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3 Idioms Per Day Challenge – One Thousand Idioms and Their Meaning

Updated on February 23, 2020
Ben Reed profile image

Ben has enjoyed a life-long interest in the use of idioms and phrases in everyday language.

3 Idioms Per Day Challenge – One Thousand Idioms and Their Meaning

This article is something of a personal challenge to myself and something that I have been considering for a few months now. The intention is to publish three idioms per day throughout 2020, hopefully accumulating a minimum of one thousand idiomatic expressions during this time.

One Thousand Idioms From Three New Entries Per Day

Can or Can't this challenge be completed?
Can or Can't this challenge be completed?

The Rules of the Game

Three rules will determine the success of this personal challenge:

  1. Achieve a minimum of one thousand unique idioms by the end of 2020.
  2. In any one month, no more than two instances of 2 elapsed days without an idiom update.
  3. Idioms added to this challenge will, wherever possible, be relevant to the day, week, month, or season on which that day falls.

Rule two is an acceptance that as with any writing task, life sometimes gets in the way. It would have been possible to only state three per day, but this would have been setting myself up for failure from the outset.

Article Readability


  • New idioms added will be listed at the top of the article for ease of finding.
  • Idioms are to be added in reverse chronological order; as each week passes, they will be re-grouped in weekly or monthly subheadings.

Why Chose Idioms?

The answer is quite simple; I love them. These expressions have always held a fascination for me. But more than this, I am hoping that the challenge inspires me to find the time each day to add new content, and by the end of the year, if nothing else, I will have accumulated a resource bucket-full of idioms that can be a source of material for future articles.

Reader Poll - Can or Can't the Idiom Challenge be Completed?

What is your your verdict on whether or not the objective of this challenge can be delivered?

See results

Definition of an Idiom:

"A group of words in a fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own."

— Source: Cambridge Dictionary

One Thousand Idioms Challenge - Progress Update

An update on the idiom challenge:

  • Target Days: 52
  • Target Idiom Count: 156
  • Actual Idioms Published: 156

February 23

  • Elevator Music

Pleasant, but otherwise mundane background music. The type of music played in public places.

  • Music to my Ears

Meaning: to hear something welcoming. Often said in response to hearing good news.

  • Strike a Chord

Meaning: to suggest that something is familiar or has a connection with you.

February 22

  • To Call the Tune

To be the person making the decisions.

  • To Beat the Drum

To speak up in favour of something.

  • Chin Music

Meaningless chatter.

February 21

  • Siren Song

Said when something is seductive or appealing.

  • A Song in Your Heart

Meaning: to have an intense feeling of happiness.

  • On Song

Said of a person who is functioning exceptionally well.

February 20

  • Go for a Song

Meaning: when something has been sold too cheaply.

  • Sell for a Song

A variation on the idiom above. Meaning to sell something for far less than its real value.

  • A Swan Song

Meaning: a final performance. Often said pre-retirement.

February 19th

  • Lie Low and Sing Small

Said of someone who is attempting to remain inconspicuous.

  • Sing up a Storm

To sing with enthusiasm.

  • Sing Someone’s Praises

To speak very highly of a person.

February 18th

  • Sing off the Same Song Sheet

Meaning: when two or more people share the same view on a subject.

  • Sing a Different Song

Meaning: when a person suddenly changes their opinion on a subject.

  • Sing Like a Canary

Meaning: to inform on another person, usually to the police.

February 17

On this day in 1991, the English singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran, was born.

  • All Singing, All Dancing

Meaning: that something is very advanced. Usually said regarding a new technological innovation.

  • To Sing a Different Tune

Describes a situation where a person unexpectedly changes their behavior or opinions.

  • To Sing Someone’s Praises

To speak very highly of someone.

February 16

On this day in 1958, Ice-T, the famous musician, Rapper and actor, was born.

  • To Take the Rap

To be blamed for the misdeed of another person.

  • Rap Session

A discussion between two or more persons.

  • Rap on the Knuckles

A sudden, minor punishment, meant to be given as a warning.

These Idioms are Flooding In Now

February 15th

Today Great Britain, being battered by the second storm in as many weeks, reminds me of these idioms.

  • Be in Full Flood

This particular idiom has two potential meanings:

  1. To describe a river overflowing its banks.
  2. To describe a situation where a person is going flat out with a task.

  • Flood the Market

A situation where a product or service is available in large quantities.

  • Flood Out

To say that something is rushing from one place to another.

Love is in the Air - Idioms for Your Valentine

February 14th

Today is Valentine’s Day.

  • Love at First Sight

To say that you fell in love with a person from the moment you first saw them.

  • Those Three Little Words

A way to say “I Love You” without having to actually say the words.

  • Look at Those Lovebirds

To say that a couple are clearly in love.

Those Three Little Words

The three little words we all want to hear.
The three little words we all want to hear. | Source

February 13th

Today is World Radio Day.

  • Tuned in.

Meaning: aware or responsive to a situation

  • On the Air

To be on air – to be broadcasting.

  • A Great Face for Radio

To suggest that a person may not be the best looking person there is.

I've Landed on my Feet With These Idioms

February 12th

On this day in 1881, Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian prima Ballerina, was born.

  • Twinkle Toes

An idiom indicating that a person is light and agile on their feet.

  • To Dance on Air

To be happy and joyous.

  • To Land on One’s Feet

To have good fortune.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention - Idiom

February 11

This day sees the celebration of Inventors Day in the United States.

  • Don’t Invent Gunpowder

To suggest that you should not do anything significant.

  • To Reinvent the Wheel

To do something again from the beginning.

  • Necessity is the Mother of Invention

A pressing need often leads to creative solutions.

This May Well Put the Cat Among the Pigeons

February 10

I was reminded today by my eldest son that his racing pigeons are hatching their next brood.

  • To put the Cat Among the Pigeon’s

To do something that may cause controversy or alarm.

  • Pigeon-eyed

To be very drunk.

  • Clay Pigeon

To describe a person who is easy to deceive.

Winter Sports

February 9

Today in 2018 marked the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

  • Skate on Thin Ice

To do something risky or take a chance.

  • Call the Shots

To make the important decisions.

  • In a League of Your Own

To say that someone is better than the rest.

I Propose These Idioms

February 8

Today observes Propose Day and is a day to propose to your significant other.

  • To Propose a Toast

To raise a glass and propose a toast to a person or significant event.

  • A Match Made in Heaven

To be perfectly suited to each other.

  • He Popped the Question

To say he proposed marriage.

Idioms - As Fresh as a Daisy

February 7

Here in the UK, Daffodils are starting to bloom. These hardy little plants are often the first flowers to react to slightly warming days and carpet the verges and gardens with their bright yellow flowers. A reminder that Spring is on its way.

  • Hearts and Flowers

A phrase used to say that something is sentimental (often excessively so).

  • Flower Children

Said about the Hippies of the 1960s who often wore flowers as a way of expressing love and peace.

  • As Fresh as a Daisy

To be full of energy.

Phrases With Broad Appeal

February 6th

Today is Ronald Reagan Day in California, and it set me thinking of idioms of a political nature.

  • Front-runner

Suggests that a candidate is a likely leader in a race or a political poll.

  • To Flip Flop

A saying that indicates that a person has a sudden change of mind on a subject or viewpoint.

  • Broad Appeal

Suggests that a person holds views that appeal to a broad audience.

Earth Shattering Sayings

February 5th

On this day in AD 862, There was an earthquake in Pompeii.

  • To Quake in One’s Boots

Often said in a sarcastic tone. To shake or tremble in fear.

  • Shake Like a Leaf

An idiom meaning to tremble with fear.

  • Earth-Shattering

Surprising and significant news.

February 4th

Today marks mid-winter in the northern hemisphere.

  • The Snowball Effect

This idiom describes a situation where the impact becomes greater and more significant over time.

  • Snowed Under

To be overwhelmed by a task or work.

  • Freeze Someone Out

Meaning: to isolate someone out of a social gathering.

The Wind of Change is Blowing

February 3rd

On this day in 1960, the British Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, gave a statement that became known as the “wind of change” speech, signaling the beginning of the end of British Colonialism.

  • The Winds of Change

An idiom used to describe an event that precipitates significant change.

  • It’s an Ill Wind

A phrase used to describe a situation where someone’s misfortune has led to a favourable outcome for some else.

  • Go Like The Wind

Meaning: To move, very quickly.

It's Groundhog Day - You May Have Seen These Before

February 2nd

Today is Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada.

  • Groundhog Day

Describes an event that has happened before in exactly the same way.

  • Change the Record

To tell a person that they should stop going on about something repeatedly.

  • You Sound Like a Broken Record

To tell someone that they should stop going on and on about something.

February 1st

This day marks the observance of National Freedom Day in the United States. It celebrates the signing of a resolution by Abraham Lincoln that went on to be the 13th Amendment which outlawed slavery.

  • To Slave Over

To spend a great deal of time working on something, often without a break.

  • Slave Away

To work strenuously and continuously on something.

  • Slave Market

This idiom describes job interviews where prospective employees see many candidates.

93 Idioms and Phrases - An Absolute Pillar of Strength

January's contribution to the Idiom Challenge.

January 31st

Today at 11 pm, the United Kingdom formally leaves the European Union. These Idioms focus on the reclaimed independence that this day marks.

  • To Stand on One’s Own Two Feet

A statement that means that a person is independent and able to take care of themselves.

  • A-Pillar of Strength

To say that a person is strong and independent.

  • Freedom of Maneuver

This idiom suggests that a person can make their own decisions or to change something.

January 30th

Today marks the 77th birthday of Tony Blackburn, the English Disc Jockey who rose to fame in the 1960's when he was a DJ on the pirate station Radio Caroline.

  • Tune In

To watch or listen to a broadcast.

  • Like a Broken Record

To say that a person is repeating themselves over and over again.

  • Music to My Ears

To receive good news.

January 29th

On this day in 1880, W.C. Fields, the famous American actor, and comedian was born.

  • Comedy of Errors

A series of comical errors or blunders, leading to an absurd situation.

  • Cut the Comedy

A way to say that a person should stop fooling around.

  • Beyond a Joke

To suggest that a situation has become alarming or of great concern.

January 28th

On this day in 1916, the British Government introduced conscription in the United Kingdom.

  • Rank and File

This idiom refers to foot-soldiers and draws its origin from the marching and standing formations of soldiers.

  • Awkward Squad

Originated with inept military recruits. Today, this phrase describes a group of employees who act in a disruptive way.

  • Boots on the Ground

Meaning: to have troops in operation dealing with an issue.

January 27th

On this day in 1880, Thomas Edison had the patent confirmed for his incandescent lamp. The world would never be quite as dark again.

  • Light Bulb Moment

To suggest that you have had a sudden thought that provides a solution to a problem. It was as if a light was switched on, suddenly revealing the answer.

  • Guiding Light

Suggesting that a person is an inspiration to others.

  • A Leading Light

A person who is respected and considered necessary within a group or team.

Idioms About Australia - Sun and Scouts

Week 4.

January 26th

Today marks Australia Day. To commemorate this day, I have included three idioms of Australian nature.

  • Kangaroo Court

An unofficial court. A place where a person is unlikely to receive a fair hearing.

  • A Dingos' Breakfast

An idiom that means that you have received no breakfast at all.

  • Mad as a Cut Snake

To be crazy or out of control.

All the idioms under the sun:

January 25th

On this day in 1977, France opened its first solar plant.

  • Catch the Sun

An idiom that suggests that you are sunburned.

  • Everything Under the Sun

To say you want or have everything that there is possible to have.

  • Sun Worshipper

A person who enjoys being in the sunshine.

Dib Dib Dib - Dob Dob Dob - Do Your Best With These Scouting Idioms

January 24th

On this day in 1908, Lord Baden- Powell organised the first Boy Scout Troop in England.

Thoughts of Scouting brings back many memories of my younger days in the Cubs.

  • Scout’s Honour

An oath taken to be honest and to uphold a promise made.

  • Scout Out

To check something out to make a preliminary inspection of something or surroundings.

  • A Good Scout

To say a person is honest, trustworthy, and reliable.

We Promise To Do Our Best

The Scouts word is his Bond.
The Scouts word is his Bond.

Just Bowled Over by These Idioms

January 23rd

Here in Great Britain, the World Indoor Bowls Championship is in full swing and this set me thinking of idioms to mark the event.

  • Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

A way to express that all is good or very pleasant.

  • Bowl Over

Describes the act of colliding with something with sufficient force that it causes it to fall to the ground.

  • A Goldfish Bowl

To say that you have no privacy, that everything is in public view.

January 22nd

This day in 1998, Space Shuttle Endeavour launched to meet dock with the Russian Space Station Mir.

  • Shuttle Diplomacy

The act of going back and forwards between two disputing parties who refuse to discuss/negotiate directly with each other.

  • To Shuttle Around

To transport or move something around between places or events.

  • Endeavour to do Something

To attempt to accomplish something.

January 21st

Today marks the observance of Flag Day in the province of Quebec. This flag is also called the Fleurdelisé (the Lily-flower).

  • To Fly the Flag

To defend something or to support its cause.

  • To Raise a Red Flag

To signal danger or impending trouble.

  • To Put the Flags Out

To express pleasant surprise.

January 20th

This day in the calendar marks the cusp between two signs of the horoscope (Capricorn and Aquarius). The cusp being the imaginary line between the two astrological signs.

  • On the Cusp

To be on the verge or edge of something (usually something significant).

  • Begin to See the Light

The moment when a person begins to understand something that had previously confused them.

  • The Beginning of the End

The moment when something has begun to draw to a close.

Space Shuttle Endeavour


Week Three - Idioms About Poetry, Prayer, Forever, Nothing, Rock and Roll and Football

January 19th

Today marks the birth of famous writer and poet, Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849).

  • Poetic Licence

An idiom that suggests an outcome or verdict is of unusually just or ironic.

  • Poetry in Motion

A way to say that something is lovely to observe, perfect or very elegant.

  • Wax Poetic

To talk about something in a poetic manner.

January 18th

Today is the start of the Week of Pray for Christian Humanity.

  • To Pray Over

To utter prayers in the belief or hope that you will receive guidance or solace.

  • On a Wing and a Prayer

To perform something with what seems like little hope of success.

  • Not Have a Prayer

To say that it is inconceivable that the task at hand can succeed.

January 17th

On this day in 2007, the Doomsday Clock was set to five minutes to midnight as a result of North Korea’s nuclear testing. The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic device to demonstrate the likely-hood of a human-made catastrophic device.

  • Until Doomsday

Meaning: for a very long time. Forever.

  • Forever and a Day

Meaning: endlessly.

  • Lost and Gone Forever

Meaning: to have no chance of being recovered.

Week Three Idioms Continued

January 16th

Today is National Nothing Day in the United States. Perhaps like me, you have previously heard nothing about this day. It first came into being in 1973 and while it is not a recognized public holiday, it does have its followers who celebrate the act of sitting, relaxing, and doing nothing at all.

  • A Fuss About Nothing

To suggest that a person is making a fuss, or becoming agitated and stressed over something totally unimportant.

  • Double or Nothing

Said when doubling down on a wager.

  • Nothing Doing!

Meaning: no way. Not a chance. Under no circumstances.

January 15th

On this day in 1929, Martin Luther King Jr was born. Here are idioms that he used within his famous ”I have a dream” speech:

  • Blow off Steam

To give voice to your discontent.

  • Tied Up

To suggest that something is linked or tied to another.

  • Business as Usual

To suggest that something has returned to its normal state.

January 14th

On this day in 1973, Elvis Presley broadcast the show “Aloha from Hawaii.” The show was a live broadcast and it set the record for the most-watched program of a single entertainer in television history.

  • Elvis Has Just Left the Building

Said when a person has either about to leave or has just left a room. Usually mentioned when the person concerned has gone dramatically.

  • Let’s Rock and Roll

To say that we should get on and do something. Let’s do this.

  • The New Rock and Roll

Describes a trend that is considered cool. Often short-lived

January 13th

A plethora of sporting stars were born on this day of the year. Among them are many footballers.

  • To Move the Goalposts

Said when unfairly changing the rules mid-game or mid-task.

  • A Political Football

Meaning: that something is a long-running issue or controversial.

  • To Score an Own Goal

Suggesting that a person has spoiled an outcome for themselves. Often associated with a person or organization not understanding the tue impacts before introducing a new task or policy.

More Expressions From the Idiom Challenge

Week Two:

January 12th

  • Cold Comfort

To say that something carried out with the intention of providing solace has failed.

  • Comfort Zone

When something is within your control, or you feel comfortable with a situation, then this is often described as being within your comfort zone.

  • Too Close for Comfort

Describes a situation where an accident or unintended adverse consequence almost happened.

January 11th

Fred Archer (English jockey) born on this day in 1857. Fred, perhaps the greatest ever race rider, was Champion Jockey for 13 consecutive years. Here are three idioms, including the word “Jockey.”

  • Jockey for Position

To describe the act of getting oneself into a desired position.

  • Disc Jockey

A person who selects and plays music for a gathering of people, usually at a party or celebratory event.

  • Desk Jockey

Someone who spends the majority of their working day at a desk or in an office.

January 10th

This day in the calendar is known as Margaret Thatcher Day in the Falkland Islands. This day commemorates the Falkland Conflict, which lasted for ten weeks in 1982. At that time, Margaret Thatcher was the British Prime Minister.

  • Thatcher’s Children

An idiom used to describe the generation who grew up during Margaret Thatcher's time as Prime Minister.

  • To Gain Traction

To gather the support needed for the progression of an argument or point of view.

  • Political Expediency

Used to describe a quick action that aims to resolve a pressing or urgent problem. Often said in a negative sense as this speedy solution often fails to address the underlying issues behind an obstacle.

January 9th

The cold still persists and many of us are beginning to welcome warmer days ahead.

  • Cold Comfort

Said when something is of little consolation.

  • In Cold Blood

Meaning: an act performed without mercy or feeling.

  • To Have Cold Feet

To be timid or hesitant about doing something.

Soyuz Satellite.  Now that's totally spaced out.
Soyuz Satellite. Now that's totally spaced out.

Week 2 Idioms Continued

January 8th

On this day in 1994, Russian cosmonaut left to join space station Mir. He remained there for a record-breaking 437 days.

  • Come Back Down to Earth

Meaning: to come back to reality. To stop doing something fun and enjoyable and to turn your attention to more urgent tasks.

  • Over The Moon

To be very happy about something.

  • Space Out

To be distracted by something. Often said when someone is preoccupied or unfocused on the task in hand.

January 7th

As the new year gets underway, people return to work, children return to school, and life returns to normal, it is sometimes easy to forget that we are still under the influence of winter. Indeed, here in the UK, weather forecasts are for an impending period of snow. With this in mind, here are three winter season idioms.

  • Walking on Thin Ice

To do something risky or dangerous.

  • Tip of the Iceberg

To see only a tiny portion of the actual underlying problem.

  • Snowed Under

To be so busy (usually at work) that you don’t know where to begin.

January 6th

Joan of Arc (French Martyr and Saint) was born on this day in 1412.

  • The Patience of a Saint

To demonstrate an incredible amount of patience in difficult or trying circumstances.

Example: “The kids were screaming at each other. The dog was Barking at the din and the telephone kept ringing. But she showed the patience of a Saint, didn’t let it all get to her and eventually calmed them all down.”

  • Enough to Plague a Saint

A situation so trying that even a Saint would have their patience severely tested.

  • He is No Saint

Said of someone who attempts to show themselves full of virtue or good behaviour, but who has a sordid or discredited past.

Smart Apple: to be intelligent or clever.
Smart Apple: to be intelligent or clever.

This Idiom Challenge is a Turkey Shoot

January 5th is National Bird Day (United States).

At this time of year, the first bird that came to mind was a Turkey. From that point on, it was inevitable that today’s three idioms have a Turkey bird theme—sorry!

  • What a Turkey

An idiom used to describe an annoying person.

Example: “That guy keeps butting in on our conversation. What a turkey!”

  • Turkey Shoot

A one-sided competition.

Example: “Our team under-performed and the other side was amazing. It was like a turkey shoot.”

  • Poor as Jobs Turkey

To be very poor. A reference to the character Job in the Bible.

January 4th

This day is the birth date of Sir Isaac Newton (1643). The Mathematician and Physicist famously remembered for his discovery of gravity. I always associate this historical character with the apple that he is said to of observed falling from a tree, and which gave rise to his discovery.

  • One Smart Apple

An idiom said when describing an intelligent or smart person. Isaac Newton was undoubtedly one smart apple.

  • Left Out in the Cold

To be neglected or ignored.

Example: “Alex made a significant contribution to the team’s success. But when the time came to appoint a new manager, he was passed over without even being given an interview. They just left him out in the cold.”

  • To Freeze Someone Out

To exclude or reject a person from a group or event.

January 3rd is the day of the year most effected by the Perihelion. A term given to the day the Earth’s orbit brings us closest to the Sun.

  • A Place in The Sun

This idiom refers to something good or desirable. Usually refers to a person who has achieved a goal for which they have struggled or worked for over a prolonged period.

Example: “She committed 15 years of her life to that project before it finally paid dividends. She deserves her place in the sun.”

There is a similar idiom to the above in:

  • His/Her Day in The Sun.

Meaning that a person has reaped the reward for their efforts and that they are now getting the attention they deserve.

Example: “He was made a Knight in the New Year’s honour list. An acknowledgment well deserved. He is now having his day in the sun.”

  • Burning The Candle At Both Ends

To be wantonly extravagant. Also used to describe a person who gets up early and stays up late, often exhausting themselves.

So why the reference to a candle burning at both ends? We all know that candles can only be lit at one end. However, this was not always the case. In the book: “A Pig In A Poke,” the author describes how Tallow candles were in use as early as the 15th century. They were made from animal fat and usually had a rush wick protruding from either end. These candles could be burnt from both ends simultaneously, although this was considered extravagant, and that someone who did so would be accused of being “a candle waster.”

The new year is underway. But celebrations are still not quite over.

January 2nd

  • A Night On The Town

An idiom often used to describe a night of celebration. Scotland celebrates the New Year (Hogmanay) over two days starting on January 1st and 2nd. Scotland is the only United Kingdom nation that has a public holiday on the second day of January to facilitate the Hogmanay celebrations.

  • Year In, Year Out

A way of saying that something is repeatedly happening over a prolonged time-span.

Example: “Year in, year out, my neighbour walks his dogs past my garden at precisely 8 o’clock every morning.”

  • Day In, Day Out

This idiom has many similarities with the above expression and is a way to say that something occurs every day without interruption. This phrase has been traced back to a book published in 1828.

January is a time of new beginnings, optimism, and hope for the future.

January 1st

  • Out With The Old and In With The New

This idiom is encapsulating the emotions brought on by the ending of a year and the beginnings of a new one.

Example: “2019 was a tough year. I have decided to put that all behind me and look for new prospects and to improve my situation – out with the old, and in with the new.”

  • To Ring in the New Year

Describes the celebrations as the clock strikes midnight on the last day of December and the start of January each year.

  • To Start From Scratch

Meaning: to begin something or to start a project from nothing.

Example sentence: “This new business venture has such great potential, I have few resources with which to get it going, I am starting from scratch.”



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