Know Your Idioms Challenge

In our “Know Your Idioms Challenge,” we’ll put your understanding of common expressions to the test.

First things first, what is an idiom? The definition of an idiom is an expression or group of words having meaning beyond what one could deduce from the meaning of the single words.

It seems that many idioms are passed on from one generation to the next in conversation and in readings. A familiarity with idioms meanings gives one a leg up in reading comprehension and in understanding speakers who make use of these types of expressions.

To make things interesting, we’ve placed these idioms in little riddles for you to solve. Each card has three questions and there are nine cards. So, a perfect score is 27. Good luck.

Take the “Know Your Idioms Challenge”

See how well you do by tracking your score on each card — look for the Scoring Key below the last card’s answers

Learn popular idioms

Idiomatic sayings

1.) Sam has a habit of “beating around the __________,” which means he avoids saying what he means, usually because it is an uncomfortable subject.

2.) “Every __________ has a silver lining.” This means that something positive can be found even in bad times.

3.) To “get __________ out of shape” means to be upset.

ANSWERS: 1.) bush. 2.) cloud. 3.) bent.

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Idiomatic expressions

A picture is worth a thousand words and more

4.) “Wrap your __________ around something” means to understand something through intense study.

5.) “A __________ is worth a thousand words” means that it’s more impactful to show than to tell.

6.) “By the __________ of your teeth” means just barely.

ANSWERS: 4.) head. 5.) picture. 6.) skin.

Common phrases and common meanings

Don't cry over spilt milk and more

7.) “Don’t cry over spilt __________”  means there no use in complaining over something that has already happened.

8.) To “give someone the cold __________” means to ignore them completely.

9.) To “hit the __________ on the head” means to get something exactly right.

ANSWERS: 7.) milk. 8.) shoulder. 9.) nail.

Idioms for kids

Well-known expressions

10.) To “kill two __________ with one stone” means to accomplish two tasks with one action.

11.) “Once in a __________ moon” means rarely.

12.) “The __________ bird gets the worm” means folks who arrive first are rewarded.

ANSWERS: 10.) birds. 11.) blue. 12.) early.

The ultimate idioms quiz

Know your idioms challenge — common phrases

13.) “A __________ in time saves nine” means that fixing a problem when it first occurs saves it from being a bigger problem.

14.) “An apple a day keeps the __________ away” means that apples are good for you.

15.) “It takes two to __________” means that one person alone isn’t responsible – both people were involved. Hint: It’s also a type of dance.

ANSWERS: 13.) stitch. 14.) doctor. 15.) tango.

Know Your Idioms Challenge — Four cards to go

Idiom examples

Complete the idiom

16.) “Make __________ while the sun shines” refers to take advantage of a good time to work.
ANSWER: hay

17.) “That __________ has sailed” means it’s too late.
ANSWER: ship

18.) “Caught between a __________ and a hard place” means you’re faced with two unappealing choices.
ANSWER: rock

ANSWERS: 16.) hay. 17.) ship. 18.) rock.

Popular sayings riddles

Good know your idioms challenge riddles

19.) “Fit as a __________” means to be in good health.

20.) To “steal someone’s __________” means you’re trying to take credit for their achievement.

21.) “Through thick and __________” means through good times and bad.

ANSWERS: 19.) fiddle. 20.) thunder. 21.) thin.

Do you know your idioms challenge?

Idioms quiz

22.) If “you’re __________ someone’s leg” it means you’re kidding with them.

23.) To be “a __________ out of water” means to be out of place in unfamiliar territory.

24.) “In the __________ of time” means you just barely made it before it was too late.

ANSWERS: 22.) pulling. 23.) fish. 24.) nick.

Popular idioms

Complete the idiom

25.) To “let the __________ fall where they may,” means to let something happen – good or bad.

26.) To “put your __________ in your mouth,” means to say something you shouldn’t have.

27.) To “stick your __________ into something” means to interfere where you don’t belong.

ANSWERS: 25.) chips. 26.) foot. 27.) nose.

Scoring key

22 – 27 Correct — (A Grade) You’re a chip off the old block. Well done, my friend.

16 – 21 Correct — (B Grade) Not for a second, do we not think you’ll be making the A grade soon.

< 16 Correct — (Needs Improvement) Keep your nose to the grindstone and your scores will show that you did.

Frequently asked questions — FAQS about idioms

What are some popular idioms?

“A dime a dozen” means something common. “Easy does it” suggests slowing down, and “going back to the drawing board,” means starting over.

How many idioms are there in the English language?

The English language is fluid and expands over time, so the number of idioms continues to grow. Experts have estimated there are some 25,000 idioms in the English language.

What makes a good idiom?

The best idioms are short, e.g. “zip your lip,” call to mind a visual image, e.g. “when pigs fly”, and are memorable, e.g. “piece of cake.”

— — —

Hands down, we hope that’s the best idiom challenge you’ve ever taken. Now, go forth in your reading and talks to learn more idioms that authors and speakers use. Then, the real fun is trying to put them to your own use.

— Greg Johnson and Mike O’Halloran

Greg and Mike are the co-founders of ListCaboodle.

Etcetera

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