English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions
results for letter 'B
- Battle of nerves
- A battle of nerves is a situation where neither side in a conflict or dispute is willing to back down and is waiting for the other side to weaken.
('A war of nerves' is an alternative form.)
- Be all ears
- If you are all ears, you are very eager to hear what someone has to say.
- Be careful what you wish for
- If you get things that you desire, there may be unforeseen and unpleasant consequences.('Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.' and 'Be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.' are also used.)
- Be on the pig's back
- If you're on the pig's back, you're happy / content / in fine form.
- Be out in force
- If people are out in force, they are present somewhere in large numbers.
- Be out in left field
- (USA) To be out in left field is not to know what's going on. Taken from baseball, when youngsters assign less capable players to the outfield where the ball is less likely to be hit by a young player. In business, one might say, 'Don't ask the new manager; he's out in left field and doesn't know any answers yet.'
- Be that as it may
- Be that as it may is an expression which means that, while you are prepared to accept that there is some truth in what the other person has just said, it's not going to change your opinions in any significant manner.
- Be true blue
- If a person/object/situation is considered to be 'true blue', it is considered genuine.
- Be up the spout
- (UK) If a woman is up the spout, she is pregnant.
- Beam me up, Scotty
- Something someone says when they want to get out of a place or situation, meaning 'Get me out of here!'.
(It comes from the TV series and movies Star Trek, though the exact words used were a little different.)
- Bean counter
- A bean counter is an accountant.
- Bear fruit
- If something bears fruit, it produces positive results.
- Bear market
- A bear market is a period when investors are pessimistic and expect financial losses so are more likely to sell than to buy shares.
- Bear the brunt
- People who bear the brunt of something endure the worst of something bad.
- Beard the lion in his own den
- If you confront a powerful or dangerous rival on their territory, you are bearding the lion in his own den.
- Beat about the bush
- If someone doesn't say clearly what they mean and try to make it hard to understand, they are beating about (around) the bush.
- Beat someone to the draw
- (USA) If you beat someone to the draw, you do something before they do.
- Beat swords into ploughshares
- If people beat swords into ploughshares, they spend money on humanitarian purposes rather than weapons.
(The American English spelling is 'plowshares')
- Beat the daylights out of someone
- If someone beats the daylights out of another person, they hit them repeatedly.
('Knock' can also be used and it can be made even stronger by saying 'the living daylights'.)
- Beat the rap
- If you beat the rap, you escape conviction and punishment for a crime or something you have done wrong.
- Beat the tar out of
- When you want to beat the tar out of someone, you want to beat them up badly.
- Beat them at their own game
- If you beat someone at their own game, you use your enemy's tactics or tricks in order to win.
- Beat to the punch
- If you beat someone to the punch, you act before them and gain an advantage.
- Beat your brains out
- If you beat your brains out, you think hard about something but cannot solve, understand or remember it.
- Beating a dead horse
- (USA) If someone is trying to convince people to do or feel something without any hope of succeeding, they're beating a dead horse.
This is used when someone is trying to raise interest in an issue that no-one supports anymore; beating a dead horse will not make it do any more work.
- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder means that different people will find different things beautiful and that the differences of opinion don't matter greatly.
- Beauty is only skin deep
- This idiom means that appearances can be deceptive and something that seems or looks good may turn out to be bad.
- Beck and call
- Someone who does everything for you, no matter when you ask, is at your beck and call.
- Bedroom eyes
- Someone with bedroom eyes has a sexy look in their eyes.
- Bee in your bonnet
- If someone is very excited about something, they have a bee in their bonnet.
- Bee's Knees
- If something is the bee's knees, it's outstanding or the best in its class.
- Beeline for
- If you make a beeline for a place, you head there directly.
- Been around the block a few times
- Someone who says they've been around the block a few times is indicating that they have life experience relating to the topic at hand. It is not necessary to discuss the introductory aspects of the topic or give beginner level advice.
- Been in the wars
- (UK) If someone has been in the wars, they have been hurt or look as if they have been in a struggle.
- Been there, done that
- People say this when they have already experienced what is being discussed.
- Beer and skittles
- (UK) People say that life is not all beer and skittles, meaning that it is not about self-indulgence and pleasure.
- Before the ink is dry
- If people make an agreement or contract and then the situation changes very quickly, it changes before the ink is dry.
- Before you can say Jack Robinson
- The term Jack Robinson represents 'a short amount of time'. When you do something before you can say Jack Robinson, you do it very quickly.
- Before you can say knife
- (UK) If something happens before you can say knife, it happens very quickly.
- Beg the question
- In philosophy "to beg the question" is to assume something to be true that has not yet been proved.
I have seen the idiom also to mean that a question is crying out to be asked.
- Beggars can't be choosers
- This idiom means that people who are in great need must accept any help that is offered, even if it is not a complete solution to their problems.
- Behind bars
- When someone is behind bars, they are in prison.
- Behind closed doors
- If something happens away from the public eye, it happens behind closed doors.
- Behind someone's back
- If you do something behind someone's back, you do it without telling them.
- Behind the curve
- If you are behind the curve, you are behind or out of touch with current trends or developments. ('Ahead of the curve' iis the opposite)
- Behind the eight ball
- A difficult position from which it is unlikely one can escape.
- Behind the times
- Someone that is behind the times is old-fashioned and has ideas that are regarded as out-dated.
- Believe in the hereafter
- A belief in the hereafter is a belief in the afterlife, or life after death. It is, therefore, associated with religions and the soul's journey to heaven or to hell, whichever way being just deserts for the person based on how they led their life.
- Believe you me
- This is an emphatic way of saying 'believe me'.
- Bell the cat
- To bell the cat is to perform a difficult or impossible task.
If you have a question about idioms, ask us about it in our Idioms Discussion Forum. If you know of an idiom that you would like to be listed here, please use our online form to suggest an idiom.
Members Get More
- Sign up for free and gain access to many more idioms and slang expressions. Register now