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Roman Idioms

Updated on December 6, 2015

How many Rome Idioms are there?

There are lots that I have stumbled across in my career. By trade I am an English language teacher and one of the lessons I love to give most is on Idioms in the English language. In fact considering there are more than 25,000 of them with that number growing each and every day it ends up being more than one lesson. I found many that relate to Rome and many more that have it's origin from something distinctly Roman. I would love you to add more cause I'm sure there's loads to list so there's a chance for you to have your say at the bottom. Enjoy.

(Photo from WikiCommons)

The Die is Cast


Sometimes referred to as 'the die has been cast' means to have crossed the point of no return, meaning there will be an inevitable consequence for an event that has taken place.

"If it was a good thing to do or not, the die is cast and now we wait"


This phrase is closely linked with 'cross the Rubicon'. It is a Latin phrase attributed to Julius Caesar and is still in use today.

Die is the singular for dice and refers to gambling. When you throw, or cast a standard die, it will land on a number between 1 and 6. So as soon as you have thrown the die you have to wait to see the inevitable result.

Similar Idioms

Cross the Rubicon, Point of no return, pay the piper, burn one's bridges

Cross the Rubicon


To 'Cross the Rubicon' means to deliberately go past the 'point of no return' which means that something or someone has, on purpose, gone beyond a point that it is impossible turn back or return to where they started.

"When I quit my job and became a painter, I crossed the Rubicon to a poorer life"

"When I sold my house and became homeless I crossed the Rubicon into an uncertain future"

The Rubicon was a shallow River in Italy near the town of Rimini in eastern Italy (the river has been renamed Fiumicino)

In ancient Rome, generals were forbidden to bring their army into the home states of the Roman republic and the territories of Gaul and Rome were separated by the Rubicon river. If any troops crossed the Rubicon river it was considered an act of treason for which the general would be executed.

Julius Caesar was a general and was seen by the Roman senate as a threat to their control. He was asked to stand down (resign) and disband his army. He was given two choices. Do as the senate asked or cross the river and commit treason which would start a civil war.

He decided to cross the river and start a civil war that led to Julius Caesar becoming emperor of Rome in 49BC.

Apparently when started to cross he used another famous phrase 'the die is cast' and deliberately went past the 'point of no return' as if he won he would be emperor and if he lost he would die.

Similar Idioms

The die is cast, burns one's bridges, pay the piper, point of no return

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

This means 'it is polite or even to your advantage to behave similarly to the locals of where you are, for example when you go on holiday you should observe the cultures of that country'.

"Now we are in England we should drink a lot of beer, you know, when in Rome, do as the Romans do"

Fiddling While Rome Burns

It quite simply means to avoid or neglect doing the important things during a crisis and instead do something unimportant

"This business is about to go bankrupt and the board of directors is doing nothing about it. The members are fiddling while Rome burns"

Rome wasn't Built in a Day

Important things take time to achieve, so you should relax and take your time.

"I know you want to finish your degree now, but Rome wasn't built in a day"

Worth one's Salt

This means to be effective in a job or at a task, or for someone to be worth the salary that they have earnt.

"That builder who fixed my roof was amazing, he was really worth his salt"

Thumbs Up/Down

This is also a gesture as well as a phrase and Thumbs up means good, while thumbs down means bad

"I was so impressed by the movie, I gave it two thumbs up"

Fall on your Sword

To kill yourself/commit suicide or to hand in your resignation at work, probably relating to something very bad that happened.

"After the scandal in the Government, the Prime Minister decided to fall on his sword and resign with immediate effect"

Did you know all these Rome related idioms?

Do you know any other Rome related Idioms?

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