Idiom Category: War, weapons and conflict, Page 1

Categories > War, weapons and conflict
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Act of war
An act of war is a action that is either intended to start a war or that is interpreted as being sufficient cause for a war.
All's fair in love and war
This idiom is used to say that where there is conflict, people can be expected to behave in a more vicious way.
Arrow in the quiver
An arrow in the quiver is a strategy or option that could be used to achieve your objective.
At daggers drawn
If people are at daggers drawn, they are very angry and close to violence.
Axe to grind
If you have an axe to grind with someone or about something, you have a grievance, a resentment and you want to get revenge or sort it out. In American English, it is 'ax'.
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.)
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 tar out of
When you want to beat the tar out of someone, you want to beat them up badly.
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.
Before you can say knife
(UK) If something happens before you can say knife, it happens very quickly.
Bite the bullet
If you have to bite the bullet, you have to accept or face something unpleasant because it cannot be avoided.
Bring a knife to a gunfight
If someone brings a knife to a gunfight, they are very badly prepared for something.
Bury the hatchet
If you bury the hatchet, you make peace with someone and stop arguing or fighting.
Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades
This phrase is used to say that if you come close to success without succeeding, it is not good enough
Close ranks
If members of an organisation close ranks, they show support for each other publicly, especially when being criticised.  It is a military term- when soldiers close ranks, they stand closer together so that it is difficult to pass through them.
Cross swords
When people cross swords, they argue or dispute. This expression is used when some groups accuse each other for non-adherence to norms. Actually no sword is used but the tempo of the argument is high enough to cause worsening of the already bad situation. It is a tussle (vehement struggle without use of arms) between the parties to establish supremacy.
Dodge the bullet
If someone has dodged a bullet, they have successfully avoided a very serious problem.
Don't mention the war
This means that you shouldn't speak about things that could cause an argument or tension.This idiom was used in a classic episode of the much-loved British comedy series Fawlty Towers. As a consequence if you use this phrase in Britain, listeners will understand you to be referring to Germans, or just start laughing.
Don't shoot the messenger
This phrase can be used when breaking some bad news to someone and you don't want to be blamed for the news. ('Don't kill the messenger' is also used.)
Double-edged sword
If someone uses an argument that could both help them and harm them, then they are using a double-edged sword sword; it cuts both ways.
Drop a bombshell
If someone drops a bombshell, they announce something that changes a situation drastically and unexpectedly.
Fight an uphill battle
When you fight an uphill battle, you have to struggle against very unfavourable circumstances.
Fight fire with fire
If you fight fire with fire, you fight something or someone using a very similar or the same way as they are fighting you.
Get the axe
If you get the axe, you lose your job.  ('Get the ax' is the American spelling.)
Great guns
If something or someone is going great guns, they are doing very well.
Have a riot
(UK) If you have a riot, you enjoy yourself and have a good time.
In your sights
If you have someone or something in your sights, they are your target to beat.
Keep your powder dry
If you keep your powder dry, you act cautiously so as not to damage your chances.
Knight in shining armour
A knight in shining armour is someone who saves you when you are in great trouble or danger.
Lay waste
To lay waste to something is to destroy it.
Lock and load
This is a military term meaning "be ready and prepared".
Long shot
If something is a long shot, there is only a very small chance of success.
Loose cannon
A person who is very difficult to control and unpredictable is a loose cannon.
Lower your sights
If you lower your sights, you accept something that is less than you were hoping for.
Mailed fist
Someone who rules or controls something with a mailed fist is in absolute control and tolerates no dissent. A mailed fist in a velvet glove is used to describe someone who appears soft on the outside, but underneath is very hard. 'Iron fist' is an alternative form.
More than one string to their bow
A person who has more than one string to their bow has different talents or skills to fall back on.
Off like a shot
If someone is off like a shot, they leave or get going very quickly indeed.
Off your guard
If you catch someone off their guard, they  are not ready or prepared when you do or say something.('Take somoene off their guard' is also used.)
Open old wounds
If you open old wounds, you revive a quarrel or problem that caused a lot of trouble in the past.
Over the top
If something is over the top, it is excessive or unnecessary.  It refers to the moment a soldier leaves the trenches.
Pull the trigger
The person who pulls the trigger is the one who does the action that closes or finishes something.
Put the screws on
If you put the screws on someone, you use threats or pressure in order to get them to do what you want.
Put to the sword
If someone is put to the sword, he or she is killed or executed.
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is one that causes the victor to suffer so much to achieve it that it isn't worth winning.
Quick on the trigger
Someone who is quick on the trigger acts or responds quickly.
Rank and file
The rank and file are the ordinary members of a company, organisation, etc, excluding the managers and directors.
Ride shotgun
If you ride shotgun, you protect or guard something when it is being transported.
Run the gauntlet
If somebody is being criticised harshly by a lot of people, they are said to run the gauntlet.
Sabre-rattling
When people, states, etc, threaten to use force as a way of getting what they want, especially when they are unlikely to use force, they are sabre-rattling.
Set your sights on
If you set your sights on someone or something, it is your ambition to beat them or to achieve that goal.

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