English Language Idioms

Introduction:If you take these top five English language idioms literally, they are pretty darn weird. English language idioms are very difficult for non-native English speakers to understand. English language learners need a good explanation of the idioms' meanings.

  • 01

    He Jumped Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire

    Why in the world would he DO that? Ooochy, oochy, oochy, that's hot! Do a literal visualization of a guy in a giant frying pan over a fire who then jumps into that fire.

    This idiom means that he went from one bad thing to something that was even worse by his own actions. For example, he got pulled over for speeding, and then got himself in even bigger trouble by speeding away from the police.

  • 02

    Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

    We may need some sort of avian egg ultrasound for this one.

    The English language idiom means not to plan on something that has not happened yet. For instance, don't quit your job before the song you just recorded on DVD actually sells and makes you a lot of money.

  • 03

    I'm All Thumbs

    What kind of gloves would they have to invent for hands with all thumbs and no fingers? Hmmmm...

    This idiom means that one is being clumsy with their hands. They are most likely not able to do some fine motor movement task efficiently with their hands.For instance, if I am trying to screw in a lightbulb, and I keep dropping it, or not getting it threaded in properly, I may say I am all thumbs.

  • 04

    She's Making a Mountain Out of a Mole Hill

    Imagine a woman driving a little Bobcat dirt mover tractor, and a mole standing there, shaking its fist at her for wrecking its mole hill home.

    This one means that she is trying to make an issue matter much more than it really does. For instance, if she forgot her key, she may be very dramatic and upset about it, and call a locksmith to have a new one made, when she could have just asked her friend to borrow his extra key until she can find hers.

  • 05

    I've Got Butterflies In My Stomach

    An x-ray image would show an empty stomach, except for colorful butterflies flitting about inside.

    This English language idiom means is that one is nervous, usually about a performance of some kind. For instance, a child may have butterflies in her stomach before she says her lines in the school play on stage.


Final Thoughts

Those with English as a second language may be confused by idioms, but usually enjoy them once thay have an explanation of their meanings.

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Comments

  • MonikaWeise 1/25/2011 Flag This Comment

    I'll never forget the email I got from a Vietnamese friend announcing her pregnancy - "I've got a muffin in the oven." Great list :)

  • nwgirl 1/22/2011 Flag This Comment

    Languages and their quirks, slang and idioms are fascinating to me...great list of English idioms!

  • TRaz1984 1/22/2011 Flag This Comment

    Great list! English has a lot of these, but other languages do too! In a recent article I did on Top US Vacation Destinations I make reference to a Puerto Rican phrase:
    "Aquí Hay Gato Encerrado!"- it means in English there's something fishy going on! ... but literally translated from Spanish to English it means, "there's a trapped cat here!" Both are pretty weird if you think about them!
    Here is a link to the article if you're interested! http://www.listmyfive.com/1d89cf12/The-Top-Five-US-Vacation-Destinations

  • LWCox 1/21/2011 Flag This Comment

    We hosted a foreign exchange student one year. "It was a riot" trying to explain our idioms! Why DO we "make" the beds, but "do" the dishes???

  • NancyHardin 1/21/2011 Flag This Comment

    Number 4 actually made me laugh out loud...the image of that little mole shaking his fist at the lady in the dirt mover just cracked me up. Funny and accurate list.

  • ListMaker 1/21/2011 Flag This Comment

    Just call a pot a pot. Great idioms here.

  • ListingToTheLeft 1/21/2011 Flag This Comment

    These are great examples of why English is indeed a hard language to master if "ya ain't from these parts."

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