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Idioms

20 Idioms based on Numbers

These are English idioms based on numbers. You can also try this Number Idioms Quiz

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

Idioms

a ballpark figure | a ballpark estimate American English

If you give a ballpark figure or a ballpark estimate, you give a number which you think is fairly close to the actual one.

a one-track mind

If someone has a one-track mind, they spend most of their time thinking about one subject.

a zero-sum game American English

A zero-sum game is a situation in which any gain by one side or person is at the expense of a loss to another side or person involved in the situation.

against all odds | against all the odds

If you do something against all odds, or against all the odds, you do it even though there were many problems and it didn't seem possible to do.

back to square one

If you have to go back to square one, you have to stop and start again, usually because something isn't working as well as expected.

behind the eight ball American English Informal

If you're behind the eight ball, you're in a difficult or dangerous position.

dressed (up) to the nines Informal

If you are dressed to the nines, or dressed up to the nines, you are wearing very smart clothes for a special occasion.

forty winks Informal

If you have forty winks, you have a short sleep, or a nap.

have second thoughts

If you're having second thoughts about something, you're having doubts about a decision you've made.

I owe you one! Informal

You can say "I owe you one!" when someone has done something for you and you'd be happy to return the favour one day.

in two minds

If you're in two minds about something, you can't decide what to do, or you can't decide which option is the best.

kill two birds with one stone

If you kill two birds with one stone, you achieve two things with the one action.

once and for all

If you do something once and for all, you do it in a way that's final and it means you'll never have to do it again.

once in a blue moon

If something happens once in a blue moon, it happens very rarely.

one in a million

If you say someone is "one in a million", you mean they're an exceptionally good person.

par for the course Informal

If something is par for the course, it's what you'd expect it to be.

put all your eggs in the one basket Informal

If you put all your eggs in the one basket, you put all your efforts or resources into one person, one thing or one plan, and if things don't work out, you lose everything.

the year dot | the year one

You can say "the year dot", or "the year one", when you're talking about a very, very long time ago.

zero in on

If you zero in on something, you focus your attention on it.

zero tolerance American English

If something is given zero tolerance, it won't be accepted even once.

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