List of Popular Idioms and Usages Part A

This is the first part of a series. You will find many usages and idioms and their meanings in this series of articles. Here, you will find some idioms and phrases starting with the letter A. Popular ones are focused since the obscure ones may not be useful to you or to your memory. The meaning is given with each entry, and in some of them, for clarification, I have given sample sentence and etymology.


1. A bed of roses: Any convenient and easy situation. The exam has been a bed of roses to me.

2. A bee in your bonnet: Something that preoccupies you for some time. Writing his first short story has been a bee in John’s bonnet for some time.

3. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: Used to explain the value of something reliable and simple you have than a comparable thing apparently better but distant and inaccessible.

4. A bolt from the blue: A surprise. The publication offer for his first short story was a bolt from the blue for John.

5. A bunny boiler: An obsessive and daring woman pursuing someone who cheated her.

6. About face: Change direction. This came into existence form military command in the US.

7. About turn: Change direction. Result of the same military command in the UK.

8. Aboveboard: Faultless and done legitimately. Everything has been aboveboard in the new government.

9. Absent without leave: Absent without consent. It is also abridged as AWOL.

10. Accidentally on purpose: Deliberately done, but feigning accident.

11. Ace in the hole: Something that can guarantee victory when revealed. It originated from the game of poker. E.g., Their new business idea proved to be an ace in the hole.

12. Acid test: A decisive test establishing something faultlessly. Elisa is an acid test for AIDS.

13. Act of god: Something out of Human control.

14. Action man: A strong active character. Arnold is a an action man even in his personal life.

15. Adam’s ale: Water. Came from the biblical reference that water was the only drink available to Adam.

16. Adam’s apple: The lump adult men have on throat.

17. Add fuel to fire or flames: Make things worse. Jack was adding fuel to fire when he lost his only contact device, his cell phone.

18. Add insult to injury: To make a sorrow deeper. The HR executive who told that John lacked in aptitude only added insult to his injury.

19. After someone’s blood: To plan revenge.

20. Aide-memoir: Anything that helps you memorize such as memoranda, notes, diary, etc. Taken from French.

21. Al fresco: In the open air. Taken from Italian.

22. All agog: Excited. It is taken from French.

23. All hell broke loose: Be in big trouble or confusion. I was convinced that all hell broke lose when I realized that I had forgotten the report on arriving late at the office.

24. All that glitters is not gold: Showy things may be just showy, not valuable.

25. All’s well that ends well: Something is good if it ends in good. Comes from Shakespeare play of the same name.

26. Along for the ride: Without lively participation.

27. Ancient of days: God almighty. Use with the definite article always.

28. Angel of death: Cause of ruin or death.

29. Annus horibilis: A horrible year. Its counterpart for a prosperous year is ‘annus mirabilis.’ Both derived from Latin.

30. Apology for: The worst example possible for something. He was an apology for comedy actors.

31. Apple pie order: In very good condition.

32. As bald as a coot: Completely bald.

33. As busy as a bee: Very busy. Arrived to usage from Geoffrey Chauser’s Canterbury Tales.

34. As cool as cucumber: Very calm and composed.

35. As dead as a dodo: Unequivocally dead. Dodo is an extinct bird.

36. As early as possible: Command to do something quickly. Abridged as ASAP.

37. As easy as pie: very easy.

38. As mad as March hare: Completely mad. Hares behave excitedly during March when they rut.

39. As the case may be: According to circumstances. “Action will be taken as the case may be,” assured the lieutenant.

40. As the crow flies: Going straight. This describes the shortest possible route between two points.

41. As thick as thieves: Very friendly.

42. At his wits’ end: Very frustrated and clueless.

43. Aunt Sally: Somebody blamed for everything. Almost the same meaning as fall guy or scapegoat.

There are more. You can find some more of the idioms in UsingEnglish.com. Actually, so few of the idioms and usages have been described here. At a possible near future, the list will get updated with some more of the idioms in the popular usage in English today. If you have any doubts or clarifications required on any of the described idioms or need information on any new ones, please feel free to comment your doubts here. Check the blog back for more of the similar posts.

Check out some related posts:


1. Some English Errors

2. Some Punctuation Tips, Just for You

3. The Comma Rules of Punctuation

4. Importance of Grammar

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

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