Grammar: Idiom

Posted May 23, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

An idiom is a phrase that is in such common usage, that most people see it as a single unit, i.e., the carrot and the stick (also a metaphor). However, the idiom cannot be guessed at from the individual meaning of the words nor is it obvious when assembled as that phrase. Kick the bucket is understood in America as to die. You’d never guess that from either kick or bucket.

An idiom is easily confused with a metaphor (and can sometimes be a metaphor).

Why Use Idioms

Idioms are used for the same reason other figures of speech are used, to add color to speeches, dialogues, stories, etc. Idioms use fewer words to convey a richer and more concise picture of what you’re saying.

For a huge variety of examples, Literary Devices has a huge list of idiom examples while The Phrase Finder.com has a great list of idioms from Shakespeare. You will be amazed how many of Shakespeare’s creations are in common use today.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle? If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page and consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Idiom
Credit to: Cambridge Dictionary; Literary Devices; Knowgramming; Martin Davies; Orange County Public Schools;
Part of Speech: Figure of Speech
Definition: A phrase that is common, widely understood, in everyday language and is interpreted figuratively, not literally.

Idioms that are overused are considered clichés.

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Types of Idioms
Opaque Idiom Definition: Idioms that take a bit of work to figure out.

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He’s pulling your leg.

She has a green thumb.

by and large

spick and span

chewing the fat

kick the bucket

sorry sight

every cloud has its silver lining

in a pickle

the game is up

Transparent Idiom Definition: Idioms that are easily figured out.

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Can you lend me a hand?

You hit the nail on the head.

He laid his cards on the table for us.

Mary left no stone unturned in her plan to capture Dean’s heart.

Damn, Henry spilt the beans.

The cat’s out of the bag now.

It’ll be a cold day in Hell before I forgive you!

Indy, it’s a wild goose chase.

He’s got us over a barrel.

Pat really missed the boat on that one.

He asked me to marry him! I’m on cloud nine!!

He tried, but he gotten out of the frying pan only to fall into the fire.

I lost my train of thought.

Pete is glued to the computer for hours.

Cliché Definition: A too-frequently used idiom that has become commonplace.

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There is no doubt about it, it is raining.

And a good time was had by all.

Have a nice day.

The best thing since sliced bread.

Rhyming Slang Definition: A phonetical type of idiom in which you have to be in the know, as the standard definitions of the individual words do not related to the word being replaced.

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Let’s take a butcher’s hook…

It’s the trouble and strife, mate.

Up the apples and pears.

Who’s that on the dog and bone?

Can you Adam and Eve it?

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