Saying - Idioms - Quynh Huong Center for Foreign Language Translation & Education

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4 Oct 2014

Saying - Idioms

- Absence makes the heart grow fonder: (saying) used to say that when you are away from sb that you love, you love them even more.
- There’s no accounting for taste: (saying) used to say how difficult it is to understand why sb likes sb/sth that you do not like at all: She thinks he’s wonderful—oh well, there’s no accounting for taste.
- Actions speak louder than words: (saying) what a person actually does means more than what they say they will do.
- It’ll be all right on the night: (saying) used to say that a performance, an event, etc. will be successful even if the preparations for it have not gone well.
- The apple doesn’t fall/ never falls far from the tree: (saying, especially NAmE) a child usually behaves in a similar way to his or her parent(s).
- If you can’t beat them, join them: (saying) if you cannot defeat sb or be as successful as they are, then it is more sensible to join them in what they are doing and perhaps get some advantage for yourself by doing so.
- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: (saying) people all have different ideas about what is beautiful.
- Beauty is only skin-deep: (saying) how a person looks is less important than their character.
- Beggars can’t be choosers: (saying) people say beggars can’t be choosers when there is no choice and sb must be satisfied with what is available.
- Seeing is believing: (saying) used to say that sb will have to believe that sth is true when they see it, although they do not think it is true now
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: (saying) it is better to keep sth that you already have than to risk losing it by trying to get much more.
Birds of a feather (flock together): (saying) people of the same sort (are found together).
Blood is thicker than water: (saying) family relationships are stronger than any others.
There’s one born every minute: (saying) used to say that sb is very stupid.
When the cat’s away the mice will play: (saying) people enjoy themselves more and behave with greater freedom when the person in charge of them is not there.
Charity begins at home: (saying) you should help and care for your own family, etc. before you start helping other people.
Every cloud has a silver lining: (saying) every sad or difficult situation has a positive side.
Cut your coat according to your cloth: (saying) to do only what you have enough money to do and no more.
Too many cooks spoil the broth: (saying) if too many people are involved in doing sth, it will not be done well.
Don’t count your chickens (before they are hatched): (saying) you should not be too confident that sth will be successful, because sth may still go wrong.
Curiosity killed the cat: (saying) used to tell sb not to ask questions or try to find out about things that do not concern them.
Better the devil you know (than the devil you don’t): (saying) used to say that it is easier and wiser to stay in a bad situation that you know and can deal with rather than change to a new situation which may be much worse.
The devil looks after his own: (saying) bad people often seem to have good luck.
The devil makes work for idle hands: (saying) people who do not have enough to do often start to do wrong: She blamed the crimes on the local jobless teenagers. ‘The devil makes work for idle hands,’ she would say.
The die is cast: (saying) used to say that an event has happened or a decision has been made that cannot be changed.
Discretion is the better part of valour: (saying) you should avoid danger and not take unnecessary risks.
Every dog has his / its day: (saying) everyone has good luck or success at some point in their life.
Give a dog a bad name: (saying) when a person already has a bad reputation, it is difficult to change it because others will continue to blame or suspect him/her.
Why keep a dog and bark yourself? (Informal, saying) if sb can do a task for you, there is no point in doing it yourself.
The early bird catches the worm: (saying) the person who takes the opportunity to do sth before other people will have an advantage over them.
Be easier said than done: (saying) to be much more difficult to do than to talk about: ‘Why don’t you get yourself a job?’ ‘That’s easier said than done.’
Easy come, easy go: (saying) used to mean that sb does not care very much about money or possessions especially if they spend it or lose sth.
The end justifies the means: (saying) bad or unfair methods of doing sth are acceptable if the result of that action is good or positive.
An Englishman’s home is his castle (BrE) (US a man’s home is his castle): (saying) a person’s home is a place where they can be private and safe and do as they like.
Enough already: (Informal, especially NAmE) used to say that sth is annoying or boring and that you want it to stop.
Enough is enough: (saying) used when you think that sth should not continue any longer.
Some (people, members, etc.) are more equal than others: (saying) although the members of a society, group, etc. appear to be equal, some, in fact, get better treatment than others.
What the eye doesn’t see (the heart doesn’t grieve over): (saying) if a person does not know about sth that they would normally disapprove of, then it cannot hurt them: What does it matter if I use his flat while he’s away? What the eye doesn’t see …!
All’s fair in love and war: (saying) in some situations any type of behaviour is acceptable to get what you want.
Familiarity breeds contempt: (saying) knowing sb/sth very well may cause you to lose admiration and respect for them / it.
It’s not over until the fat lady sings: (saying) used for saying that a situation may still change, for example that a contest, election, etc. is not finished yet, and sb still has a chance to win it.
Like father, like son: (saying) used to say that a son’s character or behaviour is similar to that of his father.
At first: at or in the beginning: I didn’t like the job much at first. At first I thought he was shy, but then I discovered he was just not interested in other people. (Saying) If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
First come, first served: (saying) people will be dealt with, seen, etc. strictly in the order in which they arrive: Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it: (humorous, saying) used to tell sb that they should not be afraid of allowing other people to see their qualities and abilities.
A fool and his money are soon parted: (saying) a person who is not sensible usually spends money too quickly or carelessly, or is cheated by others.
Fools rush in (where angels fear to tread): (saying) people with little experience try to do the difficult or dangerous things which more experienced people would not consider doing.
 (There’s) no fool like an old fool: (saying) an older person who behaves in a stupid way is worse than a younger person who does the same thing, because experience should have taught him or her not to do it.
Forewarned is forearmed: (saying) if you know about problems, dangers, etc. before they happen, you can be better prepared for them.
A friend in 'need (is a friend indeed): (saying) a friend who gives you help when you need it (is a true friend).
Out of the frying pan into the fire: (saying) from a bad situation to one that is worse.
Two can play at that game: (saying) used to tell sb who has played a trick on you that you can do the same thing to them.
When the going gets tough (the tough get going): (saying) when conditions or progress become difficult (strong and determined people work even harder to succeed).
All that glitters / glistens is not gold: (saying) not everything that seems good, attractive, etc. is actually good, etc.
The grass is (always) greener on the other side (of the fence): (saying) said about people who never seem happy with what they have and always think that other people have a better situation than they have.
It / money doesn’t grow on trees: (saying) used to tell sb not to use sth or spend money carelessly because you do not have a lot of it.
Half a loaf is better than no bread: (saying) you should be grateful for sth, even if it is not as good, much, etc. as you really wanted; something is better than nothing.
All hands on deck (also all hands to the pump): (saying, humorous) everyone helps or must help, especially in a difficult situation: There are 30 people coming to dinner tonight, so it’s all hands on deck.
Many hands make light work: (saying) used to say that a job is made easier if a lot of people help.
More haste, less speed: (BrE, saying) you will finish doing sth sooner if you do not try to do it too quickly because you will make fewer mistakes.
Make hay while the sun shines: (saying) to make good use of opportunities, good conditions, etc. while they last.
Two heads are better than one: (saying) used to say that two people can achieve more than one person working alone.
He who hesitates (is lost): (saying) if you delay in doing sth you may lose a good opportunity.
Home is where the heart is: (saying) a home is where the people you love are.
Hope springs eternal: (saying) people never stop hoping.
You can lead / take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink: (saying) you can give sb the opportunity to do sth, but you cannot force them to do it if they do not want to.
Ignorance is bliss: (saying) if you do not know about sth, you cannot worry about it: Some doctors believe ignorance is bliss and don’t give their patients all the facts.
It’s an ill wind (that blows nobody any good): (saying) no problem is so bad that it does not bring some advantage to sb.
Give sb an inch (and they’ll take a mile / yard): (saying) used to say that if you allow some people a small amount of freedom or power they will see you as weak and try to take a lot more.
Don’t judge a book by its cover: (saying) used to say that you should not form an opinion about sb/sth from their appearance only.
Kill the goose that lays the golden egg / eggs: (saying) to destroy sth that would make you rich, successful, etc.
Better late than never: (saying) used especially when you, or sb else, arrive/ arrives late, or when sth such as success happens late, to say that this is better than not coming or happening at all.
He who laughs last laughs longest: (saying) used to tell sb not to be too proud of their present success; in the end another person may be more successful.
Look before you leap: (saying) used to advise sb to think about the possible results or dangers of sth before doing it.
A leopard cannot change its spots: (saying) people cannot change their character, especially if they have a bad character.
Where there’s life (, there’s hope): (saying) in a bad situation you must not give up hope because there is always a chance that it will improve.
Lightning never strikes (in the same place) twice: (saying) an unusual or unpleasant event is not likely to happen in the same place or to the same people twice.
Live and let live: (saying) used to say that you should accept other people’s opinions and behaviour even though they are different from your own.
Live to fight another day: (saying) used to say that although you have failed or had a bad experience, you will continue.
Every man for himself: (saying) people must take care of themselves and not give or expect any help: In business, it’s every man for himself.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison: (saying) used to say that different people like different things; what one person likes very much, another person does not like at all.
You can’t keep a good man down: (saying) a person who is determined or wants sth very much will succeed.
Marry in haste (, repent at leisure): (saying) people who marry quickly, without really getting to know each other, may discover later that they have made a mistake.
The more the merrier: (saying) the more people or things there are, the better the situation will be or the more fun people will have: ‘Can I bring a friend to your party?’ ‘Sure—the more the merrier!’
A miss is as good as a mile: (saying) there is no real difference between only just failing in sth and failing in it badly because the result is still the same.
Money talks: (saying) people who have a lot of money have more power and Influence than others.
On the money: correct; accurate: His prediction was right on the money.
Where there’s muck there’s brass: (BrE, saying) used to say that a business activity that is unpleasant or dirty can bring in a lot of money.
Necessity is the mother of invention: (saying) a difficult new problem forces people to think of a solution to it.
Needs must (when the Devil drives): (saying) in certain situations it is necessary for you to do sth that you do not like or enjoy.
No news is good news: (saying) if there were bad news we would hear it, so as we have heard nothing, it is likely that nothing bad has happened.
Great / tall oaks from little acorns grow: (saying) something large and successful often begins in a very small way.
You can lead / take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink: (saying) you can give sb the opportunity to do sth, but you cannot force them to do it if they do not want to.
You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs: (saying) you cannot achieve sth important without causing a few small problems.
Once bitten, twice shy: (saying) after an unpleasant experience you are careful to avoid sth similar.
When you’ve seen, heard, etc. one, you’ve seen, heard, etc. them all: (saying) used to say that all types of the things mentioned are very similar: I don’t like science fiction novels much. When you’ve read one, you’ve read them all.
You’re only young once: (saying) young people should enjoy themselves as much as possible, because they will have to work and worry later in their lives.
No pain, no gain: (saying) used to say that you need to suffer if you want to achieve sth.
He who pays the piper calls the tune: (saying) the person who provides the money for sth can also control how it is spent.
The pen is mightier than the sword: (saying) people who write books, poems, etc. have a greater effect on history and human affairs than soldiers and wars.
In for a penny, in for a pound: (BrE, saying) used to say that since you have started to do sth, it is worth spending as much time or money as you need to in order to complete it.
A penny for your thoughts | a penny for them: (saying) used to ask sb what they are thinking about.
People (who live) in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones: (saying) you should not criticize other people, because they will easily find ways of criticizing you.
Pigs might fly (BrE) (NAmE when pigs fly): (ironic, saying) used to show that you do not believe sth will ever happen: ‘With a bit of luck, we’ll be finished by the end of the year.’ ‘Yes, and pigs might fly!’
Any port in a storm: (saying) if you are in great trouble, you take any help that is offered.
Possession is nine tenths of the law: (saying) if you already have or control sth, it is difficult for sb else to take it away from you, even if they have the legal right to it.
The pot calling the kettle black: (saying, Informal) used to say that you should not criticize sb for a fault that you have yourself.
Practice makes perfect: (saying) a way of encouraging people by telling them that if you do an activity regularly and try to improve your skill, you will become very good at it.
Prevention is better than cure (BrE) (US an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure): (saying) it is better to stop sth bad from happening rather than try to deal with the problems after it has happened.
Everyone has their price: (Saying) you can persuade anyone to do sth by giving them more money or sth that they want.
Pride comes / goes before a fall: (saying) if you have too high an opinion of yourself or your abilities, sth will happen to make you look stupid.
The proof of the pudding (is in the eating): (saying) you can only judge if sth is good or bad when you have tried it.
It never rains but it pours (BrE) (NAmE when it rains, it pours): (saying) used to say that when one bad thing happens to you, other bad things happen soon after.
You reap what you sow: (saying) you have to deal with the bad effects or results of sth that you originally started.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions: (saying) it is not enough to intend to do good things; you must actually do them.
Rob Peter to pay Paul: (saying) to borrow money from one person to pay back what you owe to another person; to take money from one thing to use for sth else.
A rolling stone gathers no moss: (saying) a person who moves from place to place, job to job, etc. does not have a lot of money, possessions or friends but is free from responsibilities
Rome wasn’t built in a day: (saying) used to say that a complicated task will take a long time and needs patience.
When in Rome (do as the Romans do): (saying) used to say that when you are in a foreign country, or a situation you are not familiar with, you should behave in the way that the people around you behave.
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet: (saying) what is important is what people or things are, not what they are called.
Better safe than sorry: (saying) used to say that it is wiser to be too careful than to act too quickly and do sth you may later wish you had not.
Safety first: (saying) safety is the most important thing.
There’s safety in numbers: (saying) being in a group makes you safer and makes you feel more confident.
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: (old-fashioned, saying) what one person is allowed to do, another person must be allowed to do in a similar situation.
Least said soonest mended: (BrE, saying) a bad situation will pass or be forgotten most quickly if nothing more is said about it.
Never say die: (saying) do not stop hoping.
You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours: (saying) used to say that if sb helps you, you will help them, even if this is unfair to others.
Share and share alike: (saying) used to say that everyone should share things equally and in a fair way.
Out of sight, out of mind: (saying) used to say sb will quickly be forgotten when they are no longer with you.
Silence is golden: (saying) it is often best not to say anything.
It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other: (saying) used to say that there is not much real difference between two possible choices.
Let sleeping dogs lie: (saying) to avoid mentioning a subject or sth that happened in the past, in order to avoid any problems or arguments.
There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip: (saying) nothing is completely certain until it really happens because things can easily go wrong.
It’s a small world: (saying) used to express your surprise when you meet sb you know in an unexpected place, or when you are talking to sb and find out that you both know the same person.
 (There is) no smoke without fire (BrE) (NAmE where there’s smoke, there’s fire): (saying) if sth bad is being said about sb/sth, it usually has some truth in it.
It takes all sorts (to make a world): (saying) used to say that you think sb’s behaviour is very strange or unusual but that everyone is different and likes different things.
The spirit is willing (but the flesh is weak): (humorous, saying) you intend to do good things but you are too lazy, weak or busy to actually do them.
One step forward, two steps back: (saying) used to say that every time you make progress, sth bad happens that means that the situation is worse than before.
Still waters run deep: (saying) a person who seems to be quiet or shy may surprise you by knowing a lot or having deep feelings.
A stitch in time (saves nine): (saying) it is better to deal with sth immediately because if you wait it may become worse or more difficult and cause extra work.
The streets are paved with gold: (saying) used to say that it seems easy to make money in a place.
Strike while the iron is hot: (saying) to make use of an opportunity immediately.
Nothing succeeds like success: (saying) when you are successful in one area of your life, it often leads to success in other areas.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer: (saying) you must not take too seriously a small sign that sth is happening or will happen in the future, because the situation could change.
 (You can’t) teach an old dog new tricks: (saying) (you cannot) successfully make people change their ideas, methods of work, etc., when they have had them for a long time.
You can never tell | you never can tell: (saying) you can never be sure, for example because things are not always what they appear to be.
These things are sent to try us: (saying) used to say that you should accept an unpleasant situation or event because you cannot change it.
Time flies: (saying) time seems to pass very quickly: How time flies! I’ve got to go now. Time has flown since the holiday began.
Time is money: (saying) time is valuable, and should not be wasted.
Time (alone) will tell | only time will tell: (saying) used to say that you will have to wait for some time to find out the result of a situation: Only time will tell if the treatment has been successful.
(It) does (exactly) what it says on the tin: (Informal, saying) used to say that sth is as good or effective as it claims to be, or that it really does what it claims to do. This expression is especially used when you are comparing publicity and advertisements with actual products: I paid £150 for this camera and am more than happy with it. It does exactly what it says on the tin!
Touch wood (BrE) (NAmE knock on wood): (saying) used when you have just mentioned some way in which you have been lucky in the past, to avoid bringing bad luck: I’ve been driving for over 20 years and never had an accident—touch wood!
Truth is stranger than fiction: (saying) used to say that things that actually happen are often more surprising than stories that are invented.
(The) truth will out: (saying) used to say that people will find out the true facts about a situation even if you try to keep them secret.
One good turn deserves another: (saying) you should help sb who has helped you.
Never the twain shall meet: (saying) used to say that two things are so different that they cannot exist together.
Variety is the spice of life: (saying) new and exciting experiences make life more interesting.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained: (saying) used to say that you have to take risks if you want to achieve things and be successful.
Virtue is its own reward: (saying) the reward for acting in a moral or correct way is the knowledge that you have done so, and you should not expect more than this, for example praise from other people or payment.
Walls have ears: (saying) used to warn people to be careful what they say because other people may be listening.
Waste not, want not: (saying) if you never waste anything, especially food or money, you will always have it when you need it.
A watched pot never boils: (saying) used to say that when you are impatient for sth to happen, time seems to pass very slowly.
 (There are) no two ways about it: (saying) used to show that you are certain about sth: It was the wrong decision—there are no two ways about it.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat: (saying, humorous) there are many different ways to achieve sth.
(You, etc.) may / might as well be hanged / hung for a sheep as (for) a lamb: (saying) if you are going to be punished for doing sth wrong, whether it is a big or small thing, you may as well do the big thing.
Where there’s a will there’s a way: (saying) if you really want to do sth then you will find a way of doing it.
All work and no play (makes Jack a dull boy): (saying) it is not healthy to spend all your time working; you need to relax too.
The worm will turn: (saying) a person who is normally quiet and does not complain will protest when the situation becomes too hard to bear.
Two wrongs don’t make a right: (saying) used to say that if sb does sth bad to you, the situation will not be improved by doing sth bad to them.
Seeing is believing (saying) used to say that sb will have to believe that sth is true when they see it, although they do not think it is true now.

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