Meaning of Idioms

by Carol Duff MSN, BA, RN

One of the most important aspects of the English Language is the use of idioms. Not learning idioms is what will keep a person who is studying English and would like to converse with others who speak English in a fairly unsuccessful mode. Not understanding or using idioms is perhaps the largest reason why something will be lost in the translation. Idioms make up a fun part of the English language. We have a German friend who speaks English beautifully, but is always asking about the meanings of groups of word which are the idioms that we use.

What is an Idiom you might ask?   An idiom is a group of words that when used together have a figurative (representing forms that are recognizably derived from life) meaning because of its common usage. A figurative meaning is set apart from the actual definition of the words if the word is taken separately.  In the English language there are about 25,000 idiomatic expressions which we as English speakers tend to pick up as we move through learning English and hear them being used and understand their meanings in conversations.  Idioms do occur in other languages, but this article deals with idioms in the English language.

Some common idioms are a drop in the bucket, a breath of fresh air, a chip on your shoulder, a dime’s worth, a man of action, a little bird told me, a dime a dozen, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, a clean bill of health, a man of few words, a leopard cannot change his spots, a penny saved is a penny earned, a piece of cake, a picture paints a thousand words, a slap on the wrist, a man of few words, a taste of your own medicine, a woman of few words, a man of few words, an ace in the hole, add insult to injury, all the more, all is fair in love and war, all in the same boat, all ears, all Greek to me, an eye for an eye, apples to oranges, and a bed of roses.  These are just a very few from the idiom list that begins with the letter A. Each of these idiomatic phrases creates a vision and explains concepts in a few words.

Idioms add exactness and grace to our language.  Idioms also turn our simple words into a language which is interesting and even energetic and give our language illustration while it gives us insight into the use of words, language, and what the speaker is thinking. Idioms are fun for native English speakers but can be very hard to understand for those who strive to learn the English language.

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