Category Archives: Idiom of the Week

> News and Updates > Idiom of the Week

Idiom of the Week – All fingers and thumbs

‘All fingers and thumbs’ Meaning: Clumsy, lacking dexterity in the hands Explanation: This expression has evolved from an earlier phrase, ‘all thumbs’, the earliest example of which is in a text from 1546 which details the English proverbs of the time. It became ‘all fingers and thumbs’ sometime in the 19th century, first appearing in…

Read more

Idiom of the Week – Pig’s ear

‘Pig’s ear’ Meaning: To make a pig’s ear of something is to mess something up Explanation: A relatively recent phrase, ‘pig’s ear’ is first found in print in a copy of the Reader’s Digest from 1950. The expression originates from the 16th century saying, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”,…

Read more

Idiom of the Week – Pulling your leg

‘Pulling your leg’ Meaning: Deceive someone in a playful, harmless way Explanation: It’s unclear where this phrase originates, as the literal references to leg pulling don’t have any relationship to fun and playfulness. The most commonly cited derivation is when thieves would trip up a passerby and use their confusion as an opportunity to rob…

Read more

Idiom of the Week – Put a spanner in the works

‘Put a spanner in the works’ Meaning: To prevent something from happening as intended by causing a problem or difficulty Explanation: This phrase is unlikely to have been derived from any real life event, and is used more for its imagery. It describes the potentially disastrous effect of throwing a spanner into the gears and…

Read more

Idiom of the Week – Wearing your heart on your sleeve

‘Wearing your heart on your sleeve’ Meaning: Openly display your emotions Explanation: The phrase may derive from the Middle Ages, when knights would wear a lady’s ‘favour’ – a token such as a handkerchief or ribbon – around his arm. In doing so, he expressed an intention to defend the lady’s honour. The term itself,…

Read more

Idiom of the Week – A watched pot never boils

A watched pot never boils Meaning:                            Time appears to pass slower when you’re waiting for something specific to happen Explanation:                      We all know that patience is a virtue. But, when it comes to waiting for something specific – perhaps something you have long desired – minutes seems to feel like hours, and hours…

Read more

Idiom of the Week – A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush Meaning:                            It is preferable to have less but be at a clear advantage than to risk getting more and failing Explanation:                      Many stories over the centuries have recounted tales of risk versus reward, often documenting how one’s greed led to nothing but their…

Read more

Idiom of the Week – At sixes and sevens

At sixes and sevens Meaning:                            To be in a state of confusion or disorder Explanation:                      The earliest known record of phraseology related to be ‘at sixes and sevens’ has been identified in the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer’s epic 14th-century poem, Troilus and Criseyde: “Lat nat this wrechched wo thyn herte gnawe, But manly…

Read more

Idiom of the Week – Raining cats and dogs

Raining cats and dogs Meaning:                            For the weather to be pouring heavily with rain Explanation:                      The precise origins of the term, ‘raining cats and dogs’ has confounded English language experts for many years, with nobody able to precisely identify who or where it first appeared. That said, exactly how it became a common idiom has…

Read more

Idiom of the Week – Quantum Leap

Quantum leap Meaning:            A dramatic or significant advance/a positive step forward Explanation:      We may not always anticipate that the works of physicists will contribute common phrases to the English language but, with the idiom ‘quantum leap’, we find ourselves turning first to the magnificent works of Planck and Einstein at the beginning of the…

Read more
SELT Course Provider
cambridge ESOL exam centre kitemark - UKCE
british-council accredited
Trinity College kitemark - UKCE
Back to Top