+1 (888) 6-LINGUA

The beauty of English idioms is that they are full of history and culture. So when we use them, we say a lot more than what those words mean: we also show that we are well aware…

The best definition of idiom that we have seen so far, in our opinion, is the one that says that they are fixed expressions whose meaning cannot be deduced from the words that compose it.

In other words, they are expressions that have an explanation behind them. In any case, the best thing to do is to review the 10 English idioms that make up this publication…

English idioms and their origins

Play it by ear

This idiom means that instead of following a definite plan, you will see how things are going and decide on a course of action as you go along. Its origin is in music, since “playing something by ear” means playing music without reference to the notes on a page.

Raining cats and dogs

It is used when it is raining particularly hard. Its origin is obscure, although it was first recorded in 1651 in the poet Henry Vaughan’s collection, Olor Iscanus.

Can’t do something to save my life

It’s a hyperbolic way of saying that you are completely inept at something. Anthony Trollope was the first to use this expression, in 1848 in Kellys and O’Kellys.

Turn a blind eye

It means pretending not to have noticed something. This expression is said to have arisen as a result of the famous English naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson1.

Bite the bullet

It means to endure something difficult or unpleasant. This expression was first recorded in the 1891 novel, in The Light that Failed.

Break the ice

It means to end a conflict or to start a friendship. This phrase originates from the 1580s, referring to the carving of ice to create passages for ships on trade routes.

Butter someone up

It means to praise or flatter someone excessively. In ancient India, it was customary to throw balls of ghee butter (clarified butter commonly used in Indian cooking) at statues of the gods to seek favor and forgiveness.

Cat got your tongue?

It is used when a person is at a loss for words. There are two possible sources for this phrase, both equally morbid, unfortunately.

Kick the bucket

It means to die. The origin of this phrase is uncertain, but one theory suggests that it comes from an ancient practice of suicidil 2 .

Barking up the wrong tree

It means pursuing the wrong line of research or action. This phrase originated in the United States in the early 19th century.

The importance of idioms is that they allow us to condense complex ideas into a few words, thus contributing to the economy of language.

Of course, idioms are resources that are always better to use when we already have a high level of English and at the same time fluent. So if you want to learn English, write to us. At Lingua Language Center, we have the ideal English programs for you!