“A” American Expressions and American Idioms

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
What does “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” mean?
Our feeling for those we love increases when we are apart from them.“Cheer up Dude, everybody knows that absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

In 1604, Shakespeare echoed this sentiment in “Othello” (Act 1, scene ii), when Desdemona confessed, “I dote upon his very absence.” James Howell, in “Familiar Letters” (1650) says that, “Distance sometimes endears friendship, and absence sweeteneth it.”
There are other references to this proverb in literature, but it was originally the first line of an anonymous poem which appeared in Davison’s “Poetical Rhapsody” in 1602.
Armed to the teeth
What does “Armed to the teeth” mean?
To be heavily armed.Don’t even think about going into Chicago’s housing projects unless you are armed to the teeth.

This is a pirate phrase originating in Port Royal Jamaica in the 1600’s. Having only single shot black powder weapons and cutlesses, they would carry many of these weapons at once to keep up the fight.
In addition they carried a knife in their teeth for maximum arms capability.
A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire
What does “A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire” mean?
One does not repeat a painful lesson twice.I’ve tried to get little Johnny to quit running and jumping on the furniture before he hurts himself, but only a burnt child dreads the fire.

Very similar in meaning to another proverb, “Once bitten, twice shy,” today’s proverb is an old one. It appeared in English literature as early as 1320, in “The Proverbs of Hendyng.” Another proverb, which is similar, comes from the French: “A scalded dog fears cold water” carries an even stronger message; that those who have experienced a great deal of difficulty or pain will not only avoid it in the future, but will be afraid even where there is no cause.
Other languages also have like proverbs, such as, “One bitten by a serpent is afraid of a rope’s end” (Jewish), “A man who has received a beating with a firebrand runs away at the sight of a firefly” (Singhalese), and “A dog which has been beaten with a stick fears its own shadow” (Italian).
At the eleventh hour
What does “At the eleventh hour” mean?
At the very last moment.The union negotiator went right down to the eleventh hour before accepting the company’s final offer.

On a 12-hour clock (rather than the 24-hour clock used by scientists, the military, et al) the hours of 12 noon and 12 midnight seem to hold special significance. De-marking the transition from morning to afternoon and the end of the day, they are often used as deadlines (high noon, the stroke of midnight).
To come at “the eleventh hour” implies that it comes in the last hour before the deadline. The choice of “the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” as the time to end W.W.I was quite apt.
What does “ace” mean?
make an “A” on a test, homework assignment, project, etc.“Somebody said you aced the test, John. That’s great!”
all right (1)
What does “all right (1)” mean?
(1): expression of reluctant agreement.A: “Come to the party with me. Please!”B: “Oh, all right. I don’t want to, but I will.”
all right (2)
What does “all right (2)” mean?
(2): fair; not particularly good.A: “How’s your chemistry class?”B: “It’s all right, I guess, but it’s not the best class I’veever had.”
all right (3)
What does “all right (3)” mean?
(3): unharmed; in satisfactory condition.A: “You don’t look normal. Are you allright?”B: “Yes, but I have a headache.”
and then some
What does “and then some” mean?
and much more besides.A: “I’d guess your new computer cost about $2,000.”B: “It cost that much and then some because I also boughtextra RAM and VRAM.”
What does “antsy” mean?
: restless; impatient and tired of waiting.“I hope Katy calls soon. Just sitting around andwaiting is making me antsy.”
as easy as pie
What does “as easy as pie” mean?
: very easy.“I thought you said this was a difficult problem. Itisn’t. In fact, it’s as easy as pie.”
at the eleventh hour
What does “at the eleventh hour” mean?
at the last minute; almost too late.“Yes, I got the work done in time. I finished it at the eleventh hour, but I wasn’t late.
a bundle
What does “a bundle” mean?
: a lot of money.A: “Your new car is really nice.”B: “It should be. It cost me a bundle!”
a cinch
What does “a cinch” mean?
something that’s very easy to do.A: How was the test?B: It was a cinch. I finished it quickly and I know that allmy answers were correct.”
an eager beaver
What does “an eager beaver” mean?
a person who is always willing to volunteer or do extra work.Jan is certainly an eager beaver. Anytime there’s work to be done,she’s the first to say she’ll help.
an egghead
What does “an egghead” mean?
a very intelligent person.Jake didn’t make very good grades in school,but his sister was a real egghead.”
a (real) go-getter
What does “a (real) go-getter” mean?
a (very) ambitious, hard-working person.“I’m not surprised that Jean finished before anyoneelse. She’s a real go-getter.”
a klutz
What does “a klutz” mean?
an awkward, uncoordinated person.“Don’t ask Jeff to dance with you. He’s a realklutz and will probably step on your feet!”
a know-it-all
What does “a know-it-all” mean?
someone who acts as if he/she knows everything–as if no one
can tell him/her anything that he/she doesn’t already know.
“Don’t try to make any suggestions to Bob. He’s aknow-it-all and won’t pay attention to anything you say.”
a let-down
What does “a let-down” mean?
a disappointment; something that’s very disappointing.“It must’ve been quite a let-down not to bechosen for that job. I know you really hoped you would get it.”
a low blow
What does “a low blow” mean?
a big disappointment.A: “Fred seems depressed. Is he OK?” B: “He’s OK, but not good. It was a low blow for him to belaid off from his job.”
a quick study
What does “a quick study” mean?
someone who learns new things quickly and easily.A: “Annie seems to be doing well at her new job.”B: “I’m not surprised. She’s a quick study.”
a snap
What does “a snap” mean?
something that’s very easy to do.A: “Is your job difficult?”B: “No, actually it’s a snap. In fact, it’s so easy that it’sa little bit boring.”
a tightwad
What does “a tightwad” mean?
: someone who is very frugal and unwilling to spend money unnecessarily.A: Will Charlie donate any money to the activities fund? B: Absolutely not! He’s a real tightwad!”
a white lie
What does “a white lie” mean?
a lie that is told to avoid offending someone or hurting his / her feelings.“The cake that Susan made tasted terrible, but I knew that
she made it because she wanted to please me, so when she
asked if I liked it, I told a white lie and said it was good.”
a yes-man
What does “a yes-man” mean?
: someone who tries to get approval by agreeing with everyone.A: “Why does the boss think Arnold is sointelligent?”B: “Because Arnold is a yes-man. He agrees with everything theboss says!”
abide by (something)
What does “abide by (something)” mean?
to follow the rules of somethingThe cleaning staff were forced to abide by the rules of the school.
able to breathe easily again
What does “able to breathe easily again” mean?
to be able to relax and recover from a stressful timeMy friend was able to breathe easily again when his company did not go out of business.
able to do (something) blindfolded
What does “able to do (something) blindfolded” mean?
to be able to do something easily and quicklyThe car was easy to fix and we were able to do it blindfolded.
able to do (something) standing on one’s head
What does “able to do (something) standing on one’s head” mean?
to be able to do something easily and quicklyThe boy is good at fixing his bicycle and he can do it standing on his head.
able to take a joke
What does “able to take a joke” mean?
to be able to let others laugh and joke about youOur boss is not able to take a joke and we must be careful what we say to him.
about time
What does “about time” mean?
to be something that should have happened earlier“It is about time that you returned that book to me.”
about to (do something)
What does “about to (do something)” mean?
to be on the point of doing somethingShe was about to leave when the phone rang.
above and beyond
What does “above and beyond” mean?
to be more than is requiredThe work that the man did on our house was above and beyond what was required.
above reproach
What does “above reproach” mean?
to be not deserving of blame or criticismThe actions of the police officer were above reproach.
above suspicion
What does “above suspicion” mean?
to be very honest so that nobody would suspect youThe man’s actions are always above suspicion.
What does “absent-minded” mean?
to be forgetfulMy grandfather is very absent-minded and often forgets his keys.
according to Hoyle
What does “according to Hoyle” mean?
doing something strictly by the rules, doing something the usual and correct wayAccording to Hoyle we are not allowed to use this room but if nobody knows it should be okay.
according to (someone or something)
What does “according to (someone or something)” mean?
as said or told by someone, in agreement with something, in the order of something, in proportion to somethingAccording to our teacher, there will be no class next week.
acid test
What does “acid test” mean?
a test where the conclusions are beyond doubtThe problem was an acid test of our faith in the manager.
acquire a taste for (something)
What does “acquire a taste for (something)” mean?
to learn to like somethingWe acquired a taste for classical music during our trip to Europe.
across the board
What does “across the board” mean?
equally for everyone or everythingThe taxes were increased across the board and everyone had to pay more.
act high and mighty
What does “act high and mighty” mean?
to act proud and powerfulThe woman always acts high and mighty and nobody likes her.
act one’s age
What does “act one’s age” mean?
to behave as a mature person or at least to behave equal to one’s ageMy friend never acts her age in public.
act up
What does “act up” mean?
to misbehaveThe children began to act up during the field trip.
add fuel to the fire
What does “add fuel to the fire” mean?
to make a problem worse, to make an angry person angrierThe company added fuel to the fire when they criticized the angry workers.
add insult to injury
What does “add insult to injury” mean?
to make a person who feels bad feel worse, to make a bad situation worseOur boss added insult to injury when she refused to let us use the telephone as well as the computers during lunch.
add up
What does “add up” mean?
to total up to a certain amountI began to add up the money that I owed my father.
add up (to something)
What does “add up (to something)” mean?
to mean something, to result in somethingThe things that he said about his boss do not add up.
advise against (something)
What does “advise against (something)” mean?
to suggest that something should not be doneWe were advised against swimming in the river.
afraid of one’s own shadow
What does “afraid of one’s own shadow” mean?
to become frightened easilyThe small dog is afraid of his own shadow.
after a fashion
What does “after a fashion” mean?
poorly, barely adequateThe cleaning staff cleaned the room after a fashion but certainly not very well.
after all
What does “after all” mean?
in spite of what has been decidedI decided to take the swimming course after all.
after all
What does “after all” mean?
considering the fact that something happened or is usually assumed“You don’t need to phone him. After all, he never phones you.”
after all is said and done
What does “after all is said and done” mean?
finally, when everything is settledAfter all is said and done the mayor of our city is doing a very good job.
after hours
What does “after hours” mean?
after the regular closing or finishing timeThe library has a place to leave books after hours.
after the fact
What does “after the fact” mean?
after something (often a crime) has happenedAlthough the man said he was sorry, it was after the fact and he had already caused a big problem.
against one’s will
What does “against one’s will” mean?
to be without a person’s consent or agreementThe police took the man to jail against his will.
against the clock
What does “against the clock” mean?
to be in a hurry to do something before a particular timeWe worked against the clock to finish the project.
ahead of one’s time
What does “ahead of one’s time” mean?
to have ideas or attitudes that are more advanced than those of othersThe ideas of the politician were very much ahead of his time.
ahead of the game
What does “ahead of the game” mean?
to do more than necessaryWe worked hard all week in order to be ahead of the game on Monday morning.
ahead of time
What does “ahead of time” mean?
earlyWe started the meeting ahead of time so that we could go home early.
air one`s dirty laundry/linen in public
What does “air one`s dirty laundry/linen in public” mean?
to make public something embarrassing that should be kept secretThe dinner party became uncomfortable when the host began to air his colleague’s dirty laundry in public.
air one’s grievances
What does “air one’s grievances” mean?
to complain (often publicly)We spent the meeting airing our grievances to the new supervisor.
air (something) out
What does “air (something) out” mean?
to freshen something by putting it out in the open airWe put the blankets outside in order to air them out.
alive and well/kicking
What does “alive and well/kicking” mean?
to be well and healthyMy aunt is 87 years old and she is very much alive and kicking.
all along
What does “all along” mean?
all the timeI knew all along that my friend would not get the promotion.
all at once
What does “all at once” mean?
suddenly, without warningAll at once the fire alarm rang and we had to leave the building.
all day long
What does “all day long” mean?
the whole dayShe has been sitting and waiting for the mail to arrive all day long.
all ears
What does “all ears” mean?
to be eager to listen to someone“I`m all ears, please tell me about the party.”
all for (someone or something)
What does “all for (someone or something)” mean?
to be very much in favor of someone or somethingThe woman is all for the manager and she never criticizes her.
all in
What does “all in” mean?
to be tired, to be exhaustedI am all in and will go to bed early tonight.
all in a day’s work
What does “all in a day’s work” mean?
to be part of what is expectedIt was all in a day’s work when the firefighters rescued the cat.
all in all
What does “all in all” mean?
in summary, after considering everythingWe had a few problems but all in all the meeting was successful.
all in one piece
What does “all in one piece” mean?
safely, without damageWhen we moved, our furniture arrived all in one piece.
all manner of (someone or something)
What does “all manner of (someone or something)” mean?
all types of people or thingsThere were all manner of people at the party.
all night long
What does “all night long” mean?
throughout the whole nightWe could hear the people next door talking all night long.
all of a sudden
What does “all of a sudden” mean?
suddenly, without advance warningAll of a sudden it became cloudy and began to rain.
What does “all-out-effort” mean?
a very good and thorough effortWe made an all-out-effort to finish our work.
all over but the shouting
What does “all over but the shouting” mean?
to be decided and finishedIt was all over but the shouting for the football fans when their team moved to another city.
all over the place
What does “all over the place” mean?
everywhereWe travelled all over the place on our holiday.
all right
What does “all right” mean?
okay, satisfactoryShe said that it would be all right for me to bring my friend to the party.
all set
What does “all set” mean?
to be ready to begin, to be okayEverything was all set when the meeting began.
all sweetness and light
What does “all sweetness and light” mean?
to be very sweet, to be innocent and helpfulThe girl is all sweetness and light whenever she does something bad.
all systems go
What does “all systems go” mean?
everything is ready (originally used when a rocket was launched)It was all systems go so we began the installation of the new computer system.
all talk (and no action)
What does “all talk (and no action)” mean?
to talk about doing something but never really do itOur boss was all talk and no action and nothing new was ever done in our department.
all the rage
What does “all the rage” mean?
to be in current fashionThe new sneakers were all the rage during the summer.
all the time
What does “all the time” mean?
continuallyMy sister asks for money all the time but I do not like to give it to her.
all thumbs
What does “all thumbs” mean?
to have difficulty fixing things or working with one`s hands, to be clumsyMy friend is all thumbs when fixing things around his house.
all to the good
What does “all to the good” mean?
for the best, for one’s benefitIt was all to the good that my sister left her job.
all told
What does “all told” mean?
including everything/everyone, totaled upAll told, there were at least twelve candidates for the job.
allow for (someone or something)
What does “allow for (someone or something)” mean?
to plan to have enough of something, to plan on the possibility of somethingWe must allow for enough time to go to the stadium.
along with (someone or something)
What does “along with (someone or something)” mean?
in addition to someone or somethingI went to the concert along with my friend.
amount to (something)
What does “amount to (something)” mean?
to become successfulThe boy will never amount to anything if he does not change his behavior.
amount to the same thing
What does “amount to the same thing” mean?
to be the same or have the same effect as somethingGoing by taxi or bus amounts to the same thing. We are still going to be late for the concert.
an arm and a leg
What does “an arm and a leg” mean?
(to cost) a large amount of moneyHis new car cost him an arm and a leg.
answer to (someone)
What does “answer to (someone)” mean?
to explain or justify one’s actions to someoneThe manager had to answer to the company president about the problems in the office.
any number of (someone or something)
What does “any number of (someone or something)” mean?
a sufficiently large numberI had any number of reasons not to buy the computer.
appear out of nowhere
What does “appear out of nowhere” mean?
to appear suddenly, to appear without warningThe dog appeared out of nowhere during our walk on the beach.
apple of (someone`s) eye
What does “apple of (someone`s) eye” mean?
to be someone`s favoriteHis youngest daughter is the apple of his eye.
argue for the sake of arguing/argument
What does “argue for the sake of arguing/argument” mean?
to argue only to be different and to not agreeMy friend’s brother always argues for the sake of arguing.
arm in arm
What does “arm in arm” mean?
to be linked together by the armsThe young girls walked arm in arm to school.
armed and dangerous
What does “armed and dangerous” mean?
to have a weapon that may be used (usually by a suspected criminal)The criminal was armed and dangerous when the police arrested him.
armed to the teeth
What does “armed to the teeth” mean?
to be armed with many weaponsThe police were armed to the teeth during the drug raid.
around the clock
What does “around the clock” mean?
all day and all nightWe worked around the clock to get the store ready to open.
arrive on the scene
What does “arrive on the scene” mean?
to appear in a certain placeWhen the fire department arrived on the scene the fire was almost out.
as a last resort
What does “as a last resort” mean?
if everything else failsAs a last resort we decided to borrow some money from my father to buy the car.
as a matter of fact
What does “as a matter of fact” mean?
actuallyAs a matter of fact we have been to the history museum many times.
as a result of (something)
What does “as a result of (something)” mean?
because of something that has happenedAs a result of the car accident my friend could not work for several months.
as a rule
What does “as a rule” mean?
usually, as a habitAs a rule I get up at 7:00 every morning.
as far as
What does “as far as” mean?
to the extent or degree of somethingAs far as I know the movie will start in a few minutes.
as far as possible
What does “as far as possible” mean?
as much as possibleWe went as far as possible with the project before we had to stop.
as good as one’s word
What does “as good as one’s word” mean?
to be dependable in keeping one’s promisesMy friend is always as good as his word and you can always trust him.
as if
What does “as if” mean?
in the same way that something would be, thatThe drink tastes as if it were made with orange juice.
as long as
What does “as long as” mean?
provided that, on condition that“As long as you promise to be careful you can borrow my car.”
as luck would have it
What does “as luck would have it” mean?
by chanceAs luck would have it I was able to borrow some clothes to wear to the party.
as one
What does “as one” mean?
as if a group were one personThe crowd stood up as one and began to cheer for the team.
as soon as
What does “as soon as” mean?
just after something, whenI phoned my friend as soon as I finished dinner.
as such
What does “as such” mean?
the way something is“As such, I will not be able to approve your application for a loan.”
as the crow flies
What does “as the crow flies” mean?
by the most direct way, along a straight line between two placesAs the crow flies, it is about 6 kilometers between my house and my office.
as to
What does “as to” mean?
with regard to, according to“As to your question, I will answer it tomorrow.”
as usual
What does “as usual” mean?
most of the time, following the usual patternAs usual, the girl forgot to bring her book to class.
as well
What does “as well” mean?
in addition, also, tooI plan to take a computer course this summer as well.
as well as
What does “as well as” mean?
in addition to“Please bring your swimming suit as well as your towel.”
as yet
What does “as yet” mean?
until now, up to the presentAs yet, our secretary has not told us about her plans to leave the company.
ask for the moon
What does “ask for the moon” mean?
to ask for too muchThe woman asks for the moon but is never able to get what she wants.
ask for trouble
What does “ask for trouble” mean?
to behave in a way that trouble is likelyThe boy is asking for trouble if he misses another class.
ask (someone) out
What does “ask (someone) out” mean?
to ask a person for a dateMy friend finally asked out the woman at the bank.
asleep at the switch
What does “asleep at the switch” mean?
to not be alert to an opportunityI think I was asleep at the switch. I did not know that the job was available so I never applied for it.
assault and battery
What does “assault and battery” mean?
a criminal charge where one violently attacks and beats someoneThe man was arrested for assault and battery after the fight outside of the store.
at a loss
What does “at a loss” mean?
to be in a state of uncertainity or bewildermentWe were at a loss about what to do with the computer that was having problems.
at a loss (for words)
What does “at a loss (for words)” mean?
to be speechless, to be unable to speakI was at a loss for words when I finally saw my mother after several years.
at a sitting
What does “at a sitting” mean?
at one timeWe finished all of the food at a sitting.
at a stretch
What does “at a stretch” mean?
continuouslyMy friend sometimes works for three weeks at a stretch.
at all costs
What does “at all costs” mean?
no matter what, regardless of the cost or difficultyThe company decided to protect their market share at all costs.
at any rate
What does “at any rate” mean?
anyway“At any rate whether you go or not, I am not going.”
at bay
What does “at bay” mean?
at a distanceWe were able to keep the dog at bay when we entered the building.
at best
What does “at best” mean?
as the best one can say, in the best viewThe doctors told the man that he had ten months at best to live.
at cross-purposes
What does “at cross-purposes” mean?
to have opposite ways to do something, to have opposing goalsThey are at cross purposes and are always arguing about what to do.
at death’s door
What does “at death’s door” mean?
to be near deathThe young woman was at death’s door after the accident.
at ease
What does “at ease” mean?
to be relaxed and comfortableThe team felt at ease after the coach talked to them.
at every turn
What does “at every turn” mean?
everywhere one looksThere was a tour group at every turn when we visited Rome.
at face value
What does “at face value” mean?
from outward appearancesThe antique table is worth very little money at face value.
at fault
What does “at fault” mean?
to be responsible or to be to blame for somethingThe truck driver was at fault for the terrible accident.
at first
What does “at first” mean?
at the beginningAt first I did not want to go to a movie but later I changed my mind.
at first blush
What does “at first blush” mean?
when first seen, without careful studyAt first blush the man seemed like a good worker but later we had many problems with him.
at hand
What does “at hand” mean?
to be close byI stopped working because I did not have any good tools at hand.
at heart
What does “at heart” mean?
basically, fundamentallyShe is a very nice person at heart although many people dislike her.
at home
What does “at home” mean?
to be in one`s house“I`m sorry but I left my money at home. Can you lend me some money?”
at it again
What does “at it again” mean?
to be doing something againThe two boys were at it again and we could hear them fighting.

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