Idioms - N
nailing jelly to the wall
Defined: To say that something is like nailing jelly to the wall means that it is extremely difficult to do, if not impossible.
Example: Keeping track of his movements is like nailing jelly to the wall.
name is mud
Defined: To say that a person's name is mud means that they have acquired a bad reputation because of something they have done or said.
Example: His name is mud now after the revelations in the newspaper.
name (written) on it
Defined: If something has somenoe's name (written) on it, it is intended for that person or it is ideally suited to them.
Example: That dress would be perfect for you - it's got your name on it!
Defined: If you say that something is a necessary evil, you don't like it but you understand that it has to exist and be accepted.
Example: Vaccinations are a necessary evil if you want to travel.
neck and neck
Defined: In a contest or competition, when two competitors reach the same level, they are neck and neck, so it is impossible to say who will win.
Example: At the moment the two teams are neck and neck for the Word Cup.
needs must (when the devil drives)
Defined: The expression 'needs must (when the devil drives)' means that you are sometimes forced by circumstances to do something that you do not want to do.
Example: I'd rather stay with you than attend the conference, but needs must ...!
needle in haystack
Defined: To refer to something as a needle in a haystack means that it is very difficult or impossible to find.
Example: Finding a pub in Dublin without knowing its name is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
neither fish nor fowl
Defined: People or things that are difficult to classify because they are neither one thing nor another are 'neither fish nor fowl'.
Example: Interns are neither fish nor fowl. They are neither students nor fully qualified practitioners.
neither here nor there
Defined: Something which is neither here nor there is unimportant or irrelevant.
Example: Why the problem wasn't discovered earlier is neither here nor there. What's important now is to find a solution.
nerves of steel
Defined: Someone who has nerves of steel is not afraid in difficult or dangerous situations.
Example: Fire-fighters need to have nerves of steel.
Defined: If you have a nest egg, you have a reserve of money which you put aside for future needs.
Example: Our parents consider the money from the sale of their house as a nest egg for their old age.
never a dull moment
Defined: When there is never a dull moment, something is always changing or happening.
Example: With four teenagers at home, there's never a dull moment!
never looked back
Defined: If you say that you never looked back, you mean that after an event which changed your life for the better, you continue to be happy with the situation.
Example: Since the day she decided to work from home, she has never looked back.
never in a million years
Defined: This expression means 'absolutely never' or 'at no time in my life'.
Example: I will never in a million years understand why Anne married Bob.
Defined: When you 'never mind' to someone, you are telling them not to worry, that it is not important.
Example: When the child broke the cup Susan said 'never mind - it was an old cup'.
never miss a trick
Defined: If a person never misses a trick, they are very alert and aware of everything that is happening around them.
Example: The old lady next door will know if Bill is there or not - she never misses a trick!
never rains but it pours
Defined: This expression is used to comment on the fact that when something bad happens, other bad things often happen too, and make the situation even worse.
Example: First he forgot his briefcase, then he lost his wallet, and when he reached the car park, his car had been stolen - it never rains but it pours!
never say die
Defined: You can say 'never say die' to encourage someone to persevere in their efforts and not give up or abandon their project.
Example: Keep going - it's too soon to give up. Never say die!
new to this game
Defined: To say that you are new to this game means that you have never been involved in this sort of activity before.
Example: I want to join Facebook but I don't know how to start. I'm new to this game.
new lease of life
Defined: A person who has a new lease of life has a chance to live longer or with greater enjoyment or satisfaction.
Example: Moving closer to his children has given him a new lease of life.
next best thing
Defined: If you can't have exactly what you want, the next best thing is the best alternative possible.
Example: The camera I wanted was far too expensive so I opted for a cheaper one that was the next best thing.
next to nothing
Defined: The term 'next to nothing' means a very small amount or almost nothing.
Example: My boots didn't cost much. I bought them for next to nothing in the sales.
nice as pie
Defined: If a person is as nice as pie, they are surprisingly kind and friendly.
Example: After our argument, she was as nice as pie!
Defined: Someone who is lively and active at night and goes to bed very late is called night owl.
Example: I work better in the evenings than in the morning. My friends say I'm a night owl.
Defined: An event which is a nine-day wonder causes interest, surprise or excitement for a short time, but it doesn't last.
Example: His sudden departure was a niine-day wonder but he was soon forgotten.
nine times out of ten
Defined: When something happens nine times out of ten, it is what usually happens.
Example: The public transport system is very bad. Trains arrive late nine times out of ten.
Defined: When people get down to the nitty-gritty, they begin to discuss the most important points or the practical details.
Example: I was interested in the project, but we didn't get down to the nitty-gritty until his partner arrived.
no accounting for taste
Defined: This expression is used to indicate surprise at another person's likes or dislikes.
Example: She fell in love with a guy who's short, fat, bald and poor ... there's no accounting for taste!
Defined: A decision or choice that requires little or no thought, because the best option is so obvious, is called a no-brainer.
Example: The choice was between a cash refund or having the amount credited to my account - it was a no-brainer! I took the cash!
Defined: If someone asks you for something and you reply 'no dice!', you mean that it is impossible or it can't be done.
Example: "Can you lend me your car?" "Sorry, no dice!"
Defined: This expression is another way of saying 'very much'.
Example: Aunt Bessie was pleased no end to be invited to your wedding.
no fixed abode
Defined: A person of no fixed abode has nowhere permanent to live.
Example: A 30-year-old man of no fixed abode was charged with the burglary.
Defined: A no-go area is an area, particularly in a city, where it is dangerous to go.
Example: Tourists have been advised to avoid parts of the city which have become no-go areas.
no great shakes
Defined: To say that someone or something is no great shakes means that they are useless, ineffective or not very good.
Example: He's a good actor but his last film was no great shakes.
no hard feelings
Defined: If you have no hard feelings, you feel no resentment or bitterness about something.
Example: When Alan was promoted instead of Steve, he said to Steve : 'No hard feelings I hope.'
no holds barred
Defined: This expression, which derives from wrestling, is used to describe something done with no restraints, limits or rules of conduct.
Example: It's a live talk show with no holds barred, which is not to everyone's taste.
Defined: An activity or task that is no picnic is unpleasant or difficult.
Example: Tom is a bit depressed these days, but then job-hunting is no picnic.
no smoke without fire
Defined: If many people say that something bad is happening, there is possibly some truth in it.
Example: Although no proof was ever found paople continue to say: 'There's no smoke without fire'.
no two ways about it
Defined: To say that there are no two ways about something means that there is only one suitable ay of dealing with something.
Example: There are no two ways about it. You can't accept the money, so you must give it back.
no use crying over spilt milk
Defined: This expression means that it is useless to complain or have regrets about something that is done and cannot be changed.
Example: Sometimes I regret not acccepting the offer, but it's no use crying over spilt milk.
Defined: If you are on nodding terms with someone, you don't know them very well, just well enough to say 'hello' when you meet them.
Example: We haven't made any friends yet but we're on nodding terms with our neighbours.
Defined: This Latin term refers to a statement which does not seem to be a logical follow-up to the previous statement or argument.
Example: After announcing the merger, the chairman began talking about global warming which seemed a complete non sequitur.
none the wiser
Defined: If you do not know more about something after obtaining an explanation, or if you fail to find information on the subject, you are none the wiser.
Example: I tried to understand the voting system but I was none the wiser after Joe's explanation.
use one's noodle
Defined: If you use your noodle, you use your brain or your common sense.
Example: How did I figure that out? I just used my noodle!
nose out of joint
Defined: If something puts your nose out of joint, it offends or annoys you.
Example: When he discovered he wasn't on the invitation list, that really put his nose out of joint!
not all there
Defined: Someone who is not all there behaves strangely at times, or seems a bit odd.
Example: Our new neighbour wears a hat and coat even in summer; he's not all there!
not for all the tea in China
Defined: To say that you would not do something for all the tea in China means that you would not do it under any condiions.
Example: I wouldn't live there for all the tea in China.
not for love or money
Defined: If you say that you cannot or will not do something for love or money, you mean that you will not do it under any circumstances.
Example: I would not try bungee jumping for love or money!
not getting anywhere
Defined: If you are not getting anywhere, you are making no progress at all.
Example: I've spent the whole day looking for a solution but I'm not getting anywhere.
not give a hoot!
Defined: To say that you don't or couldn't give a hoot means that you don't care at all about something.
Example: She wears eccentric clothes but she couldn't give a hoot about what others think.
not give the time of day
Defined: If you dislike someone so strongly that you ignore them and refuse to speak to them, you do not give them the time of day.
Example: Sarah's parents dislike her boyfriend so much they won't even give him the time of day!
not in the same league
Defined: If something is not in the same league, it is of much lower standard than something else.
Example: He had a good voice but he wasn't in the same league as Pavarotti.
not in one's right mind
Defined: Someone who is not in their right mind is not behaving in a logical or sensible way.
Example: Julie wasn't in her right mind the day she bought that outfit. It doesn't suit her at all!
not let grass grow under your feet
Defined: If someone does not let the grass grow under their feet, they do not delay in getting something done.
Example: As soon as he received the permit, he started to build. He never lets the grass grow under his feet!
not a patch on
Defined: If something or someone is not a patch on an other, they are not nearly as good.
Example: His second conference wasn't a patch on the first one.
not have a stitch on
Defined: Someone who does not have a stitch on is wearing no clothes and is therefore completely naked.
Example: When the doorbell rang, he didn't have a stitch on!
not the only pebble on the beach
Defined: To say that someone is not the only pebble on the beach means that they are not the only person worth considering.
Example: He thinks his refusal to join the team will cause problems, but there are other alternatives ...he's not the only pebble on the beach!
not in right mind
Defined: To say that someone is not in their right mind means that they are not behaving in a logical or sensible way.
Example: Emily wasn't in her right mind the day she bought that outfit. It doesn't suit her at all!
not up to scratch
Defined: Something which is not up to scratch fails to reach the expected standard.
Example: The quality of the material is not up to scratch. We'll have to change our suppliers.
a notch above
Defined: Something that is a notch above something else is a little better in every way.
Example: His rendering of the song was a notch above the others.
Defined: This term means that there is no way you would accept to do what is proposed.
Example: Work on Sunday? Nothing doing!
nothing succeeds like success
Defined: This expression means that success often leads to further successes.
Example: The success of my first book encouraged to continue writing. Nothing succeeds like success!
nothing to write home about
Defined: To say that something is nothing to write home about means that it is not of great interest or importance.
Example: Okay, she's written a couple of books, but nothing to write home about.
nothing ventured, nothing gained
Defined: You cannot expect to achieve anything is you risk nothing.
Example: He's going to ask his boss for a promotion even though he has little chance of obtaining satisfaction. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
now you're talking!
Defined: This expression is used to show encouragement or agreement with something that has just been said, for example a good idea.
Example: "If we take the underground we'll avoid the traffic" "Now you're talking!"
nowhere to be found
Defined: If something is nowhere to be found, even after a thorough search, it is impossible to find it.
Example: We looked everywhere for the cat but it was nowhere to be found.
null and void
Defined: Something which is null and void has no legal force or is invalid.
Example: The contract was declared null and void.
Defined: This is a humorous way of referring to someone who is an accountant or who is very good at working with numbers and calculations.
Example: She's a number cruncher who perfectly understands the organization's financial situation.
nuts and bolts
Defined: The nuts and bolts of something are the detailed facts and the practical aspects.
Example: We neeed to discuss the nuts and bolts of the proposal before going any further.
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