There are many English idioms connected with parts of the body. Here are some of the more common ones.
break someone’s heart = upset someone greatly: “She broke his heart when she left him.”
learn something off by heart = learn something completely: “I’ve learnt this off by heart – I’m bound to pass the exam!”
you’re all heart! = when you tell someone sarcastically how kind they are: “Thanks for giving me all this work – you’re all heart!”
hand on heart = promise with sincerity: “Hand on heart, it’s the honest truth.”
have the heart = be able to give someone bad news: “I didn’t have the heart to tell him he’d failed.”
a heart of gold = be a very kind person: “She’ll always help – she has a heart of gold.”
hand over = pass on something: “Before I leave, I have to hand over all my work.”
get out of hand = become impossible to manage: “You’ll have to deal with this problem before it gets out of hand.”
know something like the back of your hand = know something extremely well: “He knows London like the back of his hand.”
have your hands full = be very busy: “I can’t do anything about it now – my hands are full.”
in hand = under control: “The company report is in hand – you’ll have it next week.”
live hand to mouth = only earn enough money for food: “After he lost his job, he had to live hand to mouth for a couple of months.”
give someone a hand = help someone: “He always gives me a hand with the housework.”
have someone in the palm of your hand = have influence over someone: “He’s got her in the palm of his hand.”
be caught red-handed = be caught doing something bad: “The children were caught red-handed picking the flowers.”
butter fingers = be clumsy and drop things: “You’ve dropped my vase! Butter fingers!”
keep your fingers crossed = wish something for someone: “Keep your fingers crossed for me tomorrow – it’s my job interview.”
under your thumb = control someone: “She’s got him under her thumb – he won’t do anything without asking her first.”
twist someone’s arm = persuade someone: “I didn’t want to go out, but he twisted my arm.”
cost an arm and a leg = cost a fortune: “The car cost an arm and a leg – it’ll take them ages to pay back the loan.”
Feet and legs
put your foot in it = say or do something you shouldn’t: “I think I’ve put my foot in it – I told her about the party.”
have itchy feet = not able to settle down in one place: “She’s going off travelling again – she’s got really itchy feet.”
keep someone on their toes = keep someone alert: “Our teacher keeps us on our toes – we have to pay attention in class.”
stand on your own two feet = be independent: “I don’t need your help – I can stand on my own two feet.”
have two left feet = be awkward or clumsy: “He’s a terrible dancer – he’s got two left feet!”
walk on eggshells = be careful about what you say or do: “She’s in a terrible mood – you’ll have to walk on eggshells around her.”
foot the bill = pay the bill: “He had to foot the bill for the party.”
go behind someone’s back = do something secretly: “She went behind my back and told my boss I wanted a new job.”
back off = stop trying to force someone to do something: “Will you just back off and let me decide what I should do!”
back down = accept defeat: “He finally backed down and let me buy a pet rabbit.”
back someone up = support someone: “Thank you for backing me up in the meeting.”
put your back into something = work very hard at something: “She put her back into it and got good results.”
stab someone in the back = betray someone: “Be careful of him – he’ll stab you in the back if it gets him what he wants.”
Idioms that use part of the face
face-to-face = in person: “We need to arrange a face-to-face meeting.”
face the music = take responsibility for a difficult situation: “We’ve got to face the music – this company is going under.”
face up to responsibilities = accept responsibilities: “You need to face up to your responsibilities – it’s time you got a job and started to save money.”
be two-faced = be hypocritical: “I can’t believe she told you that she likes Harry – she told me she hates him! She’s so two-faced!”
be all ears = listen attentively: “So, you’ve got an idea. I’m all ears.”
have an ear for = be good at music: “He’s doing well in his piano lessons – he’s definitely got an ear for music.”
keep your ears to the ground = listen out for something: “I’ll keep my ears to the ground – the next time I hear someone wants to rent out a flat, I’ll let you know.”
up to your ears in something = be extremely busy: “I’m sorry I can’t come out this weekend – I’m up to my ears in work.”
keep your eyes peeled = watch extremely attentively: “Keep your eyes peeled for him – he’s in the crowd somewhere.”
keep an eye out for = watch for someone or something: “Keep an eye out for the next turning on the left.”
eye up = look at someone because you think they look nice: “Whenever she goes to a club, she always gets eyed up by older men.”
have your eye on something / someone = want someone or something: “I’ve got my eye on a new computer.”
have eyes in the back of your head = warn someone that you can see exactly what they are doing: “Don’t make those signs at me – I’ve got eyes in the back of my head!”
see eye to eye on something = agree with someone: “Those two don’t always see eye to eye – they often argue.”
Other parts of the face
stick your nose in = get involved in something or someone else’s business: “I wish she wouldn’t stick her nose in like that – I really don’t want anyone else’s help.”
on the tip of my tongue = when you’ve forgotten the word you want to say: “What’s the word for it – it’s on the tip of my tongue…”
tongue-tied = when you can’t say anything because you feel shy: “She’s tongue-tied when she has to speak in public.”
by the skin of my teeth = just manage to do something: “He got out of the burning building by the skin of his teeth.”
cut your teeth on something = where you learn to do something: “He’s the best man to run the company – he cut his teeth in the Production Department and ran it successfully for years.”
teething problems = start-up problems with a new project: “We’re having teething problems with our distribution systems.”
have a cheek = be disrespectful: “He’s got a cheek saying you never help him – I saw you writing his report for him!”
a frog in my throat = when your throat tickles and makes you cough: “Sorry I can’t stop coughing – I’ve got a frog in my throat.”
stick your neck out = do or say something that might have negative results: “I’m going to stick my neck out and say what I think.”
be up to your neck in = be in a difficult situation: “He’s up to his neck in debt.”
breathe down someone’s neck = check constantly what someone else is doing: “I can’t write this letter with you breathing down my neck!”
Idioms that use parts of the head
head to head = in a race, when two contestants are doing as well as each other: “They are head to head in the polls.”
off the top of your head = when you give an answer to something without having the time to reflect: “What’s our market strategy?” “Well, off the top of my head, I can suggest…”
have a good head for = be good at something: “He’s an accountant and he has a good head for figures.”
have your head in the clouds = dream: “He’s always got his head in the clouds – he makes all these impossible plans.”
go over your head = not understand something: “The lesson went over my head – I didn’t understand a word of it.”
keep your head = stay calm: “He always keeps his head in a crisis.”
be head over heels in love = be completely in love: “You can see that he’s head over heels in love with her.”
keep your head above water = manage to survive financially: “Despite the recession, they kept their heads above water.”
use your head = think about something to solve a problem: “It’s quite simple – just use your head!”
English idioms using ‘mind’
keep / bear something in mind = remember something for future use: “I need a job in computers.” “I’ll bear it in mind – we often have vacancies for people with your skills.”
make up your mind = decide: “I can’t make up my mind about the job offer.”
be in two minds about something = unable to decide: “I’m in two minds about buying a new car.”
be out of your mind = be really worried: “Where have you been? I’ve been out of my mind with worry.”
have a mind of your own = not be influenced by other people: “Don’t tell me what to do! I’ve got a mind of my own, you know.”
give someone a piece of your mind = tell someone how angry you are with them: “I’m going to give him a piece of my mind. He knows I cooked dinner for him and now he’s an hour late.”
Body Idioms Quiz
Choose the correct answer.
- If you stick your tongue out, you show someone that you don't respect what they say. It's seen as a childish gesture!
- If you live hand to mouth, you have just enough money to survive.
- If you give someone a hand, you help them. We often shake hands with people we don't know when we meet them in business or formal situations.
- When you stretch your legs, you get up and walk after sitting down for a long period of time.
- If you hold your head up high, you are proud.
- If you drag your feet, you go slow or delay something, because you aren't interested in doing it.
- If you shoulder a responsibility or burden, you take care of it.
- If you put your back into something, you make a great effort to do it well.
- If you twist someone's arm, you persuade them to do something. (If you pull someone's leg, you tease them.)
- If you shoot yourself in the foot, you do something which makes the situation worse for you.