B Idioms

Idioms Index | A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

back on one's feet

- return to good financial or physical health

He is finally back on his feet after his company went out of business.

back out

- withdraw from an agreement or promise

The company backed out of the deal with the foreign firm.

back to the drawing board

- go back to start a project or idea from the beginning

The boss doesn't like our idea so I guess we must go back to the drawing board.

bail someone or something out

- help or rescue

The government has decided to bail out the troubled bank.

bank on

- be sure of, count on

You can bank on them to come and help the company.

bark is worse than one's bite

- someone isn't as bad as they sound

Don't worry if he gets angry - his bark is worse than his bite.

bark up the wrong tree

- make a wrong assumption about something

The police are barking up the wrong tree in their investigation of that person.

beat around the bush

- speak indirectly or evasively

Stop beating around the bush and give us your final decision.

beat someone to the punch (draw)

- do something before others

He beat me to the punch and arrived at the interview first.

(have a) bee in one's bonnet

- have an idea that continually occupies one's thoughts.

He has a bee in his bonnet over whether or not to build a new house or not.

(do something) behind someone's back

- without someone's knowledge

He is very angry because they borrowed the car behind his back.

behind the times

- old fashioned

My aunt is a little behind the times.

be to blame

- be responsible for something bad or unfortunate

He's not to blame for breaking the computer.

bend over backwards to do something

- try very hard

If I can, I will bend over backwards to help you get a promotion in the company.

beside one's self

- very upset or excited about something

He was beside himself with joy at winning the contest.

beside the point

- not relevant to the subject that you are considering or discussing

"What you are saying is beside the point. We are not talking about salary now."

bet on the wrong horse

- misjudge a coming event, misread the future

I think that he bet on the wrong horse by putting all of his money into that new stock.

better off

- be in a better situation than before

He would be better off if he sold his old car and bought a new one.

beyond the pale

- outside the bounds of acceptable behavior

What they are doing is totally unacceptable and beyond the pale.

bide one's time

- patiently wait for an opportunity to occur.

He is biding his time as he waits to become president of the company.

big shot

- an important and powerful person

He is a big shot in the oil and gas industry.

birthday suit

- completely naked, no clothes on

The little boy was running down the street in his birthday suit.

bite off more than one can chew

- try to do more than one is able to do

I think I bit off more than I can chew by taking on the new assignment.

bite the bullet

- endure in a difficult situation, face a difficult situation bravely

I have decided to bite the bullet and begin studying for my Master's degree.

bite the dust

- be killed, break down, be defeated

I think that my car has finally bitten the dust.

bite the hand that feeds you

- turn against a friend or supporter, repay kindness with wrong

He is biting the hand that feeds him if he continues to criticize and fight against his boss.

blind leading the blind

- someone who doesn't understand something trying to explain it to others

It is like the blind leading the blind watching him try and explain how to operate the new computer.

blow it (something)

- fail at something

I tried hard, but I am sure that I blew the final math exam last week.

blow one's own horn

- praise oneself

He is always blowing his own horn and is very annoying at times.

blow over

- die down or calm down

The problem with the lost invoices has finally blown over and everyone is working hard again.

blue in the face

- endlessly, fruitlessly

You can argue with him until you are blue in the face but you will never change his mind.

bone of contention

- a reason for quarrels, the subject of a fight

The family cottage was a major bone of contention when their father died.

boot out

- make someone go or leave, get rid of someone, dismiss

He was booted out of high school for smoking on the school grounds.

born with a silver spoon in one's mouth

- born rich, provided from birth with everything you need

He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has never worked in his life.

brand new

- absolutely new

He was finally able to buy a brand-new car.

break down

- stop working because of mechanical failure

The car broke down on the lonely road so nobody knew about it.

break down

- analyze

We must break down these figures for further study.

break fresh ground

- deal with something in a new way

The researchers were able to break fresh ground in their search for a cancer cure.

break the bank

- win all the money at a casino gambling table

He didn't really break the bank but he did win a lot of money.

break the ice

- relax and start a conversation in a formal situation

Nobody was enjoying the party until the host finally was able to break the ice.

break the news

- tell some information first

He is planning to break the news to her about his transfer tomorrow.

break up (with someone)

- stop a relationship

She broke up with her boyfriend last June.

bring home the bacon

- work and earn money for your family

He is out bringing home the bacon and is very busy.

bring home the importance of something to someone

- make someone fully realize something

He was unable to bring home the importance of arriving early for the meeting.

bring some new facts to light

- discover some new facts, make some new facts known

The lawyers were able to bring some new facts to light in the trial of the killer.

bring someone into line

- persuade someone to agree with you

He was finally able to bring the other members of the committee into line.

bring something on

- cause to develop rapidly

I don't know what brought on his anger but you should avoid him until he calms down.

bring the house down

- cause much laughter in the audience

The comedian brought the house down with his jokes about the lost dog.

bring to mind

- recall something

Her perfect acting brought to mind some of the great actresses of the past.

bring up

- introduce a subject into a discussion

They brought up the subject at the meeting but nobody wanted to talk about it.

bring up

- raise or care for a child

My grandmother brought up ten children.

bring up the rear

- be at the end of the line or in the last position

The runner from the other school was bringing up the rear in the school relay race.


- have no money

I spent all of my money on my holiday and I am now broke.

brush up on something

- review something one has already learned

I'm going to brush up on my English before my trip to New York.

brush with the law

- a brief encounter or experience with the police because of a crime

He had a brush with the law when he was young but now he is totally honest.

bull in a china shop

- someone who is clumsy and upsets other people or plans

He was like a bull in a china shop when I saw him at the meeting last week.

bundle up

- put on warm clothes, dress warmly

We bundled up and went for a walk in the park.

burn a hole in one's pocket

- money that you want to spend quickly

I just got paid today and this money is burning a hole in my pocket.

burn down

- burn completely (usually used for buildings)

The neighbor's house burnt down completely during the night.

burn one's bridges behind one

- do something that makes going back impossible

He burned his bridges behind him and is unable to work in the same industry again.

burn the candle at both ends

- work or play too hard without enough rest

He has been burning the candle at both ends with his work and his studies. That is why he became sick.

burn the midnight oil

- study until very late at night

We burned the midnight oil for three nights in a row in order to study for the exam.

burn up

- burn completely (usually things not buildings)

The uniforms burned up in the fire.

bury (hide) one's head in the sand

- refuse to see or face something, keep from seeing or knowing something unpleasant

He always buries his head in the sand and never wants to deal with his family problems at all.

bury the hatchet

- stop quarreling and become friendly with someone

He decided to bury the hatchet with his brother and they are now on friendly terms again.

butter someone up

- flatter someone

He is trying to butter up his boss so that he can leave early on Friday.

buy a pig in a poke

- buy something without seeing it or knowing if it will be satisfactory

You shouldn't buy that car without first inspecting it. It is like buying a pig in a poke.

by and large

- on the whole, considering everything

By and large we had a good meeting even though it was a little short.

by and by

- before long

By and by they will come and we can go out for dinner.

by far

- greatly, by a great margin

He is by far the smartest person in the company.

by fits and starts

- irregularly, with many stops and starts

By fits and starts the company was finally able to begin business.

by hook or by crook

- in any way necessary

She says that she will go to Italy this year by hook or by crook.

by the way

- incidentally

By the way, could you please bring your computer tomorrow.

by the skin of one's teeth

- by a very small margin, barely

I made the application date for the job by the skin of my teeth.

by the sweat of one's brow

- by hard work

He managed to make enough money to buy the farm by the sweat of his brow.