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.
|On the ball|
What does "On the ball" mean?
|To be paying attention, to respond promptly, to be
doing one's job.||If you were a bit more on the ball, we might have averted the reactor melt down.|
From the early days of baseball, a pitcher who "had nothing on the ball" was one who was having a bad outing. The term implies that the pitcher has no control or speed on the ball.
|Once in a blue moon|
What does "Once in a blue moon" mean?
|To happen only on rare occasions.||The Post Office regularly fails to deliver checks sent in payment to me, but bills sent to me fail to be delivered only once in a blue moon.|
Two full moons in the same month are extremely rare, though they do happen. A second full moon has come to be called a blue moon. This is apparently because the Maine Farmers Almanac used to list the date of first moon in red text, and the second moon in blue.
|One Red Cent|
What does "One Red Cent" mean?
|A single symbolic penny.||I refuse to pay even one red cent for the work until you complete the whole job.|
The "Red" refers to both the color of a penny (one cent) and the image that used to be on the penny, an American Indian head. Redskin is a slang term used for American Indians.
Before today's Lincoln penny was the Indian Head penny.
The Indian Head penny was first issued in 1859 and looks just like that as issued in 1908 (before the Lincoln Cent). The only difference was that those from 1859-1864 were of a different copper-nickel alloy while 1864 started the common bronze, which was used until 1982. (You didn't know it changed then, did you?)
The copper-nickel alloy has a reddish tint, which turns redder with time and skin oil.
Before the Indian Head penny was the "Buzzard Cent", as the One Cent coins in 1856-1858 were called. The flying eagle on the coin was damned as an ugly bird and it wasn't popular.
However, it was the first "small cent" using about the same size as our penny today. In the half century before this, One Cent coins were about the size of today's Half Dollar!
What does "OK" mean?
| (1) yes (to show agreement--often reluctant agreement).
||A: "Come on, Al. We really need your help!"B: "Oh, OK; I may be crazy, but I'll help you."|
What does "OK" mean?
| (2) neither good nor bad; so-so.||A: "How was the movie?"B: "OK, I guess, but I've seen better ones."|
What does "OK" mean?
| (3) in satisfactory condition; well.||A: "You look awfully pale. Are you OK?"B: "Actually, I'm not. I have a terrible headache. "|
What does "OK" mean?
| (4) approve (verb).||A: "Did your boss OK your vacation plans?"B: "No, but he said that taking them two weeks later would be allright.|
|on the dot|
What does "on the dot" mean?
| exactly at a given time.||"We're leaving at 9:00 on the dot. If you'relate, we'll go without you."|
What does "on time" mean?
| at the scheduled time.||"It's getting late. You'd better hurry if you want toget to work on time."|
|once in a while|
What does "once in a while" mean?
| occasionally; from time to time.||A: "Would you like coffee or tea?"B: "Coffee, please. I drink tea once in a while, but Igenerally drink coffee."|
|over one's head|
What does "over one's head" mean?
| too difficult or complicated for someone
to understand.||"This explanation of cgi scripting is over myhead.Can you explain it in a less technical way?"|
|one's feet are on the ground|
What does "one's feet are on the ground" mean?
| one has sensible ideas||My father is a good man and always has his feet on the ground.|
|one's flesh and blood|
What does "one's flesh and blood" mean?
| a close relative||She is my flesh and blood so I felt terrible when she got into trouble.|
|one's frame of mind|
What does "one's frame of mind" mean?
| one`s mental state - either good or bad||I made sure that my boss was in a good frame of mind before I asked him for a holiday.|
|one's lucky stars|
What does "one's lucky stars" mean?
| a certain star or planet which is thought to bring a person good luck and success in life||You can count your lucky stars that you don`t have to work on a rainy day like today.|
|one's name is mud|
What does "one's name is mud" mean?
| a person`s reputation is bad||His name is mud now that he has been charged by the police with stealing money from his company. |
|occur to (someone)|
What does "occur to (someone)" mean?
| to come into someone's mind (an idea or thought)||It occurred to me that I will not be able to meet my friend on Saturday because I have to go to the airport to meet someone else.|
|ocean(s) of (something)|
What does "ocean(s) of (something)" mean?
| a very large amount of something||There was oceans of food at the party.|
|odd man out|
What does "odd man out" mean?
| an unusual person or thing||I always feel that I am the odd man out when I go with my coworkers to a restaurant.|
|odds and ends|
What does "odds and ends" mean?
| a variety of small items (sometimes remnants of something)||We made games for the children from odds and ends that we found around the house.|
What does "of age" mean?
| to be old enough to be allowed to do something (vote,drink etc.)||When my cousin came of age we had a big party for him to celebrate.|
What does "of age" mean?
| to be fully developed, to be mature||Rapid transportation came of age when the first jets were built.|
|of all the nerve|
What does "of all the nerve" mean?
| How shocking!||Of all the nerve for my friend to ask me for more money when she never repaid me what she had already borrowed.|
|of all things|
What does "of all things" mean?
| Imagine that!||"Of all things," the woman said when the post office worker told her that her package was too large for delivery.|
|of benefit to (someone)|
What does "of benefit to (someone)" mean?
| to be good for someone, to be a benefit to someone||Another meeting to solve the problem would be of no benefit to myself so I decided not to attend.|
What does "of course" mean?
| certainly, definitely, naturally||"Of course you can use my car if you want." |
|of interest (to someone)|
What does "of interest (to someone)" mean?
| to be interesting to someone||The man who works at the gas station is of interest to the police in their investigation of the murder.|
What does "of late" mean?
| lately||Of late there has been almost no rain in our city.|
|of one's own accord/free will|
What does "of one's own accord/free will" mean?
| by one's own choice||The supervisor decided to leave her job of her own free will and was not fired.|
|of the old school|
What does "of the old school" mean?
| to have attitudes from the past which are no longer popular||Our teacher's attitudes are of the old school and are not often found these days.|
|off and on|
What does "off and on" mean?
| occasionally||My friend has been seeing a woman off and on but I do not think that their relationship is very serious. |
|off and running|
What does "off and running" mean?
| to be started up and already going||The candidates are off and running in the race to become mayor of the city.|
What does "off balance" mean?
| to be not prepared for something, to be unable to meet the unexpected||I was off balance when my boss asked me to deliver the speech instead of him.|
What does "off base" mean?
| to be inaccurate/wrong||He was off base with his estimate of next year`s budget. |
What does "off campus" mean?
| to be not on the grounds of a college or university||The used bookstore was off campus but it was very popular with the university students.|
What does "off-center" mean?
| to be not exactly in the center or middle of something||The picture was off-center and did not look good on the wall.|
What does "off-color" mean?
| to be in bad taste, to be not polite, to be not the exact color||He likes to tell off-color jokes which most people do not like.|
What does "off duty" mean?
| to be not working||The police officer was off duty when he saw the bank robbery.|
What does "off guard" mean?
| to be not alert to the unexpected||It caught me off guard when my friend suddenly asked me to lend her some money.|
|off like a shot|
What does "off like a shot" mean?
| to go away quickly||The children were off like a shot when the school bell rang.|
What does "off limits" mean?
| to be forbidden||The factory was off limits to everybody except the workers who worked there.|
|off one`s back|
What does "off one`s back" mean?
| to be not bothering someone ||I wish my father would get off my back and stop asking me when I am going to look for a job.|
|off one`s chest|
What does "off one`s chest" mean?
| to talk about a problem to someone so that it does not bother you anymore||I talked to my friend and I was able to get some of my problems off my chest.|
|off one`s hands|
What does "off one`s hands" mean?
| to no longer be in one`s care or possession||I sold my old computer and got it off my hands.|
|off one`s high horse|
What does "off one`s high horse" mean?
| to be not acting proud and scornful, to be not acting like you are better than others||We got our boss off his high horse when he admitted that he had made many mistakes with the new product launch. |
|off one`s rocker|
What does "off one`s rocker" mean?
| to be crazy||He must be off his rocker if he thinks that he can spend much money and not have financial problems. |
What does "off season" mean?
| to be not in the busy time of the year, to be restricted (the hunting of an animal)||It was off season so we got a very cheap rate for the hotel room.|
|off (someone or something) goes|
What does "off (someone or something) goes" mean?
| someone or something is leaving||"Off we go," I said as we opened the door and left the house.|
|off the air|
What does "off the air" mean?
| to be not broadcasting||The small radio station was not popular and is now off the air.|
|off the beam|
What does "off the beam" mean?
| to be wrong/mistaken||What he said about the new policy was off the beam and should be ignored by everybody. |
|off the beaten track|
What does "off the beaten track" mean?
| to be not well known or often used, to be unusual||Last night we went to a small restaurant that was off the beaten track.|
|off the cuff|
What does "off the cuff" mean?
| to not prepare in advance what one will say||My father made a few remarks off the cuff when he was accepting the award from his company. |
|off the hook|
What does "off the hook" mean?
| to be out of trouble or free from an embarrassing situation||I think that I am off the hook now and will not have to worry about the problem anymore. |
|off the mark|
What does "off the mark" mean?
| to be not quite exactly right||The cost estimate for the new train station was off the mark.|
|off the record|
What does "off the record" mean?
| to be private, to be unofficial||He told the reporters off the record about the problem with the budget estimate. |
|off the subject|
What does "off the subject" mean?
| to be not concerned with the subject under discussion||Our teacher is often off the subject during our class lectures.|
|off the top of one`s head|
What does "off the top of one`s head" mean?
| to be from memory, to be spontaneous||He knew all of the team members off the top of his head.|
|off the track|
What does "off the track" mean?
| to be not concerned with the topic under discussion||My friend was off the track when he suggested that the problem was caused by the other department.|
|off the wagon|
What does "off the wagon" mean?
| to begin to drink alcohol again after stopping for awhile||He is off the wagon again. I saw him yesterday and I am sure that he had been drinking.|
|off the wall|
What does "off the wall" mean?
| to be odd/silly/unusual||The recent remarks by our boss were very much off the wall.|
|off to a running start|
What does "off to a running start" mean?
| to have a good and fast beginning||We were off to a running start with our preparations for the autumn festival.|
|off to one side|
What does "off to one side" mean?
| to be beside something, to be moved a little away from something||We put the old chair off to one side while we tried to decide what to do with it.|
What does "offbeat" mean?
| to be unconventional, to be different from the usual||The movie was very offbeat which is just the kind of movie that I like.|
What does "old hat" mean?
| to be old-fashioned, to be not new or different||My job has become old hat and I am becoming tired of it.|
|on a diet|
What does "on a diet" mean?
| to be eating less food so that you can lose weight||I was on a diet for several months last year.|
|on a dime|
What does "on a dime" mean?
| to do something in a very small space, to do something quickly||His new car has very powerful brakes and is able to stop on a dime. |
|on a first-name basis (with someone)|
What does "on a first-name basis (with someone)" mean?
| to be good friends with someone||I am not on a first-name basis with my neighbor.|
|on a fool's errand|
What does "on a fool's errand" mean?
| to be involved in a useless journey or task||I was on a fool's errand as I looked for a store that sold international road maps.|
|on a shoestring|
What does "on a shoestring" mean?
| to do something with very little money||He started the new company on a shoestring.|
|on a splurge|
What does "on a splurge" mean?
| to spend much money extravagantly||We went on a splurge last weekend and spent a lot of money.|
|on a waiting list|
What does "on a waiting list" mean?
| to be on a list of people waiting for something||My father is on a waiting list to get an operation on his knee.|
What does "on account" mean?
| money paid or owed on a debt||We buy many things on account at the local department store.|
|on active duty|
What does "on active duty" mean?
| to be in battle or ready to go into battle||The soldiers were on active duty when the hurricane reached the shore.|
|on again, off again|
What does "on again, off again" mean?
| to be unsettled/changeable/uncertain||The plans for the fireworks display were on again, off again because of the rainy and windy weather. |
|on all fours|
What does "on all fours" mean?
| to be on one's hands and knees||I was down on all fours as I looked for my grandmother's hearing aide.|
|on an even keel|
What does "on an even keel" mean?
| to be in a well-ordered situation/condition||We got the new department running on an even keel before we took some time off.|
|on and off|
What does "on and off" mean?
| intermittently, now and then||It has been raining on and off since early this morning. |
|on and on|
What does "on and on" mean?
| continually, at tedious length||The speech continued on and on until we finally left the meeting. |
|on any account|
What does "on any account" mean?
| for any purpose, for any reason||I am not going to talk to that woman on any account.|
What does "on approval" mean?
| to buy something with the right to return it||We carefuly looked at the chair which we had bought on approval.|
|on behalf of (someone)|
What does "on behalf of (someone)" mean?
| representing someone||The lawyer went to the meeting on behalf of his client. |
|on bended knee|
What does "on bended knee" mean?
| with great humility||The young man was on bended knee when he asked his girlfriend to marry him.|
What does "on board" mean?
| to be on a ship/plane or similar form of transportation||We got on board the airplane just before they closed the doors.|
What does "on call" mean?
| to be available to be called to go to work||His job is to repair computers and he is always on call. |
What does "on campus" mean?
| to be on the grounds of a college or university||We often go to a small coffee shop on campus after our classes.|
|on cloud nine|
What does "on cloud nine" mean?
| to be very happy||She has been on cloud nine since she decided to get married last month. |
What does "on consignment" mean?
| being sold in a store by someone who still owns the goods||We went to the store to buy some baby furniture that was on consignment.|
What does "on credit" mean?
| to be purchased by using credit||I purchased the stereo on credit.|
What does "on deck" mean?
| to be on the deck of a boat or a ship||When we were on the ship we spent most of the time on deck.|
What does "on duty" mean?
| to be at work, to be currently doing one's work||There was nobody on duty when we arrived at the swimming pool.|
What does "on edge" mean?
| to be nervous or irritable||He has been on edge lately because of his exams.|
What does "on end" mean?
| seemingly endless||My uncle works for hours on end at his hobbies.|
What does "on faith" mean?
| without question or proof||I took it on faith that my friend would help me when I had extra work to do.|
What does "on fire" mean?
| to be burning, being burned with flames||The small house was on fire when the fire truck arrived.|
What does "on foot" mean?
| by walking||We decided to go downtown on foot.|
|on good terms with (someone)|
What does "on good terms with (someone)" mean?
| to be friendly with someone||We have always been on good terms with our neighbors.|
What does "on guard" mean?
| to be careful/wary||He has been on guard since he was robbed last month. |
What does "on hand" mean?
| to be available||I am sorry but I do not have any aspirin on hand at the moment.|
What does "on hand" mean?
| to be nearby, to be within reach||"Please keep your dictionary on hand in case you need to use it." |
What does "on hand" mean?
| to be present||The speaker will be on hand after the lecture if you have any questions that you want to ask her.|
What does "on hold" mean?
| to be waiting, to be temporarily halted||The construction of the building is on hold while the city engineers finish their inspection.|
What does "on hold" mean?
| to be left waiting on a telephone line||I phoned the bank but I was quickly put on hold.|
What does "on horseback" mean?
| to be on the back of a horse||We went up to the campground on horseback.|
What does "on ice" mean?
| to be away for safekeeping or later use, to be postponed||The city have put the plans for the new stadium on ice while they try to raise more money.|
What does "on impulse" mean?
| something that is done without planning||I bought the DVD player on impulse.|
What does "on land" mean?
| on the land, on the soil, not at sea||The old sailor was never very comfortable when he was on land.|
What does "on line" mean?
| connected to a remote computer||The editor is able to do most of his work on line.|
What does "on location" mean?
| a movie being filmed in a location away from the movie studio||The movie was filmed on location in the mountains.|
What does "on medication" mean?
| taking medicine for a current medical problem||The woman has been on medication for many years.|
|on no account|
What does "on no account" mean?
| for no reason, absolutely not||On no account am I going to let my friend borrow my laptop computer.|
What does "on occasion" mean?
| occasionally||We go to my favorite restaurant on occasion.|
|on one's best behavior|
What does "on one's best behavior" mean?
| being as polite as possible||The little boy was on his best behavior when he went to the meeting with his teacher.|
|on one's chest|
What does "on one's chest" mean?
| worrisome thoughts or feelings that one might need to share with someone else||I had a long talk with my friend last night because I had many problems on my chest.|
|on one's coat-tails|
What does "on one's coat-tails" mean?
| as a result of someone else doing something||The mayor was elected on the coat-tails of his brother who is a famous actor.|
|on one's feet|
What does "on one's feet" mean?
| recovering from sickness or trouble||I was sick for a couple of weeks but now I am on my feet again.|
|on one's feet|
What does "on one's feet" mean?
| standing up||Everybody in the audience was on their feet when the singer walked onto the stage.|
|on one's guard|
What does "on one's guard" mean?
| to be cautious/watchful||I was on my guard when I went into the meeting with my boss.|
|on/upon one`s head|
What does "on/upon one`s head" mean?
| to be one`s own responsibility||He himself brought the anger on his head and should not try and blame someone else.|
|on one`s high horse|
What does "on one`s high horse" mean?
| to be acting as if one is better than others, to be very proud and scornful||He is always on his high horse and never thinks about other people.|
|on one's honor|
What does "on one's honor" mean?
| with honesty and sincerity||I am on my honor when I look after the money of our club.|
|on one's mind|
What does "on one's mind" mean?
| currently being thought about||The incident at school was on my mind all week.|
|on one's own|
What does "on one's own" mean?
| by oneself||The young girl has been on her own since she finished high school.|
|on one's own time|
What does "on one's own time" mean?
| not while one is at work||The company told the employees that they must make their personal phone calls on their own time.|
|on one's person|
What does "on one's person" mean?
| carried with one||The criminal had a knife on his person when he was arrested.|
|on one`s shoulders|
What does "on one`s shoulders" mean?
| one`s responsibility||"Please don`t try to put the failure of your business on my shoulders." |
|on one`s toes|
What does "on one`s toes" mean?
| to be alert||The teacher asks the students many questions to keep them on their toes.|
What does "on order" mean?
| ordered with the delivery expected at some future date||The store has several computer printers on order.|
|on par with (someone or something)|
What does "on par with (someone or something)" mean?
| to be equal to someone or something||The new French restaurant is on par with the best restaurants in Paris.|
|on pins and needles|
What does "on pins and needles" mean?
| to be excited/nervous||Her daughter has been on pins and needles all day waiting for the contest to begin. |
What does "on probation" mean?
| to be serving a period of probation, to be serving a trial period||The new employee was on probation for several months before he became a regular member of the staff.|
What does "on purpose" mean?
| intentionally||I think that the woman spilled her drink on purpose.|
What does "on sale" mean?
| to be offered for sale at a special low price||The small television set was on sale so we decided to buy it.|
What does "on schedule" mean?
| to be at the expected or desired time||The train arrived on schedule and we found our friend easily.|
|on second thought|
What does "on second thought" mean?
| after having reconsidered something||On second thought I do not think that I will go to a movie tomorrow.|
|on shaky ground|
What does "on shaky ground" mean?
| to be unstable, to be not secure||His position at the company has been on shaky ground for a long time. |
|on (someone's) account|
What does "on (someone's) account" mean?
| because of someone||We went to the children's festival on our daughter's account.|
|on (someone`s) back/case|
What does "on (someone`s) back/case" mean?
| making demands or criticizing someone, being an annoyance or bother to someone||My boss has been on my back all week trying to get me to finish my monthly report.|
|on (someone's) behalf|
What does "on (someone's) behalf" mean?
| acting as someone's agent, acting for the benefit of someone||I was able to sign for the registered letter on my wife's behalf.|
|on (someone's) doorstep|
What does "on (someone's) doorstep" mean?
| in someone's care, as someone's responsibility||The responsibility for feeding the extra staff suddenly arrived on my doorstep.|
|on (someone's) head|
What does "on (someone's) head" mean?
| on someone's own self (often used with blame)||The responsibility for fixing the computer was again on my head.|
|on (someone or something's) last legs|
What does "on (someone or something's) last legs" mean?
| to be almost worn out or finished||My computer is on its last legs and soon I will have to buy another one.|
|on (someone's) say-so|
What does "on (someone's) say-so" mean?
| with someone's permission or authority||I was able to ask for a new stove on the apartment manager's say-so.|
|on (someone's) shoulders|
What does "on (someone's) shoulders" mean?
| on someone's own self (used often with responsibility)||The responsibility for organizing the office is always on my shoulders.|
|on speaking terms with (someone)|
What does "on speaking terms with (someone)" mean?
| on friendly terms with someone||My mother is not on speaking terms with her older sister.|
What does "on standby" mean?
| to be waiting for a seat/ticket to become available on a train/plane/bus||We decided to fly to visit my parents on standby.|
What does "on target" mean?
| to be on schedule, to be exactly as predicted||Our company is on target to have its best year of sales ever.|
|on the air|
What does "on the air" mean?
| being broadcast on radio or TV||That television program has been on the air for three years now.|
|on the alert (for someone or something)|
What does "on the alert (for someone or something)" mean?
| to be watchful and attentive for someone or something||The police are on the alert for the man who robbed the small store.|
|on the average|
What does "on the average" mean?
| generally, usually||On the average I get about eight hours of sleep every night.|
|on the ball|
What does "on the ball" mean?
| to be intelligent, to be able to do things well||He is on the ball and can usually get his work done quickly. |