Idioms 101: Definition, Usage, and Examples

25 November 2022 / Team Fun English Course

Do you often witness the word “idiom” in the context of any language? Every language has its own unique, distinctive idioms, including English. What’s an idiom, actually? Keen on knowing more about it? Check out our full explanation of what is idiom below!

Defining Idiom

Defining Idiom

What is an idiomatic expression? What is the idiom’s simple definition?

To answer those questions, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “idiom” as an expression of a particular language that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements.

Jackendoff stated that there are at least 25 million idioms exist in the English language. This spectacular number comes from one language only. So, can you imagine how many idioms there are in all languages worldwide?

As a type of figurative language, you will hardly be able to translate idiomatic expressions for their literal meanings. Each community picks up its idiomatic expressions, hence the countless variety.

The prominent characteristic of idioms is that the meaning of each one is not interchangeable between different languages. For example, Norwegian has “Det er ugler i mose” which literally means “There’s an owl in the bog.”

But, it will be ridiculous if you translate it literally without knowing the context behind the expression—it conveys that you’re suspicious of something.

Therefore, you have to fully understand the meaning behind each idiom in a language to be able to use it correctly.

The Use of Idioms in Speech and Writing

what is idiom

As a type of figurative language, idioms play a unique role during a speech or in a writing piece. There are some pros when you add idioms into your conversation or writing:

1. Beautify Your Sentences

Adding a different type of idiom to your daily conversation, speech, or writing can elevate the style of your sentences. Many options of idioms will beautify your sentences without being too forthright.

For instance, instead of saying, “He’s dumb,” you can swap it with, “He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.” This expression conveys the same meaning as euphemistically-chosen words.

2. Evoke Specific Regions

Though stated in English, different regions in which English is the first language may possess different common idioms. Therefore, if you happen to be in a situation with a specific target audience, using common idioms of their regions is a great choice.

For example, in the British context, you can use “popping out” to imply that you need to leave your place for a while. So, the sentence would be, “I’m popping out for brunch.”

3. Simplify Compounded Ideas

Generally, one purpose of idioms is to allow you to turn compounded ideas into simpler versions. For instance, let’s say you’re comparing two things that possess opposite characteristics, thus incomparable.

Instead of describing it as it is, you can use “It’s not apple to apple” to simplify your sentences while still keeping the meaning concise.

9 Well-Known English Idioms Examples

type of idiom

Here’s the list of applicable idioms to use in daily convos, speeches, or writings:

  • Face only a mother could love — used to express someone’s unattractiveness.
  • Under the radar — used when something is going unnoticed.
  • Not playing with the full deck — used to express someone that lacks common sense.
  • Curiosity killed the cat — used to express that being too curious might lead you to inconveniences.
  • Out of this world — used when something is extremely impressive.
  • Up in the air — used when something is not certain yet.
  • Rocket science — used when something is easy to understand.
  • Speak of the devil — used when someone you previously talked about pops out at the right time.
  • Elvis has left the building — used to express a show that is over.

Learning about English idioms is always interesting. If you are excited to discover more about English idioms, Fun English Course offers various courses in a fun way for you. From English for Teens to English Conversations programs, choose the one that suits your learning needs. Contact us here!

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