful means that someone "cut the mustard." For example, if I say that John "cut the mustard in the race," it means that he was successful in the race (and probably won).

If I am "caught between two stools," it means that I'm...

To be "caught between two stools" means that someone is being indecisive with two choices. Both choices are typically of equal importance to cause such indecisiveness.

To "bite off more than you can chew" means that you are ...

Trying to attempt a task of high difficulty or responsibility means that you are "trying to bite off more than you can chew." This can also refer to multiple tasks, not just one.

Can you decode this phrase: "A stitch in time saves nine."

"A stitch in time saves nine" means that you can prevent quite a bit of headache down the road if you solve an issue now. This is another way of saying, "Don't procrastinate."

"A watched pot never boils" refers to which of these meanings?

If you ever have the time to stand around and literally watch a pot of water boil, it will feel as if it's taking forever. This is an analogy for how time feels slow when we attentively wait for something to "boil" or something to happen.

If a topic is a "hot potato," it is ...

A trendy topic might also be referred to as a "hot potato." For example, headlines of trendy news articles are considered to be "hot potato" articles.

If I say that the new kid at school is a "fish out of water," I'm saying that...

When you take a fish out of water, the fish is uncomfortable and foreign to its new environment. This is an analogy for a person who looks lost or uncomfortable in a certain situation.

The compliment of "fit as a fiddle" means what?

The phrase "fit as a fiddle" means that someone looks very fit. It can also be used to say that someone looks healthy.

"Foaming at the mouth" refers to which definition?

If someone is "foaming at the mouth," it means that they are expressing rage. The anger that is expressed is usually of a very high degree.

If my remarks "hit you below the belt," what does that mean?

If my remarks were considered to be too impolite, you might say something like, "Your words hit me below the belt." This is typically used to express vulnerability and feeling offended.

If you have a "chip on your shoulder," what does that mean?

If someone is holding a grudge that still makes them upset, it means that they have a "chip on their shoulder." This can also refer to a regret.

If what you're saying is "all Greek to me," it means that ...

"All Greek to me" doesn't necessarily refer to the Greek language. Rather, it means that you don't understand what someone is trying to tell you.

Someone who is clumsy by nature might be called a ...

"Bull in a china shop" refers to someone who is very clumsy in nature. This person may also have a habit of damaging surrounding items.

If someone "smells a rat," it means that they...

Feeling suspicious of a particular situation or of a person means that someone "smells a rat." The "rat," or person in such a case, is usually lying and deceptive in nature.

If I say that you are "in the red," what do I mean?

"In the red" refers to a person's financial situation. The phrase is usually used for someone who has depleted their money and assets.

If someone wants you to remain level-headed about a situation, they are telling you to ...

If someone wants you to "keep your shirt on," it means that they want you to remain level-headed about a situation. This is also used to help calm someone down.

What is the definition of "greased lighting?"

"Greased lightning" refers to something that is high in speed, or something moving very quickly. For example, if I say that this car is like greased lighting, I'm saying that the car drives very fast.

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About This Quiz

Common phrases are well-known forms of expressions that refer to analogies and life lessons. In this quiz, we've rounded out 35 difficult phrases that you may or may not have heard of.

Let's take a look at some of these "difficult" common phrases. For example, did you know that "fit as a fiddle" means that someone is very fit? While some might think it's a way of saying that someone looks heavy, due to the shape of a fiddle, it's actually a compliment for saying that someone looks great!

Another common phrase is "all Greek to me." While you might think that this phrase literally refers to the Greek language, it actually means that someone doesn't understand something at all. For example, if you're talking about computer parts to someone who doesn't know anything about computers, they might say something like, "What you're saying sounds all Greek to me."

This quiz will look at 35 "difficult" common phrases that will put your wits to the test! All you have to do is match the common phrase to the correct definition. If you ever get stuck, be sure to utilize the applicable hint that is attached to every question. Without further ado, take this "difficult" common phrases quiz now to see if you can score a 100%!

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