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25 Body Idioms Explained to English as a Second Language Learners

Updated on October 1, 2012
Sticking your neck out for something?  It's an idiomatic expression that means you're doing something risky for the sake of something.
Sticking your neck out for something? It's an idiomatic expression that means you're doing something risky for the sake of something. | Source

Learners of English as a Second Language or ESL often have a hard time understanding idioms or idiomatic expressions.

Oftentimes, they take these expressions literally.

Of course, many native English speakers know that idioms cannot be taken literally.

These expressions have figurative meanings that are way different from the meanings of their individual words.

These meanings come from native English speakers’ culture and experiences.

Below are just 25 idiomatic expressions about body to help ESL learners.

1. Shove/Ram/Force Something Down Someone’s Throat

To shove/ram/force something down someone’s throat means to compel a person to accept or do something. This thing, of course, is something that the person does not like at all.


The teen was upset because her mother shoved the new house rules down her throat.

2. Blood, Sweat, and Tears

A person who exerts a great deal of effort in doing something is said to give blood, sweat and tears.


Kishi put blood, sweat, and tears into building her successful career.

3. Butterflies in One’s Stomach

People who get butterflies in their stomach are nervous, worried, or uneasy.


He got butterflies in his stomach soon before he popped the big question to his long-time girlfriend.

4. Skin-Deep

Something is skin-deep if it is superficial or insincere.


The politician’s promises are skin-deep. They are empty and will not be fulfilled.

5. Jump Out of One’s Skin

The idiomatic expression jump out of one’s skin means to be surprised or shocked.


I almost jumped out of my skin when I saw the mannequin in the dark. I thought I was seeing a ghost!

6. Get Under Someone’s Skin

To get under someone’s skin is to annoy or infuriate a person.


The applicant got under the interviewer’s skin when he asked how much salary he would get for the job.

7. Look Over One’s Shoulders

To look over one’s shoulders means to be constantly worried that something awful might happen.


Asami had to look over her shoulders that midnight she walked home alone from the train station.

8. Give Someone the Cold Shoulder AND Get the Cold Shoulder from Someone

To give someone the cold shoulder means to pay no attention to a person. To get the cold shoulder from someone means to be disregarded or overlooked by another person.


The boss gave her subordinates the cold shoulder after their department project failed. Soon after getting the cold shoulder from their boss, the subordinates submitted their resignation letters.

9. Carry the Weight of the World on One’s Shoulders

A person who carries the weight of the world on his/her shoulders seems to be overwhelmed with worries.


He looked aged and gloomy, as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. It turned out that he was dealing with serious health problems.

10. Save Someone’s Neck/Skin

The idiomatic expression save someone’s neck/skin means to rescue a person from sure embarrassment or trouble.


The CEO saved his protégé’s neck by taking responsibility for the latter’s failed project.

11. Stick One’s Neck Out for Someone/ Something

The idiom stick one’s neck out for someone/something means to do something risky for another person or for the sake of a thing.


The CEO stuck his neck out for his protégé because he has long considered him his son.

Looking over your shoulders?  It's an idiom that means you're anxious.
Looking over your shoulders? It's an idiom that means you're anxious. | Source

12. Breathe Down Someone’s Neck

Somebody who breathes down someone’s neck is watching that person meticulously in order to force that person into doing something.


The boss breathed down her subordinate’s neck because she thought that he would do things better if she was around.

13. With Every Breath OR With Every Other Breath

With every breath or with every other breath means again and again.


With every other breath, she tells herself that she can make it to the top. Amazingly, her thoughts have helped her become successful.

14. Take Someone’s Breath Away

To take someone’s breath away is to impress a person to the point that he or she would hold his or her breath in admiration.


The historic place’s grandeur took my breath away.

15. In the Same Breath

In the same breath is another way of saying “at the same time.”


The company president said that he was quitting his job in the same breath he said that he has accepted an offer to head another company.

16. A Bone of Contention

A bone of contention is an issue that many people debate about.


The issue of working on night shifts is the bone of contention between the management and the union.

17. New Blood

New blood refers to people who are new in a group. They can be new employees in a company or new members in a club.


Old-timers welcomed the new blood during the party.

18. Make Someone’s Blood Boil

To make someone’s blood boil is to really anger someone.


When he mentioned that she owed him money, he made Aisa’s blood boil.

19. In Cold Blood

The idiom in cold blood means to do something without remorse or shame.


The pregnant woman was murdered in cold blood by the members of the cult.

20. One’s Flesh and Blood

One’s flesh and blood can refer to a person’s close family member.


Chisa is my flesh and blood so I take care of her very well.

21. Blue Blood

Somebody has blue blood if he or she is a member of a royal family or the aristocratic class.


The blue blood was assured of a wealthy and comfortable life from birth.

22. Bad Blood

Bad blood refers to the anger that one feels for another person. This anger is caused by past conflicts with that person.


The two rivals have much bad blood between them.

23. Hit/Touch/Strike a Raw Nerve

To hit/touch/strike a raw nerve is to anger or humiliate a person by raising a topic that the person finds to be sensitive or offensive.


The host clearly touched a raw nerve. His interviewee walked out on him.

24. Throw One’s Weight Around

A person who throws his/her weight around tries to boss around other people by giving them orders often in distasteful ways.


She threw her weight around and ordered us to do this and that all the time.

25. A Bundle of Nerves

A person is a bundle of nerves if he or she is very uneasy and panicky.


I had been a bundle of nerves until I learned how to relax and have peace of mind.

Copyright © 2012 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

Body Idioms


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    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 5 years ago

      I love this hub! I know I have been in situations in which I don't understand a few idioms and just have to smile and pretend I do to not seem awkward! :)

      Thanks for the list! Very helpful!