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Idioms

20 Idioms from British English

These idioms originated in and are typically used in British English. In some cases they have also spread to other varieties of English.

Click on any idiom for more information, including example sentences, notes and quizzes.

Idioms

a drop in the ocean British English

If an amount is a drop in the ocean, it's a very small portion of the amount that's needed.

a new lease of life British English

If someone has a new lease of life, they have a new enthusiasm for living.

a piece of cake British English

If you say that something is a piece of cake, you mean that it is extremely easy.

a zebra crossing British English

A zebra crossing is a pedestrian crossing that is marked on the road with painted black and white stripes.

an axe to grind (2) British English

If you have an axe to grind, you have a strong opinion about something and you express this opinion whenever you can.

another string to your bow British English

If you have another string to your bow, you have another way of making a living.

at a loose end British English

If you're at a loose end, you have nothing to do.

can't see the wood for the trees British English

If you can't see the wood for the trees, you can't see the whole situation clearly because you're looking too closely at small details, or because you're too closely involved.

come a cropper British English Informal

If you come a cropper, you fall over, or you make a mistake which has serious consequences for you.

come up trumps British English

If you come up trumps, you succeed in something that you may not have been expected to succeed in.

eat humble pie British English

If you eat humble pie, you admit that you are in the wrong and behave apologetically.

go down a treat British English

If something goes down a treat, it's a great success and everyone enjoys it.

itchy feet British English Informal

If you have itchy feet, you feel the need to go somewhere different or do something different.

jobs for the boys British English

If you say "jobs for the boys" you're referring to the fact that people in positions of power sometimes use their power to give jobs to their friends or family members.

just the ticket British English

You can say something is just the ticket if it's the perfect thing or if it's exactly what's needed.

make a song and dance about something British English

If you make a song and dance about something, you make a big deal out of, or a fuss over, something that isn't very important.

off your own bat British English

If you do something off your own bat, you do it without being asked to or told to.

right up your street British English

If something is right up your street, it would be perfect for you or ideal for your skills and interests.

take the mickey | mick out of someone British English Informal

If you're taking the mickey out of someone, or taking the mick out of them, you're making fun of them or copying their behaviour for a laugh.

um and ah British English

If you "um and ah" you're having trouble deciding what to say, or you're having trouble telling somebody something.

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