Katia Johansen
Royal Danish Collections

 

 

Costume expressions are a colorful part of how we talk!

An idiom is a combination of words that has a figurativemeaning, due to its common usage. Its figurative meaning is different from its literal meaning. Idioms are numerous and they occur frequently in all languages. There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language.

Reprinted with kind permission from the Using English website

 

 

 

All dressed up and nowhere to go

 

You're prepared for something that isn't going to happen.

All hat, no cattle

 

(USA) When someone talks big, but cannot back it up, they are all hat, no cattle.('Big hat, no cattle' is also used.)

All mouth and trousers

 

(UK) Someone who's all mouth and trousers talks or boasts a lot but doesn't deliver. 'All mouth and no trousers' is also used, though this is a corruption of the original.

All talk and no trousers

 

(UK) Someone who is all talk and no trousers, talks about doing big, important things, but doesn't take any action.

Apron strings

 

A man who is tied to a woman's apron strings is excessively dependent on her, especially when it is his mother's apron strings.

At the drop of a hat

 

If you would do something at the drop of a hat, you'd do it immediately.

Belt and braces

 

(UK) Someone who wears belt and braces is very cautious and takes no risks.

Belt and suspenders

 

(USA) Someone who wears belt and suspenders is very cautious and takes no risks.

Big girl's blouse

 

A person who is very weak or fussy is a big girl's blouse.

Birthday suit

 

If you are in your birthday suit, you are naked.

Bluestocking

 

An intellectual woman is a bluestocking.

Boot is on the other foot

 

When the boot's on the other foot, a person who was in a position of weakness is now in a position of strength.

Bright as a button

 

A person who is as bright as a button is very intelligent or smart.

By the seat of your pants

 

If you do something by the seat of your pants, you achieve something, but only by a narrow margin or do something without advance preparation.

Caught with your pants down

 

If you are caught with your pants down, you are exposed in an embarrassing situation.It can also mean that you were caught unprepared for a situation or an event.

Crepe hanger

 

(USA) One who always looks at the bad side of things and is morbid or gloomy. In olden days crepe was hung on the door of a deceased person's home.

Cut from the same cloth

 

If people are cut from the same cloth, they are very similar in terms of ideas, opinions, beliefs, etc.

Cut your coat according to your cloth

 

If you cut your coat according to your cloth, you only buy things that you have sufficient money to pay for.

Cute as a button

 

If someone's as cute as a button, they are very attractive.

Dead men's shoes

 

If promotion or success requires replacing somebody, then it can only be reached by getting rid of them, so you can step into the “dead men’s shoes”.

Deep pockets

 

If someone has deep pockets, they are wealthy.

Dig your heels in

 

If you dig your heels in, you start to resist something.

Down at heel

 

Someone who is down at heel is short of money. ('Down in heel' is used in American English)

Drag your heels

 

If you drag your heels, you either delay doing something or do it as slowly as possible because you don't want to do it.

Dressed to kill

 

When someone is dressed to kill, they are dressed very smartly.

Dressed to the nines

 

If you are in your very best clothes, you're dressed to the nines.

Dyed-in-the-wool

 

If someone is a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of a political party, etc, they support them totally, without any questions.

Eat my hat

 

People say this when they don't believe that something is going to happen e.g. 'If he passes that exam, I'll eat my hat!'

Feather in your cap

 

A success or achievement that may help you in the future is a feather in your cap.

Fit like a glove

 

If something fits like a glove, it is suitable or the right size.

Fly by the seat of one's pants

 

If you fly by the seat of your pants, you do something difficult even though you don't have the experience or training required.

Fur coat and no knickers

 

Someone with airs and graces, but no real class is fur coat and no knickers.

Gloves are off

 

When the gloves are off, people start to argue or fight in a more serious way. ('The gloves come off' and 'take the gloves off' are also used. It comes from boxing, where fighters normally wear gloves so that they don't do too much damage to each other.)

Goody two-shoes

 

A goody two-shoes is a self-righteous person who makes a great deal of his/her virtue.

Grey suits

 

The men in grey suits are people who have a lot of power in business or politics, but aren't well-known or charismatic.

Hand in glove

 

If people are hand in glove, they have an extremely close relationship.

Hang by a thread

 

If something hangs by a thread, there is a very small chance indeed of it being successful or surviving.

Hang your hat on (something)

 

To depend on or believe in something.

Hard on someone's heels

 

If you are hard on someone's heels, you are close to them and trying to catch or overtake them.('Hot on someone's heels' is also used.)

Have a trick up your sleeve

 

If you have a trick up your sleeve, you have a secret strategy to use when the time is right.

Have something up your sleeve

 

If you have something up your sleeve, you have some hidden or secret plan, idea, etc, to use to your advantage when the time is right.

Have your collar felt

 

(UK) If someone has his collar felt, he is arrested.

Hot under the collar

 

If you're hot under the collar, you're feeling angry or bothered.

I'll eat my hat

 

You can say this when you are absolutely sure that you are right to let the other person know that there is no chance of your being wrong.

If the cap fits, wear it

 

This idiom means that if the description is correct, then it is describing the truth, often when someone is being criticised. ('If the shoe fits, wear it' is an alternative)

If the shoe fits, wear it

 

This is used to suggest that something that has been said might apply to a person.

In another's shoes

 

It is difficult to know what another person's life is really like, so we don't know what it is like to be in someone's shoes.

Lay a glove on

 

If you lay a glove on someone, you strike a blow against them in an argument, dispute, etc.(Mostly used in the negative)

Lick someone's boots

 

If you lick someone's boots, you behave in a very servile manner and try to please someone.

Lose your shirt

 

If someone loses his shirt, he loses all his money through a bad investment, gambling, etc.

Notch on your belt

 

A success or achievement that might help you in the future is a notch on your belt.

Off the cuff

 

If you do something off the cuff, you do it without any preparation.

Old hat

 

If something's old hat, it seems rather old fashioned and dated.

On pins and needles

 

If you are on pins and needles, you are very worried about something.

Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches

 

This means that it's hard to know how much someone else is suffering.

Out of pocket

 

If you are out of pocket on a deal, you have lost money.

Pass the hat

 

If you pass the hat, you ask a people in a group to give money.

Pop your clogs

 

When someone pops his clogs, he dies.

Pull up your socks

 

If you aren't satisfied with someone and want them to do better, you can tell them to pull up their socks.

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps

 

If you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you improve your problem or situation by your own efforts, without anyone else's help.

Put a sock in it

 

If someone tells you to put a sock in it, they are telling you to shut up.

Put it on the cuff

 

(USA) If you put something on the cuff, you will take it now and pay for it later.

Put on your thinking cap

 

If you put on your thinking cap, you think very hard about something.

Put yourself in someone's shoes

 

If you put yourself in someone's shoes, you imagine what it is like to be in their position.

Roll up your sleeves

 

If you roll up your sleeves, you get ready to start working hard.

Shoe is on the other foot

 

If the shoe is on the other foot, someone is experiencing what they used to make others experience, normally negative things.

Shoestring

 

If you do something on a shoestring, you try to spend the absolute minimum amount of money possible on it.

Show someone a clean pair of heels

 

If you show someone a clean pair of heels, you run faster than them when they are chasing you.

Smarty pants

 

A smarty pants is someone who displays the intelligence in an annoying way.

Take to your heels

 

If you take to your heels, you run away.

Take your hat off

 

If you say that you take your hat off to someone, you are showing your respect or admiration.

Take your hat off to somebody

 

If you take your hat off to someone, you acknowledge that he has done something exceptional or otherwise deserves your respect.

Talk out of your hat

 

If someone is talking out of his hat, he’s talking utter rubbish, especially if compounded with total ignorance of the subject on which he is pontificating. ('Talk through your hat' is also used.)

Throw down the gauntlet

 

Throw down the gauntlet is to issue a challenge to somebody.

Throw your hat in the ring

 

If someone throws his hat in the ring, he announces that he wants to take part in a competition or contest. 'Toss your hat in the ring' is an alternative.

Tighten your belt

 

If you have to tighten your belt, you have to economise.

Too big for your boots

 

If someone is too big for his boots, he is conceited and has an exaggerated sense of his own importance.

Too big for your britches

 

If someone is too big for his britches, he is conceited and has an exaggerated sense of his own importance.

Tough as old boots

 

Something or someone that is as tough as old boots is strong and resilient.

Trail your coat

 

If you trail your coat, you act in a provocative way.

Under someone's heel

 

If you are under someone's heel, they have complete control over you.

Under your belt

 

If you have something under your belt, you have already achieved or experienced it and it will probably be of benefit to you in the future.

Velvet glove

 

This idiom is used to describe a person who appears gentle, but is determined and inflexible underneath. ('Iron fist in a velvet glove' is the full form.)

Walk a mile in my shoes

 

This idiom means that you should try to understand someone before criticising them.

Wear many hats

 

If someone wears many hats, he has different roles or tasks to perform.

Wear sackcloth and ashes

 

If someone displays his grief or contrition publicly, he wears sackcloth and ashes.

Wear the trousers

 

The person who wears the trousers is the dominant or controlling person in a relationship, especially the woman.

Well-heeled

 

Someone who is well-heeled is rich.

Who wears the pants?

 

(USA) The person who wears the pants in a relationship is the dominant person who controls things.

Who wears the trousers?

 

(UK) The person who wears the trousers in a relationship is the dominant person who controls things.

Whole cloth

 

(USA) If something is made out of whole cloth, it is a fabrication and not true.

Work your socks off

 

If you work your socks off, you work very hard.

Zip it

 

This is used to tell someone to be quiet.

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