We’ve written a lot about common idioms on the Bespeaking blog, but it’s because they’re so ubiquitous (everywhere) in English! We use common idioms all the time so they’re great to know as a student of the language.

Here are even more English idioms you should know, even if they are a little less common:


A blessing in disguise

Has something bad ever happened to you, but it turns out later that it was actually good? For example, you were fired from your job only to find, interview for, and get your dream job? Then you being fired would be a blessing in disguise.

The next time something bad happens, don’t stress out about it too much! It may just be a blessing in disguise.

Speak of the devil

This common idiom comes from a medieval saying, “Speak of the Devil and he doth appear.” People at that time believed that if you spoke openly of the devil and evil, that bad things would happen to you.

Speak of the Devil is used when you’ve mentioned someone (or something) and they suddenly appear moments later. (Isn’t it crazy how that happens sometimes??) While nowadays most people use the idiom in a neutral way, for others, its negative legacy (association) still holds at least partially true- that means that they would only say, “Speak of the Devil! ” if someone they weren’t too fond of (like, enjoy their company) walked into the room.

Hit the sack

No, you’re not actually hitting sacks when you use this idiom. You’re probably too tired to do anything strenuous (difficult, tiring) if you’re using this phrase!

If you come home after a long day and you’re ready to hit the sack or hit the hay, you’re extremely tired. Brew yourself some chamomile tea, put your comfy pajamas on, and hit the sack in style.

Pull someone’s leg

Do you like winding someone up (teasing someone, tricking someone in a playful way)? What about being cheeky with a friend or family member? If you do, you like pulling their leg.

As long as it’s all in good fun, there is no harm in pulling people’s legs! We do it mostly with children to make them think critically about a situation or with people we feel close to as a way to make them smile.

Once in a blue moon

A blue moon describes the phenomenon (unusual, extraordinary) when a full moon appears twice in one calendar month. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, we call the second moon a “blue moon”.

From this rare occurrence, we get one of my favorite common idioms, “once in a blue moon.” It refers to something that happens very seldom. For example, if you don’t usually get ill, you may say that you only take a sick day (when you don’t go to work because you are sick) once in a blue moon.

A penny for your thoughts

If you’re particularly deep in thought and zoned out (not paying attention), someone who catches you in your daydream may ask, “a penny for your thoughts?” While they probably won’t pay you (unfortunately, not that 1 cent is a lot of money…), they are interested in what you are thinking about or what is on your mind in that moment.

Don’t be shy. Open up! Sometimes the best ideas are worked out when they are discussed with others.

So, a penny for your thoughts? Are there any other common idioms you’d like to see on the blog or do you have any favorite common idioms? Let us know in the comments below!

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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher,  yoga instructor, and loves hitting the sack at the end of a long day! 

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