Thread: Idioms (A-Z)
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Old Tuesday, May 17, 2005
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Default Idioms(I-J-K)

I................................................. ...............................................

idiot box

- television set

He sits in front of the idiot box all day and never gets any work done.

if the shoe fits, wear it

- if what is being said in general describes you then it probably means you

He was complaining that most of the workers at his company were lazy. However his friend looked at him and said that if the shoe fits, wear it.

if worst comes to worst

- if the worst possible thing happens

If worst comes to worst we can cancel our holiday and go next year.

ill at ease

- feel nervous/uncomfortable

He appeared to be ill at ease during the interview.

in a bind

- in trouble

hey will really be in a bind if they can`t sell their house by next month.

in advance

- ahead of time

They bought the tickets in advance so that they could get a good seat.

in a family way

- pregnant, going to have a baby

Our new secretary is in a family way and plans to take a few months off from work soon.

in a fog (haze)

- confused, not sure what is happening

He is always in a fog and never seems to know what is going on.

in a hole

- in some trouble, in an embarrassing or difficult position

He is really in a hole now that he has problems both at work and at home.

in a hurry

- a need to move or act quickly

He is very busy and always in a hurry.

in a jam

- in trouble

He is really in a jam now that his car is not working properly.

in a kind (sort) of way

- to a certain extent, a little, somewhat

I would like to go in a kind of way but still I don`t think that I will bother going today.

in and out

- coming in and going out often

He has been in and out all day but I don`t know where he is at the moment.

in a nutshell

- briefly

I tried to explain the problem to him in a nutshell but there still wasn`t enough time.

in any case (event)

- no matter what happens, surely, without fail

I may not be able to meet you next week but in any case I will still give you the books before then.

in a pig`s eye

- hardly, unlikely, not so

In a pig`s eye will I let him borrow my car next weekend.

in a pinch

- okay when nothing else is available

That other tool will do in a pinch if we can`t find the correct one.

in arms

- armed, ready to fight

They are all in arms since they found out about the wage decrease.

in a rush

- in a hurry

They got the job done in a big rush so I am a little worried about the quality.

in a rut

- always doing the same thing

She feels that she is in a rut after doing the same job for seven years.

in a spot

- in some trouble, in an embarrassing or difficult position

She is really in a tight spot right now since she was unable to enter university and also has no job.

in a way

- to a certain extent, a little, somewhat

In a way I would like to go but basically I don`t care.

in a word

- briefly, to sum up

In a word, the problem with the car is that it needs a new motor.

in a world of one`s own

- in deep thought or concentration, not caring about other people

He is always in a world of his own and doesn`t notice what other people say or think.

in black and white

- in writing

I want to get the information in black and white before I go to the meeting.

in cahoots with

- in secret agreement or partnership with someone

The supermarket was in cahoots with the vegetable producer to try and keep the prices high.

in case

- as a precaution, in order to be prepared

In case there is a fire, we keep our computer backup files in a fireproof safe.

in character

- as usual, typical, in the way that a person usually behaves

Supporting the other members of the staff is in character with her usual actions.

in charge

- in control or authority, responsible

He is charge of the sales department at his company.

in check

- under control, kept quiet or back

The violence was kept in check by the police department and the army.

in clover

- rich or successful, having a pleasant or easy life

They are in clover now that they have sold their business and retired.

in cold blood

- without feeling or pity, cooly and deliberately

The family was murdered in cold blood by the criminal gang.

in common

- shared together or equally, in use or ownership by all

We had to use the bathroom in common with the other people in the house.

in deep

- seriously mixed up in something like debt or trouble

He owes a lot of money and is in very deep with his new house and car.

in due course

- in the usual amount of time, at the right time

We will send the information to you in due course.

in fact

- actually, the truth is

He`s been to China before. In fact he`s been there three times.

in for

- unable to avoid, sure to get

He is in for a lot of trouble now that he is unable to finish his graduation essay.

in good time

- a little early, sooner than necessary

I will try and get the information to you in good time so that you will be able to decide what to do.

in hand

- under control

The teacher had the class in hand when the principal came to visit the classroom.

in hot water

- in trouble

I am in hot water over the extra expenses that I used during the conference.

in keeping with

- going well together, agreeing, similar

In keeping with our tradition of letting the visiting team kick first we will do it for this game as well.

in kind

- in a similar way, with the same kind of thing

We will pay them back in kind for the use of their sailboat.

in league with

- in secret agreement or partnership with someone

The union has been in league with management in trying to build the new factory.

in light of

- as a result of new information, because of

In light of his contribution to the company we decided to give him a large summer bonus.

in line

- doing or being what people expect or accept, within ordinary limits

It was difficult to keep the children in line at the picnic but somehow we managed.

in love

- liking very much, loving

He has been in love with his girlfriend ever since he met her in high school.

in luck

- having good luck, finding something good by chance

I think that we are in luck. I have found two tickets for the concert.

in memory of

- as a reminder of, as a memorial to

We decided to put our money together and buy a painting in memory of our grandfather.

in nothing flat

- quickly

I will have this information printed out for you in nothing flat.

in no time

- soon, quickly

I will have this done for you in no time and then you can go for lunch.

in on

- joining together for something

We went in on a present for our father for Father`s Day.

in on

- told about, having knowledge of

I was finally let in on the secret about why she left our company.

in one`s element

- in an environment or situation that comes naturally to someone

She is in her element being in charge of the new sales department.

in one`s face

- abruptly, unexpectedly

The plan blew up in our face just as we were ready to start.

in one`s good books (graces)

- approved of by someone, liked by someone

I have been in her good books since I helped her with her work last month.

in one`s hair

- annoying someone

She has been in my hair all morning because she is on her summer holiday starting this week.

in one`s mind`s eye

- in one`s imagination

In your mind`s eye try and imagine that you are on a nice sunny beach in Hawaii.

in one`s shell

- withdrawn, silent, not sociable

We have been trying to get her out of her shell but it is of no use. She doesn`t want to talk to anyone.

in one`s shoes

- in someone elses place or position

I wish that I was in his shoes with his great job and new car.

in one`s tracks

- abruptly, immediately, just where one is at the moment

I was forced to stop in my tracks when I saw the snake on the road.

in order to

- for the purpose of

We have decided to close down the school for the summer in order to do some major repairs.

in other words

- say something in a different (usually more direct) way

In other words if you don`t finish the assignment by Wednesday you will not pass the course.

in part

- to some extent, partly

I think the reason he is not golfing well this year is in part due to his problem with his back.

in point of fact

- really, truthfully

In point of fact there were not enough people at the meeting to vote on the proposal.

ins and outs

- all the details

He knows all the ins and outs of the new machine.

in seventh heaven

- very happy

I have been in seventh heaven since I started my new job.

in short supply

- not enough, in less than the amount or number needed

Chairs were in short supply so some of the guests had to sit on the floor.

inside and out

- in every part, completely

We looked through the room inside and out for my lost wallet.

inside out

- so that the inside is turned outside

She turned her purse inside out in order to look for her lost key.

inside track

- an advantage, shortest distance around a racetrack

I think that he has the inside track on getting the new job at the computer company.

in spite of

- in opposition to, despite

In spite of the terrible weather we went to the beach for a picnic.

instead of

- in place of

Let`s meet at the restaurant instead of the department store as we had planned.

in stitches

- laughing

They were in stitches over their teacher`s joke.

in stock

- having something ready to sell or use

The store didn`t have any computer discs in stock so we bought some over the Internet.

in store

- ready to happen, waiting

I don`t really know what the future has in store for me but I will be ready for anything.

in the air

- current, exerting an influence

It is in the air that we will be getting a new president next week.

in the bag

- certain, sure

The new contract will be in the bag if we put in a good proposal.

in the black

- have a credit balance, make a profit

The company has been in the black for over three years now.

in the cards

- to be expected, likely to happen, predictable

I think that a new company structure is in the cards but I can`t be sure.

in the charge of

- under the care or supervision of

She has been in the charge of her grandmother since her mother and father died.

in the clear

- with nothing to limit action, free of anything that makes moving or seeing difficult

We seem to be in the clear now so it should be safe to cross the road.

in the clear

- free of blame or suspicion

The police talked to the three boys for a few minutes but they seem to be in the clear now.

in the clouds

- far from real life, in dreams, in thought

He is usually in the clouds so you may have trouble finding out what you want to know from him.

in the course of

- during

In the course of his life he visited over 45 countries.

in the dark

- having no information about something

He is still in the dark about my plans to quit my job.

in the doghouse

- in trouble

He is in the doghouse with his wife after staying out drinking last night.

in the first place

- firstly, to begin with

Of course I can`t go. In the first place I must work on Saturday. In the second place I have no money.

in the groove

- at one`s best, doing something very well

We are finally getting in the groove and should be able to finish this job by early next week.

in the hole

- having a score lower than zero in a game, a score below zero

At the beginning of the card game I was in the hole but later I began to do well.

in the hole

- in debt, behind financially

Although he is always working he always seems to be in the hole

in the line of duty

- done or happening as part of a job

The police officer was killed in the line of duty during the bank robbery.

in the long run

- the distant future, in the end

For now he is losing money on his stocks but in the long run he should make money.

in the market for

- wanting or ready to buy something

I am in the market for a new computer as my old one is too slow.

in the red

- lose money, not make a profit

The company has been in the red for three years now.

in the saddle

- in command, in control

The president is back in the saddle again after being ill for several months.

in the same boat

- in a similar situation

We are all in the same boat now that our company has gone out of business.

in the soup

- in serious trouble, in disorder

She is in the soup now that she has had a big fight with her boss.

in the swim

- active in or knowing what is going on

He is definitely in the swim. He has information about everybody.

in the wake of

- as a result of, following

In the wake of the large number of people who have recently left our company we will need to hire some more people.

in the wind

- soon to happen, being planned

It is in the wind that they are planning to open a new store next year.

in the works

- in preparation, being planned or worked on

Don`t worry about whether or not we will be building the new computer lab. It is definitely in the works.

in the wrong

- wrong; against justice, truth or fact

The driver was in the wrong and was arrested by the police after the accident.

in time

- early enough

I didn`t come home in time to meet my cousin.

into thin air

- completely, without anything left

The group of hikers vanished into thin air and were never heard of again.

in touch
- talking or writing to each other, giving or getting news

We are still in touch even though we have been out of school for many years.

in tow

- being pulled

The truck had a trailer in tow when it went off the highway.

in tow

- being taken from place to place, along with someone

She spent the morning at the shopping center with her child in tow.

in tune

- going well together, in agreement, matching

We have been in tune with each other ever since we met at our high school graduation party.

in turn
- each following another

We went up to the front of the class in turn in order to pick up our diplomas.

in two shakes of a lamb`s tail

- quickly, in no time at all

I will have this finished in two shakes of a lamb`s tail and then I will give it to you.

in vain
- without effect, without success

We tried in vain to find a good job but it was impossible.

in view of

- after thinking about, because of

In view of the large number of people who have come I think that we will need a bigger room.

in with

- in friendship, favor or closeness with

I think that he was in with the wrong group of people when he was in high school.

iron out

- work out

We have ironed out all of our problems and are finally doing better.

irons in the fire

- things one is doing, projects with which a person is busy

Recently he has too many irons in the fire. That is why he has become sick.

itching palm
- a wish for money, greed

The guard at the border crossing has an itching palm so be careful of him.

J................................................. ................................................


- a person who can do many things

We gave him a job because we needed a jack-of-all-trades around the factory to look after the many repairs.

jack up

- raise prices

The gas station jacked up their prices during the snow storm.

jam on the brakes

- quickly put the brakes on in a car to stop

He jammed on the brakes and was able to avoid hitting the child.


- crowded, full

The train that we took this morning was jam-packed with people.

jazz up

- brighten up, add more noise or movement or color

They really jazzed up the community center for the party tonight.

John Doe

- name used for an unknown person

Why do the application forms use "John Doe" as the name of the person who is applying for something?

John Henry (John Hancock)

- signature

Please sign your John Henry here and we will process your order right away.


- new-comer

He`s a Johnny-come-lately and doesn`t really know what he is talking about.


- be at the right place when needed, right on time

He`s always Johnny-on-the-spot. Just when we need him he arrives.

jump all over someone

- criticize, scold, blame

As soon as I began to talk about my plans for the summer he jumped all over me.

jump at

- take or accept quickly and gladly

He jumped at the chance to go to Europe on company business.

jump bail

- run away and fail to come to trial and give up the money you have already paid to the court

He jumped bail and decided to go and live in a foreign country.

jump down someone`s throat

- criticize or become angry with someone

As soon as I reached the office he jumped down my throat over the missing file.

jumping-off place

- the starting place of a long trip

We gathered early in the morning at the jumping-off place for our trip to the mountains.

jump on someone

- scold, criticize, blame

Everyone jumped on him at the meeting because they were angry about the new schedules.

jump on the bandwagon (also get or climb on the bandwagon)

- join a popular activity

Everyone has jumped on the bandwagon to try and stop smoking in the workplace.

jump out of one`s skin

- be badly frightened

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw him at the window.

jump the gun

- start before you should

He jumped the gun and started selling the tickets before he should.

jump through a hoop

- do whatever one is told to do, obey any order

He is always ready to jump through a hoop for his boss so he is not very popular with the other employees.

jump to conclusions

- make a quick conclusion without thinking

Please don`t jump to conclusions over who broke the computer.

just about

- nearly, almost

I waited just about one hour before the concert started.

just now

- this very moment, a minute ago

The accident happened just now. The police haven`t even arrived yet.

just so

- with great care, very carefully

She always makes sure that her hair is just so before she goes out.

just the same

- nevertheless

I told her not to come early but just the same she came early anyway.

just what the doctor ordered

- exactly what is needed or wanted

Having the extra day off from work was just what the doctor ordered and he was able to get his many errands finished.


kangaroo court

- a self-appointed group that decides how to punish someone who is supposed to have done something wrong

The men were convicted by the people in the town but it was like a kangaroo court and nobody agreed with the decision.

Katie bar the door

- get ready for trouble, a desperate situation is at hand

The gang arrived at the bar and were ready to come in and fight. Well, Katie bar the door.

keel over

- fall over and faint

Three of the members of the band suddenly keeled over because of the heat.

keel over

- turn upside down, tip over

The boat keeled over in the middle of the lake but everybody was safe.

keep after

- remind someone over and over

I always have to keep after her to do her job properly.

keep an eye on something or someone

- watch (as in take care of something)

Will you keep an eye on the baby while I go to the store.

keep a secret

- not tell a secret to others

I have been trying to keep a secret about her boyfriend for a long time now.

keep a stiff upper lip

- be brave, face trouble bravely

The prisoners tried hard to keep a stiff upper lip in spite of the hardships of the prison.

keep at

- persist with

He has decided to keep at his studies so I am sure he will succeed.

keep body and soul together

- keep alive, survive

It was very cold during the winter but somehow she was able to keep body and soul together and survived.

keep books

- keep records of money gained and spent, do the work of a bookkeeper

My first job was to keep books for a small company in my hometown.

keep down

- keep from progressing or growing, keep within limits, control

The students were told to keep down the noise as some of the other classes were having exams.

keep from

- prevent, refrain from

I love ice cream and couldn`t keep from eating three bowls.

keep good time

- work accurately (a clock)

My watch has not been keeping good time lately.

keep house

- look after a house or a household

She has been keeping house for her father while he is sick.

keep in touch

- talk or write to someone

I have always tried to keep in touch with my friends from high school.

keep on (doing something)

- continue

She is careless and keeps on making the same mistakes over and over.

keep one`s chin up

- be brave, be determined

Try and keep your chin up. Things will get better in the future.

keep one`s eye on the ball

- be watchful and ready

You should keep your eye on the ball or you will make a mistake.

keep one`s fingers crossed

- wish for good results in something one is doing

Please keep your fingers crossed that I will pass the exam.

keep one`s head

- stay calm when there is trouble or danger

He is a very good leader and always is able to keep his head during an emergency.

keep one`s head above water

- have the ability to pay one`s bills

He is having trouble keeping his head above water since his salary has decreased.

keep one`s mouth shut

- be or stay silent

I was very angry so I told him to keep his mouth shut. Later I had to apologize.

keep one`s nose clean

- stay out of trouble

He has been managing to keep his nose clean since he moved to the new town.

keep one`s nose to the grindstone

- work very hard

He has been keeping his nose to the grindstone recently and I haven`t had a chance to see him.

keep one`s own counsel

- keep one`s ideas and plans to oneself

He always keeps his own counsel and never really reveals his plans to anyone.

keep one`s shirt on

- calm down, keep from losing one`s temper or getting impatient

Try and keep your shirt on! Everything is going to be alright in a few minutes.

keep one`s wits about one

- stay calm when there is trouble or danger

Although there was a fire in the building he was able to keep his wits about him and help everybody to safety.

keep one`s word

- fulfill one`s promise

She never keeps her word so I don`t believe that she will come to the party.

keep pace

- go as fast, go at the same rate

It was difficult to keep pace with the other students but somehow I managed.

keep quiet

- remain silent

Could you all please keep quiet and listen to the instructor.

keep someone on

- allow someone to continue working for you

Although we have too many workers we have decided to keep him on until business improves.

keep tabs on

- watch or check, keep under observation

They have been keeping tabs on the spending of the sales department.

keep the ball rolling

- keep up an activity or action, not allow something that is happening to slow or stop

We should try to keep the ball rolling and get as much of our work done while everyone is still here.

keep the home fires burning

- keep things going as usual while someone is away

Don`t worry about anything. I will stay home and keep the home fires burning while you are on your holiday.

keep track of

- maintain a record

Please carefully keep track of your expenses during the trip.

keep (someone) up

- prevent someone from going to bed

They kept me up last night with their noisy radio.

keep time

- show the right time

My new watch keeps perfect time so I am very happy.

keep time

- keep the beat, keep the same rhythm

It is difficult for him to keep time with the other members of the band but at least he tries.

keep under one`s hat

- keep secret, not tell

He won`t say where he is going for his holiday. He wants to keep it under his hat.

keep up appearances

- keep an outward show of prosperity or good behavior

They have been trying to keep up appearances even though he has lost his job.

keep up

- go on, not stop, continue

He is working hard to keep up the same level of production as last year.

keep up

- keep something at the same level or rate or in good condition

He spends a lot of time trying to keep up the garden of his house.

keep up with

- go at the same speed as a person or thing, maintain the same rate of progress

I can`t keep up with the rest of the class.

keep up with the news

- keep informed

He reads the newspaper every morning in order to keep up with the news.

keep up with the Joneses

- try to be the same as your neighbors

He always worries about keeping up with the Joneses and is always frustrated.

kettle of fish

- something to be considered, how things are

That`s a totally different kettle of fish. We should talk about it another time.

keyed up

- excited, nervous

I was all keyed up after we won the game and I couldn`t go to sleep.

kick around

- treat badly, act roughly or badly to someone or something

I don`t like her very much because she is always kicking other people around.

kick around

- lie around in a place

I was tired on Saturday so I stayed home and kicked around in the morning.

kick back

- relax and do nothing

I`m going to kick back this evening and stay home and watch television.


- money paid illegally for favorable treatment

The construction company gave the politician some illegal kickbacks in order to win the contract.

kick off

- begin, launch, start

The department store kicked off their summer sale early Saturday morning.


- a start

The kick-off for the no smoking campaign will start next week.

kick oneself

- regret

I kicked myself for not applying for the job sooner.

kick out

- make someone go or leave, get rid of, dismiss

He was kicked out of school when he was 15 years old because of his bad behavior.

kick over

- a motor begins to work

At first the engine wouldn`t start because it was too cold but finally it kicked over.

kick over

- pay, contribute

I was forced to kick over a lot of money for the motor for my car.

kick the bucket

- die

The man who used to clean the walls at the factory kicked the bucket last week.

kick the habit

- stop a bad habit like smoking or taking drugs

He has been trying to kick his smoking habit for years.

kick up a fuss

- make trouble, make a disturbance

I didn`t think that it would be a big problem but he really kicked up a fuss when I told him about the accident.

kick up one`s heels

- have a good time, celebrate

We really kicked up our heels at the Christmas party that we attended last week.

kill off

- kill or end completely, destroy

The pollution in the river has killed off all of the fish.

kill the goose that layed the golden egg

- spoil something that is good or something that one has by being greedy

He was always complaining about his job but now it is gone. He has killed the goose that layed the golden egg.

kill two birds with one stone

- accomplish two things with one action

He was able to kill two birds with one stone by going to the meeting.

knock about

- travel without a plan, go where one pleases

We decided to go to Brazil and knock about for a couple of months.

knock it off

- stop doing something, quit

Please knock it off. You are going to hurt yourself if you are not careful.

knock off

- murder someone

The owner of the shop was knocked off in the robbery last week.

knock off one`s feet

- surprise or shock someone so much that he does not know what to do

When they announced that I had won the prize it knocked me off my feet.

knock one`s block off

- hit someone very hard, beat someone up

He was very angry and threatened to knock anyone`s block off who came near him.

knock one`s head against the wall

- waste time trying to do something with no success

They have been knocking their head against the wall for years trying to find a solution to the problem.

knock oneself out

- make a great effort

They really knocked themselves out trying to make the party successful.

knock on wood

- knock on something made of wood to keep from having bad luck

I don`t think that I will lose my job - knock on wood.


- a very beautiful woman

The man said that the woman he saw at the bus stop was a real knockout.

knock out

- make unconscious, unworkable or unusable

The storm last night knocked out power in most of the town.

knock the living daylights out of someone

- make someone unconscious

The man knocked the living daylights out of his friend during the fight.

know by heart

- memorize

I learned the poem by heart.

(not) know if one is coming or going

- not know what to do

The new sales manager doesn`t seem to know if he is coming or going.


- a person who acts as if they know everything

He is a know-it-all and nobody likes to be around him.

(not) know the first thing about something

- lack basic knowledge about something

He doesn`t know the first thing about computers.

know which side one`s bread is buttered on

- know who can help one and try to please him, know what is good for oneself

He is careful not to make his boss angry. He knows which side his bread is buttered on.

knuckle down

- begin to work earnestly

I think it is time that we knuckle down and finally finish this project.

knuckle under

- yield, submit

The union finally knuckled under the pressure and ended the strike.

Last edited by Argus; Sunday, October 15, 2006 at 03:32 AM.
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