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. .

In the crapper
What does "In the crapper" mean?
In the toilet, soiled; or hopelessly irretrievable.Your relationship with Mary went right in the crapper the minute you told her to, "Rub that pie on her hips because that is where it's going to end up anyway".

Thomas Crapper of England is credited for the design and implementation of modern indoor plumbing (including the flushable toilet). Although there is conciderable evidence to the contrary, restrooms/bathrooms are still often referred to as "The Crapper." This word (among others) was introduced to America by their World War I soldiers returning home from Europe.

In the country of the BLIND, the ONE-EYED man is KING
What does "In the country of the BLIND, the ONE-EYED man is KING" mean?
A man of even limited ability is at a great advantage in the company of those less able.It doesn't matter if you don't completely understand how the Internet works! You know more than anyone else here. So, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

An English proverb cited by John Ray in 1678 tells us that "a man were better be half blind than have both eyes out." Not only would he be able to avoid the ditch (fallen into by the blind leading the blind), he might find himself in a position if leadership. "In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" is quoted in Erasmus' "Adagia," in 1536. We also see it in John Palsgrave's translation of the "Comedy of Acolastus." In 1522, in his "Why Come Yet Not to Court?" John Skelton tells us that: "an one eyed man is Well sighted when is is amonge blynde men."
In the black
What does "In the black" mean?
To be making money.Live below your means and you will always be running in the black.

Standard practice for accounting is to record positive numbers in black ink and negative numbers in red ink. Operating "in the black" is to record positive numbers, that is to say earnings.
In the doldrums
What does "In the doldrums" mean?
To be depressed or unmotivated.I'd like to provide a good example, but I'm feeling in the doldrums.

Doldrums is the name of a place in the ocean that is located near the equator and is characterized by unstable trade winds. A sailing ship caught in the Doldrums can be stranded due to lack of wind.
In the red
What does "In the red" mean?
To be losing money.Putting kids through college is sure to put you in the red.

Standard practice for accounting is to record positive numbers in black ink and negative numbers in red ink. Operating "in the red" is to record negative numbers, that is to say losses.
No doubt red ink was chosen because it is a clear contrast for black and is not easily mistaken. However there is a bit more history to the red ink.
In medieval times the church, being the only center of literacy and learning in the west, maintained meticulous accounting records. Ink was rare and expensive. When monasteries and far-flung churches had little money and they could not afford ink, domesticated animals were bled to provide a substitute in the dipping wells. As a result, poor financial records were usually written "in the red.
Irons in the fire
What does "Irons in the fire" mean?
Having or pursuing multiple opportunities simultaneously.I have been out of work for 6 months, but I have a number of irons in the fire.

Blacksmiths traditionally worked iron into shape by hammering. The iron being worked would be heated in the fire until it was red-hot and malleable. The Smith removes the iron from the fire and shapes it with repeated blows from a hammer. They need to work quickly before the iron cools. Once the iron is cool, it becomes brittle and cannot be hammered.
Once removed from the fire, the iron cools quickly. It takes longer to heat the iron to red-hot than it takes for it to cool. Blacksmiths work more efficiently by having multiple pieces of iron in the fire heating simultaneously. In that way, the Smith can always have a piece of iron red-hot and ready for hammering. The cooled piece would be returned to the fire if it needed more hammering.
if I had my druthers
What does "if I had my druthers" mean?
if I could do what I wanted/preferred."If I had my druthers, I'd stay home from worktoday."

in over one's head
What does "in over one's head" mean?
in a situation that is too much / too difficult for one to manage."Do you have time to help me? I thought I could dothis myself,but I'm afraid I'm in over my head. I just can't handle thingsalone."

inside out
What does "inside out" mean?
with the inner part on the outside and the outer part on the inside."Why are you wearing your tee shirt insideout?"

in stock
What does "in stock" mean?
in supply and available to buy / sell."I'm sorry, but we just sold our last pair of hikingboots. If you come backat the end of the week, however, we should have some more instock.

in the black
What does "in the black" mean?
profitable; not showing a financial loss. "What did you do to increase profit and eliminatelosses?We've been in the black for two months in a row."

in the red
What does "in the red" mean?
unprofitable; showing a financial loss."We have to do something to increase profit anddecrease losses.We've been in the red for two months in a row."

in time
What does "in time" mean?
not late."I thought I was going to be late for my flight, butit was delayed, so I was still in time."

in charge of something
What does "in charge of something" mean?
to be responsible for an activity or group of peopleOur teacher is in charge of selling tickets for the school dance.

idiot box
What does "idiot box" mean?
television setMy friend sits in front of the idiot box all day and never gets any work done.

if looks could kill
What does "if looks could kill" mean?
used when someone makes an unfriendly look or frowns at someoneIf looks could kill then the horrible way that the woman looked at me would have killed me instantly.

if so
What does "if so" mean?
if that is the caseThe lawyer said that he wants to meet us this afternoon but if so then we will not have any documents ready to discuss.

if the shoe fits, wear it
What does "if the shoe fits, wear it" mean?
if something that is said describes you then it probably is meant for you as wellHe was complaining that many workers at his company were lazy. However, his friend looked at him and said that if the shoe fits, wear it.

if worst comes to worst
What does "if worst comes to worst" mean?
if the worst possible thing happensIf worst comes to worst we can cancel our holiday and go next year.

ill at ease
What does "ill at ease" mean?
nervous/uncomfortableHe appeared to be ill at ease during the interview.

ill-disposed to (do something)
What does "ill-disposed to (do something)" mean?
not friendly or favorable to somethingOur company is ill-disposed to begin working on the project with the other company.

ill-gotten gains
What does "ill-gotten gains" mean?
money or other goods acquired illegally or dishonestlyThe man used his ill-gotten gains from the sale of the stolen car to go on a holiday.

ill will
What does "ill will" mean?
hostile feelings or intentionsThere is much ill will between the two departments in our company.

implicate (someone) in (something)
What does "implicate (someone) in (something)" mean?
suggest that someone is involved in somethingThe man was implicated in the scheme to sell the illegal shares in the company.

in a bad mood
What does "in a bad mood" mean?
sad, depressedI was in a bad mood after I wrote the university exam.

in a bad way
What does "in a bad way" mean?
in a bad or critical stateThe woman is in a bad way after her recent car accident.

in a bind
What does "in a bind" mean?
in troubleThey will really be in a bind if they can`t sell their house by next month.

in a coon's age
What does "in a coon's age" mean?
in a very long timeI have not seen my friend in a coon's age.

in a family way
What does "in a family way" mean?
pregnant, going to have a babyOur new secretary is in a family way and plans to take a few months off from work soon.

in a flash
What does "in a flash" mean?
quicklyI was finished with the job interview in a flash.

in a fog (haze)
What does "in a fog (haze)" mean?
confused, not sure what is happeningHe is always in a fog and never seems to know what is going on.

in a fool's paradise
What does "in a fool's paradise" mean?
seem to be happy but in a situation that will not lastThe couple were living in a fool's paradise with their temporary jobs and the high salaries.

in a hole
What does "in a hole" mean?
in some trouble, in an embarrassing or difficult positionHe is really in a hole now that he has problems both at work and at home.

in a huff
What does "in a huff" mean?
in an angry or offended mannerThe head of our department left the meeting in a huff.

in a hurry
What does "in a hurry" mean?
moving or acting quicklyHe is very busy and always in a hurry.

in a jam
What does "in a jam" mean?
in trouble, in a difficult situationHe is in a jam now that his car is not working properly.

in a jiffy
What does "in a jiffy" mean?
very fast, very soonI promised that I would be finished with the phone in a jiffy.

in a kind/sort of way
What does "in a kind/sort of way" mean?
to a certain extent, a little, somewhatIn a kind of way I want to buy a new car but in other ways I don't think that I really need one.

in a lather
What does "in a lather" mean?
excited and agitatedMy friend was in a lather when she heard that she would be transferring to another department.

in a little bit
What does "in a little bit" mean?
soon"I will give you back your dictionary in a little bit."

in a mad rush
What does "in a mad rush" mean?
in a hurry, franticallyThe woman was in a mad rush to finish her shopping and return home.

in a month of Sundays
What does "in a month of Sundays" mean?
in a very long timeI have not been to the shopping mall in a month of Sundays.

in a nutshell
What does "in a nutshell" mean?
brieflyI tried to explain the problem to him in a nutshell but there still wasn`t enough time.

in a pickle/in a pretty pickle
What does "in a pickle/in a pretty pickle" mean?
in a mess, in troubleMy friend is in a pickle now that she has lost her job.

in a pig`s eye
What does "in a pig`s eye" mean?
hardly, unlikely, neverIn a pig`s eye will I let him borrow my car next weekend.

in a pinch
What does "in a pinch" mean?
okay when nothing else is availableThe other tool will do in a pinch if we can`t find the correct one.

in a quandary
What does "in a quandary" mean?
confused and uncertain about what to doI am in a quandary about where I should go on my vacation next month.

in a rush
What does "in a rush" mean?
in a hurryThey did the job in a rush so I am a little worried about the quality.

in a rut
What does "in a rut" mean?
always doing the same thingShe feels that she is in a rut after doing the same job for seven years.

in a sense
What does "in a sense" mean?
in a way, sort ofIn a sense I can understand what my friend's problem is about but still it is difficult to imagine what he wants to say.

in a snit
What does "in a snit" mean?
in a fit of anger or irritationMy friend was in a snit because I forgot to phone her on Saturday.

in a split second
What does "in a split second" mean?
in just an instantThe car accident happened in a split second before anyone could do anything to prevent it.

in a spot
What does "in a spot" mean?
in some trouble, in an embarrassing or difficult positionShe is in a spot right now as she was unable to enter university and also has no job.

in a stew (about someone or something)
What does "in a stew (about someone or something)" mean?
upset or bothered about someone or somethingThe woman's husband is in a stew because he lost his car keys.

in a stupor
What does "in a stupor" mean?
in a dazed conditionI was in a stupor after I wrote my last exam.

in a tizzy
What does "in a tizzy" mean?
in an excited and confused conditionThe girl was in a tizzy all morning as she got ready for her friend's wedding.

in a way
What does "in a way" mean?
to a certain extent, a little, somewhatIn a way I want to go to the restaurant but basically I don`t care.

in a word
What does "in a word " mean?
briefly, to sum upIn a word, the problem with the car is that it needs a new motor.

in a world of one`s own
What does "in a world of one`s own" mean?
in deep thought or concentration, not caring about other peopleHe is always in a world of his own and doesn`t notice what other people say or think.

in abeyance
What does "in abeyance" mean?
the temporary suspension of an activity or a rulingThe final estate settlement was in abeyance while the lawyers looked at the will in more detail.

in accordance with (something)
What does "in accordance with (something)" mean?
in agreement with (something)In accordance with the wishes of my grandfather we did not sell the family farm.

in addition to (something)
What does "in addition to (something)" mean?
additionally, furtherIn addition to a degree in history my friend also has a degree in economics.

in advance
What does "in advance" mean?
ahead of timeThey bought the tickets in advance so that they could get a good seat.

in agreement
What does "in agreement" mean?
in harmony, agreeingAll of the members of the team were in agreement regarding the training schedule of the coach.

in all one's born days
What does "in all one's born days" mean?
in all one's lifeIn all my born days I have never met a more stubborn person.

in all probability
What does "in all probability" mean?
very likelyIn all probability I will be unable to attend my classes during the next two weeks.

in and of itself
What does "in and of itself" mean?
considering one thing aloneIn and of itself there is no problem having a large number of people at the dinner. However, the fire regulations do not allow so many people to be in the building

in and out
What does "in and out" mean?
coming in and going out oftenHe has been in and out all day but I don`t know where he is at the moment.

in any case/event
What does "in any case/event" mean?
no matter what happens, surely, without failI may not be able to meet you next week but in any case I will still give you the books before then.

in arms
What does "in arms" mean?
armed, angry and ready to fightThe workers are in arms since they found out about the wage decrease.

in arrears
What does "in arrears" mean?
overdue (bills or money), lateI have never been in arrears with my bill payments.

in awe of (someone or something)
What does "in awe of (someone or something)" mean?
fearful and respectful of someone or somethingAll of the children were in awe of the firemen who came to visit the school.

in bad faith
What does "in bad faith" mean?
with bad or dishonest intentThe man was bargaining in bad faith when he tried to buy the car.

in bad/poor taste
What does "in bad/poor taste" mean?
rude, vulgarThe jokes that the man told at the dinner were in very bad taste.

in between
What does "in between" mean?
located in the middle of two things/statesMy friend is in between jobs at the moment.

in black and white
What does "in black and white" mean?
in writingI want to get the information in black and white before I go to the meeting.

in bloom/blossom
What does "in bloom/blossom" mean?
a flower/tree at the peak of bloomingAll of the flowers are in bloom in our garden now.

in brief
What does "in brief" mean?
brieflyI explained in brief what the new supervisor was supposed to do while I was on vacation.

in broad daylight
What does "in broad daylight" mean?
publicly visible in the daytimeThe robbery of the store took place in broad daylight.

in bulk
What does "in bulk" mean?
in large quantities or amountsWe usually buy some of our food in bulk.

in cahoots with (someone)
What does "in cahoots with (someone)" mean?
in secret agreement or partnership with someoneThe supermarket was in cahoots with the vegetable producer to try and keep the prices high.

in care of (someone)
What does "in care of (someone)" mean?
send something to one person at the address of another personMy income tax refund was sent to me in care of my company.

in case
What does "in case" mean?
if, if something should happenI will take my umbrella in case it rains.

in case of
What does "in case of" mean?
in the event of, if there should be, as a precautionIn case of fire we keep our computer backup files in a fireproof safe.

in character
What does "in character" mean?
as usual, typical, in the way that a person usually behavesSupporting the members of her staff is in character with the way our manager does business.

in charge of (someone or something)
What does "in charge of (someone or something)" mean?
in control or authority, responsible for someone or somethingHe is in charge of the sales department at his company.

in check
What does "in check" mean?
under control, kept quietThe violence was kept in check by the police department and the army.

in clover
What does "in clover" mean?
rich or successful, having a pleasant or easy lifeThey are in clover now that they have sold their business and retired.

in cold blood
What does "in cold blood" mean?
without feeling or pity, cooly and deliberatelyThe family was murdered in cold blood by the criminal gang.

in common
What does "in common" mean?
shared together or equally, in use or ownership by allI had nothing in common with the other members of the class.

in concert (with someone)
What does "in concert (with someone)" mean?
with the aide of someoneWe made the presentation in concert with members of another company.

in consequence of (something)
What does "in consequence of (something)" mean?
as a result of somethingIn consequence of my loss of job, I am no longer able to keep living in my present apartment.

in contempt of court
What does "in contempt of court" mean?
disrespect for a judge or for courtroom proceduresThe woman was in contempt of court when she refused to sit down quietly during the trial.

in custody of (someone or something)
What does "in custody of (someone or something)" mean?
being looked after by someone or something, under guard by someoneThe child was placed in custody of the state while her mother got treatment for her substance abuse problem.

in debt
What does "in debt" mean?
owing moneyThe man has been in debt for most of his life.

in deep
What does "in deep" mean?
seriously mixed up in something like debt or troubleThe man is in deep because of debt and other problems.

in deep water
What does "in deep water" mean?
in a serious situation, in troubleThe boy is in deep water because of his problems at school.

in defiance of (someone or something)
What does "in defiance of (someone or something)" mean?
against someone's will or against instructionsThe company continued to operate their business in defiance of a court order.

in denial
What does "in denial" mean?
refusing to believe something that is trueThe man was in denial about the fact that he may lose his job.

in detail
What does "in detail" mean?
giving all the details, item by itemI told the police about the events in detail.

in disguise
What does "in disguise" mean?
looking like someone elseThe bank robber was in disguise when he robbed the bank.

in drag
What does "in drag" mean?
wearing the clothes of the opposite sexThe tourists were shocked when they went to the stage show and found many of the performers in drag.

in due course
What does "in due course" mean?
in the usual amount of time, at the right timeWe will send the information to you in due course.

in Dutch (with someone)
What does "in Dutch (with someone)" mean?
in trouble with someoneThe boy was in Dutch with his father for breaking the window.

in earnest
What does "in earnest" mean?
sincerelyThe young woman has been looking for a job in earnest since she graduated.

in effect
What does "in effect" mean?
for practical purposes, basicallyThe man's silence was in effect a way of disagreeing with the other people in the meeting.

in effect
What does "in effect" mean?
in existence, operating or functioningThe smoking law has been in effect for three years.

in essence
What does "in essence" mean?
basicallyI was told in essence about the problems that the company was having.

in exchange for (someone or something)
What does "in exchange for (someone or something)" mean?
in return for someone or somethingI received the camera in exchange for several discount coupons.

in existence
What does "in existence" mean?
now existingThe company has been in existence for many years.

in fact
What does "in fact" mean?
actually, the truth isHe`s been to China before. In fact he`s been there three times.

in fashion
What does "in fashion" mean?
fashionableVery thin neckties have not been in fashion recently.

in favor of (someone or something)
What does "in favor of (someone or something)" mean?
approving or supporting someone or somethingMost members of the city council were in favor of building the new stadium.

in flight
What does "in flight" mean?
while flyingTwo wonderful meals were served while we were in flight.

in flux
What does "in flux" mean?
in constant change, changingThe school administration has been in flux for several months now.

in for (something)
What does "in for (something)" mean?
unable to avoid something, sure to get somethingHe is in for a lot of trouble now that he is unable to finish his graduation essay.

in force
What does "in force" mean?
in a very large groupThe fans came out in force to cheer for their favorite team.

in full swing
What does "in full swing" mean?
in progressThe campaign to stop people from smoking is in full swing.

in general
What does "in general" mean?
in most situations or circumstancesIn general, most of the people in our apartment are happy with the new manager.

in good conscience
What does "in good conscience" mean?
having good motivesI wrote the letter and complained to the woman in good conscience.

in good faith
What does "in good faith" mean?
with good and honest intentionsOur company was bargaining in good faith when they met the other company.

in good hands
What does "in good hands" mean?
in the safe and competent care of someoneMy dog was in good hands when I gave him to my father to look after.

in good repair
What does "in good repair" mean?
in good conditionMy car is always in good repair when I go on a holiday.

in good shape/condition
What does "in good shape/condition" mean?
functioning or working wellOur television set was in good shape when we gave it to my friend.

in good spirits
What does "in good spirits" mean?
happy/cheerful/positiveEveryone was in good spirits when they went to the beach for a picnic.

in good time
What does "in good time" mean?
a little early, sooner than necessaryI will try and get the information to you in good time so that you will be able to decide what to do.

in good with (someone)
What does "in good with (someone)" mean?
in someone's favorMy cousin is in good with his boss and has an easy time at work.

in great demand
What does "in great demand" mean?
wanted by many peopleThe young pianist is in great demand by symphony orchestras around the world.

in hand
What does "in hand" mean?
under controlThe teacher had the class in hand when the principal came to visit the classroom.

in heaven
What does "in heaven" mean?
in a state of absolute happiness, dead and in heavenI felt that I was in heaven when I learned that I would get the job that I wanted.

in high gear
What does "in high gear" mean?
very fast and activeThe preparations for the party were in high gear when I arrived at the house.

in hindsight
What does "in hindsight" mean?
thinking about the past with the knowledge one now hasIn hindsight, it was easy to determine what I had done wrong in the job interview.

in hock
What does "in hock" mean?
in a pawnshopThe man put his expensive stereo in hock to get some money for a holiday.

in honor of (someone or something)
What does "in honor of (someone or something)" mean?
showing respect or admiration for someone or somethingThe dinner was in honor of the first principal of our school.

in hopes of (something)
What does "in hopes of (something)" mean?
expecting somethingI wrote the entrance exam in hopes of entering my favorite university.

in horror
What does "in horror" mean?
with intense shock or disgustI watched in horror as the cars crashed into the truck that had stopped.

in hot water
What does "in hot water" mean?
in troubleI am in hot water over the extra expenses that I used during the conference.

in ink
What does "in ink" mean?
written or signed with a penWe were asked to write down our names and addresses in ink.

in its entirety
What does "in its entirety" mean?
in a state of completenessI read the novel in its entirety although it was very difficult to read.

in jeopardy
What does "in jeopardy" mean?
in danger, at riskOur contract with the large company was in jeopardy because of our inability to quickly provide them with our products.

in keeping with (something)
What does "in keeping with (something)" mean?
continuing with something, doing something similarIn keeping with our tradition of letting the visiting team kick first we will do it for this game as well.

in kind
What does "in kind" mean?
payment for something with some goods rather than moneyWe will pay them back in kind for the use of their sailboat.

in labor
What does "in labor" mean?
a woman going through childbirthThe man's wife was in labor for three hours.

in league with (someone)
What does "in league with (someone)" mean?
in secret agreement or partnership with someoneThe union has been in league with management to try and close the factory.

in less than no time
What does "in less than no time" mean?
very quicklyMy friend had to go to the bank but in less than no time he returned to my house.

in lieu of (something)
What does "in lieu of (something)" mean?
in place of somethingWe received a free movie pass in lieu of a refund of our movie ticket.

in light of (something)
What does "in light of (something)" mean?
as a result of new information, because of somethingIn light of his contribution to the company we decided to give him a large summer bonus.

in limbo
What does "in limbo" mean?
in an indefinite state, a state of neglect, a region on the border of hellEverything in the company was in limbo as we waited for news of the takeover bid.

in line
What does "in line" mean?
standing and waiting in a line of peopleWe stood in line for three hours while waiting for the concert tickets.

in line
What does "in line" mean?
doing or being what people expect or accept, within ordinary limitsIt was difficult to keep the children in line at the picnic but somehow we managed.


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