acquired taste

Something that you dislike when you first taste it, but begin to like after trying it several times, is an acquired taste.
“Tony has always loved olives, but for me it was an acquired taste.”

apple of your eye

A person, usually a child, who is the apple of your eye is one for whom you have great affection.
“My grandson is the apple of my eye.

apple-pie order

If something is in apple-pie order, it is well organised or in perfect order.
“They made sure the house was in apple-pie order before their parents arrived back home.”

go bananas

If someone becomes very emotional and starts behaving in a crazy way, they go bananas.
“If you announce that you are going to drop out of school, your parents will go bananas!”

full of beans

A person who is full of beans is lively, healthy and active.
“He may be getting old but he’s still full of beans.”

spill the beans

If you spill the beans, you reveal a secret or talk about something private.
“Come on!  Spill the beans!  What did he say?”

bread and butter

Your bread and butter is a job or activity that is your main source of income and provides you with enough money to cover your basic needs.
“I’m a writer but teaching is my bread and butter.”

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.”

that takes the biscuit!

This expression refers to something very annoying or irritating.
“After waiting for an hour, we were told there no seats left. That took the biscuit!”

know which side your bread is buttered

If you know which side your bread is buttered, you know where your interests lie or what will be to your advantage.
“Jack never argues with his father-in-law. He knows which side his bread is buttered.”

take the bread out of somebody’s mouth

If you take the bread out of somebody’s mouth, you take away their means of earning a living.
“The decision to ban street vendors took the bread out of the mouths of many people.”

butter somebody up

When you butter someone up, you flatter them or you are very nice to them, especially if you want to obtain something.
“He was so keen to get the job that he spent his time buttering up the boss.”

butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth

If you say that someone looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth, you mean that they look completely innocent, but that they are capable of doing unpleasant things.
“The boy who stole the purse looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.”

(a) piece of cake

To refer to something as a piece of cake means that you consider it to be very easy.
“The English test was a piece of cake!”

(a) slice/share of the cake (or pie)

When people feel entitled to a share of the profits or benefits, they want a (larger) slice of the cake.
“Since profits are higher this year, the workers feel they deserve a bigger slice of the cake.”

have your cake and eat it

To say that someone wants to have their cake and eat it means that they want the advantages of two alternative situations when only one is possible.
“Jack enjoys his comfort but is always complaining about the cost of things. He can’t have his cake and eat it.

icing on the cake

If something is referred to as icing on the cake, it is an extra benefit that makes a good situation even better.
“Good news! I get the job … and the icing on the cake is that I get a company car too!”

slice/share of the cake (or pie)

When people feel entitled to a share of the profits or benefits, they want a (larger) slice of the cake.
“Since profits are higher this year, the workers feel they deserve a bigger slice of the cake.”

cake not worth the candle

To say that the cake is not worth the candle means that the advantages to be gained from doing something are not worth the effort involved.
“He recorded an album but sold very few copies; the cake wasn’t worth the candle.”

sell like hot cakes

Things that sell like hot cakes sell quickly or in large quantities.
“Her books always sell like hot cakes.”

carrot and stick approach

If you use a carrot-and-stick approach, you use the promise of reward and the threat of punishment to make someone work harder.
“Some parents use a carrot-and-stick approach to obtain good results from their children.”

champagne taste on a beer budget

Someone who likes expensive things that they cannot afford has champagne taste on a beer budget.
“Eve borrows money to buy expensive designer clothes – champagne taste on a beer budget!”

big cheese

This expression refers to a person who has a lot of power and influence in an organisation.
“Tom’s father is a big cheese in the oil industry.”

like chalk and cheese / as different as chalk and cheese

Two people who are like, or as different as, chalk and cheese are completely different from each other.
“I’m surprised they get on so well. They’re as different as chalk and cheese.”

cheesed off

If someone is cheesed off with something, they are annoyed, bored or frustrated.
“Jenny is absolutely cheesed off with her job.”

cherry pick

When you cherry pick, you choose something with great care and select only the best.
“Top university graduates are often cherry-picked by large companies.”

get a second bite/two bites at the cherry

This expression means that you get a second opportunity to do or try something.
“He was eliminated in the semi-finals, but he’ll get a second bite at the cherry next year.”

life is just a bowl of cherries

This expression means that life is pleasant and uncomplicated.
(This phrase is often used ironically to mean the opposite.)
“Now that he’s retired, my grandfather says ‘life is just a bowl of cherries‘.”

old chestnut

A story, joke or an idea that has been repeated so often that it has lost its novelty is referred to as an ‘old chestnut’.
“The story about his boat capsizing has become an old chestnut!”

(as) useful as a chocolate teapot

Something which is of no practical use at all is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
“When there are no roads, a car is about as useful as a chocolate teapot!”

that’s the way the cookie crumbles

To say ‘that’s the way the cookie crumbles’ means that is the way things are and nothing can be done about it – that’s life!

(a) sharp cookie

Someone who is not easily fooled or deceived is a sharp cookie.
“You can’t fool my grandmother. She’s a sharp cookie!”

(a) tough cookie

A person who is a tough cookie is someone with a strong and determined character who is not easily intimidated, discouraged or defeated.
“I’m not worried about Jason’s future – he’s a tough cookie!”

cream rises to the top

Someone or something exceptionally good will eventually attract attention or stand out from the rest, just as cream rises to the top in coffee or tea.
“I knew you’d succeed. As the saying goes: ‘cream rises to the top‘!”

(as) cool as a cucumber

A person who is as cool as a cucumber is not anxious, but relaxed and non-emotional.
“The bride’s mother stayed as cool as a cucumber all through the ceremony.”

eat like a bird

A person who eats very little or only small portions of food is said to eat like a bird.
“No wonder she’s so thin. She eats like a bird!”

eat you out of house and home

This is a humorous way of saying that someone is eating large quantities of your food.
“I stock up with food when my teenage sons invite their friends over. They’d eat you out of house and home!”

grab a bite to eat

If you grab a bite to eat, you get something to eat quickly.
“We should have time to grab a bite to eat before the show.”

egg someone on

If you egg someone on, you urge or strongly encourage them to do something.
“Anne didn’t really want to learn to drive but her children kept egging her on.”

(a) bad egg

Someone who is a bad egg is an untrustworthy person often involved in trouble whose company should be avoided.
“I don’t want my son to be friends with Bobby Smith. Bobby’s a bad egg!”

(a) nest egg

If you have a nest egg, you have a reserve of money which you put aside for future needs.
“Our parents consider the money from the sale of their house as a nest egg for their old age.”

can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs

This expression means that it is impossible to make important changes without causing some unpleasant effects.
“Some people will lose their jobs after the merger, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

have all your eggs in one basket

If you have all your eggs in one basket, you depend on one plan or one source of income.
“If you invest your savings in one bank, you’ll have all your eggs in one basket.”

over-egg the pudding

If you try to improve something excessively by adding unnecessary details, you over-egg the pudding.
“Keep your report simple. Don’t over-egg the pudding.”

food for thought

If something give you food for thought, it makes you think seriously about a particular subject.
“The documentary on poverty in the world really gave me food for thought.”

bear fruit

If something bears fruit, it produces positive or successful results.
“After years of hard work, his research finally began to bear fruit.”

low-hanging fruit

To refer to something as a low-hanging fruit means that it is a target that can be easily reached, or a goal that can be accomplished with a minimum of effort.
“Teenagers are low-hanging fruit for fashionable mobile devices.”

(as) nutty as a fruitcake

Someone who is (as) nutty as a fruitcake is insane or crazy.
“Don’t pay attention to what the old man says; he’s as nutty as a fruitcake!”

play gooseberry

If you play gooseberry, you join or accompany two people who have a romantic relationship and want to be alone.
“They invited me to join them but I didn’t want to play gooseberry.”

sour grapes

To say that someone’s attitude is ‘sour grapes’ means that they are pretending that something they cannot have is of no importance.
“When she didn’t get the job she said she wasn’t interested in it anyway, but that’s just sour grapes!”

walk and chew gum

If you can walk and chew gum (at the same time), you are able to do more than one thing at a time. (Usually used in the negative to mean ‘incompetent’.)
“Why did you hire that guy? He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time!”

icing on the cake

If something is referred to as icing on the cake, it is an extra benefit that makes a good situation even better.
“Good news! I get the job … and the icing on the cake is that I get a company car too!”

money for jam

A very easy way of earning money is called money for jam.
“All you’ve got to do is hand out brochures. It’s money for jam!”

buy a lemon

If you buy something, especially a car, that is defective, unsatisfactory, constantly gives problems or stops running after a short time, you buy a lemon.
“The car I bought was a real lemon. It broke down two weeks later.”

(a) square meal

When people talk about a square meal, they mean a substantial and satisfying meal.
“I don’t need a fancy restaurant, just a place where I can get a square meal.”

(the) milk of human kindness

Someone who has, or is full of, the milk of human kindness, is naturally kind and compassionate to others.
“She’s a wonderful person – full of the milk of human kindness.”

no use crying over spilt milk

This expression means that it is useless to complain or have regrets about something that is done and cannot be changed.
“Sometimes I regret not accepting the offer, but it’s no use crying over spilt milk.”

make mincemeat of (someone or something)

If you make mincemeat of someone or something, you completely and utterly defeat or destroy them.
“A good lawyer would make mincemeat of your rival’s accusations.”

(as) keen as mustard

If someone is as keen as mustard, they are very eager, enthusiastic or motivated.
“We should ask Emily to join the team. She’s as keen as mustard.”

(use a) sledgehammer to crack a nut

Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut means using disproportionate force to solve a problem.
“He called the police because his neighbour was rude? – now that’s using a sledgehammer to crack a nut!”

go nuts

To say that a person has gone nuts means that they have become completely foolish, eccentric or mad.
“I think the old lady has gone nuts! It’s very hot today and she’s wearing a fur coat!”

olive branch

If a person or organisation holds out an olive branch to another, they show that they want to end a disagreement and make peace.
“The protesters finally accepted the olive branch extended to them.”

can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs

This expression means that it is impossible to make important changes without causing some unpleasant effects.
“Some people will lose their jobs after the merger, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

paid peanuts

Ifyou are paid peanuts, you have a very low salary.
“Jenny has a very interesting job, but she’s paid peanuts.”

go pear-shaped

If a plan or project goes pear-shaped, it either goes wrong or it produces an undesirable result.
“Jane organised a treasure hunt in the park for the kids but it all went pear-shaped because of the rain.”

like two peas in a pod

To say that two people are like two peas in a pod means that they are very similar in appearance.
“It wasn’t difficult to identify the brothers – they were like two peas in a pod.”

in a pickle

If you are in a pickle, you are in a difficult situation and need help.
“My car won’t start and the trains are on strike today, so I’m in a real pickle!”

pie in the sky

If an idea or project is pie in the sky, it is completely unrealistic or unlikely to be achieved.
“The promise of low-cost housing for everyone turned out to be pie in the sky.”

(as) easy as pie

If something is easy as pie, it is very easy to do.
“How did the English test go?” “No problem – it was easy as pie.”

eat humble pie

If you eat humble pie, you are forced to admit that you were wrong and make an apology.
“After openly finding fault with Bill’s work, Fred had to eat humble pie when Bill was elected ‘salesman of the year’.”


Someone who is pie-eyed is completely drunk.
“He had never taken an alcoholic drink so after one beer the boy was pie-eyed.”

(a) plum job

A desirable position which is well-paid and considered relatively easy is called a plum job.
“Ideally he’d like to find himself a plum job in New York.”

(a) plum in your mouth

Someone who speaks with an upper-class accent is said to have a plum in their mouth.
“He speaks just like an aristocrat – with a plum in his mouth!”

couch potato

If you refer to someone as a couch potato, you criticize them for spending a lot of time sitting and watching television.
“Don’t be such a couch potato. There are better ways of spending your time than in front of the TV.”

(a) hot potato

A hot potato is a very sensitive and controversial matter which is difficult to deal with.
“The new Prime Minister hasn’t been confronted with any hot potatoes yet.”

drop like a hot potato

If you drop someone or something like a hot potato, you leave them or immediately stop associating with them.
“As soon as the unflattering article was published, she dropped him like a hot potato.”

small potatoes

Something referred to as small potatoes is considered to be unimportant or insignificant.
“The author’s first publication was considered small potatoes but her new book has lead to a change of opinion.”

proof of the pudding (is in the eating)

This expression means that something new can only be judged after it has been tested.
“I’m going to try out my new DVD player. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as we all know!”

back to the salt mines

Saying that you have to go back to the sale mines is a humorous way of talking about returning to work, usually with some reluctance.
“We get two days off at Christmas and then it’s back to the salt mines!”

take with a grain of salt

To say that certain information should be taken with a grain of salt means that you doubt its accuracy.
“I hear the tuition fees are going to be reduced, but that should be taken with a grain of salt.”

worth one’s salt

Someone who deserves respect because they do their job well is a person who is worth their salt.
“Any inspector worth their salt would have checked the papers carefully.”

from soup to nuts

If you do somethingfrom soup to nuts, you do it all the way through, from the beginning to the end (like from the first to the last course of a meal).
“She told us the whole story, from soup to nuts.”

of the first water

Something that isof the first water is of the finest or most exceptional quality (like being compared to a diamond).
“The violinist gave a performance that was of the first water.”

(not) hold water

If an explanation or argument does not hold water, it does not stand up to critical examination and can be shown to be unfounded.
“The reasons given by the government for the new measures just do not hold water.”

in hot water

To say that somebody is in hot water means that they have done something wrong and people are angry with them.
“Simon has been in hot water since his boss discovered that he had been using the internet for personal purposes.”

water down

If you water down something such as a report, declaration or proposal, you try to make it weaker or less likely to cause anger.
“When announcing the rejection of the proposal, he tried to water down the committee’s negative comments.”

(like) water off a duck’s back

Criticism or comments which have no effect on someone is referred to as being ”like water off a duck’s back‘.
“He’s been warned of the dangers of smoking but it’s like water off a duck’s back.”

water under the bridge

If something difficult or unpleasant took place in the past but is no longer important, it is referred to as water under the bridge.
“They had a serious disagreement in the past, but that’s water under the bridge today.”

make your mouth water

Food can make your mouth water when it looks and smells extremely good.
“That delicious smell from the kitchen is making my mouth water.”

test the waters(s)

If you test the water(s), you try to find out how acceptable or successful something is before becoming involved in it.
“You should go to a gym class to test the water before enrolling.”

tread water

If you are treading water, your unsatisfactory situation remains stationary in spite of your efforts, with no sign of any progress.
“I’ve been treading water for the past year hoping to find a better job.”

(can’t) put new wine in old bottles

This expression means that you should not try to combine new concepts or innovations with an old or long-established framework or system.
“You’ll never get that program to work on your father’s old computer. You can’t put new wine in old bottles!”