Think You Know These Common Phrases? Prove It!



By: Olivia Cantor

6 Min Quiz

Image: Hiroshi Watanabe / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Have you ever heard of idiomatic expressions? How about popular sayings? What about turn of phrase? All of these terms pertain to common phrases. Do you know at least some of them?

Sayings and idioms are sentences or phrases that often carry a lesson in their statement. They could have originated in a literal sense, but they evolved into having a more philosophical sense. 

There are also phrases that have survived through time, yet their meaning stays roughly the same. An example of this is the phrase "hit the sack" or "hit the hay," both referring to the act of going to sleep or going to bed. In olden times, people slept in mattresses that were stuffed with hay. Some people also used sacks for pillows or cushions that were also stuffed with hay. So to say "hit the sack/hay" has the same meaning now, even though the quality of our beds has changed.

Idiomatic expressions are quite the opposite in construction. These phrases often sound nonsensical if you take them at face value. They stand for an idea whose meaning is far from the words used to express it. For example, "It's raining cats and dogs" can be bewildering if taken literally. The phrase is merely another way of saying, "It's raining very hard."

We now invite you to let your hair down and have a barrel of laughs with this quiz. Let's go!

When you're trying not to be too harsh on someone, what are you "cutting" for them?

"Cut someone some slack" is a phrase that means you're not being too critical, hard, harsh, or strict with someone. There's also a good reason why you're affording them leeway; they could be experiencing problems or undergoing situations that affect their judgment or actions.


If you need to do something difficult and you may not want to do it, it is said that you are "biting" what?

We say "bite the bullet" if there's something inevitable that you need to do, undergo, or face, even if you know that it's difficult or hard to do so. Writer Rudyard Kipling is credited as being the first to use the line in "The Light that Failed," a novel published in the early 1890s.


Something that's getting hard to manage is said to be "getting out of" what?

When something "gets out of hand," it means a person or a situation is really hard to control. The phrase can also pertain to specific behavior, such as drinking alcoholic beverages, which affects someone negatively.


When referring to something that's really easy to understand, one can joke, "It's not rocket _____."

"It's not rocket science" pertains to something that is relatively easy to understand or process in a given situation. This phrase is usually said in jest, to kid around with someone who is having a hard time understanding information. But it should be delivered in a lighthearted manner to avoid offending people.


When you feel a sudden surge of romantic feelings toward someone, you're said to "fall ____ over heels" with them. What's the missing word?

Falling "head over heels" refers to being completely in love or enamored with someone. When you are experiencing these feelings, it can also be said that your head is on cloud nine. The phrase also refers to whirlwind romances that are intense but may not last long.


If something fails at something, it can be said that whatever they did is "going down in _____."

"Going down in flames" is a phrase that can have both a literal and figurative meaning. A structure can go down in flames if it's burning; so can a business or any endeavor that fails miserably.


If you're cleared of something, you are said to be "Off the _______."

It's a good thing to be "off the hook" since it means you're cleared of any trouble or wrongdoing. It also means you're not involved in a situation you don't want to be a part of. Being free of obligations is also included in its meaning.


Ignorance is said to produce what aspect or state of being?

To say "ignorance is bliss" means one doesn't need to think about a certain situation or problem. And by not thinking about it, you don't get stressed or bothered. Therefore, there's a blissful feeling in remaining uninformed. In addition, if you're unaware that there might be something to worry about, your ignorance about the situation is well, blissful.


When we put a moratorium on productivity, we "call it" this. Can you guess what "it" is?

"Call it a day" if you've already done your work for the day, or if you're all worked out and feeling too tired to continue. When you've submitted your deliverables to beat your deadlines, you can also call it a day and consider it time to go have some fun!


When feeling extremely nervous, one is said to be a "bundle of" what?

To be a "bundle of nerves" means one is feeling extremely anxious or nervous about something. This phrase can go well with "having butterflies in my stomach," which also pertains to the same thing and situation, producing the same unpleasant effect.


If you're just teasing someone, you're "pulling" which part of their body?

When someone says "you're pulling my leg," it means they're not exactly buying what you're telling them. You might be telling the truth or relaying crucial information, but they can still react that way if they don't want to believe you.


When one is feeling too close to someone and it produces negative feelings, it shows "familiarity breeds" what?

It might be a sad fact of life to realize that the closer you get to someone, the bigger the chances you are of developing animosity toward that person. This is encapsulated by the phrase "familiarity breeds contempt." The more you get to know a person, the higher the tendency for you to dislike them.


If you're feeling agitated over an issue or person, you're getting "bent out of _______.

If you "get bent out of shape," it means you got agitated or angry. It's usually the result of being offended by someone's actions or an event that took place that made you upset. Getting bent out of shape describes being upset and reacting in a manner that may be a bit extreme.


Gravitating toward people who share your likes or dislikes is what the phrase "birds of a _______ flock together" means.

The phrase "birds of a feather flock together" pertain to people sharing the same characteristics or interests. But this line is often said with a tone of condescension since it refers to people having a "hive mind," or what is also known as "group mentality." Critical thinking is often lacking in this scenario.


Standing by someone "through thick and _____" shows loyalty and dedication. Can you fill in the missing word?

Sticking with someone "through thick and thin" shows you're supporting the person immensely, especially when they are mired in difficult situations. If they're undergoing problems, staying with them shows that you're not just present during their good days.


"Giving someone the cold _______" means you're ignoring them. What's missing from this sentence?

When you "give someone the cold shoulder," you're ignoring them, plain and simple. But this action doesn't come out of the blue. Usually, it is the result of feeling disdain toward someone, borne out of a previous conflict or the result of ongoing tension.


What happens to time when you're having fun?

"Time flies when you're having fun," they say. If you're in the middle of joyful or fun activities, time seems to pass by quickly, to the point of flying away. This is what the phrase means.


You offer someone a word of caution by saying "look before" doing what?

When someone tells you to "look before you leap," they want you to take precautionary measures before doing something drastic. The same is applicable when making a life-altering decision; one should look ahead to see the pros and cons before making a final commitment.


People who are avoiding an obvious problem are said to be ignoring which animal "in the room"?

The "elephant in the room" pertains to something obvious that's bothering someone or a group of people, but they don't want to address it outright. It can refer to a pressing problem, a sticky situation, or something else that might cause trouble if brought up for discussion.


When someone recognizes a flaw or similarity in someone who has the same flaw or similarity, they say, "It takes one to _______ one." Fill in the blank.

Someone who criticizes a person and says, "It takes one to know one," recognizes that they have the same flaw as the person they criticized. It's like saying they're an "expert" in that type of behavior because they also behave in the same fashion.


"Haste makes _______." Can you guess what fills in the blank?

"Haste makes waste" refers to doing something so fast that the reckless rush results in waste of time spent, raw materials used, and the efforts of individuals involved in the project.


One doesn't need to live in a cold climate to know that this effect is bad. What is it?

The so-called "snowball effect" is the process of a small problem eventually developing into a much larger problem. It's just like a small snowball when rolled down a hill, becomes bigger as it gets covered with more snow. This phrase often pertains to negative outcomes.


Foolishly chasing after something is akin to going on a "wild _______ chase."

If you "go on a wild goose chase," you're foolishly pursuing something that won't yield definite results. It could mean chasing a dream that's not feasible, or courting a person who won't give you the time of day.


When working out, they say "No pain, no _____. What is it?

Often connected to working out, the phrase "no pain, no gain" means one needs to feel physical pain to know that the exercise they're doing is effective. Outside of the exercise arena, it can also mean suffering is necessary if one wants to achieve success.


If you take action but don't think about the possible negative outcomes, you're throwing caution to what?

To "throw caution to the wind" means you're being a bit reckless for not thinking of negative consequences that your actions might bring. It also means you're not thinking about the future scenario your risky move might affect.


You're saving for what kind of day if you're setting aside money for difficult times?

We're "saving for a rainy day" if we're setting aside some money for a future emergency. It's like a cushion fund to help us when we encounter difficult times or circumstances that will impact our financial standing. Examples are being hospitalized for a long time or suddenly getting laid off.


A very thorough worker will "leave no ______ unturned" to deliver high-quality results. What's the missing word?

"Leave no stone unturned" if you want to produce great results in any kind of endeavor. This phrase means you're exhausting all avenues and pursuing all possibilities to get the job done thoroughly.


When you're sure a missed opportunity won't be reclaimed, you can say this type of vessel "has sailed." What vessel is it?

We say "that ship has sailed" if we're absolutely sure that we can't get back a missed opportunity. The phrase also refers to chances we could have pursued, but we're sure it won't work anymore if we did. This phrase can be said with an air of regret, depending on the circumstances.


If you work "slow and steady," what race result will you achieve?

"Slow and steady wins the race" is a phrase that encourages working slowly rather than working in haste. If one does a job in a consistent manner, no matter how long it takes, the result will be better than had they rushed through it.


Which kind of bird is said to "get the worm"?

"The early bird gets the worm" is a phrase of encouragement to motivate people to wake up early or to get somewhere ahead of others. The expectation is that if you arrive there earlier than most, you'll have better chances of succeeding in something.


Things that befuddle us make it hard for us to "wrap around" which part of our body?

If someone tells you "I can't wrap my head around it," it means they're confused. It's the reaction they get if they find themselves having a hard time understanding a concept or a situation. Either it's really challenging to accept, or it's too wild an idea even to consider.


When an event is already ongoing, it's said to be "in full" what?

To be "in full swing" means an activity or event already started, and it's at its highest level. It can also mean a project already started, and the "ball is rolling." The phrase can also refer to something previously inert that's already moving, such as a vehicle.


What "favors the bold"?

"Fortune favors the bold" is a phrase meant to encourage someone to take a risk. It's assumed that this brave move will have beneficial results later on. These results can be in the form of financial gain or new doors that open and lead to better opportunities.


To "get __ of something" pertains to its accidental discovery. What's the missing word?

If you "get wind of something," it means you accidentally discovered a piece of information that's supposed to be a secret. It can also refer to uncovering a situation or getting clues about it.


They say "it ain't over 'til" which lady sings?

"It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings" is a saying that means something is not yet finished. It can refer to any situation that is still ongoing. The origin of the phrase is often attributed to operas, which are usually not over until the fat lady sings!


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