Idioms are very common in English, both in spoken and written language. And most native speakers don’t have any trouble understanding what they mean. Most of the time, native speakers use idioms without even thinking about the meaning of the words themselves.
But this can be really tricky for people learning a new language. Often, you can’t guess what an idiom means just from hearing it, so someone needs to explain it to you.
What Is an Idiom?
An idiom is a figure of speech where the meaning of a phrase doesn’t match the literal meaning of the words that make up the phrase. Either the words don’t mean what you expect them to, or the grammar in the phrase is unusual.
Top 5 Most Popular Examples Of Idioms For Kids
Here are our top picks of idioms every student should know.
- To have ants in your pants = to be impatient or restless
I feel like I have ants in my pants. I’m tired of school and want it to be summer vacation already!
- To get your feet wet = to try something new
I’m going to get my feet wet and try kickboxing tomorrow.
- To cross your fingers = to hope that something will happen
I’m crossing my fingers that you get an A on that test!
- Cool as a cucumber = very calm and collected
Marcy is always cool as a cucumber, even before big exams.
- Use your noodle = to think
Shani keeps making mistakes because she’s not using her noodle.
And it’s not just English that uses idioms. Many languages have them!
For example, there’s a Spanish idiom “Mucho ruido y pocas nueces.” Literally, this translates to “Much noise and few nuts.”
Now, that doesn’t make much sense! But a Spanish speaker hears that and understands that someone is talking a lot but not taking any action.
In English, we actually have a different idiom that means the same thing: “All bark and no bite.”
Idioms can be really fun because, most of the time, they’re not logical. But most English speakers already understand them without realizing it. So, these figures of speech are really fun for kids to study.
There are many idioms in English, so we’ve compiled just a few categories. Also, some idioms fit more than one category. But these lists let you dip your toes into the fun world of idioms!
Click each card to see if you know the missing word!
Idioms for 4th Graders
Idioms can be difficult to grasp; help your students out with these idioms for kids.
- Be a chicken = be scared or afraid
Garrett told Alice she was a chicken for not climbing the tree.
- To pig out = to eat a lot.
Julia bought 5 tubs of ice cream so she and her friends could pig out at the sleepover.
- When pigs fly = never going to happen. Amy will get home on time when pigs fly!
- Happy as a clam = extremely happy
Look at Alex playing with his new teddy bear. He’s happy as a clam!
- To be a fish out of water = to feel uncomfortable because you’re in a situation that isn’t normal for you.
I feel like a fish out of water!
- Pull your leg = to tease or make fun of someone.
Don’t believe anything my uncle says. He’s always pulling your leg.
- To dip your toes into = to start something very slowly, to test something out.
Leona wants to dip her toes into writing, so she’s going to read more.
- See eye to eye = to understand one another.
My sister and I never see eye to eye on anything. I just don’t understand her!
- To be full of beans = to have lots of energy
Ramlah’s baby doesn’t want to sleep right now. He’s full of beans.
- Pleased as punch = very happy
Grandma will be pleased as punch to see you.
- Piece of cake = something really easy
I can’t believe I studied for 10 hours. That exam was such a piece of cake I didn’t need to.
- Bad egg = a bad person.
Alyssa shouldn’t hang out with Amir anymore. He’s a bad egg.
- Raining cats and dogs = raining a lot
“I think it might start flooding because it’s raining cats and dogs,” said Emily.
- To be under the weather/to feel under the weather = to feel sick or ill.
Artemis isn’t going to school today because she’s feeling under the weather.
Practice Makes Perfect
Have your students draw the idioms on paper. That way, they can describe what the idiom means from what they made, and you can check for understanding. Idioms are great for playing with figurative language, so the sillier, the better!
Idioms for 5th Graders
Here are our top picks of idioms to teach to fifth graders.
- Bee in your bonnet = to be obsessed with a particular idea
Deb has a bee in her bonnet about moving to San Francisco. It’s all she talks about!
- Birdbrain = someone who’s not smart.
Marek is such a birdbrain. He doesn’t know anything!
- Night owl = someone who likes to be awake at night
I can’t believe Radovan does his schoolwork at midnight. He’s such a night owl.
- Busy bee = someone who works a lot
Cara has 3 different jobs. She’s a busy bee!
- A fly on the wall = someone who observes but does not participate.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall at a parent-teacher meeting. They must say so many interesting things!
- Early bird = someone who likes to be awake early in the morning, someone who arrives before everyone else
India is an early bird because she likes to wake up at 5 am every day. You have to be an early bird if you want to get one of the free tickets.
- To cost an arm and a leg = to be very expensive.
Gisselle’s new tablet cost an arm and a leg.
- To speak your mind = to speak plainly or freely, without restraint.
It’s okay to speak your mind– I won’t get upset.
- All bark and no bite = to talk a lot but not do anything
Don’t worry about what Rachel says – she’s all bark and no bite.
- To drag your feet = to be reluctant to do something.
Amy doesn't want to pack her school bag. She’s really dragging her feet about leaving.
- To think on your feet = make decisions or solve problems quickly without thinking too hard.
Caleb is a great student because he can think on his feet.
- To get out of hand = to be out of control.
The mess in your room has gotten completely out of hand! Please go fold your clothes and put away your toys.
- To get off someone’s back = to stop bugging someone.
Can you get off my back, please? I already told you I’d wash the dishes after dinner.
- To spill the beans = to tell a story or secret.
What’s going on with you? Come on, spill the beans!
- To bite off more than you can chew = accept more tasks than you can complete.
When you go off to college, make sure you leave yourself time to relax. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- To butter someone up = to suck up to someone, to flatter someone.
Aw, stop buttering me up! You’re making me blush!
- To cry over spilled milk = to worry or feel bad about something you can’t fix or change.
It doesn’t help to cry over spilled milk.
- Break the ice = remove tension.
No one was talking, so Harry played charades to break the ice at his birthday party.
- On thin ice = taking a risk that has serious consequences.
George shouldn’t be slacking off at work. He’s already on thin ice with his boss.
- Up in the air = not decided.
I’m sorry I can’t come to the party on Saturday. My plans are up in the air right now.
- To sleep like a log = to sleep heavily.
I feel great because I slept like a log last night.
- To call it a day = to decide to end a task.
Can we call it a day on this project? My head is starting to hurt.
- A mountain out of a molehill = to make something seem more important than it actually is.
Don't worry; you’re making a mountain out of a molehill!
- Off the hook = not responsible for.
Mr. Smith caught Mandy cheating on the test, but he let her off the hook.
- A rip-off = theft or exploitation.
I can’t believe you paid $500 for that book. That’s such a rip-off!
- To draw a blank = to not be able to remember something.
Do you remember her name? I’m drawing a blank.
- To be on the same page = to understand one another.
Make sure you’re on the same page with Cassie. You don’t want to have an argument later.
- To be in the same boat = to be in the same situation.
Let's work together. We are all in the same boat!
Click each card to see if you know the missing word!
Idioms for 6th Graders
6th graders can grasp more complicated types of figurative language. Help them out by teaching them about these idiomatic expressions.
- For the birds = not important, worthless.
That job is for the birds. No one needs to do it.
- Eagle eye = noticing lots of details.
She has an eagle eye for grammatical mistakes.
- Wild goose chase = a useless mission, wasting time looking for something that you’ll never find.
Trying to track down her phone number was a wild goose chase.
- Hold your horses = to stop what you’re doing, slow down, and pause to think.
Hold your horses, you haven't done your homework!
- Elephant in the room = something obvious that everyone is ignoring
Harold’s Thanksgiving dinner was really awkward because of the elephant in the room.
- Doggy bag/doggie bag = a package to take home extra food from a restaurant
Could I have a doggy bag? This pasta is too good to waste.
- Have a change of heart = to change one’s decision
Simon is moving back home because he’s had a change of heart.
- To be all ears = to be eagerly paying attention.
Tell me what’s going on with your new assignments. I’m all ears!
- Slip your mind = to forget
I’m sorry I didn’t mention the dance. It must have slipped my mind.
- To get off on the wrong foot = to start something badly, particularly a relationship.
Sara, I think we got off on the wrong foot yesterday. Could we start over?
- To bend over backward = try really hard (or excessively) to do something, especially to please someone else.
I can’t believe Cameron studied until 3 am yesterday. He’s really bending over backward.
- To wrap your head around something = to understand something, particularly a difficult idea.
I just can’t wrap my head around my grades.
- Gut feeling = intuitive feeling
I don't trust her. It's just a gut feeling.
- Give someone the cold shoulder = to be unfriendly.
Do you think Randy is giving me the cold shoulder? He hasn’t talked to me in 2 days!
- In a nutshell = in summary
In a nutshell, my exam didn't go very well.
- Icing on the cake/cherry on top = an addition that makes a great thing even better.
I got really good grades this year, and the icing on the cake, it’s summer!
- Bread and butter = the main way you support yourself financially.
Being a lawyer is my bread and butter, but I prefer painting.
- Cream of the crop = the best of something
Maggie wants to go to Harvard because it’s the cream of the crop for colleges.
- To spice something up/to spice things up = to add excitement to something.
Let's spice things up and go to a salsa class!
- To take a rain check = to postpone for later.
Can we take a rain check? I forgot that I have a meeting in 5 minutes.
- To go out on a limb = to take a risk.
I’m going to go out on a limb here; let's eat something spicy for dinner.
- Out of the blue = suddenly, unexpectedly.
An old school friend called me out of the blue yesterday.
- To beat around the bush = to talk about something without being direct.
Just tell me what you think, and don’t beat around the bush!
- Last straw = the final thing that causes you to make a decision
That argument was the last straw. I’m not going to talk to Harriet anymore.
- Second wind = an extra rush of energy.
I was struggling with the test, but I got a second wind and passed!
- To come up for air = to take a rest.
After studying for 2 weeks straight, Santi could finally come up for air.
- On/off the table = to be able to be talked about, to be up for discussion.
Let's make a deal and put everything on the table.
- A dime a dozen = really common.
Don’t worry about buying a postcard. They’re a dime a dozen in the city center.
- To drop the ball = to not do something you were supposed to do
I’m sorry I dropped the ball in today's meeting.
- To be on the ball = to be aware of what’s going on around you and be prepared for it.
Don’t worry about Sadeq finishing his work. He’s always on the ball.
- To crack a window = to open a window, often just a little bit.
Could you crack a window? I’m sweating in here.
- To cut corners = to skimp or do something poorly so that you can get it done faster.
Magda works a little more slowly than Martin, but she’ll never cut corners.
- To hit the sack = to go to sleep.
Goodnight, everybody! I’m going to hit the sack.
- To have someone’s number = to know what someone’s up to, to understand the reason behind someone else’s actions.
Carlos won’t get away with anything. I have his number.
Click each card to see if you know the missing word!
Once you start listening for idioms, you’ll hear them all over the place. Native speakers pepper their language with lots of idioms – in fact, you probably already use them without realizing it!
Keep your eye out for idioms when you’re reading or talking to others, and try to guess what they mean. And if you’re not sure, you can always check a dictionary.
For teachers, use this idiom for kids list as a resource for all your lessons. Stuck for time? Use this list to explore with your students.
Also, check out the other grammar resources on our website. There are lots of fun figures of speech to explore!
Figurative Language For Kids
- Personification Examples For Kids
- Alliteration Examples For Kids
- Idiom Examples
- Life Science Activities
- Music Games
- Environmental Education
- Reading Comprehension Tips
- “Hit the hay.” “Sorry, guys, I have to hit the hay now!” ...
- “Up in the air” “Hey, did you ever figure out those plans?” ...
- “Stabbed in the back” ...
- “Takes two to tango” ...
- “Kill two birds with one stone.” ...
- “Piece of cake” ...
- “Costs an arm and a leg” ...
- “Break a leg”
|Be a good catch||Be someone worth marrying/having|
|Beat around the bush||Avoid the main topic or not speak directly about the issue|
|Bend over backwards||Do whatever it takes to help. Willing to do anything|
|Bite off more than you can chew||Take on a task that is too big|
|Beat around the bush||Avoid saying what you mean, usually because it is uncomfortable|
|Better late than never||Better to arrive late than not to come at all|
|Bite the bullet||To get something over with because it is inevitable|
|Break a leg||Good luck|
- Under the weather. What does it mean? ...
- The ball is in your court. What does it mean? ...
- Spill the beans. What does it mean? ...
- Break a leg. What does it mean? ...
- Pull someone's leg. What does it mean? ...
- Sat on the fence. What does it mean? ...
- Through thick and thin. ...
- Once in a blue moon.
An idiom is a widely used saying or expression containing a figurative meaning that differs from the phrase's literal meaning. The word “idiom” comes from the Greek word “idioma,” meaning peculiar phrasing. For example, “under the weather” is an idiom universally understood to mean sick or ill.What are the 100 idioms examples? ›
- At a crossroads – Needing to make an important decision. ...
- Bad apple – Bad person. ...
- Barking up the wrong tree – Pursuing the wrong course. ...
- Be closefisted – Stingy. ...
- Be cold-hearted – Uncaring. ...
- Be on solid ground – Confident. ...
- Beat around the bush – Avoid saying.
|Hit the sack||Go to sleep|
|Your guess is as good as mine||I do not know|
|Good things come to those who wait||To have patience|
|Back against the wall||Stuck in a difficult circumstance with no escape|
- Under the weather. Meaning - To feel sick. ...
- The ball is in your court. ...
- Spill the beans. ...
- Pull someone's leg. ...
- Sit on the fence. ...
- Through thick and thin. ...
- Once in a blue moon. ...
- The best of both worlds.
An idiom is a group of words with a figurative, non-literal meaning which can't be deciphered by looking at its individual words. In many cases, idioms started off with literal meanings, but lost them as they moved away from their origins. A common example of an idiom is 'give up'.What are the 7 idioms? ›
There are 7 types of idiom. They are: pure idioms, binomial idioms, partial idioms, prepositional idioms, proverbs, euphemisms and cliches. Some idioms may fit into multiple different categories. For example, the idiom “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is both a cliché and a proverb.
Idioms are words or phrases that aren't meant to be taken literally and usually have a cultural meaning behind them.What are idioms Grade 3? ›
An idiom is a group of words with a figurative, non-literal meaning which can't be deciphered by looking at its individual words. In many cases, idioms started off with literal meanings, but lost them as they moved away from their origins. A common example of an idiom is 'give up'.What is an idiom Class 7? ›
Content For CBSE Class VII EnglishIdioms
An idiom is a phrase (a group of words) whose suggested meaning is different from the literal meaning of individual words in the phrase.
How to use Idiom in a sentence. An idiom to describe heavy rain is, "it's raining cats and dogs!"What is an idiom short answer? ›
id·i·om ˈi-dē-əm. plural idioms. : an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (such as up in the air for "undecided") or in its grammatically atypical use of words (such as give way)What are idioms Grade 8? ›
Idioms are words, phrases or expressions which are commonly used in everyday conversation. They are a type of informal English that have a meaning different from the meaning of the words in the expression.What is an idiom 4th grade? ›
4th Grade Writing - Idioms, Adages, and Proverbs Lesson. 1 of 3 - view full lesson. Idiom. An idiom is a phrase in which the meaning of each word separately does not tell the reader what the phrase means. In other words, the words in the phrase mean something more than each word alone.What is the idiom of A to Z? ›
Idiom: From A to Z
the entire range of something. including every step from start to finish. completely, to include everything and every detail. all the facts or information about something.
- “Into the mouth of a wolf” Language: Italian. ...
- “Not my circus, not my monkey. Language: Polish. ...
- “To have a wide face” Language: Japanese. ...
- “To have the midday demon” Language: French. ...
- “To feed the donkey sponge cake” Language: Portuguese. ...
- “A cat's jump” ...
- “To give someone pumpkins” ...
- “To ride as a hare”
Do a 360 means to end up in the same place that one started. Rarely, one may see the expression do a 360 to mean someone has changed his mind twice–once when he embraced the opposite of what he espoused, and then again when he came back to his original opinion.
- Keep your chin up. ...
- There is light at the end of the tunnel/ The end is in sight. ...
- Hang on in there. ...
- Look on the bright side. ...
- Every cloud has a silver lining. ...
- When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. ...
- When one door closes, another one opens.
- Get your act together (Meaning: you need to improve your behaviour/work) ...
- Pull yourself together (Meaning: calm down) ...
- I'm feeling under the weather (Meaning: I'm sick) ...
- It's a piece of cake (Meaning: it's easy) ...
- Break a leg (Meaning: good luck!)
An idiom is a group of words, or in other words, a phrase that has a meaning different from the literal meaning of the words in it.What are idioms 2nd grade? ›
Idioms are expressions that have a meaning that isn't immediately obvious from the words themselves. Every language has them, and fluent speakers use them casually without even thinking about them.What does idiom mean for kids? ›
Kids Definition of idiom
1 : the choice of words and the way they are combined that is characteristic of a language. 2 : an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but must be learned as a whole the expression "give way," meaning "retreat," is an idiom. Other Words from idiom.
Idioms are phrases that have a meaning that is very different from its individual parts. Unlike most sentences that have a literal meaning, idioms have figurative meaning.What is idiom in easy English? ›
An idiom is a group of words with a figurative, non-literal meaning which can't be deciphered by looking at its individual words. In many cases, idioms started off with literal meanings, but lost them as they moved away from their origins. A common example of an idiom is 'give up'.What is an idiom Grade 3? ›
Idioms are phrases or expressions that are part of a language and whose meaning can't be predicted easily from the meaning and denotation of its individual parts. These expressions are deeply intertwined with the culture of the speaker, and their meanings aren't literal but instead are more figurative.What are idioms Grade 6? ›
IDIOMS - Idioms are phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase; but some phrases become figurative idioms while retaining the literal meaning of the phrase. The meanings of idioms are different from the meaning of the individual words that they are made up of.What are idioms for Class 4? ›
Idioms are a group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words. It is an idiomatic expression. Something good that isn't recognised at first.