- an action that may fail but has a good chance to
succeedThey took a calculated risk when they opened the new store but
it has been very successful.
call a spade a spade
- speak bluntlyHe was calling a spade a spade when he
began to criticize his employee for being lazy.
call for someone
- come and get someoneCould you please come and call
on me before you go to the game.
call it quits
- stop, finishHe called it quits and went home for
call of nature
- the need to go to the toiletHe is answering the
call of nature and can`t talk to you for a few minutes.
- cancelThe game was called off because of the rain.
- visit someoneI plan to call on my brother when I am
on my holidays.
- ask someone to participate or contribute
somethingThe teacher called on me three times to answer questions in
call on to the carpet
- call someone before an authority to be scolded or
reprimandedHe was called on to the carpet by his boss for losing the
call someone`s bluff
- challenge someone to prove what they say is trueI
decided to call his bluff and asked him to show me the evidence.
call the shots
- be in charge, give orders He is now calling the
shots and is in control of the company.
- telephoneHe said that he would call up his parents
- relaxShe finally calmed down after the accident.
- destroy the effect of somethingThe benefits of her
exercise were cancelled out by her always overeating.
can of worms
- a complicated situation or problemThe lawsuit
opened up a can of worms for the company.
can`t see the forest for the trees
- unable to judge or understand the whole picture because you
are looking at the small parts of itHe has no real understanding of
most problems as he always fails to see the forest for the trees.
card up one`s sleeve
- a plan or argument kept back to be produced if
neededI think that he has a card up his sleeve and will be able to
help us later.
(in) care of someone
- send something to one person at the address of another
personI sent the parcel to her in care of her friend at the
carrot and stick
- the promise of reward and threat of punishment at the same
timeThe trade negotiators took a carrot and stick approach to the
(get) carried away
- lose control or judgement due to strong feelingsI
got a carrried away and began to yell at her for losing my textbook.
- continue, keep doing as beforeWe were permitted to
carry on with the party after we had talked to the landlord.
carry (something) out
- put into action, accomplishThe move to the new
headquarters was carried out with a minimum of problems.
- save for another timeWe plan to carry over the
summer swimwear until next year.
carry the ball
- take the most important or difficult part in an action or
businessThe vice-president was forced to carry the ball while the
president was away.
carry the day
- win or be successfulHis fine performance in our
company carried the day for us.
carry the torch
- show loyalty to a cause or a personHe has been
carrying the torch for the candidate for a long time.
- put a plan into actionThe company carried through
with their plan to layoff 300 workers.
(a) case in point
- an example that proves something or helps to make something
clearWhat he just said was a case in point about what I have been
saying all year.
- a good source of moneyHis new business is a great
cash cow. I think that he is really making a lot of money.
- exchange something for moneyWe decided to cash in
the coupons because we needed some money.
cash in on
- see and profit by a chanceThe small town cashed in
on their success with the winter Olympics.
cash on the barrelhead
- money paid when something is boughtIt was a cash
deal and we were forced to pay cash on the barrelhead.
cast pearls before swine
- waste something valuable on someone who doesn`t appreciate
itGiving her the gold earrings was casting pearls before swine.
cast the first stone
- be the first to blame someoneHe was the one to cast
the first stone and now he is having a major fight with his neighbor.
castles in the air
- daydreamsShe is always building castles in the air
and is very unrealistic.
- a burglar who enters a building by climbing a wall
etc.We lost our stereo when a cat burglar entered our apartment.
cat gets one`s tongue
- can`t talkI think that the cat has got her tongue.
She hasn`t said anything at all since the meeting started.
- a situation where whatever you do the outcome will be bad, a
no-win situation It was a catch-22 situation where if I went to work
there would be problems but if I didn`t go to work there would be more problems.
catch a cold
- become sick with a coldI caught a cold because of
the rain and the cold weather.
- in any way possibleWe are in the middle of moving
house so the meals when you visit will be catch-as-catch-can.
- understand, learn aboutIt was difficult to catch on
at first but finally I was able to understand the math problem.
- become popularRecently ballroom dancing has begun
to catch on among many people.
catch one`s breath
- stop to rest and regain one`s normal breathingAfter
running from the station it took a moment to catch my breath.
catch one`s eye
- attract one`s attentionI tried to catch her eye but
she didn`t notice me.
catch (someone) red-handed
- find someone in the middle of doing something
wrongHe caught the boy red-handed when he was stealing the candy.
catch up with (someone or something)
- become even with someone (in a race or in schoolwork
etc.)I think it`s too late to catch up with the rest of the class
- not having enough of something when you need it (usually
money)I was caught short last week and couldn`t pay the weekly food
- to weaken and be forced to give upThe company
finally caved in to the union`s demand for more money.
- recordThe stock prices of the company chalked up a
big gain last week.
change horses in midstream
- make new plans or choose a new leader in the middle of an
important activityThey decided to change horses in midstream and that
is probably why they lost the election.
change of heart
- change the way one feels about somethingShe had a
change of heart and decided to let her child go to the circus.
change (one`s) mind
- change one`s decisionHe changed his mind and said
that he would not go to the movie tonight.
change (one`s) tune
- make a change in one`s story,statement or
opinionsHe has begun to change his tune recently and is beginning to
agree that we need to do things a little differently.
(in) charge of something
- be responsible for an activity or group of peopleHe
is in charge of selling tickets for the school dance.
cheat on (someone)
- be unfaithful to someoneHe recently began cheating
on his wife which was the main cause of their divorce.
(have the) cheek to do something
- rudeness, impudenceShe had the cheek to tell me
that she was sick and couldn`t come to work today.
cheek by jowl
- side by side, in close intimacyThey were walking
down the stairs cheek by jowl when the alarm sounded.
chew the fat
- chatThe two men were chewing the fat on the porch
of the house.
chew out (someone)
- scold roughlyThe teacher chewed out the student for
talking in class.
- a small amount of moneyWhat he sold his car for was
chicken feed compared to the amount of money that he has in the bank.
- stop doing something because of fearHe chickened
out of jumping into the lake from the high diving board.
chickens come home to roost
- words or acts come back to cause trouble for a
personHer chickens have finally come home to roost and she must now
take responsibility for what she has done.
- join in (a song or conversation)We were having a
nice conversation until she chimed in and started complaining about everything.
- contribute or pay jointlyWe all chipped in and
bought our father a present.
chip off the old block
- person who looks or acts like one of his parentsHis
son is a chip off the old block and acts exactly like his father.
(when the) chips are down
- the time when one faces the greatest obstaclesWhen
the chips were down he went to his father for advice and received his
- stop talkingShe clammed up as soon as her boyfriend
entered the room.
clean bill of health
- the assurance that an animal or person is
healthyThe astronaut was given a clean bill of health before he began
- having no errors, past acts that are all goodHe
started off with a clean slate and has never caused any problems for the
clear the air
- calm down and remove a misunderstandingWe had a big
argument so I think it is time to clear the air.
clear the decks
- clear away things and prepare for actionLet`s clear
the decks and get everyone out of the house so we can begin work.
- solve or explain (a problem etc.)They finally
cleared up the problem that I was having with my salary at work.
- sports event or movie where the outcome is uncertain until the
very endThe playoff game was a cliffhanger and one of the most
enjoyable games of the year.
climb the wall
- be so bored that you become anxious and
frustratedShe began to climb the wall after only a few days at her
- a low-class business where people are cheatedThey
went into a clip joint near the bus station and had to pay a lot of money.
clip someone`s wings
- limit one`s activities or possibilitiesThey decided
to clip his wings and took away his expense account.
- an accident almost happens (but doesn`t happen)I
had a close call this morning when the truck almost hit me.
- come together for fighting, unite and work
togetherThey decided to close ranks and stop arguing among themselves
close to home
- near to someone`s personal feelings, wishes or
interestsWhat I said about her work habits must have hit close to
home as she seemed to become very quiet suddenly.
coast is clear
- no danger is in sight, no one can see youWhen the
coast was clear we decided to enter the building.
(bring) coals to Newcastle
- bring something of which there is plentyBringing
extra food to the farmer`s picnic was like bringing coals to Newcastle.
cog in the machine
- you are not important but only a small part of a large
organizationThe employees felt like they were only cogs in a machine
so the atmosphere at the company was not very good.
cold spell or cold snap
- a sudden short period of cold weather (usually in
winter)The cold snap lasted for five days.
- stop using drugs (heroin etc.) abruptly and without medical
aidAlthough she was able to stop using drugs cold turkey she was very
sick for awhile.
come a cropper
- failI think that he has come a cropper in the horse
competition and that is why he is sad.
- find something or meet someone by chanceI came
across an interesting story in the newspaper the other day.
- please repeat, please say that againCome again. I
didn`t hear you the first time.
- brighten up and become activeShe finally came alive
and began to enjoy the party.
- make progress, thriveThe work on our new house is
coming along very well at the moment.
come a long way
- make great progressHe has come a long way and has
learned many things about his new company.
- return to the place you are nowShe came back from
her holidays last week.
- return to one`s memoryI can`t remember clearly the
events of last year but slowly everything is coming back to me.
- become popular againRecently bell-bottom pants have
come back into fashion.
- disrupt the relationship between (two people)His
constant interfering finally came between his brother and his wife.
- get, obtain, acquireShe came by a lot of money
recently and is now enjoying her life.
- tell the truthThe president of the company was
forced to come clean and tell what really happened to the business.
- a lowering in status, income, influence or
energyHer new job was a real come-down from her last one so she was
not very happy.
come down hard on
- scold or punish severelyThe police have been coming
down very hard on drunk drivers recently.
come down to earth
- stop imagining or dreaming, think and behave as
usualHe has finally come down to earth and is preparing seriously to
look for a job.
come down with
- become sick with or catch a cold etc.Her mother
came down with a cold so was unable to attend the dinner.
- be a native of a placeSeveral of the students in
the class come from Mexico.
come full circle
- completely opposite from one`s starting pointThey
have come full circle since the new president started at the university.
come hell or high water
- no matter what happensCome hell or high water I
plan to go to the concert next week.
come in handy
- prove to be usefulI think that the small hammer
will come in handy to fix the desk.
- receive, get possession ofThey came into a lot of
money which they donated to charity.
come into fashion
- become fashionableShe says that although
bell-bottom pants have come into fashion again she will never wear them.
come into one`s own
- become to perform or work well because of good
circumstancesHe has really come into his own as a basketball player
since he changed positions.
- be successfulThe party came off without any
problems so everyone was very happy.
come on strong
- overwhelm with excessively strong language or
personalityHe came on too strong during the job interview and was
unable to get the job.
come out with
- say, make knownThe child has recently come out with
many strange and funny expressions.
- begin or learn to do or feel somethingAt first I
disliked her a lot but recently I have come to accept her.
- regain consciousnessShe came to a couple of hours
after the accident.
come to blows
- begin to fightThey almost came to blows when they
were trying to fix the car.
come to grief
- have a bad accident or disappointmentHe has
recently come to much grief because of his son`s problems with the police.
come to grips with
- struggle (successfully) with an idea or problemShe
has finally been able to come to grips with her husband`s drinking.
come to light
- be discovered, become knownIt has recently come to
light that the company has lost millions of dollars.
come to nothing
- end in failureAll his efforts to help his sister
find a job came to nothing.
come to one`s senses
- begin to think clearly or act sensiblyHe finally
came to his senses and decided to buy a cheaper car rather than borrow a lot of
money for an expensive one.
come to pass
- to happen, occurIt came to pass that the company
was never able to recover from their financial problems.
come to terms
- reach an agreementWe came to terms with the bank
and were able to buy the house.
come to the point
- be directHis speech was interesting but he never
really came to the point.
come up with
- produce or find a thought, idea or answerPlease try
to come up with a name for the new magazine.
- a friendly manner with everyoneHe has a nice common
touch and everyone likes him a lot.
- fall asleep quickly with great fatigueAs soon as we
returned from the hike I conked out in front of the TV.
cook one`s goose
- ruin one`s chancesShe really cooked her own goose
and has no chance of getting the new job.
- invent, plan and put something togetherI don`t know
what kind of plan she is cooking up now but it should be quite interesting.
cool as a cucumber
- very calm and brave, not worried or anxiousShe was
as cool as a cucumber when her canoe turned over in the river.
cool one`s heels
- be kept waiting because of another`s rudenessHe was
forced to cool his heels for an hour in the waiting room before his boss would
talk to him.
cop a plea
- plead guilty to a crime in order to get a lesser
penaltyHe was forced to cop a plea when the evidence against him
became too strong to dispute.
- avoid doing something that you were planning to
doHe copped out from our plan to go to to the beach for the day.
- someone who copies another person`s work or their
actionsThe little boy was accused of being a copycat by the other
- give unwillinglyHe finally coughed up enough money
to pay for the accident.
- depend onYou can never count on him to do anything
count one`s chickens before they`re
- assume that something will be successful before it is
certainDon`t count your chickens before they`re hatched. You`re
spending your money and you don`t even have a job yet.
- leave something out of a plan, excludePlease count
me out of your plans to go skiing for the weekend.
cover one`s tracks
- hide or not say where one has been or what one has
doneHe was trying to cover his tracks but it was easy to see where he
had recently been.
- hide something wrong or badThey tried to cover up
the facts regarding the illegal election campaign funds.
cozy up to (someone)
- try to be friendly to someoneI don`t know what he
wants but recently he has been trying to cozy up to me.
crack a joke
- tell a jokeHe was a lot of fun at the party because
he was always cracking jokes.
crack a smile
- let a smile show on one`s faceHe never cracked a
smile during the whole meeting.
crack down on
- enforce laws or rules strictlyThe school principal
decided to crack down on people running in the halls.
crack of dawn
- daybreak, early in the morningWe got up at the
crack of dawn to go fishing.
- an eccentric person with ideas that don`t make sense to
othersHe is a total crackpot and you never know what he will do next.
crack the whip
- try to make someone work hard or obey you by threatening
themWe had to crack the whip in order to get the job finished by the
(buy something) on credit
- pay for something not in cashHe decided to buy the
stereo on credit.
- burst into laughterI cracked up when he started
talking about the incident with the taxi driver.
cramp one`s style
- limit one`s talk or actionWorking in the new
section is beginning to cramp my style a little.
crash the gate
- enter without a ticket or without paying or with no
invitationMany people didn`t have a ticket for the concert so they
decided to crash the gate.
cream of the crop
- the top choiceWhen they hire new employees they
always look for the cream of the crop.
- a strong feeling of fear or disgustI get the creeps
every time that I see a dead animal.
creep up on
- crawl quietly towardsThe thief crept up on the
elderly women at the supermarket.
- a show of sorrow that is not really feltHe said
that he was very sorry but his tears were just crocodile tears.
- appear or happen unexpectedlyI will meet you early
next week unless something crops up that keeps me busy.
cross a bridge before one comes to it
- think and worry about future events or problems before they
happenWe shouldn`t worry about that problem now. We can cross that
bridge when we come to it.
cross one`s heart and hope to die
- promise that what you are saying is trueI promise
that I will pay you back the money next week. Cross my heart and hope to die.
cross one`s mind
- think of, occur to someoneIt just crossed my mind
that I would probably see him in the evening so I didn`t phone him.
cross (something) out
- eliminate by drawing a line through somethingPlease
cross out that amount and put in the correct amount.
cross to bear/carry
- something you must do or continue with even though you are
sufferingLooking after my sister`s children every day is my cross to
cry out for
- need something badly, be lackingThe new room that
he built cries out for a new set of furniture.
cry over spilt milk
- cry or complain about something that has already
happenedDon`t cry over spilt milk. You can never change the past.
- admit defeat or that one has lostHe finally had to
cry uncle when the other wrestler pinned him to the mat.
- warn of danger that is not thereHe has been crying
wolf for years about various things and now nobody believes him.
(not one`s) cup of tea
- something one enjoys, special interestIt`s not
really my cup of tea so I think I will stay home and not go to the art gallery.
curiosity killed the cat
- being too nosy and interested in other peoples business may
lead a person into troubleDon`t keep asking so many questions.
Remember curiosity killed the cat.
- flatter someone to get his help or friendshipHe has
been working hard to curry favor with the other members of the committee.
- cross or go through something instead of going
aroundWe decided to cut across the field because we were in a hurry
to get to school.
cut and dried
- completely decided, prearrangedThe decision was cut
and dried and nobody asked for our opinion.
- use fewer or use lessWe were forced to cut back on
the number of people who were invited to the party.
cut both ways
- serve both sides of an argumentWhat he said cuts
both ways and we should carefully think about it.
- economizeWe will have to cut corners in order to
save some money for our holiday.
cut down on
- use less of somethingRecently he has cut down on
his drinking in order to start his new health program.
cut down to size
- prove that someone is not as good as he thinksI was
able to cut him down to size when I criticized what he said at the meeting.
cut (someone) off
- stop someone from saying something, disconnect someone on the
phone I tried to tell him about the accident but he cut me off before
I had a chance.
cut off one`s nose to spite one`s face
- make things worse for oneself because one is angry at someone
elseHe is cutting off his nose to spite his face. Taking revenge on
his neighbor will only cause more problems for himself.
- eliminateShe decided to cut out chocolate in order
to lose weight.
cut the mustard
- reach the required standardHe doesn`t cut the
mustard and will never be able to work here.
Idiom Quizzes - C