American Idioms and Expressions

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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. .

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Many a True Word is spoken in Jest.
What does "Many a True Word is spoken in Jest." mean?
A humorous, joking remark may hide a profound insight or a serious criticism. An unintended comment may turn out to be true."You know Shirley, you might as well rub those cinnamon rolls directly on to your hips. That is where they're going to end up anyway."

"Well Fred, many a true word is spoken in jest, but my hips are really none of your business."

In trying to be funny many people will relay on sarcasm. The most poignant (and often cutting, or hurtful) sarcasm is founded in truth. It is often determental to a relationship to pick on someone in front of others even if you are basically telling the truth.

Conversely, if you are being picked on in jest, you can often get a true picture of how others view you and know then what to work on.

The meaning behind this saying was used as early as in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," in which the cook says, "A man may seye full soothe in game and pley." Later, at the end of the sixteenth century, a Scottish saying was, "There are many sooth words spoken in bourding," and both French and Italian have equivalent sayings.

Mind your Ps and Qs
What does "Mind your Ps and Qs" mean?
Behave properly.Since his drunk driving arrest, he has been minding his Ps and Qs.

Comes from the early pub days when beer and ale was served in pint and quart containers. The tab was kept on a chalkboard used to count the pints and quarts consumed. To watch your Ps and Qs is to control your alcoholic intake and behavior.
macho
What does "macho" mean?
super masculine / masculine to an extreme (in appearance and behavior)."Her husband would never agree to help with thehousework;he's too macho to do that."

make a mountain out of a molehill
What does "make a mountain out of a molehill" mean?
make something seem much more important than it really is."Calm down. There's really nothing to worry about.You're making a mountain out of a molehill."

make up one's mind
What does "make up one's mind" mean?
decide what to do.A: Where are you going on your vacation?B: Maybe Canada, maybe Mexico. I can't make up my mind."

mad as a hatter
What does "mad as a hatter" mean?
crazyMy neighbor is mad as a hatter and we never know what she will do next.

mad as a hornet
What does "mad as a hornet" mean?
very angryOur boss was mad as a hornet when we saw him at the meeting yesterday.

made for each other
What does "made for each other" mean?
two people are very well suited romanticallyThe young couple are made for each other and seem to be very happy.

made to measure
What does "made to measure" mean?
made especially to fit the measurements of someoneWhen I was working in Hong Kong I purchased several suits that were made to measure.

made to order
What does "made to order" mean?
put together on requestMy father decided to buy a new computer desk that was made to order.

maiden voyage
What does "maiden voyage" mean?
the first voyage of a ship or boatThe maiden voyage of the new cruise ship was popular with many people.

make a bed
What does "make a bed" mean?
arrange the sheets and blankets of a bed neatlyMy mother always told me to make my bed when I was a child.

make a beeline for (someone or something)
What does "make a beeline for (someone or something)" mean?
hurry directly toward someone or somethingWhen I enter the cafeteria I always make a beeline for the dessert section.

make a big deal about (something)
What does "make a big deal about (something)" mean?
exaggerate the seriousness of somethingI wish that my friend would not make a big deal about every small problem.

make a break for (something/somewhere)
What does "make a break for (something/somewhere)" mean?
move or run quickly to something or somewhereThe audience made a break for the doors as soon as the concert was over.

make a bundle/pile
What does "make a bundle/pile" mean?
make a lot of moneyMy father made a bundle on the stock market several years ago.

make a check out (to someone)
What does "make a check out (to someone)" mean?
write a check to give to someone with their name on itI made a check out to the animal hospital after they cared for our dog.

make a clean breast of (something)
What does "make a clean breast of (something)" mean?
confess something bad that you have done in order not to feel guilty/badThe woman made a clean breast of things and worked hard to start over.

make a clean sweep of (something)
What does "make a clean sweep of (something)" mean?
do something completely or thoroughlyThe new political party made a clean sweep of the large cities during the election.

make a comeback
What does "make a comeback" mean?
return to one's former (successful) careerThe boxer has been training very hard in his attempt to make a comeback.

make a day of it
What does "make a day of it" mean?
do something all dayWe decided to make a day of it and spend the day at the beach.

make a dent in (something)
What does "make a dent in (something)" mean?
make progress doing somethingWe worked hard all day but we didn`t make a dent in the amount of work left to do.

make a difference
What does "make a difference" mean?
cause a change in a situationIt doesn`t make a difference whether he comes to the meeting or not.

make a face (at someone)
What does "make a face (at someone)" mean?
make a strange face to ridicule someoneThe little girl made a face at the boy in her class.

make a fast/quick buck
What does "make a fast/quick buck" mean?
make money with little effortThe two men tried to make a fast buck during the construction boom.

make a fool out of (someone)
What does "make a fool out of (someone)" mean?
make someone look foolishThe secretary made a fool out of her boss when she argued with him at the meeting.

make a fuss (over someone or something)
What does "make a fuss (over someone or something)" mean?
worry about or make a bother about someone or somethingMy grandmother always makes a fuss over me when I go to visit her.

make a go of (something)
What does "make a go of (something)" mean?
succeed at something, produce good resultsAlthough he tried hard he was never able to make a go of his business.

make a great show of (something)
What does "make a great show of (something)" mean?
do something in a showy fashionThe woman made a great show of telling everybody about her new and rich boyfriend.

make a hit
What does "make a hit" mean?
be successfulHer cake made a hit at the party.

make a killing
What does "make a killing" mean?
make a large amount of moneyHer mother made a killing on the real estate market before she retired.

make a laughingstock of (someone)
What does "make a laughingstock of (someone)" mean?
do something that makes people laugh at someoneI made a laughingstock of myself when I dropped the plate of crackers at the party.

make a living
What does "make a living" mean?
earn enough money to liveHe cannot make a living by only doing a part-time job.

make a long story short
What does "make a long story short" mean?
bring a story to an end by omitting some detailsI had to make a long story short in order to finish my story and leave to catch my train home.

make a meal of (something)
What does "make a meal of (something)" mean?
eat one main dish/food as an entire mealWe were able to make a meal of the chicken that my mother gave us last night.

make a mistake
What does "make a mistake" mean?
make an errorI made a mistake on the math test.

make a mountain out of a molehill
What does "make a mountain out of a molehill" mean?
make a big problem out of a small problemHe is making a mountain out of a molehill by worrying about his son`s problem.

make a name for oneself
What does "make a name for oneself" mean?
become well-known or famousHe has made a name for himself in the field of computers.

make a night/evening of (doing something)
What does "make a night/evening of (doing something)" mean?
do something for the entire night/eveningWe decided to stay home and make a night of playing cards.

make a note of (something)
What does "make a note of (something)" mean?
write something downI made a note of the people that I was going to phone on the weekend.

make a nuisance of oneself
What does "make a nuisance of oneself" mean?
be a constant botherI didn't phone the apartment manager to complain about the sink because I didn't want to make a nuisance of myself.

make a pass at (someone)
What does "make a pass at (someone)" mean?
make romantic advances to someoneThe man was fired because he made a pass at one of the women who he works with.

make a pitch (for someone or something)
What does "make a pitch (for someone or something)" mean?
attempt to promote/sell/advance someone or somethingThe city made a pitch for more money from other levels of government to help build a new sports stadium.

make a play for (someone)
What does "make a play for (someone)" mean?
try to make someone romantically interested in youI worked hard all term to make a play for a woman in my computer class.

make a point
What does "make a point" mean?
state something importantThe speaker used some good examples in order to make a point during his speech.

make a point of (doing/saying something)
What does "make a point of (doing/saying something)" mean?
do or say something with a definite intentHe always makes a point of visiting his aunt when he is in town.

make a practice of (something)
What does "make a practice of (something)" mean?
turn something into a habitI make a practice of going to bed at 11:00 PM every evening.

make a reservation
What does "make a reservation" mean?
reserve a seat in an airplane/restaurant etc. in advanceI phoned the airline last night so that I could make a reservation.

make a run for it
What does "make a run for it" mean?
dash for safety, make a quick escapeI made a run for it as soon as the class finished.

make a scene
What does "make a scene" mean?
make a public display or disturbanceThe woman made a scene in the supermarket when she saw the liquid soap on the floor.

make a silk purse out of a sow's ear
What does "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" mean?
create something valuable out of something of no valueYou can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear and the fact is that the woman is not a good singer and will probably never sing in the choir.

make a stink (about something)
What does "make a stink (about something)" mean?
make a major issue out of somethingThe woman went to the store to make a stink about the broken CD player that she had bought.

make an all-out effort
What does "make an all-out effort" mean?
make a big effortThe police made an all-out effort to discover who had robbed the three banks.

make an appearance
What does "make an appearance" mean?
appear somewhere, appear in a performanceThe famous actor made an appearance at the party for the politician.

make an appointment (with someone)
What does "make an appointment (with someone)" mean?
schedule a meeting with someoneI made an appointment with my dentist to have my teeth checked.

make an example of (someone)
What does "make an example of (someone)" mean?
make a public issue out of someone's bad behaviorThe teacher punished the student severely in order to make an example of him for the other students.

make an exception (for someone)
What does "make an exception (for someone)" mean?
suspend a rule for someone for one timeThe security guard made an exception for me and allowed me to enter the parking lot after it was closed.

make an impression (on someone)
What does "make an impression (on someone)" mean?
produce a memorable effect on someoneThe elderly man made an impression on me and I was very sad when I heard that he had died.

make an issue of (something)
What does "make an issue of (something)" mean?
turn something into an important matterOur supervisor often tries to make an issue of events that are not important at all.

make allowances for (someone or something)
What does "make allowances for (someone or something)" mean?
allow extra time for someone or something, make excuses for someone or somethingWe had to make allowances for the fact that the new employee was very slow.

make amends for (something)
What does "make amends for (something)" mean?
do something to compensate for an error/injury/lossI was forced to do some extra work to make amends for my mistake of last week.

make arrangements for (someone or something)
What does "make arrangements for (someone or something)" mean?
make plans for someone or somethingWe made arrangements for a small wedding for my cousin.

make as if (to do something)
What does "make as if (to do something)" mean?
act as if one were about to do somethingThe driver made as if he was going to turn right but he actually turned left.

make away with (something)
What does "make away with (something)" mean?
take or carry away somethingThe cat made away with the fish that was sitting on top of the kitchen counter.

make believe
What does "make believe" mean?
act as if something is true although one knows that it is not, pretendThe children were playing make believe and pretended that they lived in a castle.

make book on (something)
What does "make book on (something)" mean?
make or accept bets on somethingThe gamblers were planning to make book on the coming election.

make cracks (about someone or something)
What does "make cracks (about someone or something)" mean?
ridicule or make jokes about someone or somethingThe radio announcer made cracks about the famous athlete during the interview.

make do with (something)
What does "make do with (something)" mean?
substitute one thing for anotherIf there is no cream for the coffee we will have to make do with milk.

make ends meet
What does "make ends meet" mean?
be able to live on the money that one hasIt is hard to make ends meet on his salary.

make eyes at (someone)
What does "make eyes at (someone)" mean?
flirt with someone, look at someone to try and attract themThe boy was making eyes at the girl in his history class.

make for (someone or somewhere)
What does "make for (someone or somewhere)" mean?
go/start toward someone or somewhereAs soon as it began to get dark we decided to make for a quiet place to camp.

make free with (someone or something)
What does "make free with (someone or something)" mean?
take advantage or use something as if it were one's ownMy roommate always makes free with my clothes which I don't like at all.

make friends
What does "make friends" mean?
form friendships with people or animalsShe is shy and is not able to make friends easily.

make fun of (someone or something)
What does "make fun of (someone or something)" mean?
ridicule someone or somethingThe students were making fun of the girl with the short hair.

make good money
What does "make good money" mean?
earn a large amount of moneyMy friend is able to make good money selling computer equipment in the evenings.

make good on (something)
What does "make good on (something)" mean?
fulfill a promise, make something come true. repay a debtOur boss made good on his promise to give everyone a raise in the new year.

make good time
What does "make good time" mean?
be successful in arriving at a destination in a short time or quicker than you expectedWe made good time yesterday and arrived home before it got dark.

make hay while the sun shines
What does "make hay while the sun shines" mean?
do something at the right time, take advantage of an opportunityYou should make hay while the sun shines and paint the house while the weather is good.

make it
What does "make it" mean?
succeedThe woman worked hard and was able to make it in the publishing industry.

make (it/an event)
What does "make (it/an event)" mean?
attend an eventI was feeling sick so I was not able to make the monthly meeting of our club.

make it as far as
What does "make it as far as" mean?
travel as far as somewhere, endure something until you must stopWe made it as far as the city limits before our car began to have problems.

make it hot for (someone)
What does "make it hot for (someone)" mean?
make things difficult for someoneThe questions from the reporters were making it hot for the city council member.

make it one's business to (do something)
What does "make it one's business to (do something)" mean?
do something even if you may interfere in something that does not directly concern youThe mother always makes it her business to know exactly what her children are doing.

make it up to (someone)
What does "make it up to (someone)" mean?
do something for someone to compensate for an unfulfilled promise or debtI can`t help you tonight but I will make it up to you later.

make it worth (someone's) while to do (something)
What does "make it worth (someone's) while to do (something)" mean?
make something profitable enough for someone to doOur company always makes it worth our while to work on Saturday evenings.

make life miserable for (someone)
What does "make life miserable for (someone)" mean?
make someone unhappy over a long period of timeThe manager of the apartment made life miserable for the young couple with the baby.

make light of (something)
What does "make light of (something)" mean?
treat something as not being important, minimize somethingMy friend made light of my efforts to learn how to speak and write Chinese.

make little of (someone or something)
What does "make little of (someone or something)" mean?
minimize someone or something, belittle someone or somethingMy friend often makes little of the fact that he borrows money and then does not pay it back quickly.

make merry
What does "make merry" mean?
have fun, laugh and celebrateWe decided to go to a nice restaurant and make merry for the evening.

make mincemeat out of (someone)
What does "make mincemeat out of (someone)" mean?
beat someone upThe boxer made mincemeat out of his opponent during the boxing match.

make mischief
What does "make mischief" mean?
cause troubleThe young boy seemed to enjoy the fact that he could make mischief whenever he wanted.

make no bones about (something)
What does "make no bones about (something)" mean?
make no secret of something, have no doubts about somethingI made no bones about the fact that I am not interested in applying for the supervisor`s job.

make no difference to (someone)
What does "make no difference to (someone)" mean?
not to matter to someone, not to care (about something)It makes no difference to me if we go to the movie on Friday or on Saturday.

make no mistake (about something)
What does "make no mistake (about something)" mean?
have no doubt about something, be certain about somethingI told the man to make no mistake about the fact that he was not permitted to park his car in our parking area.

make nothing of (something)
What does "make nothing of (something)" mean?
ignore something as if it had not happenedThe woman made nothing of the fact that she almost hit a woman in the parking lot.

make of (someone or something)
What does "make of (someone or something)" mean?
think or have an opinion about someone or something"What do you make of the new manager in accounting."

make off with (someone or something)
What does "make off with (someone or something)" mean?
take someone or something awayThe thief made off with a new television set from the store.

make one`s bed and lie in it
What does "make one`s bed and lie in it" mean?
be responsible for what you have done and accept the results of your actions"You quit your job and now you have no money. You made your bed and now you must lie in it."

make one`s blood boil
What does "make one`s blood boil" mean?
become very angryEvery time that I see that man he makes my blood boil.

make one`s feelings known
What does "make one`s feelings known" mean?
to reveal one's feelings about somethingMy friend made her feelings known about her desire not to attend the dinner.

make one`s hair stand on end
What does "make one`s hair stand on end" mean?
frighten/horrify someoneThe horror movie that we saw last week made my hair stand on end.

make one`s own way
What does "make one`s own way" mean?
rely on one`s own abilitiesHis father wants him to join the family business but he wants to make his own way and do something different.

make oneself at home
What does "make oneself at home" mean?
relax and act as if you were at homeShe always makes herself at home when she goes to visit her friends.

make oneself conspicuous
What does "make oneself conspicuous" mean?
attract attention to oneselfThe man made himself conspicuous by wearing the pastel-colored sports jacket.

make oneself felt
What does "make oneself felt" mean?
use one`s authorityHe was able to make himself felt when he helped to resolve the conflict.

make oneself heard
What does "make oneself heard" mean?
speak loudly so you will be heard above the noiseI had to speak loudly in order to make myself heard while the loud music was playing.

make oneself scarce
What does "make oneself scarce" mean?
leave quickly, go awayI think that I will make myself scarce and go to the beach for the day.

make or break (someone)
What does "make or break (someone)" mean?
either benefit or ruin someoneThe new business venture will probably make or break my uncle.

make out
What does "make out" mean?
to progress, to do well or not do well"How did you make out at your job interview yesterday?"

make out (a report/application)
What does "make out (a report/application)" mean?
fill out a report/applicationI stayed out late last night in order to make out some reports for work.

make out (something)
What does "make out (something)" mean?
understand something by making an effortI can never make out what my friend wants to say when he phones me.

make out (something)
What does "make out (something)" mean?
distinguish/identify something, manage to see or read somethingThe ship captain could not make out the name of the other boat because of the fog.

make out (something)
What does "make out (something)" mean?
make someone believe something, prove somethingHe made out that he was at the library last night but I know that he wasn`t.

make over (something)
What does "make over (something)" mean?
make something look different, change the style of somethingWe decided to make over our living room because we were tired of the old style.

make overtures to (someone)
What does "make overtures to (someone)" mean?
approach someone in a friendly way to begin talking about something or dealing with something, make a formal proposal or offerThe woman made overtures to her friend to try and solve some of their recent problems.

make peace with (someone)
What does "make peace with (someone)" mean?
end a quarrel with someoneThe two sisters were finally able to make peace with each other.

make points with (someone)
What does "make points with (someone)" mean?
gain favor with someoneI am sure that the woman is more interested in making points with her boss than doing a good job.

make room for (someone or something)
What does "make room for (someone or something)" mean?
arrange space for someone or somethingWe made room for the new computer in the spare room.

make sense
What does "make sense" mean?
seem reasonableHis new proposal really does make sense.

make sense out of (someone or something)
What does "make sense out of (someone or something)" mean?
understand or interpret someone or somethingI tried very hard to make sense out of the terrible tragedy at the hotel.

make short work of (something)
What does "make short work of (something)" mean?
finish something quicklyHe made short work of the typing and has started working on the other report.

make (someone or something) available to (someone)
What does "make (someone or something) available to (someone)" mean?
supply someone with someone or somethingThe company made a car available to the sales staff.

make (someone) eat crow
What does "make (someone) eat crow" mean?
cause someone to admit an error or retract a statementI wanted the supervisor to eat crow and admit that she had made a mistake.

make (someone) look good
What does "make (someone) look good" mean?
cause someone to appear successful or competentThe new sales contract that I had won made me look good.

make (someone) look ridiculous
What does "make (someone) look ridiculous" mean?
make someone look foolishThe complaint from my coworker made me look ridiculous.

make (someone) sick
What does "make (someone) sick" mean?
disgust someoneThe attitude of the woman next door makes me sick.

make (someone's) blood run cold
What does "make (someone's) blood run cold" mean?
shock or horrify someoneThe sight of the injured family in the car accident made my blood run cold.

make (someone's) flesh crawl
What does "make (someone's) flesh crawl" mean?
cause someone's skin to feel funnyThe movie was very violent and it made my flesh crawl.

make (someone's) hair stand on end
What does "make (someone's) hair stand on end" mean?
cause someone to be very frightenedThe sound of the screaming woman made my hair stand on end.

make (someone's) head spin
What does "make (someone's) head spin" mean?
make someone confused or overwhelmed, make someone dizzyThe numbers and information that I had to learn in the accounting course made my head spin.

make (someone`s) mouth water
What does "make (someone`s) mouth water " mean?
make someone want to eat something because of the thought or smell of the foodIt made my mouth water when I looked at the menu.

make (someone's) position clear
What does "make (someone's) position clear" mean?
clarify where someone stands on an issueThe politician made his position clear on the issue of taxes.

make (something) from scratch
What does "make (something) from scratch" mean?
make something by starting with the basic ingredientsWe made the soup from scratch.

make (something) out of nothing
What does "make (something) out of nothing" mean?
make an issue out of something of little importanceMy friend always wants to make something out of nothing and fights with everyone.

make (something) right/good
What does "make (something) right/good" mean?
replace or restore somethingI worked hard to make my relationship with my friend right.

make (something) to order
What does "make (something) to order" mean?
make something only when someone requests itThe construction company must make many parts for their equipment to order.

make (something) up to (someone)
What does "make (something) up to (someone)" mean?
repay someone, make amends to someoneI was late for work so I had to make it up to my boss by working late.

make (something) worth (someone's) while
What does "make (something) worth (someone's) while" mean?
make something profitable enough for someone to doI made it worth my friend's while to help me move by buying him dinner.

make sure
What does "make sure" mean?
to make certain, to establish something without a doubtI want to make sure that my friend is going to meet me tomorrow.

make the best of (something)
What does "make the best of (something)" mean?
do as well as possible in a bad situationHe made the best of his time working in the department that he hated.

make the grade
What does "make the grade" mean?
succeed, qualify for somethingHe was not able to make the grade and could not join the football team.

make the most of (something)
What does "make the most of (something)" mean?
use something to one's greatest advantageHe made the most of his time in Europe and visited many art galleries.

make the scene
What does "make the scene" mean?
be present, go to a certain place or eventHe decided to make the scene and go to the disco for the evening.

make time for (someone or something)
What does "make time for (someone or something) " mean?
schedule time to see someone or do somethingThe man makes time for his son every weekend so that they can play sports together.

make time with (someone)
What does "make time with (someone)" mean?
flirt with someoneThe man was trying to make time with the waitress in the restaurant.

make up for lost time
What does "make up for lost time" mean?
do something quickly (because you wasted time before)We wasted several days before we started to prepare for our holiday so we had to work hard to make up for lost time.

make up for (something)
What does "make up for (something)" mean?
compensate for a loss or mistakeI have to work hard in order to make up for last year's poor sales.

make up one's face
What does "make up one's face" mean?
put on cosmeticsShe always wants to make up her face before she goes to the store.

make up one`s mind
What does "make up one`s mind" mean?
decide somethingI haven`t made up my mind about whether or not I will accept the new job.

make up (something)
What does "make up (something)" mean?
make something by putting things or parts togetherWe made up the new machine by using parts from old machines.

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