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. .

Under the weather
What does "Under the weather" mean?
To be ill.I'd love to help you move all your furniture next weekend, but I expect to be feeling a bit under the weather.

Passengers aboard ships become seasick most frequently during times of rough seas and bad weather. Seasickness is caused by the constant rocking motion of the ship. Sick passengers go below deck, which provides shelter from the weather, but just as importantly the sway is not as great below deck, low on the ship.
On a ship the greatest swaying action is on deck, and the most stable point is down near the keel. Hence seasick passengers tend to feel better below deck.
Upper Hand
What does "Upper Hand" mean?
Control of a situation.If you are wondering who has the upper hand in your relationship, the next time you get up to fetch drinks, take a look on the sofa. There you will find that person.

This phrase originated with the advent of sandlot baseball. In order to determine which team would bat first, one player would grasp the baseball bat at the lower end. A player from the opposing team would then place his hand directly above the first player's hand. They would alternate hands up the bat until the end was reached and one of the players had the "upper hand".
under the weather
What does "under the weather" mean?
ill; sick; unwell."Ted was feeling under the weather yesterday,so he decided not to go to work."

until hell freezes over
What does "until hell freezes over" mean?
forever."Chris can practice the piano until hell freezesover, but he'll never playwell because he's tone-deaf."

until you're blue in the face
What does "until you're blue in the face" mean?
forever."You can talk until you're blue in the face,but I won't change my mind."

What does "update" mean?
make current; add information to show what has happened recently."I need to update my résumé. Itdoesn't show what I've done during the last year."

upside down
What does "upside down" mean?
with the bottom part on top and the top part on bottom."Put the glasses upside down in the dishwasher.If you don't do that,they'll fill with water and you'll have to dry them by hand."

used to (+ V)
What does "used to (+ V)" mean?
(+ V): an action that was true in the past but is not true now."Jane used to live in Austin, Texas. She livesin San Francisco now."

ugly duckling
What does "ugly duckling" mean?
an ugly or plain child who grows up to be attractiveShe was an ugly duckling when she was a child but now she is very beautiful.

unaccustomed to (someone or something)
What does "unaccustomed to (someone or something)" mean?
not used to someone or somethingThe man was unaccustomed to waking up early in the morning.

under a cloud
What does "under a cloud" mean?
depressed, sadShe has been under a cloud of depression since her cat died.

under a cloud (of suspicion)
What does "under a cloud (of suspicion)" mean?
not trusted, suspected of doing something wrongThe politician has been under a cloud of suspicion over the possibility of taking bribes.

under arrest
What does "under arrest" mean?
arrested by the police before being charged with a crimeThe three men were under arrest for robbing a bank.

under certain circumstances/conditions
What does "under certain circumstances/conditions" mean?
depending on or influenced by somethingUnder certain circumstances the children were permitted to use the indoor stadium for practice.

under (close) scrutiny
What does "under (close) scrutiny" mean?
being watched or examined closelyThe business owner was under close scrutiny after the accounting scandal.

under construction
What does "under construction" mean?
being built or repairedThe hotel was still under construction, two years after it began.

under control
What does "under control" mean?
not out of control, manageableThe fire was under control after the fire department arrived.

under cover
What does "under cover" mean?
hidden, concealedThe police officer went under cover to look for the drug dealers.

under fire
What does "under fire" mean?
being shot at or attacked, under (verbal) attackThe owner of the company is under fire for not paying his employees a fair salary.

under oath
What does "under oath" mean?
having taken an oath (solemn promise)The man was under oath when he spoke before the judge.

under one`s belt
What does "under one`s belt" mean?
in one`s experience, memory or possessionWhen he has more experience as a cook under his belt he will begin to look for a job.

under one`s belt
What does "under one`s belt" mean?
in one`s stomachAfter he had a big breakfast under his belt he was ready for work.

under one`s breath
What does "under one`s breath" mean?
in a whisper, with a low voiceHe was talking under his breath in the movie theater and somebody complained.

under one`s nose
What does "under one`s nose" mean?
within sight of someone, easily seen or foundHe found his driver`s license right under his nose where he had left it.

under one`s own steam
What does "under one`s own steam" mean?
by one`s own efforts, without helpHe was able to go home under his own steam even though he was feeling very sick.

under one`s thumb
What does "under one`s thumb" mean?
obedient to someone, controlled by someoneHe is only an assistant salesman but he has his boss under his thumb.

under one`s wing
What does "under one`s wing" mean?
under the care or protection of (someone)He took the new employee under his wing to help him in the new job.

under pressure
What does "under pressure" mean?
experiencing something that causes stress or anxietyThe boy's father is always under pressure at work.

under the circumstances
What does "under the circumstances" mean?
because of the circumstancesThe girl was very sick and under the circumstances did not have to take the exam.

under the counter
What does "under the counter" mean?
secretly bought or soldThe drugs are being sold under the counter although the government has not given its approval.

under the hammer
What does "under the hammer" mean?
up for sale at an auctionThe painting went under the hammer and sold for a very high price.

under the influence of (something)
What does "under the influence of (something)" mean?
experiencing the effects of alcohol/drugs/a controlling power or personThe driver was under the influence of alcohol when he hit the young child.

under the sun
What does "under the sun" mean?
anywhere on earth at all, everywhereWe looked for my wallet everywhere under the sun.

under the table
What does "under the table" mean?
in secret and usually illegalHe paid some money under the table in order to get his product imported into the country.

under the weather
What does "under the weather" mean?
feel ill (but not seriously ill)He is feeling under the weather so he is going to bed early tonight.

under the wire
What does "under the wire" mean?
just barely in time or on timeWe were able to send in our payment for the school fees just under the wire.

under wraps
What does "under wraps" mean?
not allowed to be seen until the right time, in secrecyThe new car was still under wraps when the car show started.

unearthly hour
What does "unearthly hour" mean?
absurdly early or inconvenientWe got up at an unearthly hour this morning so we could get ready to go camping.

unfamiliar territory
What does "unfamiliar territory" mean?
an area of knowledge unknown to the speakerTrying to pilot an airplane was unfamiliar territory for the flight attendant.

unknown quantity
What does "unknown quantity" mean?
a person or thing which nobody knows much aboutThe new mayor was an unknown quantity and nobody knew what to expect.

until all hours (of the day or night)
What does "until all hours (of the day or night)" mean?
until very lateWe stayed up until all hours playing cards.

until hell freezes over
What does "until hell freezes over" mean?
foreverHe said that he would not talk to his girlfriend again until hell freezes over.

until the cows come home
What does "until the cows come home" mean?
until very lateIt is my birthday today so I plan to stay out and party until the cows come home.

up a blind alley
What does "up a blind alley" mean?
on a route that leads nowhere, at a dead endThe police were up a blind alley in their search for evidence of the crime.

up against
What does "up against" mean?
having trouble withHe came up against many problems when he went to university.

up against (something)
What does "up against (something)" mean?
close toThe ladder was standing up against the tree in the yard.

up and about
What does "up and about" mean?
recovered from an illnessHe has been up and about for a couple of days since he left the hospital.

up and around
What does "up and around" mean?
out of bed and moving aboutI was up and around before 6:00 AM this morning.

up and at 'em/them
What does "up and at 'em/them" mean?
get active and get busyWe will be up and at 'em very early tomorrow morning.

up and away
What does "up and away" mean?
up into the air and into flightMy parents got on the airplane and were up and away before we knew it.

What does "up-and-coming" mean?
newThe woman is an up-and-coming singer.

up for (something)
What does "up for (something)" mean?
enthusiastic about somethingThe entire school was up for the final football game of the season.

up for grabs
What does "up for grabs" mean?
available for anyoneThe new championship of the city is up for grabs.

up front
What does "up front" mean?
honest, correctHe was very up front when giving me the information about the new office.

up in arms
What does "up in arms" mean?
equipped with guns or weapons and ready to fight, very angryThe villagers were up in arms over the proposal to take some of their land away from them.

up in the air (about something)
What does "up in the air (about something)" mean?
not settled, undecidedWhether or not I will be able to go to London is still up in the air.

up in years
What does "up in years" mean?
old, elderlyAlthough our grandparents are up in years they still have much energy.

up one`s alley
What does "up one`s alley" mean?
something one is good at or enjoysComputer programming is right up his alley and he is very good at it.

up one`s sleeve
What does "up one`s sleeve" mean?
kept secretly ready for the right time or for a time when neededHe probably has something up his sleeve and will be able to find a job when he needs one.

up the creek
What does "up the creek" mean?
in troubleShe is up the creek now that she has lost her passport.

up the river/creek with no paddle
What does "up the river/creek with no paddle" mean?
in trouble and unable to do anything about itI think that we are up the river with no paddle now that our car has run out of gasoline.

up to
What does "up to" mean?
as far as, as deep or as high asThe water in the swimming pool came up to my waist.

up to
What does "up to" mean?
untilUp to last week I had never been inside a bowling alley.

What does "up-to-date" mean?
modern, the latest standards of fashionThe kitchen in our apartment is not up-to-date at all.

up to here with (someone/something)
What does "up to here with (someone/something)" mean?
sick of some continual bad or irritating behaviorI have had it up to here with his coming late to work.

up to it/the job
What does "up to it/the job" mean?
capable or fit for somethingIf he is up to it we can let him drive the truck to the new office.

up to no good
What does "up to no good" mean?
doing something badThe boys were up to no good after school.

up to one's chin
What does "up to one's chin" mean?
very busy with, deeply involved in somethingHe has been up to his chin in the project to build a new convention center.

up to one`s ears in work
What does "up to one`s ears in work" mean?
have a lot of work to doI`d like to go with you but I`m up to my ears in work at the moment.

up to par/scratch/snuff/the mark
What does "up to par/scratch/snuff/the mark" mean?
meeting normal standards, equal to the usual level or qualityHis work was not up to par and he was asked to leave and look for another job.

up to (someone) to decide/do (something)
What does "up to (someone) to decide/do (something)" mean?
to be responsible to choose or decide somethingIt is up to the president to decide when the meeting will start.

up to (something)
What does "up to (something)" mean?
occupied in or planning some activity that is often badI don`t know what he was up to last night but it was probably something bad.

What does "up-to-the-minute" mean?
the very latest or most recentWe always try to get an up-to-the-minute weather report before we go skiing.

up until
What does "up until" mean?
untilI was in the library up until midnight last night.

upper crust
What does "upper crust" mean?
rich and famous people, the highest class of peopleThe private club was full of what looked like the upper crust of the city.

upper hand
What does "upper hand" mean?
controlling power, advantageThe union members have the upper hand in their negotiations with the company.

ups and downs
What does "ups and downs" mean?
good fortune and bad fortuneHe is having a few ups and downs but generally he is doing well.

upset the applecart
What does "upset the applecart" mean?
ruin or spoil a plan or ideaTry not to upset the applecart as we have spent a lot of time working on this project.

upshot of (something)
What does "upshot of (something)" mean?
result or outcome of somethingThe upshot of the meeting was that we would no longer continue to keep the store open.

What does "uptight" mean?
worried, irritated, anxiousMy sister has been uptight all week because of her exams.

use every trick in the book
What does "use every trick in the book" mean?
use every method possibleThe apartment manager used every trick in the book to try and make the young family leave.

use one`s head/bean/noodle/noggin
What does "use one`s head/bean/noodle/noggin" mean?
think carefully about (something) You should use your head a little more and try not to make the same mistake again.

use some elbow grease
What does "use some elbow grease" mean?
use some effortWe used a lot of elbow grease to clean the oven.

use (someone or something) as an excuse
What does "use (someone or something) as an excuse" mean?
blame someone or somethingMy friend always uses his busy schedule as an excuse not to help us.

use strong language
What does "use strong language" mean?
use abusive or forceful languageThe teacher used very strong language to make the children behave.

use up
What does "use up" mean?
use until nothing is left, spend or consume completelyThey used up all of the paper in the copy machine this morning.

until the cows come home
What does "until the cows come home" mean?
until very late, for a long timeWe can talk until the cows come home this weekend.

under one`s thumb
What does "under one`s thumb" mean?
to be obedient to someone, to be controlled by someoneThe woman has her husband under her thumb and she never gives him any freedom at all.

up in arms
What does "up in arms" mean?
to be very angry and wanting to fight, to be equipped with guns or weapons and ready to fightThe students were up in arms over the school's plan to make them wear uniforms.

use some elbow grease
What does "use some elbow grease" mean?
to use some effortThe dirty kitchen could use some elbow grease to get it clean again.

ugly duckling
What does "ugly duckling" mean?
an ugly or plain child (who grows up to be pretty)The girl was an ugly duckling when she was a child but now she is quite beautiful.

under the wings of (someone)
What does "under the wings of (someone)" mean?
to be under the care/control/protection of someoneThe new teacher is now under the wings of the principal of the school.

up to one's neck/ears/eyeballs (in something)
What does "up to one's neck/ears/eyeballs (in something)" mean?
having a lot of something, much involved/busy with somethingI am up to my neck in work at the moment and won't be able to attend the dinner tonight.

under the wire
What does "under the wire" mean?
at the very last momentWe finished the documents and sent them to the lawyer right under the wire.

undercut (someone)
What does "undercut (someone)" mean?
to sell your product for less than a competitorThe new discount store is trying hard to undercut other stores in the area.

up the ante
What does "up the ante" mean?
to increase what is at stake or under discussion in a dispute or conflictThe union upped the ante in their dispute with the company.

up the ante
What does "up the ante" mean?
increase what is at stake or under discussion in a dispute or conflict (an ante is the amount of money that you put on the table before beginning a card game) increase what is at stake or under discussion in a dispute or conflict (an ante is the amount of money that you put on the table before beginning a card game)The actor upped the ante in his dispute with the movie studio when he refused to appear for the movie preparatio

under one`s belt
What does "under one`s belt" mean?
in one`s experience or possession, gained by effort and skillNow that I have some job experience under my belt I will have more chances to apply for a better job.

under (someone`s) nose
What does "under (someone`s) nose" mean?
easily found by someone, right in front of someoneI thought that I had lost my house keys but I found them right under my nose.

up to one's ears/eyeballs/neck in (something)
What does "up to one's ears/eyeballs/neck in (something)" mean?
to have a lot of something, to be much involved/busy with somethingI have been up to my ears in work for several weeks now.

university of life
What does "university of life" mean?
learning from daily life and work rather than going to universityMy grandfather began to work on the family farm when he was fourteen and learned everything from the university of life.

upset the applecart
What does "upset the applecart" mean?
to ruin a plan or event by surprise or accidentEverything was going well at the company picnic until our boss arrived and upset the applecart.

up to one's chin in (something)
What does "up to one's chin in (something)" mean?
to be very busy with something, to be working hard at something, to have much/many of somethingThe woman is up to her chin in work and has no free time.

use one`s head/noggin/noodle
What does "use one`s head/noggin/noodle" mean?
to use one's brain or mind, to use one's own common senseSometimes I think that the manager of the video store never uses her head when I ask her a question.

What does "UFO" mean?
Unidentified Flying Object Unidentified Flying ObjectThe number of UFO sightings has increased dramatically recently.

What does "UV" mean?
Ultraviolet - a type of light ray Ultraviolet - a type of light rayWe used lots of sunscreen in order to protect ourselves from UV rays.

under (someone's) feet
What does "under (someone's) feet" mean?
to annoy or interrupt someone when they are workingThe children were under the mother's feet while she was cooking dinner.

under age
What does "under age" mean?
below the legal age to do somethingThe boy was under age and was not able to buy any cigarettes.

under arrest
What does "under arrest" mean?
arrested by the police before being charged with a crimeThe man was placed under arrest for stealing a car.

unrequited love
What does "unrequited love" mean?
love that is not returned, one-way love love that is not returned, one-way loveThe woman was in love with the president of her company but from the beginning it was a case of unrequited love.

up to par
What does "up to par" mean?
at an expected or usual level or quality (par in golf is the usual number of strokes used to get around a golf course) at an expected or usual level or quality (par in golf is the usual number of strokes used to get around a golf course)The product was not up to par and was sent back to the factory for further improvement.

What does "ugar" mean?
drat; darn (used in place of shit to express anger or frustration)

What does "U.V.s" mean?
s n. sunshine; ultraviolet radiation from the sun

What does "UBI" mean?
unexplained beer injury

What does "umpteen" mean?
large quantity; many

What does "umpteenth" mean?
millions; billions; an uncountably large number

What does "un-ass" mean?
get out of a sitting position; get off (a vehicle)

What does "uncut" mean?
not circumcised

What does "uncut" mean?
unmodified; unedited

under one's thumb
What does "under one's thumb" mean?
under the control of; manipulated by. "Under My Thumb" (song title).

What does "undies" mean?

What does "unit" mean?
gadget; device; mechanism

What does "unit" mean?

What does "up" mean?
pleased; happy; excited

What does "up" mean?
increase; augment; raise

up for grabs
What does "up for grabs" mean?
in the mood for; willing to

up for grabs
What does "up for grabs" mean?
unclaimed; available

up for grabs
What does "up for grabs" mean?
unknown (in terms of outcome or results); chaotic; disorganized

up front
What does "up front" mean?
honest; truthful; forthright

up front
What does "up front" mean?
in advance; at the start; at the outset

up shit's creek
What does "up shit's creek" mean?
be in a desperate, no-win situation

up shit's creek without a paddle
What does "up shit's creek without a paddle" mean?
be in a desperate, no-win situation

up to speed
What does "up to speed" mean?
1. Is the president up to speed or should someone brief her?

up yours
What does "up yours" mean?
go away; drop dead (used to reject something or as a retort)

What does "upchuck" mean?
vomit; vomitus

What does "upchuck" mean?
throw up; vomit

What does "uptight" mean?
nervous; anxious; edgy

Upset the apple cart
What does "Upset the apple cart" mean?
If you upset the apple cart, you cause trouble and upset people.

What does "U-turn" mean?
If a government changes its position radically on an issue, especially when they have promised not to do so, this is a U-turn.

Uncalled for
What does "Uncalled for" mean?
If someone does something bad and unnecessary without consideration for anothers feelings, what they do is uncalled for.

Under a flag of convenience
What does "Under a flag of convenience" mean?
If a ship sails under a flag of convenience, it is registered in a country where taxes, etc, are lower than in the country it comes from, so if someone does something under a flag of convenience, they attempt to avoid regulations and taxes by a similar means.

Under the radar
What does "Under the radar" mean?
If something slips under the radar, it isn't detected or noticed.

Under your breath
What does "Under your breath" mean?
If you say something under your breath, you whisper or say it very quietly.

Unwavering loyalty
What does "Unwavering loyalty" mean?
Unwavering loyalty does not question or doubt the person or issue and supports them completely.

Up sticks
What does "Up sticks" mean?
(UK) If you up sticks, you leave somewhere, usually permanently and without warning- he upped sticks and went to work abroad.

Up to snuff
What does "Up to snuff" mean?
If something isn't up to snuff, it doesn't meet the standard expected.

Uncle Sam
What does "Uncle Sam" mean?
Uncle Sam is the government of the USA.

Under someone's heel
What does "Under someone's heel" mean?
If you are under someone's heel, they have complete control over you.

Under your belt
What does "Under your belt" mean?
If you have something under your belt, you have already achieved or experienced it and it will probably be of benefit to you in the future.

Under your nose
What does "Under your nose" mean?
If something happens right in front of you, especially if it is surprising or audacious, it happens under your nose.


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