Idioms based on the body and bodily functions. Select an idiom for more details. Also try Body Idioms Quiz.

(have) egg on your face INFORMAL

You will have egg on your face if you've said or done something wrong, and it's made you feel embarrassed or stupid.

(your) hands are tied

You can say your hands are tied if you're prevented from doing something that you'd normally have the power or the authority to do.

(your) heart goes out to (someone)

If your heart goes out to someone, you feel great sympathy for them.

(your) heart is in the right place

If your heart is in the right place, you try to do the right thing, even if things don't always work out for the best.

(your) heart isn't in it

If your heart isn't in something you're doing, you don't really want to do it.

a bad hair day INFORMAL

If you're having a bad hair day, everything seems to be going wrong for you.

a gut feeling

If you have a gut feeling, you sense something about a person or a situation, without knowing why, but you're sure what you sense is true.

a head start

If you have a head start, you start something ahead of others or with an advantage over others.

a kick in the teeth

If you get a kick in the teeth, something bad happens to you or you feel that you've been treated poorly.

a knuckle sandwich INFORMAL

If you give someone a knuckle sandwich, you punch them.

a pain in the neck INFORMAL

You can say someone is a pain in the neck if they annoy you, or something is a pain in the neck if you don't like doing it.

a pat on the back

You've given someone a pat on the back if you've told them they've done something well, or done a good job.

a shot in the arm INFORMAL

You can say something is a shot in the arm if it gives a person or an organisation renewed energy or enthusiasm.

a sight for sore eyes INFORMAL

If something or someone is a sight for sore eyes, you are glad to see them.

a skeleton in the cupboard | closet

If you have a skeleton in the cupboard, or in the closet, you have a secret in your past which could damage you if it became known.

a slap on the wrist

If someone gives you a slap on the wrist, they give you a mild punishment for making a mistake or doing something wrong.

a slip of the tongue

If you make a slip of the tongue, you make a small mistake when speaking.

a weight off your shoulders

You can say a weight is off your shoulders if you no longer have to worry about something or deal with something difficult.

Achilles' heel

An Achilles' heel is a weakness that could result in failure.

an eye-opener

You can say something's an eye-opener if it's made you realize something you hadn't been aware of before.

behind someone's back

If you do something behind someone's back, you do it without letting them know about it.

bite your tongue | hold your tongue

If you bite your tongue, or hold your tongue, you force yourself not to say something you really want to say.

break your heart

If someone breaks your heart, they cause you a lot of emotional pain by ending a romantic relationship, or by deeply hurting you in some other way.

by word of mouth

If something becomes well-known by word of mouth, it becomes well-known because people are telling each other about it, and not because of advertising or other marketing tools.

caught red-handed

If someone is caught red-handed, they are caught in the act of doing something wrong such as cheating or stealing.

come to your senses

If you come to your senses, you see things clearly and begin to act sensibly after a period of confusion and unwise behaviour.

dig your heels in

If you dig your heels in, you stubbornly resist something or refuse to change.

drag your feet | drag your heels

If you drag your feet, or drag your heels, you do something slowly because you don't really want to do it.

ear to the ground INFORMAL

If you have your ear to the ground, you know what's really going on in a situation.

easy on the eye

If something is easy on the eye, it is pleasant to look at.

elbow grease

If something needs elbow grease, it needs a lot of hard physical work.

eyes like a hawk

If someone has eyes like a hawk, they have very good eyesight and they notice everything.

face to face

If people meet face to face, they meet in person in the real world.

feel the pinch

If you are feeling the pinch, you're finding it harder to survive on your income.

find your feet

If you're still finding your feet, you're still adjusting to a new place or a new situation.

get it off your chest

If you get it off your chest, you tell somebody about something that's been bothering you and you've been thinking about a lot.

get off on the wrong foot

If you get off on the wrong foot, you start something poorly, or begin with a mistake.

go over your head

If someone goes over your head, they go to someone with more authority than you in order to get something that you would normally grant, possibly because they think you won't give it to them.

grease someone's palm INFORMAL

If you grease someone's palm, you pay them a bribe.

hard to swallow

Something that someone has said is hard to swallow if it's difficult to believe.

have a heart-to-heart

If you have a heart-to-heart with someone, you have an honest talk and share your feelings with each other.

have your hands full

If you have your hands full, you're busy.

have your head in the clouds

If someone has their head in the clouds, they are out of touch with the everyday world and can be unrealistic or naive as a result.

heads will roll

You can say "heads will roll" if people are going to lose their jobs after making a mistake.

hold your head high | hold your head up high

You can hold your head high, or hold your head up high, if you feel proud of something.

It's written all over your face.

If you say "it's written all over your face", you're saying that the expression on someone's face is showing their true feelings or thoughts.

itchy feet British English INFORMAL

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

joined at the hip

If two people or things are joined at the hip, they're so closely linked as to be almost inseparable.

jump down your throat | jump all over you

If someone jumps down your throat, or jumps all over you, they strongly criticise you or scold you.

jump out of your skin INFORMAL

You jump out of your skin when something suddenly shocks you and your whole body jumps.

keep an eye on

If you keep an eye on someone, you make sure you know what they're doing.

keep your nose clean

If you keep your nose clean, you stay out of trouble by making sure you don't do anything wrong.

lend someone a hand

If you lend someone a hand, you help them.

let your hair down

If you let your hair down, you enjoy yourself by doing whatever you feel like doing and not worrying about what other people might think.

lose face

If you lose face, your status falls and you aren't respected as much as you were.

lose your head

If you lose your head, you become very angry about something.

more than meets the eye

You can say there's more to something than meets the eye if it's more complex, more important or more interesting than it seems at first.

music to your ears

If something is music to your ears, it's just what you want to hear.

neck and neck

If two competitors are running neck and neck in a race, they are almost level.

nerves of steel

If you have nerves of steel, you are very brave and not many things make you scared or nervous.

off the top of your head INFORMAL

If you give someone information off the top of your head, you do so from memory, without checking beforehand.

on the one hand | on the other hand

You can say "on the one hand" before describing one of two contrasting ideas, options, or opinions, and then say "on the other hand" before describing the other one.

on your last legs | on its last legs INFORMAL

If you say you're on your last legs, it can mean you're close to exhaustion, or it can mean you're close to death. If a thing is on its last legs, it's close to breaking or wearing out.

pay through the nose INFORMAL

If you pay through the nose for something, you pay more than the usual price for it.

pick somebody's brains

If you pick somebody's brains, you ask them for detailed information or ideas about something.

play it by ear

If you play it by ear, you don't plan ahead but you do whatever seems best at the time depending on the situation.

pull someone's leg INFORMAL

If you pull someone's leg, you play a joke on them by saying something that isn't true.

put someone's nose out of joint INFORMAL

If you put someone's nose out of joint, you upset them by not treating them with as much respect or consideration as they think they deserve.

put your foot in it

If you put your foot in it you say or do the wrong thing and usually make matters worse.

put your foot in your mouth

If you put your foot in your mouth you say or do the wrong thing and usually make matters worse.

rack your brains | rack you brain

If you rack your brains, or rack you brain, you try hard to remember something or think of a solution to a problem or a puzzle.

see eye to eye

If you see eye to eye with someone, you totally agree with them about something.

shoot yourself in the foot

If you shoot yourself in the foot, you harm yourself in some way by doing something stupid or making a silly mistake.

stick out like a sore thumb | stand out like a sore thumb

If someone sticks out like a sore thumb, or stands out like a sore thumb, everyone notices them because they're not the same as the people around them.

teething problems | teething troubles

If someone or something is having teething problems, or teething troubles, they're having problems during the early stages of something.

the gift of the gab | the gift of gab

If you've got the gift of the gab, or the gift of gab, you have the natural ability to talk in a way that people find entertaining or persuasive.

the upper hand

If you have the upper hand, you have the advantage or you're in the stronger position in a contest or a conflict.

up in arms

If you are up in arms, you are angry about something that you think is unfair or wrong.

up to your neck | up to your eyeballs

If you're up to your neck in something, or up to your eyeballs in something, you've got too much of it and it's become a problem.

vent your spleen

If you vent your spleen, you express your anger.

vote with your feet

If you vote with your feet, you show your opinion of something by acting in a certain way, such as by buying something if you like it, or by not buying it if you don't like it.

warts and all

If you show something warts and all, you show it exactly as it is without trying to hide any of its faults or weaknesses.

wash your hands of something

If you wash your hands of something that you were involved in, you decide to stop being involved in it after losing your interest or belief in it.

weak at the knees

If you go weak at the knees, you feel an emotion so strongly that it makes you feel unstable on your feet.

wear your heart on your sleeve

If you wear your heart on your sleeve, you show your emotions openly and you don't try to hide your feelings.

wet behind the ears INFORMAL

If someone is wet behind the ears, they don't have much experience of life.

work your socks off | work your tail off

If you work your socks off, or work your tail off, you work very hard.


If someone is yellow-bellied, they are not brave, or they are cowardly.

young at heart

Someone is young at heart if they still feel young even though they're getting old.

young blood

If you say "young blood", you mean young people who have fresh, new ideas and lots of energy.
Also try Body Idioms Quiz.

Contributor: Matt Errey