K 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

kangaroo court

- a self-appointed group that decides how to punish someone who is supposed to have done something wrong

The men were convicted by the people in the town but it was like a kangaroo court and nobody agreed with the decision.

Katie bar the door

- get ready for trouble, a desperate situation is at hand

The gang arrived at the bar and were ready to come in and fight. Well, Katie bar the door.

keel over

- fall over and faint

Three of the members of the band suddenly keeled over because of the heat.

keel over

- turn upside down, tip over

The boat keeled over in the middle of the lake but everybody was safe.

keep after

- remind someone over and over

I always have to keep after her to do her job properly.

keep an eye on something or someone

- watch (as in take care of something)

Will you keep an eye on the baby while I go to the store.

keep a secret

- not tell a secret to others

I have been trying to keep a secret about her boyfriend for a long time now.

keep a stiff upper lip

- be brave, face trouble bravely

The prisoners tried hard to keep a stiff upper lip in spite of the hardships of the prison.

keep at

- persist with

He has decided to keep at his studies so I am sure he will succeed.

keep body and soul together

- keep alive, survive

It was very cold during the winter but somehow she was able to keep body and soul together and survived.

keep books

- keep records of money gained and spent, do the work of a bookkeeper

My first job was to keep books for a small company in my hometown.

keep down

- keep from progressing or growing, keep within limits, control

The students were told to keep down the noise as some of the other classes were having exams.

keep from

- prevent, refrain from

I love ice cream and couldn't keep from eating three bowls.

keep good time

- work accurately (a clock)

My watch has not been keeping good time lately.

keep house

- look after a house or a household

She has been keeping house for her father while he is sick.

keep in touch

- talk or write to someone

I have always tried to keep in touch with my friends from high school.

keep on (doing something)

- continue

She is careless and keeps on making the same mistakes over and over.

keep one's chin up

- be brave, be determined

Try and keep your chin up. Things will get better in the future.

keep one's eye on the ball

- be watchful and ready

You should keep your eye on the ball or you will make a mistake.

keep one's fingers crossed

- wish for good results in something one is doing

Please keep your fingers crossed that I will pass the exam.

keep one's head

- stay calm when there is trouble or danger

He is a very good leader and always is able to keep his head during an emergency.

keep one's head above water

- have the ability to pay one's bills

He is having trouble keeping his head above water since his salary has decreased.

keep one's mouth shut

- be or stay silent

I was very angry so I told him to keep his mouth shut. Later I had to apologize.

keep one's nose clean

- stay out of trouble

He has been managing to keep his nose clean since he moved to the new town.

keep one's nose to the grindstone

- work very hard

He has been keeping his nose to the grindstone recently and I haven't had a chance to see him.

keep one's own counsel

- keep one's ideas and plans to oneself

He always keeps his own counsel and never really reveals his plans to anyone.

keep one's shirt on

- calm down, keep from losing one's temper or getting impatient

Try and keep your shirt on! Everything is going to be alright in a few minutes.

keep one's wits about one

- stay calm when there is trouble or danger

Although there was a fire in the building he was able to keep his wits about him and help everybody to safety.

keep one's word

- fulfill one's promise

She never keeps her word so I don't believe that she will come to the party.

keep pace

- go as fast, go at the same rate

It was difficult to keep pace with the other students but somehow I managed.

keep quiet

- remain silent

Could you all please keep quiet and listen to the instructor.

keep someone on

- allow someone to continue working for you

Although we have too many workers we have decided to keep him on until business improves.

keep tabs on

- watch or check, keep under observation

They have been keeping tabs on the spending of the sales department.

keep the ball rolling

- keep up an activity or action, not allow something that is happening to slow or stop

We should try to keep the ball rolling and get as much of our work done while everyone is still here.

keep the home fires burning

- keep things going as usual while someone is away

Don't worry about anything. I will stay home and keep the home fires burning while you are on your holiday.

keep track of

- maintain a record

Please carefully keep track of your expenses during the trip.

keep (someone) up

- prevent someone from going to bed

They kept me up last night with their noisy radio.

keep time

- show the right time

My new watch keeps perfect time so I am very happy.

keep time

- keep the beat, keep the same rhythm

It is difficult for him to keep time with the other members of the band but at least he tries.

keep under one's hat

- keep secret, not tell

He won't say where he is going for his holiday. He wants to keep it under his hat.

keep up appearances

- keep an outward show of prosperity or good behavior

They have been trying to keep up appearances even though he has lost his job.

keep up

- go on, not stop, continue

He is working hard to keep up the same level of production as last year.

keep up

- keep something at the same level or rate or in good condition

He spends a lot of time trying to keep up the garden of his house.

keep up with

- go at the same speed as a person or thing, maintain the same rate of progress

I can't keep up with the rest of the class.

keep up with the news

- keep informed

He reads the newspaper every morning in order to keep up with the news.

keep up with the Joneses

- try to be the same as your neighbors

He always worries about keeping up with the Joneses and is always frustrated.

kettle of fish

- something to be considered, how things are

That's a totally different kettle of fish. We should talk about it another time.

keyed up

- excited, nervous

I was all keyed up after we won the game and I couldn't go to sleep.

kick around

- treat badly, act roughly or badly to someone or something

I don't like her very much because she is always kicking other people around.

kick around

- lie around in a place

I was tired on Saturday so I stayed home and kicked around in the morning.

kick back

- relax and do nothing

I'm going to kick back this evening and stay home and watch television.


- money paid illegally for favorable treatment

The construction company gave the politician some illegal kickbacks in order to win the contract.

kick off

- begin, launch, start

The department store kicked off their summer sale early Saturday morning.


- a start

The kick-off for the no smoking campaign will start next week.

kick oneself

- regret

I kicked myself for not applying for the job sooner.

kick out

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

He was kicked out of school when he was 15 years old because of his bad behavior.

kick over

- a motor begins to work

At first the engine wouldn't start because it was too cold but finally it kicked over.

kick over

- pay, contribute

I was forced to kick over a lot of money for the motor for my car.

kick the bucket

- die

The man who used to clean the walls at the factory kicked the bucket last week.

kick the habit

- stop a bad habit like smoking or taking drugs

He has been trying to kick his smoking habit for years.

kick up a fuss

- make trouble, make a disturbance

I didn't think that it would be a big problem but he really kicked up a fuss when I told him about the accident.

kick up one's heels

- have a good time, celebrate

We really kicked up our heels at the Christmas party that we attended last week.

kill off

- kill or end completely, destroy

The pollution in the river has killed off all of the fish.

kill the goose that layed the golden egg

- spoil something that is good or something that one has by being greedy

He was always complaining about his job but now it is gone. He has killed the goose that layed the golden egg.

kill two birds with one stone

- accomplish two things with one action

He was able to kill two birds with one stone by going to the meeting.

knock about

- travel without a plan, go where one pleases

We decided to go to Brazil and knock about for a couple of months.

knock it off

- stop doing something, quit

Please knock it off. You are going to hurt yourself if you are not careful.

knock off

- murder someone

The owner of the shop was knocked off in the robbery last week.

knock off one's feet

- surprise or shock someone so much that he does not know what to do

When they announced that I had won the prize it knocked me off my feet.

knock one's block off

- hit someone very hard, beat someone up

He was very angry and threatened to knock anyone's block off who came near him.

knock one's head against the wall

- waste time trying to do something with no success

They have been knocking their head against the wall for years trying to find a solution to the problem.

knock oneself out

- make a great effort

They really knocked themselves out trying to make the party successful.

knock on wood

- knock on something made of wood to keep from having bad luck

I don't think that I will lose my job - knock on wood.


- a very beautiful woman

The man said that the woman he saw at the bus stop was a real knockout.

knock out

- make unconscious, unworkable or unusable

The storm last night knocked out power in most of the town.

knock the living daylights out of someone

- make someone unconscious

The man knocked the living daylights out of his friend during the fight.

know by heart

- memorize

I learned the poem by heart.

(not) know if one is coming or going

- not know what to do

The new sales manager doesn't seem to know if he is coming or going.


- a person who acts as if they know everything

He is a know-it-all and nobody likes to be around him.

(not) know the first thing about something

- lack basic knowledge about something

He doesn't know the first thing about computers.

know which side one's bread is buttered on

- know who can help one and try to please him, know what is good for oneself

He is careful not to make his boss angry. He knows which side his bread is buttered on.

knuckle down

- begin to work earnestly

I think it is time that we knuckle down and finally finish this project.

knuckle under

- yield, submit

The union finally knuckled under the pressure and ended the strike.