15 Weird English Phrases and their Meanings

Dictionary definition of word idiom, selective focus.

English is a language that is rich with colourful sayings, phrases and idioms. Unfortunately, though, this can make it pretty hard to understand. That’s why we’ve listed some of the weirdest English phrases to help you get to grips its most interesting expressions.

Weird English Idioms

1. To kick the bucket

As in many cultures, talking about death in English can be difficult. That’s why we have a number of euphemisms that refer to death or dying. ‘To kick the bucket’ is an informal and sometimes crass way of saying ‘to die.’ 

E.g. “There are loads of things I want to do before I kick the bucket.

2. What’s that got to do with the price of onions?

‘What’s that got to do with the price of…?’ is a common English expression used to respond to a statement that is not in line with the general conversation. The phrase has many variants including the ‘price of fish,’ ‘price of cheese’ or the ‘price of tea in china.’

E.g. “I’m thinking of taking up ballet dancing.”

What’s that got to do with the price of fish?

3. To drop the ball

To ‘drop the ball’ is to make a mistake, normally by doing something stupid or careless. 

E.g. “I’m really sorry everyone, I really dropped the ball on this one.”

4. A different kettle of fish

To say something is a ‘different kettle of fish’ is to say that something is very different from the subject being spoken about. 

E.g. “Wanting a car is one thing, paying for it is a whole different kettle of fish.”

5. Happy as a pig in muck

Saying you’re ‘as happy as a pig in muck’ is to say that you are very happy and serene. The phrase also conveys the fact that you are in your favourite place or particularly at ease.

E.g. “When those kids are in the swimming pool they’re happy as a pig in muck.

6. Barking up the wrong tree

‘Barking up the wrong tree’ is an English phrase that is used to suggest a mistaken conclusion. The phrase relates to when dogs mistakenly think that their prey has gone up a tree when it has actually flown away. 

E.g. “If you think it was me that ate the last brownie, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

7. A chip on your shoulder

To have a chip on your shoulder generally means that you are holding a grudge against someone, which is causing you to be in a bad mood. Similarly, the phrase can also mean that someone is entitled or full of themselves.

E.g. “Pete thinks he’s so clever. He’s got such a chip on his shoulder.”

8. Born with a silver spoon in your mouth

In English, the word ‘silver spoon’ is used to describe someone who was born into money. The phrase is often used to say that the person does not deserve their inherited privilege.

E.g. “He’s from such a wealthy family, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.” 

9. Wild goose chase

Saying something is a ‘wild good chase’ is a way of describing a hopeless search or pursuit of something unattainable. 

E.g. “I’ve been on a wild goose chase this morning trying to find a birthday present for your Father.”

goose swimming in water

10. Let the cat out of the bag

To ‘let the cat out of the bag’ is to reveal a secret, either deliberately or inadvertently. 

E.g. “I accidentally let the cat out of the bag and told Sarah about her surprise birthday party.”

11. The greatest thing since sliced bread

‘The greatest thing since sliced bread’ is an idiom that means that something is a particularly innovative or useful invention. Although sliced bread was invented in 1928, the phrase was not used in written language until the 1950s.

E.g. “These new wireless headphones are the best thing since sliced bread.

12. Walking on eggshells

An eggshell is the fragile outer part of an egg that breaks easily. To say you are walking on eggshells is to say that you are being very careful not to offend anyone, normally because of a delicate or sensitive social situation. 

“My aunt is so sensitive. When she comes to stay, I feel like I’m walking on eggshells.

13. Beat around the bush

If you are beating around the bush, you are avoiding or delaying talking about a difficult topic.

“Just stop beating around the bush and tell me what’s wrong.”

14. A piece of cake 

If you say that something is a ‘piece of cake’ it means that the task is really easy, as easy as eating a piece of cake.

“Mental maths is a piece of cake.”

15. Once in a blue moon

To do something ‘once in a blue moon’ is do it very infrequently. The phrase relates to the appearance of a ‘blue moon,’ which is the second full moon within one calendar month. This generally only happens once in around 32 months.

“You get up early once in a blue moon!”


Are you looking to expand your English vocabulary? Find out more about English language schools in the UK and Ireland. 

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About Beth

Beth is a language enthusiast and former EFL teacher. After studying Modern Languages at university, her love of adventure led her to travel all over the world. Now settled in sunny Brighton, she loves writing blogs to encourage people to visit her native England.

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