sports idioms

Sports Idioms

The ball's in your court now.

Here are some common idioms based on sport and sports. Each entry includes the meaning of the idiom and shows the idiom in context in an example sentence. At the end is a sports idioms quiz to check your understanding.

Sports idioms generally originate from a specific sport such as baseball or sailing. Over time these phrases have come to mean something that can be used in everyday life. While most sports idioms can still be used when discussing sports, they are even more common in other areas of life, especially the business world. Try using some at work, school and social events. You will sound like a pro!

sport of origin
meaning example sentence
across the board
equal for everyone Ten percent raises were given across the board.
at this stage in the game
any sport
at this time Nobody knows who is going to win the election at this stage in the game.
the ball is in your court
it's your decision or responsibility to do something now "Do you think I should accept the job offer?"
"Don't ask me. The ball is in your court now".
bark up the wrong tree
you've got the wrong person or idea I think you're barking up the wrong tree by blaming Matt for the missing money.
American football
to not see something coming George blind-sided Eric with his fist at the bar.
blow the competition away
any sport
win easily If you wear that dress to the beauty pageant you are going to blow the competition away.
call the shots
make the decisions While our boss is on vacation, Bob will call the shots.
chip in
help by donating money or time The staff members chipped in 5 dollars each to buy Jody a birthday gift.
down to the wire
horse racing
right at the end It's coming down to the wire to get these done on time.
front runner
one of the people who is expected to win Angela is a front runner for the new supervisor position.
get a head start
horse racing
start before all others They gave the walkers a head start in the run for cancer.
get into the full swing
be comfortable doing something after some time It will probably take a month of working at my new job before I get into the full swing of things.
get off the hook
escape, have responsibility removed The child got off the hook for stealing because the security camera was broken.
give something or someone a fair shake
try for a while before giving up You should give Nadine a fair shake before you decide she isn't good enough for the job.
get a second wind
have a burst of energy after tiring I was exhausted after 3 kilometres of running, but I got a second wind after I passed the beach.
give it your best shot
try your hardest Give it your best shot and you may just make it to the finals.
give one a run for one's money
try one's hardest to defeat another person I know the other team is expected to win, but let's give them a run for their money tonight.
go overboard
do or say more than you need to You can't believe everything Janice says about Rick. She tends to go overboard when she's complaining about him.
go to bat for someone
defend someone Andy is asking for a salary increase, and I'm going to go to bat for him if the boss says no.
have the upper hand
have a better chance of winning or succeeding The Blues have the upper hand in the tournament, because none of their players is injured.
hit below the belt
martial arts
do or say something that is very unfair or cruel Amanda was hitting below the belt when she called Adrian an unfit father.
hit a snag
come up against a problem The renovations were going along great until we hit a snag with the carpet installation.
hold all the aces
expected to win or succeed The children hold all the aces when it comes to the father-son baseball tournament.
the home stretch
horse racing
almost the end I think Alice's pregnancy is in the home stretch.
hot shot (big shot)
an important or very successful person All the hot shots from Silicon Valley were invited to meet the president.
jump the gun
start too early I guess I jumped the gun by buying Pam and Steve a wedding gift. They called off the engagement.
keep one's head above water
try not to fall behind in work or other duties We are so busy during the tourist season I can barely keep my head above water.
learn the ropes
understand new things The first week on the job you will just be learning the ropes.
let her rip
go ahead now Okay, here are the keys to your new car. Let her rip!
level playing field
any field sport
everyone has an equal chance The spelling bee is a level playing field because all of the kids are in grade nine.
long shot
a very difficult thing to accomplish Jim thinks we can afford the house, but I think it's a long shot.
make the cut
any sport
be chosen to be part of a team or group I didn't get a second interview, so I'm pretty sure I won't make the cut.
neck and neck
horse racing
to be in a close tie with someone George and Stan are neck and neck in the hockey pool. Either of them could win the money.
no sweat
any sport
no problem I told Lily it was no sweat for us to babysit next weekend.
not playing with a full deck (of cards)
not having full brain capacity I think Jerry was still drunk at work on Sunday because he wasn't playing with a full deck.
not up to par
not good enough for a job or position I'm afraid your resume isn't up to par for the engineering position.
to be off base
not making a fair or true remark You were way off base when you said Bill needed to lose weight.
on target
doing the right thing to succeed We are on target to meet our budget this month.
on the ball
ready and able The new receptionist is really on the ball when it comes to answering the phone.
out in left field
strange, very unconventional; completely wrong All of the students laughed when Joe gave an answer that was out in left field.
out of someone's league
team sport
not as good as someone I'd like to date Maria, but I'm afraid I'm out of her league.
par for the course
an expected circumstance Waiting in line is par for the course at Christmas time.
plenty of other fish in the sea
there are many other men and women to date I know you still love Jack, but remember there are plenty of other fish in the sea.
race against time
there is almost no time left to accomplish something It's a race against time to find a kidney donor for my cousin.
settle a score with someone
any sport
get even with a person after a previous battle My brother wants to settle the score with that guy who stole my wallet.
shot in the dark
a guess I was lucky to win the quiz. All my answers were shots in the dark.
skate on thin ice
do something risky, take a chance You're skating on thin ice by not sending in your college application before now.
start the ball rolling
ball sports
begin something Please can everyone be seated so we can start the ball rolling.
step up to the plate
do the honourable thing, take responsibility It's time you stepped up to the plate and apologized for your mistake.
take a rain check
accept at a later time Sorry, I can't go to the movies today, but I'd love to take a rain check.
take sides
any sport
choose a person or group to support I hate to take sides, but I think Jerry is right about the paint colour.
take the bull by the horns
bull fighting
accept the challenge and try your hardest Even though this new job will mean relocating, I think you should take the bull by the horns for once.
take the wind out of one's sails
make someone feel deflated I think I took the wind out of Angela's sails when I told her she was a terrible singer.
throw in the towel
give up If they don't accept our offer this time we are going to throw in the towel and look at houses elsewhere.
time out
any sport
break Let's take some time out and grab a coffee.
three strikes and you're out
you only get three chances The school's no smoking policy is three strikes and you're out.
two strikes against
you only have one chance remaining Nancy is going to be fired in no time. She already has two strikes against her for coming in late.
under the table
illegally I don't have a work visa, so they have to pay me under the table.
win hands down
easy victory The other team was missing half of its players. We won hands down.