black gold

The term black gold refers to the black colour and high value of oil.
“Much of his money is invested in black gold.”

black market

The black market refers to the illegal buying and selling of goods or currencies.
“Be careful of what you buy on the black market – it’s not always good quality.”

black mood

To be in a black mood means to be irritable, angry or even depressed.
“You’d better keep away from Bill today. He’s in a black mood.”

black out

If you black out, you lose consciousness.
“When Tony saw the needle, he blacked out.”

black sheep (of the family)

The black sheep (of the family) is one who behaves very differently or badly, and is considered disreputable by the other members of the family.
“Joe was the black sheep of the family, always getting into trouble”

black tie event

The expression ‘black tie event’ refers to a formal event at which men are required to wear a dinner jacket, or tuxedo, and a black bow tie.
“I need to know if it’s going to be a casual get-together or a black tie event.”

in the black

To say that a person or organisation is in the black means that they are financially sound, have a positive balance on their account and that they owe no money.
“Don’t worry. Our club is in the black.”

beaten black and blue

If a person is covered with bruise marks caused by being hit, they have been beaten black and blue.
“The passenger was beaten black and blue by a gang of thugs.”

(in) black and white

To say that something is in black and white means that there is written proof of it.
“It’s an obligation. It’s in black and white in your contract.”

blue around the gills

If a person looks blue around gills, (or green, or pale) they look unwell or sick.
“You should sit down. You look a bit blue around the gills.”

blue chip company

This term refers to a company with a solid reputation for the quality of its products and the stability of its growth and earnings.
“It’s usually safe to invest in a blue chip company.”

blue in the face

If you do something until you are blue in the face, you try unsuccessfully to do something for a very long time.
“I explained the situation until I was blue in the face but she wouldn’t change her mind.”

feel blue

To feel blue means to have feelings of deep sadness or depression.
“I’m going to see my grandmother. She’s feeling a bit blue at the moment.”

blue-eyed boy

A blue-eyed boy is someone’s favourite
“Alex is the director’s blue-eyed boy!”

once in a blue moon

If something occurs once in a blue moon, it happens very rarely.
“Bill has very little contact with his brother. They see each other once in a blue moon.”

out of the blue

If something happens out of the blue, it happens very unexpectedly.
“I had nearly given up hope when out of the blue I was offered a job.”

(scream) blue murder

Someone who screams blue murder shouts or complains very loudly as if something very serious has happened.
“The crowd started screaming blue murder when the football match was interrupted.”

brown as a berry

To say that someone is as brown as a berry means that they are very tanned.
“Judy came back from her holiday as brown as a berry.”

browned off

If you are browned off, you are bored, fed up or disheartened.
“Tom is browned off with his job.”

off colour

If you are off colour, you look or feel ill.
“What’s the matter with Matt? He looks a bit off colour today.”

see the colour of someone’s money

If you want to see the colour of somebody’s money, you want to be sure that the person in question has enough money to pay you before you accept to do something.
“We want to see the colour of his money before shipping the goods.”

show one’s true colours

When a person shows their true colours, their behaviour reveals their real nature, with their qualities and/or weaknesses.
“In times of crisis people show their true colours.”

golden handcuffs

The term golden handcuffs refers to a large sum of money or a generous financial arrangement granted to an executive as an incentive to stay in their job, or to ensure long-term cooperation after their departure.

golden handshake

A golden handshake is a generous sum of money given to a person when they leave a company or retire (sometimes given to encourage early retirement).

golden opportunity

A golden opportunity is a favourable time or an excellent occasion which should not be missed.
“An internship in that company would be a golden opportunity for you – it might lead to a permanent job later.”

golden parachute

A golden parachute is a clause in an executive’s employment contract stating that the executive will receive certain large benefits if their employment is terminated.

golden rule

The most important rule or principle to be remembered when doing something is called the golden rule.
“When travelling abroad, the golden rule is to respect the local customs”

green fingers

To have green fingers means to be good at gardening.
“My dad was born with green fingers. He’s great with plants.”

get or give the green light

If you give or get the green light, you give or get a signal or authorization to do something.
“We’re ready to launch the campaign as soon as we get the green light.”

green with envy

Someone who is green with envy is a person who is very envious.
“Dave will be green with envy when he sees Simon’s new sports car!”

grey area (US: gray)

To refer to something as a grey area means that it is not clear or easy to define, and is therefore difficult to deal with.
“The law concerning email is still a grey area in some countries.”

grey existance

To have a grey existence means to lead a dull, monotonous life.
“I feel sad for the old lady. She seems to have such a grey existence.”

grey matter

Grey matter refers to the brain, or the grey colour of brain tissue.
“Try using your grey matter and you might find the answer.” said the teacher.”

pink elephants

The term ‘pink elephants’ refers to hallucinations or strange imaginary things seen by people as a result of heavy drinking or the use of narcotics.
“No more drinks for me please, otherwise I’ll be seeing pink elephants!”

in the pink of health

If you are in the pink of health, you are in excellent physical condition.
“Caroline looks in the pink of health after her holiday.”

tickled pink

If you are tickled pink, you are very pleased about something.
“My dad was tickled pink when he was asked to announce the winner.”

red carpet

To roll out the red carpet, or give someone the red-carpet treatment, means to give special treatment to a visitor of importance.
“The management is going to roll out the red carpet for the visit of the Nobel prize winner.”

red flag to a bull

To say that a statement or action is like a red flag to a bull means that it is sure to make someone very angry or upset.
“Don’t mention Tom’s promotion to Mike. It would be like a red flag to a bull!”

(caught) red-handed

If a person is caught red-handed, they are caught while they are doing something wrong or illegal.
“The boy was caught red-handed stealing chocolate in the supermarket.”

red herring

A red herring is a fact or argument introduced into a discussion which draws attention away from the main point.
“Look, bureaucracy is a red herring. How to deal with the crisis is the important issue today.”

red light district

An area of a town or city where there is a concentration of sex shops, prostitution, strip clubs, etc. is known as the red light district.
“A photograph of the politician taken in a red-light district caused a scandal.”

red tape

The term red tape refers to official rules and bureaucratic paperwork that prevent things from being done quickly
“If there wasn’t so much red tape, the company would be up and running already.”

in the red

If a person or organisation is in the red, they owe money or have a negative account.
“I’m afraid I can’t lend you any money. I’m in the red myself.”

paint the town red

If you paint the town red, you go out and enjoy a lively evening in bars, night-clubs, etc.
“To celebrate the victory, the team’s supporters painted the town red.”

see red

If someone sees red, they suddenly become very angry or annoyed.
“Discrimination of any kind makes me see red.”

silver bullet

This term refers to an extremely effective or magical solution to a difficult problem.
“There is no silver bullet that will put an end to unemployment.”

silver lining

A silver lining refers to the good or pleasant side-effects of an unpleasant situation.
Every cloud has a silver lining‘ means that there is a positive or hopeful side to every unpleasant situation.”

(born with) silver spoon in your mouth

To say that someone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth means that their family is very rich and privileged.
“Alice never has to worry about money; she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.”

silver surfer

A silver surferis an elderly person who uses the internet.
“After just a few questions my grandmother was ready to join the silver surfers.”


A silver-tongued person is a smooth talker who speaks so convincingly that they manage to persuade others to do what they want.
“A silver-tongued salesman persuaded my mother to buy a new washing machine although the one she had was fine!”

shrinking violet

A person referred to as a shrinking violet is a timid or shy person.
“The witness was a shrinking violet who had difficulty expressing herself.”

white Christmas

A white Christmas is when it snows at Christmas and the ground is white.
“We haven’t had a white Christmas in twenty years.”

white elephant

If you call something a white elephant, you consider it useless although it may have cost a lot of money.
“The new cultural centre is a real white elephant. It’s so isolated that nobody goes there!”

white as a ghost/ a sheet

A person who is as white as a ghost (or a sheet) looks very pale and frightened.
“She went as white as a ghost when she saw the gun.”

white lie

If you tell a white lie, you say something which is not true in order to protect someone or to avoid hurting their feelings.
“Some parents prefer to tell their children a white lie rather than announce bad news.”


A person who is yellow-bellied is cowardly, or not at all brave.
“The bus was full of yellow-bellied passengers who disappeared when the driver was attacked by two youths.”