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A photograph literally representing the English idiom "to bury one’s head in the sand", idiomatically meaning to "ignore unpleasant realities".

An idiom (/ɪdɪəm/), also known as an idiomatic expression (/ɪdɪəmætɪk ekspreʃən/), is a figure pf speech consisting of phrase whose meaning cannot be deduced from a literal understanding of the words involved.

Translation of idioms can present special challenge, as literal translation often fails.

They can be mythological/Biblical, literary, military, nautical, or sporting, etc., in origin and many come directly or indirectly from Ancient Greek or Latin:

  • We have to find his Achilles heel;
  • It’s in the lap of the gods;
  • The die is cast = jacta alea est;

i. Idioms can be very formal or very informal:

  • It’s raining cats and dogs!
  • She was over the moon at the news!;
  • We’ll have to throw in the towel;
  • He just wanted to be a sleeping partner;
  • One for the pot;
  • Let’s have a quick one / have one for the road;
  • His name rings a bell!

ii. Idiomatic proverbs or proverbial idioms provide a special challenge to learners.

If idioms are frequently used, they become clichés.

For teachers who are interested in creating themed lists of idioms in class, a list of idioms associated with a particular subject can be created by using The free dictionary.

Further reading[edit | edit source]