An idiom is a formulaic expression with one overall meaning. It is often not possible to work out the meaning of an idiom just by looking at its individual words, as idioms often carry a lot of cultural meaning, for example she made a real dog’s breakfast of her homework; a little birdie told me you’ve had some very good news. There are several different kinds of idioms such as phrasal verbs, similes, metaphors, proverbs and euphemisms.


"My English is pretty fluent but I still have problems understanding idioms. What does ‘let’s go for a whirl’ mean, for example, or ‘I really like chilling out with friends’?  It’s not easy to learn this kind of English at school."

Further reading

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd edition. (2006). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, M. (1997). Implementing the Lexical Approach. Boston, Mass., Thomson Heinle.

McCarthy, M. and O’Dell, F. (2002) English Idioms in Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



» ELT terms - defined and referenced!