10 of the most common English Language idioms

Idioms can prove to be quite challenging, even for the most proficient of English learners, mostly due to their lack of literal translation, use of double meaning and often nonsensical nature. Christmas time is no exception to this as, for most English speakers, it is a time full of warm wishes, captivating carols and silly sayings!

Let’s have a look at 10 of the most common English language idioms to help you survive this Christmas period without feeling like a fish out of water…


  1. Holiday Spirit
    When people talk about getting into the holiday spirit it does not mean that they are indulging in festive alcoholic drinks (although this may also be the case!), but it describes the magical and exciting feeling that comes with the season.
    Example: In December people really start getting into the holiday spirit.
  2. On Ice

    When we refer to putting something on ice, we do not mean that we are going to leave it on a slippery and cold surface but that we are going to leave something until later.
    Example: Let’s put our plans on ice until we hear from my family

  3. Giving someone the cold shoulder 

    To give someone the cold shoulder means to make someone feel unwelcome and it is thought to come from medieval times when hosts would serve cold meats as a sign to guests that it was time to go home!
    Example: I felt very unwelcome at the party, your sister was giving me the cold shoulder the whole night.

  4. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

    Although it is never a good idea to get too close to the mouth of a horse, this is not what this idiom means! It’s simply a way of saying that you should always be grateful for a gift or opportunity, even if it’s not exactly what you wanted.
    Example: I know you didn’t really want another Christmas jumper but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, you’ll be glad when it gets cold later on.

  5. Saved by the bell

    There are many stories behind the origin of this idiom, but one of the most popular is that in the middle ages people would put a bell in the coffin when their loved ones passed away so that they could ring it in case they were still alive to be rescued. So, if someone is saved by the bell it means that they are rescued at the last minute. 
    Example:  I caught the last train home, I was really saved by the bell as I didn’t want to walk in this heavy snow.Gift Horse

  6. Be there with bells on 

    To be there with bells on does not refer to little fictional characters with bells on their feet but is used to show great enthusiasm to do something,
    Example: You’re having a party tonight? I’ll be there with bells on!

  7. To go on a wild goose chase

    We have Shakespeare to thank for this idiom as he uses it in his famous play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to refer to people doing something with little chance of success, Example: It’s Christmas Eve, going to look for the perfect gift today would be like going on a wild goose chase.

  8. Like turkeys voting for Christmas 

    As turkey is traditionally eaten on Christmas day in the UK, this idiom refers to someone agreeing to an idea that will cause them harm.
    Example: Inviting both your parents for Christmas dinner when they separated earlier this year is like turkeys voting for Christmas.

  9. Snowball effect

    Much like a snowball that gets bigger and bigger as it rolls down a hill, this idiom makes reference to when a relatively unimportant situation gets bigger and, eventually, out of control.
    Example: Your dad accidentally poured some red wine on your mum’s dress and it created a bit of a snowball effect, now they’re all arguing!

  10. The more the merrier

    The more the merrier is a happier idiom that basically means the more people there are, the more enjoyable a situation will be. 
    Example: The boss invited everyone in the office for Christmas drinks on the last day, saying “The more the merrier!”
    More the merrierDon’t you just love the English Language! Why not make it a New Years resolution for 2021 to learn English!