O 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


- a person who doesn't act like everyone else

He is an oddball and nobody at his company likes to work with him.

odds and ends

- various items

We made games for the children from odds and ends from around the house.

of age

- old enough to be allowed to do something (vote,drink etc.)

When he came of age we had a big party for him to celebrate.

of age

- fully developed, mature

Fast transportation came of age when the first jets began to be used regularly.

of course

- as one would expect

Of course you can use my car if you want to.

off and on

- occasionally

He's been seeing the woman off and on but I don't think that their relationship is very serious.

off balance

- not prepared, unable to meet the unexpected

I was caught a little off balance when he asked me to deliver the speech instead of him.

off base

- inaccurate

He was really off base on his estimate of next year's budget.


- nonconventional, different from the usual

The movie was very offbeat which is just the kind of movie that I like.


- different from the usual pattern, not quite like most others, odd

The picture was off-center and didn't really fit in with the rest of the photos.


- in bad taste, not polite, dirty

He likes to tell off-color jokes which most people don't like at all.

off duty

- not working, having free time

The police officer was off duty when he came across the bank robbery.

off guard

- not alert to the unexpected

It caught me off guard when she suddenly asked me to lend her $800.

off one's back

- stop from bothering someone

I wish he would get off my back and stop always asking me when I am going to look for another job.

off one's chest

- talk about a problem to someone so that it doesn't bother you anymore

I finally talked to my friend from work and was able to get some of my problems off my chest.

off one's hands

- no longer in one's care or possession

I sold my old computer and finally got it off my hands.

off one's high horse

- not acting proud and scornful

We got him off his high horse when he was forced to admit that he had made many mistakes related to the new product launch.

off one's rocker

- crazy

He must be off his rocker if he thinks that he can spend all that money and not have a problem.

off the beam

- wrong, mistaken

What he said about the new office was right off the beam and should be ignored by everyone.

off the beaten track

- not well known or often used, unusual

We went to a small restaurant off the beaten track last night and liked it very much.

off the cuff

- without preparing ahead of time what one will say, without preparation

He made a few remarks off the cuff but he has never really explained in full what he wants to do.

off the hook

- out of trouble or free from an embarrassing situation

I think that I am off the hook now and won't have to worry about the problem anymore.

off the record

- privately, unofficially

He told the reporters off the record about the problems with the budget estimate.

off the top of one's head

- from memory, spontaneously

He knew all of the team's members off the top of his head.

off the wagon

- begin to drink alcohol again after stopping for awhile

He seems to be off the wagon again. I saw him yesterday and I am sure that he had been drinking.

(as) old as the hills

- very old

The old building at the library is as old as the hills.

old hat

- old-fashioned, not new or different

The job has become old hat and I am becoming a little tired of it.

on a dime

- in a very small space

His new car has very powerful brakes and is able to stop on a dime.

on again, off again (off again, on again)

- not settled, changeable, uncertain

The plans for the fireworks display were on again, off again because of the rainy and windy weather.

on and off

- intermittently, now and then

It has been raining on and off since early this morning.

on and on

- continually, at tedious length

The speech continued on and on until we finally left the gathering.

on an even keel

- in a well-ordered way or condition

We finally got the new department running on an even keel although it took a long time.

on a shoestring

- with very little money

He started the new company on a shoestring.

on behalf of

- representing a person

The lawyer went to the meeting on behalf of his client.

on board

- on a ship, plane or similar form of transportation

We had to get on board the airplane before it was able to take off.

on call

- available to be called out on duty

He works as a computer repair man and is always on call which is very tiring.

once and for all

- permanently

I told him once and for all that I would not take the new job.

once in a blue moon

- rarely

I only go to that restaurant once in a blue moon.

once in a while

- occasionally

We like Japanese food so we go to that restaurant once in a while.

once or twice

- a few times

We went to that restaurant once or twice but we quickly became tired of it.


- a quick look or examination of someone or something

He gave the rental car a once-over before he signed the contract.

on cloud nine

- very happy

She has been on cloud nine ever since she decided to get married last month.

on easy street

- having enough money to live comfortably

He has been on easy street since he sold his house and invested the money.

on edge

- be nervous or irritable

He has really been on edge lately because of his exams.

on end

- seemingly endless

We worked for hours on end last night but we still never finished the job.

on faith

- without question or proof

I took it on faith that he would help me when I had a lot of extra work to do.

on guard

- careful, wary

He has been keeping on guard since the accident last month.

on hand

- available

I'm sorry but I don't have any aspirin on hand at the moment.

on hand

- nearby, within reach

Please keep your dictionary on hand in case we need to use it.

on hand

- present

The speaker will be on hand after the lecture if you have any questions that you want to ask her.

on ice

- away for safekeeping or later use, aside

The city decided to put the plans for a new stadium on ice until they can raise more money..

on one's back

- making insistent demands of someone, being an annoyance or bother

She has been on my back all week trying to get me to finish my monthly report.

on one's chest

- worrisome thoughts or feelings that one might need to share with someone else

I had a long talk with my friend last night and was able to get most of my problems off my chest.

on one's coat-tails

- along with someone else, as a result of someone else doing something

The mayor was elected on the coat-tails of his brother who was a famous singer.

on one's feet

- recovering from sickness or trouble

I was sick for a couple of weeks but now I am on my feet again.

on/upon one's head

- on one's self

He brought the anger on his own head and should not try and blame someone else.

on one's high horse

- acting as if one is better than others, being very proud and scornful

He is always up on his high horse and never bothers to think about how other people feel.

on one's/its last legs

- at the end of someone/something's strength or usefulness

I think that his old car is on its last legs.

on one's shoulders

- one's responsibility

Please don't try to put the failure of his marriage on my shoulders.

on one's toes

- be alert

He always asks the students many questions to keep them on their toes.

on pins and needles

- excited, nervous

Her daughter has been on pins and needles all day waiting for the contest to begin.

on purpose

- intentionally

I think that she spilled the drink on purpose.

on shaky ground

- unstable, not secure

His position at the company has been on shaky ground for quite some time.

on the air

- broadcasting or being broadcast on radio or TV

That television program has been on the air for over three years now.

on the ball

- intelligent, able to do things well

He is really on the ball and can usually get all of his work done quickly.

on the bandwagon

- the newest popular group or activity, joining something because many others are doing it

Everybody in our company is on the bandwagon now to try and eliminate smoking in the workplace

on the beam

- doing well, just right or correct

What he said about the tax problem was right on the beam. .

on the blink

- not working

My stereo has been on the blink for the last few months.

on the block

- to be sold, for sale

Our house has been on the block for over a month now.

on the button

- exactly on time

I arrived for the meeting right on the button.

on the dole

- receiving welfare

The area is very poor and there are many people on the dole.

on the dot

- right on time

He always arrives for his meetings on the dot.

on the edge of one's seat

- nervously and excitedly waiting

I have been on the edge of my seat all day while waiting for the contest to begin.

on the go

- busy running around

He has been on the go since early morning trying to get ready for the meeting.

on the house

- provided free by a business - especially a bar or restaurant

The room at the hotel was not ready when we arrived so they provided us with free drinks on the house.

on the level

- honest

He was really on the level with me when he told me about my job possibilities.

on the loose

- free to go, not shut in or stopped by anything

The animals at the zoo were on the loose for over three hours when the zookeeper discovered their escape.

on the make

- trying to get some advantage - money or sexual etc.

Be careful of him. He is on the make and will try and cheat you out of your money.

on the mend

- healing, becoming better

He broke his leg last week but it is on the mend now.

on the move

- moving around from place to place, in motion

She is in Europe and has been on the move for several months now.

on the nose

- just right, exactly

What he said about our new boss was right on the nose.

on the other hand

- looking at the opposite side of a matter

He is very intelligent but on the other hand he is very lazy and always gets low marks.

on the Q.T.

- secretly, without anyone knowing

I don't want anyone to know about my plans so let's go over them on the Q.T.

on the road

- travelling (especially as a salesman or performer)

Her husband is a salesman and is often on the road.

on the rocks

- breaking up (relationship), ruined

He has been married for seven years but his relationship seems to be on the rocks now.

on the same wavelength

- thinking similarly about something

We have been on the same wavelength for months about the need for change in the company.

on the sly

- so that people won't know, secretly

We went to the restaurant on the sly so that nobody would know where we were.

on the spot

- in a difficult or embarrassing situation

He was really put on the spot when the reporter asked him about the campaign donations.

on the spur of the moment

- on a sudden wish or decision, suddenly

On the spur of the moment we went and bought some ice cream.

on the tip of one's tongue

- not quite able to remember something

The name of his latest movie is on the tip of my tongue.

on the up and up

- honest, trustworthy, sincere

I decided not to work for the company because I didn't think that it was on the up and up.

on the wagon

- not drinking alcohol

He has been on the wagon for over seven months now.

on the warpath

- very angry, looking for trouble

He is really on the warpath today so you should stay out of his way.

on the whole

- in general

On the whole I think it is a good idea but I would still like to study it further.

on time

- at the scheduled time

Our train arrived right on time.

on top

- in the lead

He was on top of his class in the economics department.

on top of

- in addition to, along with

On top of everything else he wants me to work on Sunday as well.

on top of

- managing very well, in control of

We are able to keep on top of our work now that we have someone in to help us.

on top of

- knowing all about something, up-to-date

He reads the newspaper every morning and is always on top of the latest news.

one-armed bandit

- a slot machine for gambling

He spent the weekend with a one-armed bandit and now has no money.

one foot in the grave

- near death

Her grandmother has one foot in the grave and is not expected to live much longer.

one for the books

- something very unusual or remarkable

His latest complaint about noise at work is one for the books and is very stupid.

one-track mind

- thinking about only one thing

He has a one-track mind. All he thinks about is money.


- any quick or decisive action that takes the opposition by surprise

The salesman gave them the one-two and before they knew it they had agreed to buy the product.

one up

- having an advantage, being one step ahead

His brother was one up on the other students because he had studied very hard.


- ability to keep ahead of others, trying to keep an advantage

I get tired of his one-upmanship and his desire to always be better than everyone else.

open one's heart

- talk about one's feelings honestly, confide in someone

I opened my heart to my friend when I saw her at the restaurant last night.

open secret

- a secret that so many people know it is no longer a secret

It is an open secret that he will be leaving the company next month.

other fish to fry

- have more important things to do

I think he has other fish to fry and will not be content to continue with his current job.

out cold

- unconscious, in a faint

He was out cold when the nurse went into his room to check on him.

out in left field

- far from the right answer

What he said was totally out in left field. He has no idea what we were talking about.

out in the cold

- alone, not included

I was left out in the cold when the rest of the class went to the movie without me.

out like a light

- fall asleep very quickly

I was out like a light when I went to bed last night.

out of

- have none left

The restaurant was out of fish so we had meat instead.

out of breath

- be tired and breathing quickly.

He was out of breath after running from the station.

out of circulation

- not active, not joining in what others are doing

He has a new girlfriend so he will probably be out of circulation for awhile.


- no longer current or in style

Computers become out-of-date very quickly.

out of favor with someone

- not have a person's goodwill

They have been out of favor with their boss for a few months now.

out of kilter

- not balanced right, not in a straight line or lined up right

The door handle seems to be out of kilter and doesn't work well at all.

out of line

- unacceptable, not correct

His proposal to go to New York was out of line. We can never accept that.

out of one's element

- where one does not belong or fit in

He is out of his element teaching the computer course. He doesn't know anything at all about computers.

out of one's hair

- get rid of someone who is a nuisance

She finally got her children out her hair and was able to study for her exam.

out of one's shell

- out of one's silence or shyness, into friendly conversation

We got her out of her shell and she decided to join in with the rest of the group.

out of order

- not working

The public telephone was out of order.

out of order

- against the rules, not suitable

His question was ruled to be out of order by the judge so he wasn't able to ask it.

out of place

- in the wrong place or at the wrong time, improper

What he said at the party was totally out of place. He should talk about it at another time.

out of sorts

- in a bad mood

He is a little out of sorts today so maybe you should wait until tomorrow to speak to him.

out of step

- not in step, not keeping pace with someone

The soldiers were out of step when they were marching in the parade.

out of step

- out of harmony, not keeping up

He is out of step with the rest of the group and needs to think about what he should be doing.

out of the blue

- unexpectedly, from nowhere

From right out of the blue he asked her if she wanted to get married.

out of the frying pan and into the fire

- out of one trouble and into more trouble, from something bad to something worse

When he changed jobs he went out of the frying pan and into the fire. His new job is much worse.

out of the question

- impossible

You have no money so going to Hong Kong for your holiday is out of the question.

out of the way

- remote, no longer an obstacle

We went to an out of the way place for our first dinner together.

out of the woods

- out of danger, in the clear

His injury was very serious and I don't think he is out of the woods yet.

out of thin air

- out of nothing or from nowhere

The deer seemed to jump out of thin air and onto the road.

out of this world

- wonderful, fantastic

The new dessert that she made last weekend was right out of this world.

out of tune

- not in agreement, not going well together

They are out of tune with what the other members of the group think.

out on a limb

- in a dangerous or risky position

He really went out on a limb to offer his brother the job.

outside of

- other than, except for

Outside of the weather our vacation was really quite enjoyable.

out to lunch

- crazy, mad

He is totally out to lunch but is still a very nice person.

over a barrel

- in a helpless or trapped position

I think that we have them over a barrel and should be able to win the contract easily.

over and over

- repeated many times

I told him over and over that I do not want to go to that restaurant again.

over one's dead body

- never, under no circumstances

Over my dead body will I let him come to the party next week.

over one's head

- too difficult for someone to understand

The joke went over her head so we had to explain it to her.

over one's head

- go to a more important person in charge, go to a higher official

We didn't receive a good answer from the official so we went over his head to talk to his boss.

over the hill

- past one's prime, unable to function as one used to

He thought that his friend was over the hill and shouldn't be working so hard.

over the long run

- in the end, over a long period of time

Over the long run he plans to expand his business and then sell it and retire.

over with

- at the end of, finished with

When the game on television is over with we can eat dinner.

own up

- take the blame, admit one's guilt

The suspected murderer finally owned up to the murder of his wife.