Idioms - O

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odds and ends

Defined: Odds and ends are small articles, or bits and pieces of all sorts, usually of little value.
Example: I keep my odds and ends in this drawer.

off colour

Defined: If you are off colour, you look or feel ill.
Example: What's the matter with you Tom? You look a bit off colour today.

off the cuff

Defined: If you speak off the cuff, you say something without any previous thought or preparation.
Example: He handles off-the-cuff interviews very well.

on the off-chance

Defined: If you do something on the off chance, you think there might be a slight possibility of success.
Example: I went into the supermarket on the off chance that I would find a map.

off the peg

Defined: Clothes that are bought off the peg are purchased in a standard size in a shop and are not made specially for you.
Example: He can't afford to have his suits made to measure so he buys them off the peg.

off the record

Defined: If you say something off the record, you do not want anyone to repeat it publicly.
Example: His comment was made off the record, and shouldn't have been published.

off your rocker

Defined: If you tell someone that they are off their rocker, you think they are completely crazy.
Example: You're going to give all your money away? You're off your rocker!

off the top of your head

Defined: To say something off the top of your head means that you are giving an immediate reaction, and not a carefully considered opinion, so it might not be correct.
Example: "How much do you think it will cost?" "Off the top of my head I'd say around $1000."

old dog for hard road

Defined: This expression means that experience is invaluable when one is faced with a difficult task.
Example: The case calls for an experienced lawyer, an old dog for a hard road.

old wives' tale

Defined: A traditional belief or idea which has been proved wrong by science is called an old wives' tale.
Example: The belief that chocolate causes acne is an old wives' tale.

oldest trick in the book

Defined: A well-known and much-used trick, which is still effective today, is called the oldest trick in the book.
Example: He made a noise to attract my attention while his accomplice stole my wallet - the oldest trick in the book!

olive branch

Defined: If a person or organization holds out an olive branch to another, they show that they want to end a disagreement and make peace.
Example: The protesters finally accepted the olive branch extended to them.

on the fly

Defined: If you do something on the fly, you do it quickly, without thinking much about it, while doing something else.
Example: I'm so busy I usually have lunch on the fly.

on ice

Defined: If a project or plan is put on ice, all further action has been suspended or postponed for an indefinite period of time.
Example: Plans for the nuclear power station have been put on ice.

on one's last legs

Defined: If you are on your last legs, you are in a very weak condition or about to die.
Example: I was so sick that I felt as though I was on my last legs!

on the level

Defined: If you say that someone is on the level, you are referring to an honest and truthful person.
Example: Tell me straight - is he on the level or not?

on the bottle

Defined: A person who drinks alcohol often and regularly is on the bottle.
Example: John went on the bottle when he lost his job.

on the lookout

Defined: If you are on the lookout for something, you are constantly watchful and attentive so as not to miss it.
Example: Being a collector, he's always on the lookout for interesting items.

on the map

Defined: If a place becomes well-known, it is put on the map.
Example: The president's visit really put the restaurant on the map.

on the mend

Defined: If someone or something is on the mend, they are improving after an illness or a difficult period.
Example: My mother caught the 'flu but she's on the mend now.

on the QT

Defined: Something that is done on the QT is done quietly or discreetly.
Example: They got marrried on the QT last summer and told nobody.

on the safe side

Defined: If you do something to be on the safe side, you do it as a precaution, to avoid any risks.
Example: I think I locked the door but I'll check again to be on the safe side.

on the up and up

Defined: A person who is on the up and up is becoming increasingly successful.
Example: The architect has been on the up and up since he designed a building in Dubai.

on one's uppers

Defined: Someone who is on their uppers has very little money or not enough to cover their needs.
Example: Because he was clearly on his uppers when he was hired, he was given an advance in salary.

on the sly

Defined: If you do something on the sly, you do it secretly or furtively.
Example: He made such quick progress that the others suspected him of having private lessons on the sly.

on the wagon

Defined: Someone who is on the wagon is no longer drinking alcohol.
Example: No wine for me please - I'm on the wagon.

once in a blue moon

Defined: If something occurs once in a blue moon, it happens very rarely.
Example: Bill has very little contact with his brother. They see each other once in a blue moon.

one in the eye

Defined: If an event or development is an unexpected defeat or disappointment for someone, it is one in the eye for that person.
Example: My promotion was one in the eye for my ambitious colleague.

one fell swoop

Defined: If something is accomplished at (or in) one fell swoop, it is done in a single action, usually rapidly and ruthlessly.
Example: The three houses were demolished at one fell swoop.

one good turn deserves another

Defined: If someone helps you, it is natural and right to help them in return.
Example: We helped Alex and Sara when they moved into their new house, just as they helped us last year; one good turn deserves another.

one horse town

Defined: A place referred to as a one horse town is a small, boring town where nothing much ever happens.
Example: I wish my grandparents didn't live in that one-horse town. It's such a boring place!

one over the eight

Defined: If a person has had one over the eight, they are slightly drunk.
Example: Don't listen to him! Can't you see he's had one over the eight!

one step ahead

Defined: When you are one step ahead of someone else, you achieve something faster than they do, or you have a slight advantage over them.
Example: The company is successful because they're always one step ahead of their competitors.

one-track mind

Defined: If you have a one-track mind, you have a tendency to think about only one subject.
Example: The boy has a one-track mind; all he thinks about is football!

one too many

Defined: Someone who has had one too many has drunk too much alcohol.
Example: I think Tony's had one too many - he's talking rubbish.

one's number is up

Defined: To say that one's number is up means that either a person is in serious difficulty and something bad is going to happen, or the time has come when they will die.
Example: The police have located the escaped prisoner so it looks as if his number is up!

one's best bet

Defined: The action most likely to succeed is called one's best bet.
Example: Your best bet would be to try calling him at home.

one's own undoing

Defined: If you do something that is the cause of your own failure, loss or downfall, it is your own undoing. You can blame nobody but yourself.
Example: If he continues to gamble like that, it will be his own undoing.

one-upmanship

Defined: This term refers to the art of gaining and keeping an advantage over other people.
Example: He's a successful man, but his one-upmanship has left him with few friends.

only to be expected

Defined: If an event or outcome is only to be expected, it is most likely to happen.
Example: The teacher was angry because you cheated at the exam? That was only to be expected!

open doors to/for

Defined: If something opens doors, it provides opportunites or possibilities for the future.
Example: A degree from a top university generally opens doors to major companies.

open the floodgates

Defined: If someone or something opens the floodgates, they release something that had previously been held under control.
Example: It is feared that easing price controls will open the floodgates to inflation.

open the kimono

Defined: If a person or organization opens the kimono, they reveal something previously hhidden.
Example: It's time to open the kimono and explain that we cannot meet the deadline.

open/reopen old wounds

Defined: If you open or reopen old wounds you revive memories of an unpleasant event, situation or dispute that took place in the past.
Example: He carefully avoided the subject so as not to open old wounds.

open secret

Defined: A fact that is supposed to be a secret but is actually widely known is called an open secret.
Example: It's an open secret that Paul and Emily are living together.

open-and-shut case

Defined: An open-and-shut case is one where the facts are so clear that the matter can be dealt with or solved easily.
Example: He was caught driving the stolen car. It's an open-and-shut case.

opposite number

Defined: A person who holds the same position as oneself in another company or organization is called one's opposite number.
Example: I spoke to my opposite number in several local companies and we all agreed to join the anti-pollution campaign.

ostrich strategy/policy

Defined: Someone who adopts an ostrich strategy or policy chooses to ignore or evade an obvious problem in the hope that it will resolve itself or disappear.
Example: Adopting an ostrich strategy will only make matters worse - we've got to find a solution.

other side of the coin

Defined: When you want to mention a different or contradictory aspect of a situation, you refer to the other side of the coin.
Example: The house is lovely and spacious, but the other side of the coin is that it is far from shops and schools.

other things being equal

Defined: This expression refers to a probable situation if the conditions elsewhere remain unchanged or equal.
Example: Other things being equal, a reduction in the cost of transport should enable us to lower our prices.

out of the blue

Defined: If something happens out of the blue, it happens unexpectedly.
Example: I had nearly given up hope when out of the blue I was offered a job.

out of character

Defined: If you do something that is out of character, it is unlike your usual behaviour or not what is expected from you.
Example: The way she panicked was out of character for such a noamally calm person.

out of circulation

Defined: Someone who is out of circulation is unavailable or not joining in activities with others.
Example: I'm going to do a summer course in New York, so I'll be out of circulation for a while.

out of your depth

Defined: If you are out of your depth, you are unable to understand a subject or deal with a situation because it is too difficult for you.
Example: The level of the class was too high for me, so very quickly I felt out of my depth.

out of earshot

Defined: When someone is out of earshot, they are too far away to hear or to be heard.
Example: They waited until Tess was out of earshot before discussing her surprise birthday party.

out of harm's way

Defined: If you put something out of harm's way, you put it in a safe place where it won't be damaged.
Example: I'm going to put this glass bowl out of harm's way so that it doesn't get broken.

out like a light

Defined: If a person is out like a light, they are so tired that they fall asleep very quickly.
Example: As soon as his head touched the pillow, he was out like a light.

out on a limb

Defined: If you go out on a limb, you do something risky or unsupported by others, which leaves you in a difficult position.
Example: Jack was out on a limb with his proposal - nobody supported his idea.

out to lunch

Defined: To say that someone is out to lunch means that they seem to be either unaware of what's going on around them, or unable to understand what is happening.
Example: He's hopeless as a leader - considererd as 'out to lunch' by the group.

out of the picture

Defined: To say that a person or group is out of the picture means that they have been eliminated in a contest or tournament.
Example: We were beaten in the semi-finals, so that's us out of the picture!

out of your pocket

Defined: If you pay for something out of your own pocket, you cover the cost with your own money.
Example: Breakfast is included but you must pay for lunch out of your own pocket.

out of the question

Defined: Something which is out of the question is impossible and is therefore not worth discussing.
Example: Buying a new car is out of the question - we simply can't afford it.

out of sorts

Defined: If someone is out of sorts, they are upset and irritable or not feeling well.
Example: The baby is out of sorts today. Perhaps he's cutting a tooth.

out of sync

Defined: If two movements or actions are out of sync, they are not coordinated and are not taking place at the same time or at the same speed.
Example: The traffic lights are out of sync and causing a lot of confusion.

out of touch

Defined: If you are out of touch, you no longer communicate with someone, or you are unaware of recent developments.
Example: I've been out of touch with Jenny since we left college.

out of whack

Defined: If something is out of whack, it is not working properly or is not in good order.
Example: The dishwasher is making a funny noise. Something must be out of whack.

out of this world

Defined: To refer to something as out of this world means that you think it is extremely good or impresssive.
Example: The hotel was very comfortable and the food was out of this world.

over-egg the pudding

Defined: If you try to improve something excessively by adding unnecessary details, you over-egg the pudding.
Example: Keep your report simple. Don't over-egg the pudding.

over dead body

Defined: This expression is used by somone who absolutely refuses to allow someone to do something.
Example: "Mum, can I get by nose pierced?" "Over my dead body!"

over and done with

Defined: If something difficult or unpleasant is over and done with, it has now been successfully accompished, so you don't have to worry about it any longer.
Example: I wasn't easy, but I had to announce the bad news, so now that's over and done with.

over the hill

Defined: If a person is over the hill, they have reached an age when they can no longer perform as well as before.
Example: Dad! You say you're over the hill, but you're a super cook!

over the moon

Defined: If you are over the moon, you are absolutely delighted.
Example: We were all over the moon when we heard the good news.

over the top

Defined: Something which is over the top is totally excessive or not suitable for the occasion.
Example: Her dramatic speech was way over the top.

overplay your hand

Defined: If you overplay your hand, you are overconfident and spoil your chances of success by trying to obtain too much.
Example: Sam is hoping for a bonus for his good results, but he may be overplaying his hand if he asks for a promotion.

overshoot the mark

Defined: If you make a mistake as a result of misjudging the situation, distance, amount, etc., you overshoot the mark.
Example: He overshot the mark by about 20%.

overstep the mark

Defined: If you overstep the mark, you go too far and upset someone by saying something or behaving in a way that is unacceptable. Jenny is angry with her son.
Example: He overstepped the mark when he called his grandfather an 'old fool'.

out of your pocket

Defined: If you pay for something out of your own pocket, you cover the cost with your own money.
Example: Breakfast is included but you must pay for lunch out of your own pocket.

out of the question

Defined: Something which is out of the question is impossible and is therefore not worth discussing.
Example: Buying a new car is out of the question - we simply can't afford it.

out of sorts

Defined: If someone is out of sorts, they are upset and irritable or not feeling well.
Example: The baby is out of sorts today. Perhaps he's cutting a tooth.

out of sync

Defined: If two movements or actions are out of sync, they are not coordinated and are not taking place at the same time or at the same speed.
Example: The traffic lights are out of sync and causing a lot of confusion.

out of touch

Defined: If you are out of touch, you no longer communicate with someone, or you are unaware of recent developments.
Example: I've been out of touch with Jenny since we left college.

out of whack

Defined: If something is out of whack, it is not working properly or is not in good order.
Example: The dishwasher is making a funny noise. Something must be out of whack.

out of this world

Defined: To refer to something as out of this world means that you think it is extremely good or impresssive.
Example: The hotel was very comfortable and the food was out of this world.

over-egg the pudding

Defined: If you try to improve something excessively by adding unnecessary details, you over-egg the pudding.
Example: Keep your report simple. Don't over-egg the pudding.

over dead body

Defined: This expression is used by somone who absolutely refuses to allow someone to do something.
Example: "Mom, can I get by nose pierced?" "Over my dead body!"

over and done with

Defined: If something difficult or unpleasant is over and done with, it has now been successfully accompished, so you don't have to worry about it any longer.
Example: I wasn't easy, but I had to announce the bad news, so now that's over and done with.

over the hill

Defined: If a person is over the hill, they have reached an age when they can no longer perform as well as before.
Example: Dad! You say you're over the hill, but you're a super cook!

over the moon

Defined: If you are over the moon, you are absolutely delighted.
Example: We were all over the moon when we heard the good news.

over the top

Defined: Something which is over the top is totally excessive or not suitable for the occasion.
Example: Her dramatic speech was way over the top.

overplay your hand

Defined: If you overplay your hand, you are overconfident and spoil your chances of success by trying to obtain too much.
Example: Sam is hoping for a bonus for his good results, but he may be overplaying his hand if he asks for a promotion.

overstep the mark

Defined: If you overstep the mark, you go too far and upset someone by saying something or behaving in a way that is unacceptable. Jenny is angry with her son.
Example: He overstepped the mark when he called his grandfather an 'old fool'.


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