American Idioms and Expressions


This database is a comprehensive collection of all the American idioms and slang available. American Idioms are many and varied. We hope you enjoy our collection. We are adding more all the time. .

Hat trick
What does "Hat trick" mean?
The accomplishment of three successes or wins.Pam has pulled off a hat trick, three divorces, three big settlements.

"Hat trick" originated from the English game of Cricket. The term originally referred to a bowler retiring three consecutive batsman with three consecutive balls.
This is roughly equivalent to a pitcher in baseball striking out three consecutive batters using only three pitches to each! This was considered quite an accomplishment and was traditionally rewarded with a hat.
The term is now used for other sports, always referring to an accomplishment of three. A popular use today is three goals by a single player in one game of hockey or soccer.
Hell's half acre
What does "Hell's half acre" mean?
A long and frustrating trip.I looked all over hell's half acre trying to find a left handed monkey wrench.

Hell's half acre is a lava flow about 15 miles west of Idaho Falls, Idaho. It is 4.5 miles of rough, irregular terrain that is very difficult to navigate. It is so named because its cracks, holes, and crags give the area an otherworldly, surreal, and perhaps hellish appearance. A search of Hell's half acre would indeed be a long and difficult task.
Many of the scenes in the 1997 film "Starship Troopers" (based on Robert Heinlein's novel of the same name) in which the characters were on an alien planet, were filmed at Hell's half acre.
High on the hog
What does "High on the hog" mean?
Extravagantly.If you choose to live high on the hog, you will be low in the wallet.

The best meat is on the upper portion of the pig. Rich people have always been afforded this luxury while the servants, slaves and poor have always had to eat pig's feet, chitterlings, cracklings, etc. - low on the hog.
Hold your feet to the fire
What does "Hold your feet to the fire" mean?
To hold one accountable for a commitment, make good on a promise.You made a fair bet with me on the Superbowl and I am going to hold your feet to the fire for payment.

Pertains to torture used during the Crusade's. As a method for extracting confession for heresy, non-believers were positioned in a manner that allowed the inquisitor to apply flames to the feet of the accused. This was done until the accused confessed or died.
Horse of a different color
What does "Horse of a different color" mean?
Unlike the subject at hand.Bush and Reagan are both credible, but Clinton is a horse of a different color.

Horses are registered at birth and the registration includes a record of their color. When a horse trades hands due to sale, the registration is also transferred. Sometimes the color recorded on the registration may not match the actual color of the horse leading one to suspect the horse is not the one in the registration.
Horses sometimes change color as they age, just as some people's hair changes color. More likely the horse is not the one represented on the registration but is actually an entirely different horse.
Horse sense
What does "Horse sense" mean?
Common sense, able to stand the test of reasonableness.If your going to spend your time working anyway, it only makes horse sense to get a high paying job.

Horses are intelligent animals. They demonstrate the ability to act sensibly and to avoid situations that might cause them harm such as taking a fall, hence good common sense.
had ('d) better
What does "had ('d) better" mean?
be obliged to; should (strong)."You'd better leave soon. If you don't, you'llmiss your bus."

hassle (noun)
What does "hassle (noun)" mean?
(noun): a troublesome situation; something troublesome that interrupts one's normal routine."I know it's a hassle to complete this formnow, but Mr. Rogersneeds it in his office by the end of the day."

hard feelings
What does "hard feelings" mean?
anger; animosity; bitter feelings.A: "I'm sorry that Jim got the job instead ofyou."B: "I have no hard feelings toward him; I know that he hadstronger qualifications."

What does "hard-headed" mean?
: stubborn; inflexible; unwilling to change. "I don't think Julie will change her mind. She'spretty hard-headed."

hassle (verb)
What does "hassle (verb)" mean?
(verb): annoy; bother; interrupt one's normal routine."If you'd stop hassling me, I might get thisfinished on time!"

have one's hands full
What does "have one's hands full" mean?
be extremely busy.A: "Will you be able to help us this afternoon?"B: "I'm afraid not. I'll have my hands full trying to finishmy research paper."

have/has ('ve/'s) got
What does "have/has ('ve/'s) got" mean?
have/has."John's got a son whose name is Benjamin and adaughter whose name is Shannon."

have something down pat
What does "have something down pat" mean?
know/understand something completely and thoroughly."I know I did well on the test. I had all thematerial down pat."

head honcho
What does "head honcho" mean?
person in charge; top boss."John's the head honcho of the Coffee Shoppe on theWeb."

hit the books
What does "hit the books" mean?
study."I wish I could go to the movies, but I've got tohit the books."

hit the hay
What does "hit the hay" mean?
go to bed; go to sleep."It's late, so I guess I'll hit the hay."

hit the sack
What does "hit the sack" mean?
go to bed."I'm really tired. I think I'll hit the sack."

How come?
What does "How come?" mean?
Why? (statement word order)."How come you weren't at the party?"

had best (do something)
What does "had best (do something)" mean?
should do something, ought to do somethingI had best go home soon as I want to get up early tomorrow morning.

had better (do something)
What does "had better (do something)" mean?
should do something, ought to do somethingI had better go now or I will be late for class.

hail from (somewhere)
What does "hail from (somewhere)" mean?
originally come from somewhereMy father hails from a small farming community.

What does "half-baked" mean?
foolishI don't really like his half-baked idea about the new delivery system.

ham it up
What does "ham it up" mean?
do something silly or try to exaggerate something in a funny wayI was hamming it up with my friend in front of the principal's office.

hammer away at (someone or something)
What does "hammer away at (someone or something)" mean?
be persistent in trying to do somethingI worked all weekend to hammer away at my final essay for university.

hammer out (something)
What does "hammer out (something)" mean?
work something out by discussion and debateThe union and managers were able to hammer out an agreement before midnight last night.

hammer (something) home
What does "hammer (something) home" mean?
try hard to make someone understand somethingThe speaker tried to hammer home the importance of treating the customers with respect.

hand down a decision
What does "hand down a decision" mean?
announce a legal decisionThe judge handed down his decision early in the afternoon.

hand down (something)
What does "hand down (something)" mean?
arrange to give something to someone after your deathMy grandmother handed down her silver jewellery to my mother.

hand in (something)
What does "hand in (something)" mean?
give something to someone, hand something to someoneI went to the company early to hand in my job application.

hand over fist
What does "hand over fist" mean?
quicklyHis new company is making money hand over fist.

hand over (someone or something) to (someone)
What does "hand over (someone or something) to (someone)" mean?
give control or possession of something to someone, give something to another personThe criminals were forced to hand over the stolen money to the police.

hand (something) down to (someone)
What does "hand (something) down to (someone)" mean?
give something to a younger personThe girl always handed her old clothes down to her younger sister.

hand (something) to (someone) on a silver platter
What does "hand (something) to (someone) on a silver platter" mean?
give a person something that has not been earnedThe man handed a job to his son on a silver platter and he never had to make any effort at all.

hands down
What does "hands down" mean?
easy, unopposedThey won the game hands down over the other team.

hands off
What does "hands off" mean?
leave alone, don`t interfereThe government decided to take a hands-off approach to the teachers during the strike.

handle with kid gloves
What does "handle with kid gloves" mean?
be very careful handling someone or somethingHe is very sensitive so you have to handle him with kid gloves when you speak to him.

What does "handy" mean?
can easily fix thingsHe is very handy around the house and is always fixing or building something.

hang a left
What does "hang a left" mean?
turn to the leftWe drove to the end of the block and hung a left there.

hang a right
What does "hang a right" mean?
turn to the rightWe decided to hang a right when we came to the main street.

hang around
What does "hang around" mean?
pass time or stay someplace without any real purpose or aimWe decided to stay home and hang around rather than go to the game.

hang back
What does "hang back" mean?
stay some distance behind or away, hesitate or be unwilling to do somethingHe lacks self-confidence and always hangs back when his boss asks for volunteers.

hang by a thread/hair
What does "hang by a thread/hair" mean?
be in doubt, depend on a very small thingThe outcome of the election was hanging by a thread until late at night.

hang in the balance
What does "hang in the balance" mean?
have two equally possible results, be uncertainAfter the opposition party won the election whether or not the new highway will be built hangs in the balance.

hang in (there)
What does "hang in (there)" mean?
persevere, don`t give up"You should hang in there and not quit your job even if you hate the supervisor."

Hang it!
What does "Hang it!" mean?
a rather old expression used to express annoyance or disappointment "Hang it", the man said when he hit his finger with the hammer.

hang loose
What does "hang loose" mean?
relax, remain calmI want to stay at home this weekend and hang loose.

hang on
What does "hang on" mean?
continueAlthough conditions were very bad he decided to hang on and fight to keep his business going.

hang on
What does "hang on" mean?
wait, continue listening on the telephone"Hang on for a minute while I go and get some paper and a pen."

hang on (someone's) every word
What does "hang on (someone's) every word" mean?
listen with complete attention to everything someone saysThe audience hung on every word of the speaker.

hang on to (something)
What does "hang on to (something)" mean?
hold tightly, keep firmly"Please hang on to your hats or the strong wind will blow them off."

hang one on
What does "hang one on" mean?
get very drunkHe hung one on last night after he heard about his promotion.

hang one's hat (somewhere)
What does "hang one's hat (somewhere)" mean?
live or take up residence somewhereI want to move and hang my hat in a small town somewhere.

hang out one`s shingle
What does "hang out one`s shingle" mean?
notify the public of the opening of an office - especially an office of a doctor, lawyer or other professionalHe has decided to hang out his shingle now that he has graduated from law school.

hang out (somewhere/with someone)
What does "hang out (somewhere/with someone)" mean?
spend one`s time with no great purpose, spend leisure time with friendsRecently my friend has been hanging out with a group of people who are not a good influence on him.

hang (someone) in effigy
What does "hang (someone) in effigy" mean?
hang a dummy of a hated personThe demonstrators hung the dishonest politician in effigy.

hang tough
What does "hang tough" mean?
stick to one's positionI decided to hang tough and stop negotiating with the lawyer.

hang up (something)
What does "hang up (something)" mean?
place something on a hook/peg/hangarEveryone was forced to hang up their jackets before they entered the room.

hang up (the telephone)
What does "hang up (the telephone)" mean?
place a telephone receiver back on the telephone and end the callAfter I hung up the telephone I left home to go to work.

happen upon (someone or something)
What does "happen upon (someone or something)" mean?
meet someone or find something unexpectedlyI happened upon a very valuable book when I was cleaning up my grandfather's house.

happy hour
What does "happy hour" mean?
a time in bars or restaurants when drinks are served at a discountWe stopped at the restaurant during happy hour and had a drink.

hard feelings
What does "hard feelings" mean?
angry or bitter feelingsI don`t have any hard feelings toward my boss even though he fired me.

What does "hard-nosed" mean?
not weak or soft, stubborn - especially in a fight or contest or negotiationsThe company had a hard-nosed attitude while bargaining with the union.

hard of hearing
What does "hard of hearing" mean?
unable to hear wellThe man is hard of hearing so you must speak loudly when talking to him.

hard on (someone or something)
What does "hard on (someone or something)" mean?
treat someone or something roughlyHis son is very hard on shoes.

What does "hard-pressed" mean?
burdened with urgent business"I am hard-pressed for time. Can we meet later?"

harken back to (something)
What does "harken back to (something)" mean?
have started out as somethingThe new building harkens back to a style that appeared over 100 years ago.

hash (something) over
What does "hash (something) over" mean?
discuss something in great detailWe stayed after school to hash over the new contract.

hate (someone`s) guts
What does "hate (someone`s) guts" mean?
feel very strong dislike for someoneI absolutely hate the apartment manager's guts after she caused me so many problems.

haul (someone) in
What does "haul (someone) in" mean?
take someone to the police station, arrest someoneThe police hauled the man in because he was drinking while driving.

have a ball
What does "have a ball" mean?
have a good timeShe had a ball at the party last night.

have a bee in one's bonnet
What does "have a bee in one's bonnet" mean?
have an idea or thought that stays in one's mindMy sister has a bee in her bonnet about going to Mexico to teach.

have a big mouth
What does "have a big mouth" mean?
be a person who gossips or tells secretsMy friend has a big mouth so I don't like to tell him any secrets.

have a blowout
What does "have a blowout" mean?
have a big wild party or saleThe university students had a big blowout on their graduation day.

have a blowout
What does "have a blowout" mean?
one's car tire burstsOur car had a blowout on the road up the mountain.

have a bone to pick with (someone)
What does "have a bone to pick with (someone)" mean?
have a disagreement to discuss with someoneI have a bone to pick with my boss because of his criticism of me.

have a brush with (the law or something)
What does "have a brush with (the law or something)" mean?
have a brief experience with the law or somethingI had a brush with the law when my car was stopped for speeding.

have a case (against someone)
What does "have a case (against someone)" mean?
have much evidence that can be used against someoneThe police have a very good case against the man who is selling the stolen cars.

have a change of heart
What does "have a change of heart" mean?
change one's attitude or decision (usually from negative to positive)I had a change of heart and will let my friend use my car tomorrow.

have a chip on one's shoulder
What does "have a chip on one's shoulder" mean?
seem to want to start a conflictOur neighbor has a chip on his shoulder and is always trying to start a fight.

have a clear conscience
What does "have a clear conscience" mean?
be free of guiltI have a clear conscience and am not worried that I did anything wrong.

have a close call/shave
What does "have a close call/shave" mean?
almost be involved in an accident or something similarI had a close call this morning when I was almost hit by a car.

have a crush on (someone)
What does "have a crush on (someone)" mean?
to be attracted to someoneThe girl has a crush on someone at her university.

have a familiar ring
What does "have a familiar ring" mean?
to sound familiarThe complaints of our supervisor have a familiar ring and we have heard them before.

have a feeling about (something)
What does "have a feeling about (something)" mean?
have an intuition about somethingI have a strange feeling about the new man in our company.

have a field day
What does "have a field day" mean?
have a wild timeThe media had a field day with the scandal in the local city government.

have a finger in the pie
What does "have a finger in the pie" mean?
be involved in somethingThe man has his finger in the pie of many businesses.

have a fit
What does "have a fit" mean?
become upsetThe woman had a fit when she saw what her son had done to her car.

have a foot in both camps
What does "have a foot in both camps" mean?
support each of two opposing groups of peopleThe mayor of the city has a foot in both camps of the opposing groups.

have a frog in one's throat
What does "have a frog in one's throat" mean?
have a feeling of a hoarse throat, be unable to speakI had a frog in my throat and couldn't speak easily in front of the class.

have a go at (something)
What does "have a go at (something)" mean?
try to do somethingI decided to have a go at applying for the job after my boss told me about it.

have a good command of (something)
What does "have a good command of (something)" mean?
know something wellThe girls have a good command of French.

have a good mind to (do something)
What does "have a good mind to (do something)" mean?
be tempted to do somethingI have a good mind to tell my friend that I will not lend him any money.

have a good thing going
What does "have a good thing going" mean?
have or do something that is beneficialI have a good thing going with my company and my schedule is very good.

have a green thumb
What does "have a green thumb" mean?
be able to grow plants wellMy sister has a green thumb and has a beautiful garden.

have a hand in (something)
What does "have a hand in (something)" mean?
be partly responsible for somethingI think that the woman had a hand in getting her friend fired from her job.

have a handle on (something)
What does "have a handle on (something)" mean?
have control or an understanding of somethingI finally have a handle on my work and it is going very well.

have a head for (something)
What does "have a head for (something)" mean?
have the mental capacity for somethingMy father has a head for numbers and is very good at mathematics.

have a (good) head on one`s shoulders
What does "have a (good) head on one`s shoulders" mean?
be smart or sensibleThat new salesman really has a head on his shoulders.

have a heart
What does "have a heart" mean?
be generous and forgivingThe woman doesn't have a heart and everybody dislikes her.

have a heart of gold
What does "have a heart of gold" mean?
be generous/sincere/friendlyThe woman has a heart of gold and is always willing to help her friends.

have a heart of stone
What does "have a heart of stone" mean?
be cold and unfriendlyThe man has a heart of stone and he will never help anybody.

have a heart-to-heart talk (with someone)
What does "have a heart-to-heart talk (with someone)" mean?
have a sincere and intimate talk with someoneI had a heart-to-heart talk with my sister about my girlfriend.

have a hold on (someone)
What does "have a hold on (someone)" mean?
have a strong and secure influence on someoneThe coach has a very strong hold on the members of the team.

have a hunch about (something)
What does "have a hunch about (something)" mean?
have a feeling that something will or should happenI had a hunch that my friend would not come to meet me.

have a keen interest in (someone or something)
What does "have a keen interest in (someone or something)" mean?
be very interested in someone or somethingI have always had a keen interest in hiking and camping.

have a lot going (for one)
What does "have a lot going (for one)" mean?
have many things working to one's benefitThe woman has a lot going for her and should do well at her job.

have a lot of promise
What does "have a lot of promise" mean?
have a good future ahead The young racing horse has a lot of promise and should be a winner in the future.

have a lot on one's mind
What does "have a lot on one's mind" mean?
have many things to worry aboutShe has a lot on her mind with her new job and her new boyfriend.

have a mind like a steel trap
What does "have a mind like a steel trap" mean?
have a very sharp and agile mindThe man has a mind like a steel trap and can remember most things easily.

have a near miss
What does "have a near miss" mean?
nearly crash or collide with somethingThe two trucks had a near miss on the highway this morning.

have a nose for (something)
What does "have a nose for (something)" mean?
have a talent for finding somethingOur supervisor has a nose for finding ways to save money in our company.

have a notion to (do something)
What does "have a notion to (do something)" mean?
feel tempted or inclined to do somethingI had a notion to go to the beach so I went to the beach.

have a one-track mind
What does "have a one-track mind" mean?
think only about one thingMy friend has a one-track mind and he is only interested in making money.

have a passion for (something)
What does "have a passion for (something)" mean?
have a strong feeling of need or love for somethingThe student wants to become a teacher because he has a passion for teaching English.

have a pick-me-up
What does "have a pick-me-up" mean?
eat or drink something stimulatingThe carpenter bought a protein drink as a pick-me-up in the middle of the afternoon.

have a price on one's head
What does "have a price on one's head" mean?
be wanted by the police who will pay money for one's captureThe man has a price on his head and is wanted by the police all over the country.

have a/the right to do something
What does "have a/the right to do something" mean?
have the freedom to do somethingThe apartment manager does not have the right to tell the tenants when they must leave the building.

have a rough time (of it)
What does "have a rough time (of it)" mean?
experience a difficult periodMy friend had a rough time of it when he was forced to leave his job.

have a run-in with (someone)
What does "have a run-in with (someone)" mean?
have an unpleasant encounter with someoneI had a run-in with my boss that made us both feel bad.

have a run of bad luck
What does "have a run of bad luck" mean?
have a period of bad luckMy uncle had a run of bad luck and he lost his business as well as his house.

have a say/voice in (something)
What does "have a say/voice in (something)" mean?
have a part in making a decisionThe union wanted to have a say in how the company was managed.

have a score to settle with (someone)
What does "have a score to settle with (someone)" mean?
have a problem to clear up with someoneI had a score to settle with the soccer coach which I wanted to talk about.

have a scrape with (someone or something)
What does "have a scrape with (someone or something)" mean?
come into contact with someone or somethingI had a scrape with the building owner and I must be very careful of what I say now.

have a screw loose
What does "have a screw loose" mean?
act in a strange way, be foolishHe is a very strange person. I think that he has a screw loose somewhere.

have a soft spot in one's heart for (someone or something)
What does "have a soft spot in one's heart for (someone or something)" mean?
be fond of someone or somethingMy grandmother has a soft spot in her heart for her youngest son.

have a sweet tooth
What does "have a sweet tooth" mean?
have a desire to eat sweet foodsThe girl has a sweet tooth and loves to eat chocolate.

have a taste for (something)
What does "have a taste for (something)" mean?
have a desire for a particular food/drink/experienceRecently my friend has a taste for very loud and fast music.

have a thing going with (someone)
What does "have a thing going with (someone)" mean?
have a romantic relationship with someoneI think that the secretary has a thing going with one of the salesmen.

have a time
What does "have a time" mean?
have trouble, have a hard timeShe really had a time last night when her car stopped working.

have a time
What does "have a time" mean?
have a good time, have funWe really had a time at the party last night.

have a try/crack at (something)
What does "have a try/crack at (something)" mean?
take a turn at trying to do somethingI have always wanted to have a try at scuba diving.

have a vested interest in (something)
What does "have a vested interest in (something)" mean?
have a personal interest (often financial) in somethingThe mayor of the city has a vested interest in building the new stadium.

have a way with (someone or something)
What does "have a way with (someone or something)" mean?
be able to lead/persuade/influence othersThe little girl has a way with horses. They are very gentle when she is around.

have a weakness for (someone or something)
What does "have a weakness for (someone or something)" mean?
be unable to resist someone or somethingThe girl has a weakness for chocolate and is always eating it.

have a whale of a time
What does "have a whale of a time" mean?
have an exciting timeEverybody had a whale of a time at the school picnic.

have a word with (someone)
What does "have a word with (someone)" mean?
talk briefly with someoneI will have a word with my boss before he goes home tonight.

have an accident
What does "have an accident" mean?
experience something that was not intendedI had an accident on my way to work this morning.

have an ace up one's sleeve
What does "have an ace up one's sleeve" mean?
have something that you can use to gain an advantage (in a card game the ace is often the most valuable card and a cheater could have an ace up his or her sleeve to use against an opponent)I have an ace up my sleeve which should help me when I meet my boss tomorrow.

have an ax to grind (with someone)
What does "have an ax to grind (with someone)" mean?
have something to complain aboutMy co-worker has an ax to grind with our boss and is always complaining.

have an ear for (something)
What does "have an ear for (something)" mean?
have the ability to learn music or languagesMy cousin has an ear for music and is a very good musician.

have an edge on/over (someone or something)
What does "have an edge on/over (someone or something)" mean?
have an advantage over someone or somethingOur team has an edge over the other teams to win the high school football championship.

have an eye for (something)
What does "have an eye for (something)" mean?
have good taste in something, be able to judge correctlyShe has an eye for nice furniture and her apartment is absolutely beautiful.

have an in with (someone)
What does "have an in with (someone)" mean?
have a way to request a special favor from someoneThe woman has an in with her boss and can easily get time off.

have an itch to do something
What does "have an itch to do something" mean?
have a desire to do somethingI have an itch to go fishing this summer.

have an out
What does "have an out" mean?
have an excuseThe teacher asked me to do my presentation tomorrow but I have an out and don't have to do it. I will go to the doctor tomorrow

have arrived
What does "have arrived" mean?
reach a position of power/authority/prominenceThe manager thought that she had arrived when she was given a beautiful corner office.

have bearing on (something)
What does "have bearing on (something)" mean?
affect or influence somethingThe company decision had much bearing on the way that the company was managed.

have been around
What does "have been around" mean?
have been to many places and done many things, be experiencedMy brother has been around and has been overseas many times.

have been had
What does "have been had" mean?
have been cheated or dealt with badlyI felt that I had been had when the salesman sold me the bad product.


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